Operation Smoldering Cinder Status Update
Following the victory in Aunia and Botane on 7 January and increased pressure by Amarr paramilitaries on Electus Matari forces, the Minmatar alliance's operations in Federation and State space had been significantly curtailed, a minor victory for the Reserve's strategic goals for Operation Smoldering Cinder. Unfortunately, Phoenix Wing continued to assist the Electus Matari forces in Minmatar space, and Electus Matari units staged sporadic raids into State space, usually ending in a stalemate. These raiding parties would then run back to Republic territory, where they knew the Reserve would not pursue, in order to prepare for their next attack. In effect, the Minmatar and Gallente forces were using the Reserve's unwillingness to escalate the conflict against us; there can be little doubt that this was an attempt to get us to simply withdraw in order to allow Phoenix Wing to support the Minmatar forces unhindered.
On 11 January, the Reserve general staff approved plans by CAPT Ladel Teravada, Reserve Chief of Naval Intelligence, to stage covert operations into Minmatar space in order to identify Electus Matari strongholds in preparation for punative raids by the Reserve into Minmatar space. Though a regrettable escalation of the conflict, the anticipated expense of continuing the operation against Electus Matari past 16 January due to CONCORD fees forced the Reserve general staff to consider such action in order to curtail the ability of the Minmatar alliance to threaten Reserve operations inside the State before the current declaration expired.
The Reserve's first engagement inside Minmatar space came on that same day during a RIF operation under the command of CAPT Teravada himself; a pair of Reserve recon cruisers engaged and destroyed a lone Phoenix Wing Thorax spotted in the Vullat system. Subsequent inspection of the wreckage by CAPT Teravada revealed that the Thorax had been carrying arms destined for Electus Matari forces, likely manufactured by Gallente sympathizers to supply Republic forces. It was this discovery which tipped the general staff's final decision to engage in full combat operations inside Minmatar space in conjunction with Amarr paramilitary forces.
The first full scale engagement between Reserve forces and Electus Matari forces inside Republic space occurred two days later, in the Onga system. A fleet under the command of FADM Van Cleef encountered a small Electus Matari force near an Amarr station in the system and attempted to engage; unfortunately, it appears in retrospect that the Minmatar fleet had been a ruse to draw Reserve forces into a trap. Immediately after the engagement began, significant reinforcements, including a Phoenix Wing Dominix, arrived in the system and opened fire. Though Reserve forces managed to destroy an enemy Lachesis, the cost was a high one, with a Reserve Tempest falling to the fire of the Electus Matari warships. All other Reserve forces managed to withdraw from Minmatar space in good order thanks to the efforts of Reserve scouts.
Approximately 12 hours later, CAPT Teravada led another RIF operation into Minmatar space with mixed results. A Phoenix Wing Brutix was destroyed when it was pinned down by CAPT Teravada's Crow and LCDR Kadeshi's own Brutix at the Onga gate in Magiko, despite the efforts of an Electus Matari Helios to force CAPT Teravada to disengage. Unfortunately, the Minmatar covert operations frigate escaped, and not long after was able to find discover the staging point for the body of the Reserve fleet; an Electus Matari warfleet, far outgunning the Reserve reconnaissance force, warped in and ambushed the Reserve fleet as they were returning to the staging point. Though the fleet began an immediate retreat, a Caracal was lost in the holding action. With the fleet scattered, CAPT Teravada was unable to lead a proper retreat, forcing the Reserve ships left to attempt to find their way out on their own, and during the withdrawl, the LCDR Kadeshi's Brutix was lost to the Minmatar warfleet; the rest of the Reserve force managed to retreat back to State space.
On 14 January, another Reserve raiding force engaged and destroyed an Electus Matari Stabber, though a Reserve ship was lost when deficient Minmatar traffic control caused a neutral party to be misidentified as a hostile and CONCORD intervened before the situation could be resolved. This engagement was followed up a day later when a Reserve raiding operation, reinforced by a PIE Arbitrator, managed to engage and destroy five Electus Matari vessels at the cost of a single Kestrel, including a Claw piloted by Electus Matari leader Evanda Char.
Unfortunately, with the war dwindling to its last hours, the Reserve had time for but one final engagement after that; on 16 January, shortly before the expiration of the war, a Reserve RIF fleet with a CVA observer engaged an Electus Matari fleet of superior strength. Though able to destroy an Electus Matari Rupture, the Reserve was forced to take a loss of a Lachesis recon cruiser before withdrawing from the field; the superior numbers of small support ships fielded by the Electus Matari fleet, as well as the battleship support that the Reserve fleet lacked, made a smooth withdrawl impossible.
With the war against Electus Matari invalidated due to lack of funds on the Reserve's part, Operation Smoldering Cinder has come to a close. Unfortunately, our overall strategic objective, to prevent the Gallente paramilitary force of Phoenix Wing from participating in the escalation of this regional conflict, has been a failure. Phoenix Wing continues to fly under the Minmatar banner, and they continue to engage in combat operations against Amarr forces, despite repeated pleas for both sides to come to the negotiation table for a peaceful solution.
However, the operation itself has not been a complete loss; Reserve forces have manage to inflict significant damage on the ability of Electus Matari and their Gallente sympathizers, and as the last week wore on, the departure of many corporations from the Electus Matari fold shows that there has been some effect on their morale. Intelligence leads us to believe that many of these corporations did not think the support of the Gallente was worth suffering continued attacks from Caldari forces, and hopefully this will help provide some impetus for Electus Matari to work out a ceasefire with the Amarr, something we have been hoping for (and offering to mediate) since the conflict began.
In addition, the operation has given many newer Reserve pilots significant combat time; experience is one of the most valuable assets any military force can cultivate, and if anything, this war has taught us that our recruits are up to the challenge provided by facing combat. However, the operation also highlighted some deficiencies as well; the Reserve's weakness in raiding warfare and intelligence gathering is a serious need that needs to be addressed, as is the number of Reserve pilots on the field. The general staff will be using the experiences over the last two weeks to determine what needs must be addressed and come up with plans to do so.