From: Miami, Florida
The Spratly Spat is the first LIVE scenario that I have played. I am very interested in the South China Sea, so this one was special to me.
The Allied nations began by sending an 8-ship (7 combatants) SAG north into the Spratly area. They begin about 150 miles to the south of it, and they proceed north. They are comprised of one ship from most of the surrounding nations, but they are augmented by one US Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer. This particular ship has lots of SAMs and it makes attacking the Allied SAG almost impossible. There are two other multi-SAM shooters in the group. Additionally, the surrounding nations provide lots of air cover, and they participate, as well, trying to defend the SAG. This SAG has a little punch power, but it seems more centered around air defense. There is a sub (possibly two) which are randomly placed on the map. Sometimes it is too far away I do believe that the designers did a great job of assembling this group as it is very representative of the same type of forces that you would expect to find.
The Chinese CSG is located about 225 miles to the north of the Spratly Islands and they are headed due south. This reminded me of an old Western gun fight where the gunslingers meet in the front of the saloon an shoot it out. This group consists of 7 ships (6 combatants) and is centered around the Chinese carrier, Liaoning. This carrier’s presence appears much scarier than it really is. The Liaoning has a few planes which can lunch a small-level strike package, but for the most part, they simply provide air coverage. This group also has some serious punch, but it is very limited, as well. The strongest support that the Chinese has comes from the long-range planes coming from mainland China. These planes have lots of punch, but they are pretty far away, and are spread out over several different bases. I also researched this CSG prior to playing the game. Again, the designers did a superb job of arranging the SAG. It is highly representative of the ships which typically support the Liaoning.
Finally, the game designer randomly placed two Chinese frigates somewhere within the Spratly Island chain. They are not together, but are located in between the two opposing groups. Depending on where they get placed, they could easily end up being one of the first units destroyed. The Chinese player also has a randomly placed sub somewhere in this area.
For the first two hours of game play, both sides launch planes and patrol the area. They are considered neutral at this point, so there is no fighting. At some point, I haven’t looked to see, a shot is fired and everything starts happening. Usually, it appears that an enemy plane has gotten itself too close to an opposing warship, and the fighting begins. In my first scenario, one of the Chinese frigates fired at a Allied plane and destroyed it. The Allied SAG was close enough to launch 8 ARMs and 8 other SSMs and they completely annihilated the frigate. I can easily see all of this happening, although I would have hated to be on that frigate. There was definitely some overkill here.
The destruction of the two opposing units sets off a response from both sides. The SAGs are too far away to shoot at each other, so they have to reply on air strikes. The Chinese send all of the air strike units, but they all start from different airbases. The varying distances result in the varying strike packages arriving at different times. The Allied forces easily defend whatever the incoming strike has to offer. The Allied SAM units are real strong.
At this point it got me thinking about what a collective air strike would look like on the Allies. So, I stopped and replayed the entire sequence. The Chinese planes with the ARMs (at the Yaxian-Sanya AB) were too far away, and the other planes at the base are armed with regular bombs, and they can’t reach the target, either. With the spread out strikes being easily defeated, I decided to actually plan all of the attacks to hit the Allied SAG as one large group. I started with the Chinese planes the furthest away, and had them proceed to toward the Allied SAG. Along the way, they would pick up other planes, and all of them would continue on. Again, because the fighting began only two hours into the game, the planes from the Yaxian-Sanya AB could not participate. The planes all arrived at the target as a group, as planned, and all fired their ordinance together. Assisting with the strike were some J-15S (Flying Sharks), flying from the Liaoning. They were armed with the C-803 missiles. The attack was perfectly executed, and would have worked, except for the fact that the Allied SAG’s SAM defense is simply too strong. I even tested it where I removed all of the Allied aircraft and made just the Allied SAG SAM units defend itself. They managed to handle the attack without incident. My conclusion was that, even in combining all of the air they still couldn’t dent the Allied SAG. The Liaoning CSG does have some SSM shooters that they could add to the mix, but there would be no guarantee of success. That does seem to be the ONLY way to be able to actually hit, and hurt, the Allied SAG. I believe that the Allied SAG could still handle any attack from the Chinese because they still have about half of their SAMs remaining from after the air attack.
The Allies have eight Hornets which can bring 16 Harpoons to attack the Chinese with. The Allied SAG can bring another 28 long-range SSM, so there quite a few weapons to bring onto the Chinese, if they are combined together. Because the Chinese unit have been observed, and hostilities have begun, the AI immediately launches the Hornets to make strikes, if they are in range. The Hornets at the Puerto Princesa AB will definitely be in range, but the Hornets at the LaBuan AB may not be in range. Unless the attack has been coordinated, then the strike has little chance to succeed. The Hornets might be able to strike the other frigate, but if they went after the Chinese CSG, it would surely fail. The Chinese CSG’s SAM units are too strong, as well. To this point, other than the original plane and the Chinese frigate, no other damage has occurred. I’ve have never seen so many missiles fired with nothing to show for it.
I’m going to end the AAR right here. All of the aircraft have returned to their bases, and won’t be ready again for quite a while (like 9 hours). The two groups will continue to close the distance between each other, but both groups still seem to have enough SAMs to defend themselves. This looks like a bloodless war to this point. The subs were not a factor and, as I said, unless the attack is coordinated, they will fail. I have not wanted to actually finish the battle because it is anyone’s guess how it will turn out, or at what point one side will back down because they are dangerously low on ammo (SAMs and SSMs).
This is a really fun scenario. I would recommend it to everyone. It actually takes lots of planning, and some luck, to have some success. The scenario designers did a great job with this one.