Harpoon Commander's Edition AAR
WestPac 3.0 - Phillippines
The North Koreans are supporting an insurgency in the Phillippines. A group of civilians is threatened by an enemy infantry battalion, the Koreans have an airbase providing cover, and a convoy of ships on the way to reinforce. I am to protect the civilians and find and sink the enemy convoy.
I'm uncertain what the enemy infantry battalion is capable of, but it appears that they have SAMs with a range of about 14nm and radar with a range of about 64nm.
The enemy airbase appears to have antiair radar with a 200nm radius, but only very short range weapons (about 7nm SAMs). Intel estimates 4 fighters and 12 attack aircraft.
I have two groups. The northern group, ACS, is made up of 2 frigates, which aren't particularly powerful, although one does have 8 harpoons. The southern group, AAS, is my main force, centered around the Bonhomme Richard amphibious assault ship. That group also has a Ticonderoga CG and an Underwood air defense frigate, as well as a noncombatant Mercy hospital ship. The few ships which have Harpoons are my primary ASuW force, and there aren't many harpoons. The amphibious assault ship, with its 4 F35B fighters, 12 ospreys, and 8 Supercobra attack helicopters is the main air force. AAS also has a couple of Seahawks and a couple of Pavehawks. ACS has a couple of ASW helicopters aboard.
Terrain and Time
It's just after midnight, with 3 days to go. Weather is calm, but visibility is only 6 or 7 nm at midnight.
The enemy infantry battalion is in the south, about 135 miles east of AAS, and likely to head northwest toward the civilians, which are about 96 miles from AAS. The enemy airfield is in the center of the islands, 277nm from AAS and 166nm from ACS. ACS is about 198 miles northwest of AAS, and west of a channel that leads to the enemy airfield. The southern island lies between AAS and the enemy airfield.
AAS will launch a CAP over the civilian facility and move toward bombardment range of the enemy infantry. Unless circumstances dictate otherwise, I will hold off on launching the air assault until the range is signficantly shorter. ACS will launch a seahawk and patrol looking for the enemy convoy.
Lengthy timeline follows. Skim to the bottom if you just want the conclusions.
First contact. Our Seahawk has detected a large surface contact (designated ZYS) about 100nm north of ACS and heading south southeast at 18 knots and a pair of Mig29 Fulcrums somewhere to the east, possibly near ACS. The Seahawk will patrol a bit more, then return and refit for ASuW LR (Penguin strike), at which point it will launch with the Lynx (Sea Skua loadout) to strike ZYS. Group AAS is going intermittent with its radars.
Detected a group of 5 enemy patrol craft and light frigates about 40nm due east of AAS. We are well within each other's missile range. AAS is going emcon silent and engaging.
My harpoons mostly went wide, but I did sink a type 24 and a Nanuchka. Our CAP patrol, still enroute to the civilian facility, has detected 4 aircraft due east, apparently heading from the enemy infantry unit toward the civilian facility. Moving to intercept.
Southern battle in progress:
A few seconds later, the AMRAAMs hit ZUH and shot down 4 Mi-24D Hind D.
ACS being attacked by a pair of Fulcrums. Shot both of them down with Sea Sparrows. AAS's second harpoon strike was shot down by ZWS.
ACS launching Lynx strike on ZYS. ETA 0140
Two groups of 2 enemy aircraft detected approaching civilian installation from the north. CAP is preparing to intercept and AAS is preparing to launch remaining fighters to relieve CAP when they run out of missiles.
The dogfight is over. Our F-35B Lightning IIs dodged the first couple of missile launches, and fired one of their own just after the enemy's third launch, resulting in an exchange with both F-35's lost while the enemy lost 2 MiG-29 Fulcrum A's. Sending the second CAP flight to intercept the other enemy airgroup.
Second enemy air group destroyed. We shot down 2 MiG-23ML Flogger G before they got within range to fire. AAS is now only 27nm away from the remaining enemy missile boats of ZWS. One Seahawk is still rearming for a Penguin strike, with 10 minutes to go until it is ready.
AAS goes to active radar. Missile launch from ZWS detected. 2 Sunburns shot down, 5 hit the Comfort hospital ship, which is now at damage 60%.
The enemy fired a number of other missiles, Termits and Safflowers, all of which were shot down. They are no longer firing and appear to now be out of missiles. AAS also fired a couple of ARMs at the enemy frigate, but they appear to have been ineffective. Meanwhile another group of 4 helos is heading from the enemy infantry unit toward the civilians. CAP is moving to engage.
Four more Hinds shot down. CAP heading back to rearm (after little more than 10 minutes mission time).
AAS Launching Seahawk with one Penguin to strike ZWS.
Seahawk launching penguin against ZWS. ACS' Seahawk up north has been shot down by unknown attacker.
ACS' Lynx strike arrived ahead of schedule, damaged one Nanuchka and reconned to determine that the convoy consists of the Nanuchka, a Petya II, an Osa II and a Houku missile boat escorting 4 cargo ships.
Closeup of the south. You can see the mercy ship withdrawing to the west as group AVS.
The fighters and strike Seahawk have landed back aboard AAS. Unfortunately, it will take 1 hour to ready the fighters, and also 1 hour before the Seahawk is rearmed.
AAS attacking ZWS with guns. Guns sank the Osa, Dergach and Houku. ZWS is destroyed.
ACS attacking damaged Nanuchka with Harpoons. ETI 0142.
Both of ACS' harpoons were shot down. Group AAS is about 6 hours from the enemy infantry battalion. We would enter gunnery range about a half hour before that.
Transferring 1 Seahawk (BKH) from AAS to ACS.
AAS is still about 3.5 hours from reaching gunnery range of the enemy infantry. Should we launch the assault now (to arrive about 0400) while visibility is low? Or wait until dawn when we'll have bombardment support? I'm tempted to wait, but I tend to be too cautious, so I'm launching the assault now.
12 Ospreys (half with assault teams, half with heavy weapons teams), 2 Pavehawks, and 8 Supercobras with BAI loadouts are heading toward ZVb. Estimated time of strike is 0330. In retrospect, I probably should have launched a SEAD strike first using an F-35B. But having only 2 of them, I need them both for CAP.
Assault force is entering enemy AAW range, 13nm from target.
One Pavehawk shot down. Enemy is using Sa-6 Gainfuls.
Strike entering enemy AAW range (3nm, whatever is present after Sa-6s ran out)
For some reason, my assault teams aboard the Ospreys had a very difficult time figuring out how to conduct the assault. They were sending back messages saying things like "Maximum attack range is 3nm, current range is 0nm, should we close to attack?" Eventually I split up the group into 3 groups and was able to get them to attack. Six of our eight Supercobras were shot down, but we destroyed the enemy infantry unit.
At this point, AAS needs to head west and north to assist intercepting the enemy convoy (which we lost contact with awhile back). Estimated time is about 14 hours at flank speed, so they should be there by 1900.
One F-35B has been readied for a SEAD strike.
Recalling the F-35B from CAP to refuel.
0600 (Shift Change)
The enemy convoy is somewhere within the rectangle. We have ascertained that at least a few of the ships are damaged. AAS has one Seahawk ready for a Penguin strike, one F-35B ready for a SEAD strike, and one F-35B preparing (36 minutes remaining) to serve as an interceptor. ACS has one Seahawk ready for a Penguin strike and one Lynx ready for a Sea Skua strike, and 6 Harpoons ready. AAS is about 12 hours from the end of its path, and still has not reloaded its harpoon or ARM launchers.
At this point, the plan is to first launch a SEAD strike at 0645 against the enemy airport using one F-35B with the other escorting. The fighters will then return and ready for another strike, to launch about 1000, this one against the enemy convoy. The fighters will strike first, followed by the Seahawk and Lynx from ACS. Once the aircraft are able to get a fix on the enemy ships, ACS will also launch harpoons.
SEAD strike launched.
SEAD strike approaching launch position.
Enemy airfield radar knocked out. Closing to release Paveways.
Paveways launched. No apparent damage. Returning to AAS.
Strike group landed. After seeing the effects of the airfield strike, and how much time we have left, I'm ordering the fighters to rearm to launch a JDAM strike against the runway. That should keep the remaining enemy aircraft from interfering with our plans. Ready time will be approximately 0900.
Strike group enroute @ 460knots. Trucks and tanks detected 18nm from civilian facility! Rerouting strike. Enemy armored convoy is range 123nm from AAS. Estimated JDAM strike arrival time 0911. Launching Supercobras (with BAI loadout) estimated arrival 0950. Launching marine assault via Ospreys, approximate arrival time 0933. Seahawk loading up Hellfires, ready time 0930.
JDAM strike completed, one truck convoy and one T-72 destroyed. Strike group is loitering to wait for the Ospreys and helicopters.
Ordering Ospreys not to strike directly, but instead to head to civilian compound and loiter to wait for Supercobras.
F-35Bs are providing top cover. Ospreys are loitering. Supercobras are inbound, 20 minutes out.
Ordering Ospreys to attack. Expected attack completed by 0955.
Supercobras destroyed 4 trucks and a truck convoy. Two tanks and a truck destroyed. All enemy units eliminated. Ordering all air units to return to AAS.
Launching one Seahawk armed with Hellfires to patrol near the civilian compound. At this range, time on station will be minimal, but it will give us some recon in the area while the other aircraft replenish.
Ordering the Seahawk back to refuel. Launching a second attempt at the JDAM strike on the airfield. AAS estimated time to vicinity of enemy convoy, approximately 6 hours.
Fighter group enroute at 460 knots. ETA 1215.
The Ingraham (now CAS) ran aground in shallow water!
JDAM strike complete. Did minor (5%) damage to the runway.
Strike group shot down 2 Su-25BM Frogfoot that were patrolling west of the enemy airbase.
ACS launching Seahawk to localize the enemy convoy.
Sending Seahawk to intercept enemy convoy. Launching Lynx to strike enemy convoy. Launching F-35Bs to SEAD strike enemy convoy.
F-35Bs have launched ARMs. Returning to rearm. 3 hits on the Petya, and 3 on cargo ships.
ACS launching 6 Harpoons at ZYS. ETA 1437.
Missiles sunk Osa II and Houku, damaged one merchant. AAS launching one Seahawk for a Penguin strike.
Sea Skua strike damaged one cargo ship, which sank 23 minutes later.
Launching 2 F35Bs loaded with Precis2 (2 Paveways) to strike ZYS.
Seahawk from AAS sank the Petya with a Penguin.
F-35Bs sank 2 cargo ships. Minimal victory conditions met.
Launching Seahawk from ACS to strike damaged enemy Nanuchka YYS.
Launching Lynx strike against remaining cargo ship.
Penguin shot down by enemy Nanuchka.
Sea Skuas launched against cargo ship. 3 hits sunk the ship.
Launching F-35Bs to strike enemy Nanuchka.
Enemy Nanuchka sunk. Vectoring to the airbase to drop remaining Paveways.
Shot down another 2 Su-25BM Frogfoot.
Shot down another Su-25BM Frogfoot.
Executed paveway strike. Enemy airfield damage now 7%. Fighters returning to AAS.
Launching another JDAM strike against the airbase.
Strike hit, airbase damage now 13%.
Launching another JDAM strike against the airbase.
Strike hit. Airbase damage now 18%.
Launching air assault against enemy airbase. 12 Ospreys loaded with marines, 2 Supercobras, and 1 Seahawk.
Marines landed. Airbase damage now 87%.
Cobra strike damaged airbase to 88%.
Seahawk's hellfire strike did no noticeable damage. Launching another JDAM strike.
JDAMs hit, damaged airbase to 94%.
Just 6% more and that airbase is history.
Launching another assault. 12 Ospreys full of marines ought to be able to seize what's left of the airbase.
Enemy airbase destroyed.
Just under 26 hours (game time). I feel that I could have done it in much less if I'd handled my aircraft better. Losing the 2 fighters early on hurt, as did being reluctant to take the risks to make the assaults.
Major decisions & events:
- Let the enemy naval convoy wait until other threats are dealt with. (Good)
- Engage enemy east of AAS with ships only (no aircraft). (Fair) At the time, no aircraft were ready with ASuW loadouts, and we were already within each others' missile range. I overestimated the effectiveness of the Harpoons (when firing bearing-only launch on insufficiently-localized targets). Overall, however, the battle lasted about an hour. Using aircraft would not have shortened that by much unless some had already been readied for ASuW. Staying emcon silent would likely have helped. The damage to the Mercy ship was unfortunate, but at least it survived.
- Keeping CAP over the civilian compound as much as possible. (Good) The CAP here proved to be critical, shooting down enemy aircraft and helicopters, as well as assisting in the detection of the enemy ship convoy. Eventually I withdrew the two remaining fighters to conduct strike missions, so had nothing onstation to detect the enemy armored convoy earlier. But I'm not so sure that they would have, and in any case it was good luck that they happened to be passing by with a strike loadout when the armor was detected, rather than orbiting with an intercept loadout.
- Sending the assault against the enemy infantry battalion as one group. (Bad) It took nearly a half hour of fumbling to get the troops on the ground. In the process, I lost 6 Super cobras and 2 Paveways. If instead I had sent the aircraft in separate groups and micromanaged their movement, as I did later when assaulting the airfield, it probably would have gone better and quicker.
- Striking enemy airfield before enemy naval convoy. (Good) The enemy still had several aircraft left that could have been a credible threat. It would have especially been more dangerous to send the helos out while the enemy airfield was at full capacity. I never did find out what destroyed ACS' Seahawk.
- Letting ships run too near islands. (Bad) I don't really know what I could have done differently, other than plotting a course that was well away from islands and sticking to the very center of the channels, to avoid the Ingraham running aground. I would expect the crew to be capable of avoiding that without explicit orders, but apparently they are not.
- Ordering Ospreys to wait for Supercobras when attacking enemy armored convoy. (Fair) This induced a 20 minute delay that was probably not necessary. It did not cause any problems, however. During this time, air was loitering and watching to make sure that the armored convoy didn't start moving.
- Using Paveways and JDAMs against the airfield. (Fair) These weapons were pretty ineffective but did do some damage, and the fighters were able to engage enemy aircraft while enroute. Ultimately, the assaults were needed due to a lack of good antirunway weapons.
Not too bad, but I could've done better, quicker and with fewer casualties. Areas for improvement: be more aggressive, make better use of air assets, keep ships well away from land.
This was my first WestPac scenario, and it was fun. There were a number of tense moments. First realizing that I had only 4 fighters which would have to take turns against an enemy airfield full of aircraft. Then seeing a bunch of enemy missile boats within range of my LHD group. Realizing that the convoy up north was too much for my two frigates to deal with alone. Fumbling the first airmobile assault. Having to suddenly react to an enemy armored column when I thought that front was clear. The final acts of knocking out the enemy convoy and airfield were relatively straightforward, an easy end to an interesting game.