After a break for holidays, another instalment of my series on the Standalone Scenarios in Command.
It is 1976 and a US spy plane has gone down in Soviet-aligned Somalia. Both sides race to reach the site and retrieve the survivors and data from the wreck. Why either would risk WW3 over this is anyone's guess, but it does make for quite a good game.
You command two US task groups, one based around the carrier Oriskany and the other on the amphibious assault ship Tarawa. Each has a missile cruiser and supporting destroyers and auxiliaries. You are told that a Soviet squadron, based around a Kresta class missile cruiser and a number of Russian aircraft are backing the small Somali Navy and ground forces.
On the face of it, the scenario is a tall order. You lose if a single rescue helicopter is lost during the evacuation. The Soviets have Shaddock and Styx missiles that outrange anything available to the USN. In the air, the American Crusader jets have short-ranged, backward-firing Sidewinder missiles to contend with the longer-ranged, forward-firing weapons of the opposing MiG-23s. On the ground, the Navy SEALs protecting the crash site look poorly-equipped to deal with the Somali tanks, armoured cars and mechanised infantry. Thankfully, it isn't that bad in practice.
As so often, the AI attacks in waves with no real co-ordination. The Kresta launches four Shaddocks, but they are relatively slow and the US Leahy-class cruisers have enough SAMs to ensure they don't have much chance of getting through.
Meanwhile, two pairs of MiG-23s attack. I quickly lost a Crusader to them and realised I couldn't hope to take them on in a dogfight. Instead, I ran away and lured them into range of the fleet's SAMs. This dealt with the first pair, but the second was trickier. I forgot to allow for cloud cover, which obscured the MiGs from my ships and flew the Crusaders too high, above the clouds. This cost me two planes and I was lucky that the MiGs exposed themselves as they tried to RTB and got shot down.
Next came two pairs of Su-17 attack planes, which were easy meat for the SAMs.
While this was going on, the Somalis attacked the crash site with an armoured column. I'd taken the precaution of having one of the Tarawa's Sea Cobras flying shotgun and this wrought carnage on the attackers. Fortunately, I had time to send in two more before the undaunted Africans overran the SEALs and these choppers' TOW missiles and rockets completed the slaughter. There really should be a morale rule in the game, though.
Out at sea, the Soviets had a couple of Bears and a Hormone helicopter for recon, but they got too close to the Oriskany group and paid the penalty.
To the West of the Tarawa group, the Somalis sent-in a torpedo boat and two Osa II missile boats, the latter with early-model Styxes. The former was sunk by a combination of missiles from the cruiser Leahy and a Corsair with Rockeye bomblets. A series of strikes with Rockeyes and old-fashioned bombs disposed of the Osas before they could get in range to fire their missiles.
Next, the Soviets mounted an airmobile operation with a group of Hind and Hip choppers. The otherwise limited Crusaders were quite useful here, unlike the Harrier jump-jets from the Tarawa, which had no form of radar and were blind in this night-time scenario. None of the choppers reached the crash site.
A Somali Tango-class diesel-electric sub then tried to attack the Oriskany group. It was detected by sonar a safe distance out and was then engaged by a Sea King and ASROCs from the cruiser Reeves. It was extraordinarily lucky, getting missed twice on 70% and taking three hits to sink, but it never really had a hope.
A Soviet spy ship to the East did a good job of masquerading as a neutral merchantman but, once uncovered, was sunk by a Corsair with 'iron bombs'.
This may have persuaded the main Soviet squadron to close-in. A Kashin-class destroyer loosed-off a quartet of Improved Styxes, but these were downed by the Tarawa group's SAMs. It wasn't supported properly by the other Styx-capable destroyer (a Kildin), or I might have been in trouble. I counter-attacked with four Corsairs, armed with Walleye missiles. These proved gratifyingly effective and sank the Kresta and Kildin - the latter with its Styxes still unfired. There being no morale rule, the Kashin pressed on regardless, but was battered by missiles from the Leahy and then finished-off by gunfire from the destroyers Barry and Decatur.
Three hours or so in, the rescue helicopters became available at the landing site. I returned them to the Tarawa unopposed, but the mechanics of their Ferry mission were unclear and I'm still not sure if I did it the right way to satisfy the game.
Shortly afterwards, a pair of Su-17s made a desperate sortie, taking a route which avoided naval SAMs. In this way, they survived just long enough to bomb the site, but to no effect. A pair of arriving Crusaders then shot them down in a rare case of Sidewinders being effective.
It remained to run down the clock. A thumping victory by any rational assessment, but the scenario suffers from the bug where the scorecard never updates, so the official result was 'Average' with a score of ZERO....time this was fixed.