The lead playtester for Red Tide West offered up these insights after his group's last playtest:
By the mid-to-end of the game there were not many Soviet planes/helicopters left, but I never felt like it completely stalled. I did not feel that that lack of air force was a complete disaster for the Soviets; the NATO side also lost a lot of air strength in that time. The Soviets still had such forces on the ground that they were able to find holes and openings and the NATO side seemed to always be plugging the holes.
I played the game through 2 1/2 times. I know I got to about the half-way mark before I ever felt comfortable on the NATO side that we might hold key areas, and even then the Soviets would slowly make advances. Controlling all the cities required for the Soviets to win was a big order, but they never gave up the initiative as far as I felt.
1. The whole point of the game is for the Soviets to strike hard and fast. As the game progresses their strength and chances will naturally diminish.
2. Yes, many NATO air units in a combat can be a problem (I'm surprised when I look back at how many of the US/British/West German units have 3 for their support strength; those need to be targets early on of the Soviet air units), but the Soviets are the ones who are usually attacking and need to maximize their combat shifts: Surrounding, adding on shifts from ground support units, and using chemical/biological weapons are ways to get the odds back in their favor.
3. As I recall, the Soviets, even up to the end, were often able to get at least 3-1 or 4-1 on many of their attacks.
4. Spreading out the Soviet attacks, even in some cases at less than great odds, will cause the NATO player to spread out his air units so not so many can concentrate at once on key attacks.