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Spratly Spat - 12/24/2016 11:07:34 PM   
DWReese

 

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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.
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RE: Spratly Spat - 12/26/2016 2:01:58 PM   
DWReese

 

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Larry Bond's book, Shattered Trident, has increased my interest in the Chinese expansion into the South China Sea. As I said before, this scenario does a great job of reproducing a potential "spat" in that theater. During my play with the scenario, I thought that the SAMs on both sides were exceptionally strong, and most of the combat was bloodless because all of the ASM and SSM were being shot down by the abundance of SAMs on both sides. In keeping with Bond's book, I decided to try the scenario without the United States being involved. I removed the US DDG, and allowed the Chinese air attack to proceed as usual, but they would be attacking a much-depleted Allied SAG, without the US DDG.

Again, for testing purposes, I eliminated all of the Allied air units as well. The Chinese attack progressed just like before. Once again, the Allied SAG managed to shoot down all of the incoming ASMs. But, unlike the first playing of the scenario where the SAG still had about half of their SAM's remaining, the Allied SAG was left with almost no SAMs left to defend themselves. Of course, they were still on a path to come into range of the Chinese Liaoning CSG, which had all of its SSM and SAM missiles.

So, I had to re-evaluate the situation as if it were a real life event. The disputed islands/reefs/atolls/etc. exist, but aren't representing any threat to the area at this particular moment in time. Would the Allied commander risk sending his SAG into a fray without any SAMs? I doubt it. After the battle, both sides would have to head back to their bases anyway, and each side (particularly the Allied Group) would have probably suffered some battle damage. In fact, the Allied SAG, because it lacked any SAMs BEFORE the battle, may have been completely destroyed. Therefore, I believe that before this could happen, the Allied SAG would have headed home without fighting any more, choosing to live to fight another day.

The scenario seems very aptly named "Spratly Spat", with an emphasis on the word "SPAT" because, in the end, it seems as if the skirmish actually took place, it's highly unlikely that these two groups would fight to an all-ending, one-side-take-all, decisive battle.

Once again, I want to highly recommend this scenario. The designers did a great job!

< Message edited by DWReese -- 12/29/2016 2:29:25 AM >

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RE: Spratly Spat - 12/27/2016 9:11:55 PM   
Gunner98

 

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I think your right - without the Burke the Allied SAG would chose discretion and rely on airpower to contest the area until they rearmed. Shows how powerful the Burks really are. Nice AAR, thanks.

B

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RE: Spratly Spat - 12/28/2016 4:01:22 PM   
KungPao


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quote:

ORIGINAL: DWReese

During my play with the scenario, I thought that the SAMs on both sides were exceptionally strong, and most of the combat was bloodless because all of the ASM and SSM were being shot down by the abundance of SAMs on both sides.




I agree, that's the case for modern naval warfare. You have to think out of box to achieve surprise, or use combined arms and well coordinate strike to bring down enemy SAG.


< Message edited by KungPao -- 12/28/2016 4:05:55 PM >


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RE: Spratly Spat - 1/10/2017 5:19:33 PM   
giantsquid

 

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Hello everybody

I really enjoyed the Spratly Spat Command LIVE battle, congratulations to the scenario designers (that’s my favorite LIVE, by now).
Playing as Chinese I found the allied formations centered on USN Burke difficult to engage, but after some analysis I managed to severely damage it with a massive surprise airstrike in just one move. Here is which assets I used available in the scenario:

7 Badger H5 with 28 YJ-12 anti ship missiles
4 J-15 from Liaoning carrier with 16 As-17 missiles
12 JH-7 with 24 As-17 missiles

1 Y-8x sea patrol plane for targeting
4 JH-11 and 2 J-15 Flankers as escort fighters

The plan was to close on enemy formations from 3 different directions (W, N and NE), after a fighter sweep from the 4 JH-11 to remove the enemy CAP. Then attack the central part of the enemy formation, where the most capable AAW ship are located, with a volley of 60+ supersonic missiles, arriving at the same time on target. The result was satisfactory: I manage to kill the Kidd, the USN Burke and the Singapore Formidable, the main core of the enemy formation. Some JH-7 went down low on fuel, was diverted to seconday airports or lost to Vietnam fighters coming from West after the main attack. I did not manage to use them anymore in the battle. Without the AAW escort, anyway, I later killed all the other allied ship with small airstrikes, using J-15 and ant ship missiles, obtaining a marginal victory and preventing too much damage to my precious sea platforms.


< Message edited by giantsquid -- 1/10/2017 5:20:34 PM >

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RE: Spratly Spat - 1/10/2017 6:36:22 PM   
mikmykWS

 

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Good job squid!

Mike

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RE: Spratly Spat - 1/10/2017 8:28:07 PM   
DWReese

 

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Squid,

Congrats on your victory.

I, too, have thoroughly enjoyed exploring this interesting situation.

I concur that the only way to successfully defeat either side is with a massive, simultaneously-orchestrated strike. I believe that you have just proved that. But, that got me thinking about a "what if" circumstances from a more strategic perspective.

While this has nothing to do directly with the play-ability or realism of the scenario, it is interesting to consider the ramification of the actions of either side, specifically the Chinese. If China manages to blow all of the Allied ships out of the water, at some point they will have to go home. I'm sure that China doesn't want to constantly place a baby-sitting group in the area to ensure the safety of their "newly-claimed territory." Even if they did, they couldn't be everywhere. And, as soon as the Chinese head for home, land-based Allied aircraft could easily swoop in and blow all of the new installations to smithereens. With China roughly 1000 miles away from the Spratly Islands, that is way too much territory to respond to, and to defend the new territory in time.

So, it would appear that a strong political component would likely come into play here in a real life situation. Will the Alliance stay together if any of the nations loses a warship in this deal? How potent would the Alliance be if the US ships don't participate? Will the nations realize that laying ownership to these reefs could come at a cost? Will the Allied nations want to even risk defending them? Will the Chinese realize that these islands can't really be defended either, except for brief periods of time by an aircraft carrier, because of their distance from mainland China? Is there, or will there ever really be, any ACTUAL strategic benefit toward claiming and owning these reefs?

Again, using the scenario as an example, if China was able to soundly defeat all of the Allied nations ships (like in Squid's victory), how long would it take after the ships started heading back to China before the Allied nations would retaliate? So, if the Allies lose all of their ships in the scenario, but China subsequently loses all of its newly formed bases on their reefs because of air-to-surface weapons, then which side really won anything?

It's just some thoughts to think about.

In any case, it's a great scenario, and I would highly recommend it.

Doug

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RE: Spratly Spat - 1/11/2017 10:43:25 AM   
giantsquid

 

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That's an interesting point. I imagine that after "the lesson" most countries in the area would keep a low profile and China can expand the airfields on the inslands, placing more planes there for sea control. The Laoning can station there too, helped by submarines to control the area. Of course this works if US Navy keeps out of the area.

Francesco

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RE: Spratly Spat - 1/11/2017 11:49:45 AM   
DWReese

 

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Francesco,

I'm sure that when the US Navy (and other nations) assess this situation, they probably use simulations similar to CMANO to evaluate the various outcomes.

Unlike a land battle where you conquer land, and then hold it; the sea battle involving reefs is more-or-less just temporary. All of the ships ultimately have to return to their ports. In fact, can you imagine being stationed as a serviceman on one of these reefs? You would go mad. You would have to depend on generators for electricity, and have converters to get fresh water. You would need satellite telephones to communicate with the outside world. Cellular phones won't work, and there would be no cable TV. No movie theaters or restaurants. No woman. You would have had to really make a commanding officer really mad to get assigned to a post like this.

I guess that if the reefs remain in the same status that they are now, the Allies can either wait to see if China abandons the concept on their own, or they could decide to just go and blast the reefs (without attacking any ships) because China simply can't always be around to defend them.

A very interesting situation.

Doug

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RE: Spratly Spat - 1/11/2017 3:39:08 PM   
KungPao


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Doug
Actually most of the nation in East and Southeast Asia have experience to send servicemen to guard uninhabited reefs/islands. China and Vietnam have most experience on this. There are many many military person serve on an reef for 2-3 years before go back to land.
In 1970s almost every reefs in South China sea is uninhabited. And today you see the airbase, communication center and even apartment build on these reefs.

Of course, the isolated reef will drive people mad. one of the interesting piece of history is Nanxun Jiao incident (Gaven Reefs). I can't find an English reference on this incident: in Nov 7th 1990 11 PLA members were missing when they stationed on Nanxun Jiao, later 5 bodies were found. The info about incident was still classified, but some evidence saying this is a murder case.

< Message edited by KungPao -- 1/11/2017 7:12:09 PM >


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RE: Spratly Spat - 1/12/2017 6:09:34 AM   
magi

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: KungPao

Doug
Actually most of the nation in East and Southeast Asia have experience to send servicemen to guard uninhabited reefs/islands. China and Vietnam have most experience on this. There are many many military person serve on an reef for 2-3 years before go back to land.
In 1970s almost every reefs in South China sea is uninhabited. And today you see the airbase, communication center and even apartment build on these reefs.

Of course, the isolated reef will drive people mad. one of the interesting piece of history is Nanxun Jiao incident (Gaven Reefs). I can't find an English reference on this incident: in Nov 7th 1990 11 PLA members were missing when they stationed on Nanxun Jiao, later 5 bodies were found. The info about incident was still classified, but some evidence saying this is a murder case.

very interesting anecdote KungPao... thanks....

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RE: Spratly Spat - 1/13/2017 8:19:19 AM   
giantsquid

 

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Thanks for your interesting notes.
I found this BBC article about chinese built up in South China Sea. They are taking it seriously!
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38319253

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