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Carrier Stacking Question - 7/7/2003 8:22:01 AM   
shepherd74

 

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Hello all.

Recently played my father in the hypothetical campaign where the Japs begin with PM and GC. I am US. 30 days go by and he sends and invasion fleet south east protected by a single stack of carriers. 3 CVs and 2 lights. He sets cap so he has 95 zeroes defending his force. The carriers are following the APs.

I respond by having 3 carrier TFs pull adjacent to each other, all six hexes from the enemy. Patrol/Do not retire. The task forces are 1 CV and escorts, 2 CVs and escorts, and 2 CVs and escorts. When the fun begins (and I use that term loosely) he sends a huge strike of DBs with light cover to blow the crap out of the port at Luganville. Next up is a follow up strike attacking the troops there.

Enterprise and Yorktown are under cloud cover for what seems like the first half of the day and cannot launch (or be launched against). Lex, in her TF, and Hornet and Wasp launch against his CV and AP TFs. The attacks all come in piecemeal one squadron at a time with light cover. I have the Wildcats on all carriers set for about 50% cap on escort missions.

His 95 zeroes first completely obliterate 35 Wildcats (one squadron I had all on escort). He loses 3 planes in return. All bombers and torp planes are destroyed. And so it went. Once or twice the carriers actually attacked in concert, but divided the joint attacks against the AP and the CV TFs. I think between my five carriers (the Enterprise and Yorktown both were able to attack later in the day), we sank a tug boat and damaged a CL. Attack waves suffered about 95% casulties. He ended having his "super cap" force reduced to about 78 planes.

His response was to send a great deal of bombers and torp planes out with limited cover. At the end of the day, I had lost the Hornet, and all other carriers had been severely damaged.

My question:

Based upon the above is there any viable strategy for the US Player other than to carrier stack in a single TF as he did and attempt to create my own "super cap" force? And if that is true, doesn't the entire campaign come down to a single battle in which the human player is going to have very little control over (i.e. altitude and % cap)?

Thoughts would be appreciated. I want to see the value in challenging him to a rematch. But if it comes down to a single day of stacked carrier combat in which the AI decides what gets attacked, when, and with what forces, it's hard to see the point.

Thanks in advance,

Shepherd
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DD SWARM - 7/7/2003 8:32:43 AM   
Polrbear

 

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:cool: Admiral Shepherd, I would suggest a swarm of DDs would counter your Dad's tactic

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- 7/7/2003 9:15:52 AM   
wobbly

 

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I can so hear what you're saying: "is this game all about one carrier battle"?

The answer is NO..... and yes :D


If you put your carriers in separate groups you get one main benefit - incoming enemy attacks can concentrate on one of the TFs while sparing the others. In 3 groups of 2 for instance, 2 carriers may be sunk but the other TFs of 2 not touched. These carriers can now retaliate in the next turn. If your opponent had all his carriers in one group 4 or 5 of his carriers may be damaged: damaged carriers will be hit more easily in round 2 of strikes (they may also not be able to conduct flight ops).
You have seen the detriment of having multiple groups - they are commanded by different captains, with different capabilities, and they are likely to get a bit uncoordinated. It was in this uncoordination where you fell down - he had multiple defenders - you came in in dribs and drabs.

In my experience, even with 9 against 7 carriers in opposing TFs (say) not all of the carriers are sunk or even damaged, and usually some damage is sufferd by both sides - enough to force both sides to retreat and lick their wounds. A carrier sent back to Pearl or Tokyo is lost for a long time, with no gaurantee you will get it back - especially if you are the Japs. My point here is: 2 surviving carriers (say) suddenly become a very powerful force and by the same token other units like LBA and especially surface units become more important: they don't have to worry so much about enemy carriers.

What tends to happen is both sides heavily CAP their groups but one gets a few lucky hits. Because of the heavy CAP alot of the attacking bombers (from both sides) have their numbers savaged and the moral of their pilots gutted. Alot now depends on where your battle took place. If it is in the middle of the ocean - the better conditioned side should be able to kill cripples, but again some will escape.

The Japanese (and this is an opinion) are toast if they loose their Carriers - by proxy this includes their aircraft and aircrews. So a decisive victory for the US means the Japs are in real trouble; however, if they manage to get their planes off and base them on land, then they are not completely without a sword to smite the capatilist enemy. The Allies paradoxically don't really NEED to have carriers - they make you far more capable of succeeding and give you far better flexibility, but they aren't absolutely necessary. With the strength of their land based fighters (especially after they get P-38s and their ilk) they are able to LRCAP naval forces and make Jap based carrier attacks very costly. They will loose alot more ships but they have forces in spades so they can afford it (usually).

These opinions I have put forward are all open to the vagaries of the game. Weather, as you have seen, can turn all your plans upside down. Luck plays a huge part. Alot falls on the moral and fatigue of your aircrews - this to me is the most important, if difficult to measure, aspect of the carrier battle.

Not many use it, but the utilisation of very separate (on the map) carrier groups could pay large dividends. You could have 2 carriers ghost your opponents carriers - never getting close enough to fight but always being a needle in his side; while on the other side of the map 3 other carriers wreck havoc upon unsuspecting transport TFs. Remember, another big drawback of having all your carriers in one TF is they can't be everywhere at once - the old hit him where he aint maxim!

So the game, in my regard, isn't all over after a CV-CV battle. About the only time I would agree to it being so is if the japs lost decisively - most carriers sunk and with it their planes and aircrews. In my opinion it changes, while both sides have carriers they are kings of the sea and all must be wary of what they do. If one side has carriers they have operational flexibility - but all is not lost. You can't take bases with carriers, for that you need transports, there are plenty of ways of killing them without using carriers!

pauses and takes large breath.

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- 7/7/2003 9:43:13 AM   
shepherd74

 

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Thanks Wobbly for your input. I really appreciate you taking the time.

I had suspected that disparate command levels in the TF commanders may have been an issue. Also, the bad weather over the Enterprise TF may also have been extremely negative for coordination.

Your comments about the weight of CVs are also something we had been discussing today. It's a lot to think about. But I imagine that a rematch may be warranted.

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- 7/7/2003 11:04:25 AM   
Mr.Frag


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Japan has a lot of CV's in play very quickly into the game. They can clump them together. Your only option as the USA is to either strike very quickly to knock out the first 3 (unlikely) or wait until you have your first 5 available with full air crews.

You will be facing off against roughly 400 aircraft. You can not do this without multiple CV's worth of 36 F4F-4's and expect to come out ahead on the curve. You really have to fight fire with fire here or expect to take heavy losses.

Your key advantage is AA upgrades, and I would strongly suggest that any Allied player takes advantage to this to the fullest extent possible as with these upgrades, Japan's paper airplanes don't even need CAP to help shoot them down.

Remember, once the F6F/F1U show up, your CV's become unstoppable. It makes little sense to loose them before hand as you are simply tossing away victory points.

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- 7/7/2003 12:06:58 PM   
bilbow


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Shepherd,
I see one key thing you apparently did wrong. All three of your TFs should have been in the same hex so the CAP of all three would have protected against each attack. It's one thing to place CVs in separate TFs so they can't all be hit on the same attack, but if they are in different hexes. they are vulnerable to a mass strike.

It is also useful to have a couple of small 2-3 ship TFs of destroyers or the like in that hex as decoys. It's possible for the enemy strike to go after them instead of the carriers. I like to have the CV TFs follow these little guys.

Definitely try it again.

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Yanks triumphant - 7/7/2003 12:17:09 PM   
herbieh

 

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It seems to be the feeling that if the yank CVs get a CV on CV duel early on they are doomed, I had the misfortune to be ambushed very cleverly very early on in scene 19, my 2 CVs were together covering a fast transport run when Shok, Zuik and Shoho turned up, I thought, oh well, thats that, too both our shock at the end his 3 carriers were scrap, and only Lex had to go back to pearl. His 1st strike hit the fast transports, and then general battle for 2 days.

So as Japan, dont get cocky, loosing 3 cvs before PM or lunga is taken really makes it hard.

Of course, Wobbly, if you came out to play, IJN would sweep you away ( about 100th direct challenge on forums to cowardly Kiwi to come out and fight!!! ):p

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- 7/7/2003 6:48:52 PM   
DJAndrews

 

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I agree with Bilbow. Remember the scale. Each hex is 30 miles across. Three TFs in one hex looks like a lot but it really isn't.

CVs in the same hex, but in different TFs combine their CAP into a single group CAP which greets attacks against any of the TFs. If your TFs are at full strength and set to 60% CAP you will field 108 F4s. As I understand you did it, you had one TF protected by a single sqn of F4s (36 planes) and the other two TFs were unprotected. in different hexes. This accounts for the losses.

If the damaged carriers went over a combined Sys and Flt damage of 50% in the first attack their aircraft would have been grounded (those that didn't crash into the sea returning to severely damaged CVs). The fighters in the protected TF would have been highly fatigued after the first attack and would not perform well in subsequent action (until rested).

You have a better chance of coordinating strikes when all your forces are in the same hex and each TF sends a portion of their fighters, bombers and torpedo planes as a group. This seems to be a better approach than putting a single sqn on 90% CAP. Fatigue levels among all your fighters will remain lower using this method.

Grouping of TFs in a single hex does not help with AAA fire (each TF is on its own).

There are some excellent threads that may be of help to you. Try searching for "Task Force Compostion" by cap_and_gown (Dec. '02) and "How do I win a carrier battle?" started by Grotius in January. Good luck and keep fighting.

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- 7/9/2003 7:07:25 AM   
spence

 

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Separate TF's for each carrier but all the TF's in the same hex is the way to go. In a my PBEM game as the USN, I foolishly got into a carrier battle in early May 42. Each of my CV's were in separate forces in the same hex while the 2 IJN CV's and CVL were in one. Both sides launched a first strike of around 60-70 bombers covered by fighters. CAP took a fairly small toll of both strikes (I guess his CAP level was not as high as mine). His whole first strike went after Yorktown and reduced her to subatomic particles but they took a lot of losses to FLAK. A second strike by about 20 bomber types with no escort then went after Lex and got pretty much annihilated (again mostly by FLAK). My big strike got a shot at each of his carriers with about 18 SBDs and if the fates had been a little kinder they might well have done to each of his CVs what they did to Zuikaku (4+/- bomb hits which rendered it incapable of flight ops...to be finished off by LBA over the next 2-3 days). Lexington's air group was rendered pretty much useless by the battle but apparently so were Shokaku's and Shoho's because I pretty much got away with sending the Yorktown escort force (- a damaged CA and DD) in amongst the Port Moresby Invasion Force for an evening's GUNEX and only ended up facing a 15+/- bomber retaliatory strike the next day (and that did little damage at high cost). In fact his airstrikes at the cruisers and a transport task force or two over the next coupla days were so unimpressive that I brought the Lexington back into action after about 5 days rest and got a second shot at both his remaining carriers with about 15 SBDs going after each. A bomb hit on Shokaku was all of my reward but a little good luck for me at that point could have stopped the IJN cold in May of 42. Well, maybe not quite cold but at least luke warm. ;)

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- 7/9/2003 8:28:13 AM   
wobbly

 

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That is the only time that the allies have a real chance of hamstringing the Japanese effort in the early stages - 2 US fleet carriers vs 2 Jap fleet and 1 CVL - the trouble is your 2 fleets CVs don't have a full fighter compliment.

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