I just finished Dance of the Vampires. It very much reminded me of some of the old Harpoon scenarios I played over and over again back in the day, stomping on carrier groups with those big old Russian missiles. Good times!
I started by sending out the Bears to start sniffing around with radars off, sending some out directly to Iceland, and some down along the Scandinavian coast (outside radar range), and putting up small local fighter patrols over Iceland and Banak and Andoya. My Backfires were given the double-missile load, and the MiG-25s at Andoya were stood down to add extra fuel tanks, given the range at which they would probably be operating. My subs were ordered to head south (the Victor) or east around the top of Iceland and then south (the Oscar).
Before the Bears could get too far a MiG-29 patrolling from Keflavik spotted large vapour trails incoming at high altitude. Bombers! A big fight followed, and eventually all my fighters were in the air, trying to get to the spread out bomber cells. Incoming ARMs had me shut down my ground-based radars from time to time, so the IRSTs on the MiGs were quite helpful for spotting. Despite the puny warheads on my AA-8s, which meant I had to hit the B-52s again and again, I was able to destroy or damage and turn away the raid before it could reach Keflavik. As my planes returned I ordered those with pure AA-8 loadouts to re-arm with AA-10s, to get a bit more reach and damage potential.
The Bears continued to advance, noting the activity of MPA along the Norwegian coast and north of the UK. The Nimrods were given a reasonably wide berth, in case they decided to put their Sidewinders to anti-Bear use. They're faster than I am, so it's better they not spot me at all. As they approached Iceland they also saw a few fighter radars, presumably operating out of the UK, and eventually the tell-tale signature of the E-2s was detected. To my surprise they're further west than I had expected, being essentially due south of Iceland. I had thought they would be midway between Iceland and the UK. This puts my Oscar well out of position, so it is ordered to turn back and head down the west coast of Iceland instead.
With an idea of where the enemy was I started launching my bombers. The Badgers have plenty of range to reach Iceland without refueling, and it turns out the Backfires can make it too, even with the double missile load. Fuel consumption on the way out looks bad, but the fuel consumption is much better coming home without the missiles. Provided you don't make any high speed dashes or low altitude flight you can make it. So the bombers are routed north to the ocean, turning west outside of Finnish radar cover, and then turned towards Iceland when they are safely beyond interference. No need to start a new war with Finland and Sweden - I can stay securely outside their borders at all times.
As the bombers progressed I sent a few fighters down the coast to shoot down the MPA in the area, in the hope that destroying them might reduce the enemy's ESM capabilities. The Bears continued to work their way around the enemy, until they're surrounding them in an arc from SW to NE, which gives me a good ESM picture of their two Hawkeye patrols. As the bombers approached the northern coast of Iceland I launched my tankers. Even though they're not necessary if all goes well, I'd still like them up in case of emergencies. The Iceland tankers wait about 120 nm north of Iceland, and the mainland tankers fly along the bombers' route to loiter about 220 nm north-west of Banak.
Since there are two American carriers, and two Hawkeye patrols, I'm guessing that there's two groups - probably one with the French carrier in attendance, and the other with big amphib in attendance. So the bombers split into two groups and turned to head south, Badgers leading, preceded by the MiG-29s from Keflavik. Soon the Bears started detecting long range fighter radars, prompting me to activate our Big Bulge radars and see what's what. That's when it turns out there's only one enemy group. The bombers converge.
At this point the MiGs started getting engaged by Phoenixes, but by diving to the deck the nimble aircraft managed to dodge many of them, and the survivors pushed in to engage the F-14s in combat, and although a number of them are eventually lost they did good work, shooting down seven of the F-14s (and an F8 or two), and preventing the American CAP from dealing effectively with the approaching bombers. Successive waves of jammer drones were launched in the hope of maintaining a jamming carpet, but I don't know if the jamming did a lot of good, and the drones that ate missiles were probably more productive.
Behind all this fighting the Backfires reached launch position, and fired two massive salvos, timed to arrive one after the other. Two Backfires were lost to extreme range Phoenix shots, but they got their missiles away moments before they died, so the salvos were at maximum strength. More American fighters launched and started engaging the missiles (my surviving Mig-29s are now running home Winchester and on fumes, so they can't interfere), and the air defence ships shot with everything they had, but there were too many missiles, and one after the other the ships of the task group were smashed by the huge warheads and died. The Oscar, which was hurrying to engage any stragglers, is not needed now, and it was ordered to go to creep speed and resume patrols.
As the bombers headed home my two remaining MiG-29s (armed only with AA-8s), which had been flying CAP reserve over Keflavik, are ordered south to try and deal with the E-2s which are still orbiting, even though their carriers are underwater.This turns out to be a dumb idea. Although they got one isolated E-2 (and a pair of Crusaders), they then got swatted out of the sky by some angry F-14s which were still in the region, and knew exactly where the MiGs were.
I'd also been sending out more fighters from Andoya, to meet and shield the returning bombers from the hostile coast, which turns out to be a good thing when some Norwegian F-16s nearly got into the stream of Badgers headed for Andoya. Fortunately the high-speed/high-altitude of the Foxbats and Foxhounds lets me get in and out to deal with the threat (and to run away fast when I make dumb mistakes). So the bombers got home safely (a couple of Backfires tanking up north-west of Banak), although some of the Foxbats (which got too far out of position to do anything) had to recover to Iceland instead of Andoya.
Following this my fighters continued to patrol for surprises, as well as working on the MPA operating out of the UK and Norway, and wrestling with Norwegian F-16s. The Foxbats which had recovered to Iceland swung east and took a shot at the UK fighter patrols as they went home, helped out by the Kef MiG-29s, accounting for some Tornadoes and another few Nimrods.
If there are no enemy actions to happen at the end of the game, then maybe it would be useful to have an event to end the scenario if all the major ships are sunk? That way the player wouldn't have to run out the clock if there's nothing more to accomplish.
If I'd been smart I'd have sent my Mig-31s out to Iceland at the start of the game, and had them refuel and have a snack at Keflavik while waiting for the Bears to do their work and the bombers to arrive. Then I could have had better fighter cover during the raid, and maybe taken fewer casualties among my Fulcrums and bombers. Landing at Kef to refuel and have another rest, then ferry home to rearm.
Surviving planes like E-2s will re-base to Scotland, but then will refuel and fly back to their patrol routes south of Iceland, where they will be isolated and in danger. Perhaps those missions could be de-activated if the carriers have been sunk?
Would any of the Mig-29s really be on the AA-8 only loadout? This would put them at a great range penalty compared to their expected foes, and its tiny warhead has minimal effect against larger aircraft.
Occasionally the Fins will violate the Russian borders as they fly across the deep zig-zags in their mission zone. This is a neat way to generate 'misunderstandings', but if you had wanted them to stay on their side of the border maybe a simpler zone inside the country would work better?
Were cluster-bomb F-5s at Orland intended to be on a mission? (To attack Andoya?)
The carrier's defences seemed a little light to me. Having played a lot of Gunner98's scenarios in this area I was expecting multiple carrier groups with something like a pair of Aegis cruisers per group, plus various DDs and FFs, which would have made it an extremely tough target. Currently there's only one Tico, and while the Virginia's decent the California is weak as cruisers go. The Kidds look like nice mini-cruisers, but they are very short ranged (18 nm) so they won't get many shots. The sheer number of missiles the Russians have can swamp the defences and sink the entire task force with missiles left over.
The F-16s coming out to hunt the bombers was a nice one, and if there'd been a few more they could really have made a mess of my returning Badgers.
The B-52s coming in at high altitude in the clear daylight sky makes them quite vulnerable to detection (contrails, & radar), giving the player enough time to deal with them fairly easily. I don't know if it would work, but maybe a nape-of-the-earth approach across Iceland, trying to hide behind the mountains would be a bit more survivable? (Although I expect the three SHORADS will make a mess of them even if they do get in.)
Thanks very much for putting together this cold war fun.