Stall followed by surge in a high-speed compressor can lead to violent disruption of the flow, damage to the blade structures and eventually engine shutdown. Knowledge of unsteady blade loading during surge is crucial for compressor design such as axial gap optimization. The aim of this paper is to demonstrate the feasibility of using three-dimensional full assembly unsteady Reynolds-averaged Navier–Stokes (URANS) CFD for modeling surge cycles of an eight-stage high-speed compressor rig. Results from this work show stalling of the mid-stages is the surge trigger. During the flow reversal, a strong acoustic reflection occurs when the convected entropy perturbations reach the intake opening, which increase the blade loading significantly. During recovery, a hysteresis loop was recorded due to hot air re-ingestion, which led to a strong shear at mid-span of the inlet guide vane (IGV)/R1 domain and the formation of rotating helical flow structures. The final phase of recovery was accompanied by a four-cell multi-row tip rotating stall, which was cleared as the compressor recovered to the forward flow characteristic. It was also shown that the single passage model, despite its limitations and shortcomings in modeling recovery, can predict reasonably accurate transient flow features during surge and thus provide considerable insight to the flow behavior, which can be used to obtain a first approximation of casing and blade loading.