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Dawn Strike 1950

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Dawn Strike 1950 - 1/23/2020 11:23:37 AM   


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As these reviews are intended to be in date order, I'm having to go back to the start with the new Standalone scenarios that come with CMO. As I only play Command about once a week, apologies if I don't come back quickly with replies to comments or questions.

Dawn Strike is set at the start of the Korean War and covers an Anglo-American carrier strike on airfields in the North. It rather misleadingly seems to be a historical scenario but, trust me, it isn't! In many ways, it provides an exciting, action-rich game, but it's also a total bloodbath and has a number of frankly weird features.

You have a US task group around the carrier Valley Forge, which has a large number of aircraft of many types, including Panther jets and early AEW planes. She is escorted by the the smaller carrier Badoeng Strait (oddly named after an Allied defeat in WW2), which has ASW aircraft and a few fighters, plus the cruiser Rochester, destroyers Taylor, Eversole, Shelton and Hamner and the oiler Tolovana.

Some distance away is a British task group. The carrier Triumph is quite small and all of her WW2-vintage Seafires and Fireflies are rigged for a ground strike. Escorting Triumph are the cruiser Belfast, destroyers Consort and Cossack, the Aussie frigate Shoalhaven and the oiler Wave Conqueror.

The apparent opposition consists of some North Korean MTBs (some of which are minelayers), unknown numbers of WW2 Soviet fighters, Stormovik attack planes and some AA guns. You are told that some Soviet ships are in the area, so you must be careful not to hit them by accident and start WW3. After all, it's a historical scenario, right???

Your orders call for initial recon flights to check-out AA defences. As the North Koreans have 160nm air search radar (but no long-range surface search - remember this!), I decided to send the pre-allocated Corsairs and Seafires in low, then use terrain as far as possible before rising up in a fast traverse of the targets to avoid the AA, which seemed to have a ceiling of a mile or so. This all went smoothly enough, with no enemy CAP whatever and some incomplete intel gained. You score no points for it, though and it could be skipped without any harm done.

Orders were to mount ground strikes two hours in, by which time the carriers would be in their designated patrol boxes. During this time, I discovered lots of shipping, mostly fishing junks but also some Korean MTBs in the British sector, accompanied by a couple of Soviet patrol boats. There were also two Russian destroyers near the American task force.

Five of the Korean ships were minelayers and they were obviously laying a 'field' across Haeju harbour to block the Brits. I engaged at a safe distance with HMS Belfast.

While this was going on, the Soviet destroyer Ozornoy approached disconcertingly close to the Valley Forge group. I edged away, trying to avoid trouble. At this point, a Russian submarine suddenly popped-up and sank the Hamner!! I'd had ASW aircraft up and had sown the patrol box with sonobuoys, but this made no difference. Even if I had found the sub first, I'd probably have given it the benefit of the doubt and, for all I know, the Russians might not always attack. There might also be a heavy VP penalty for initiating hostilities.

So, not a historical scenario after all. The British went rock'n'roll and annihilated the Korean and Russian patrol craft. Ozornoy closed in and opened fire on USS Taylor before being blown out of the water by Rochester. She did, however, hit the Taylor, doing only 5.9% damage but, as tends to (unrealistically) happen in this game, knocking-out about 75% of her systems. The other Russian destroyer, the Ognevoy, mindlessly closed and was sunk in turn by the US cruiser. Here I discovered Weird Factor #1, in that there are VP for Korean ships sunk, but none whatsoever for sinking Russians, even when fired-on first.

The enemy sub, soon joined by another, proved almost undetectable by my short-ranged sonar and buoys. Any contact promptly went imprecise and it was impossible to engage, especially as my ships were evading like hell. Incidentally, I thought the whole point of depth charges was that they DIDN'T need a precise target. Weird Factor #2, however, was that the subs (and, I found, all other enemy units), were coded to prioritise the destroyers instead of the key carriers. For this I was grateful, but I still lost the Eversole and the Shelton was lucky to avoid a similar fate as several torpedoes fired at her missed. Eventually, I either got out of range or the Russians ran out of tinfish.

A bit daunted, I mounted my carrier strikes. Given the sheer number of aircraft involved, I couldn't be bothered to target planes at specific installations. Instead, I simply sent all the British at Haeju airfield, bombing at a safe height of 12,000', while the Americans sent a squadron of attack planes and another of escorts at each of their objectives, Pyongyang and Onjong-ni. Weird Factor #3 - there was still no CAP at all. It didn't matter much, as the bombers only managed to destroy one radar and damage a few other sites. The number of bombs and rockets that completely missed the airfields beggared belief. Just one plane was lost, a Seafire that disobeyed orders (as quite a few did) and came-in low.

It took a long time to recover the strikes, which was a worry for Valley Forge with the subs about. Just as this operation was close to completion, the enemy air force came to life and an escorted wave of Stormoviks came at the Americans. By using the fighter escorts still airborne and scrambling more from Badoeng Strait, I was able to mostly break-up the attack and inflict heavy losses at a cost of three fighters, an ASW plane and bomb damage to the Shelton. Doing so, I encountered Weird Factor #4, in that Korean planes score 5 VP each, but you can lose as many aircraft as you like without penalty!!

Decided to cut my losses while the scorecard was still positive and withdrew both task forces SW. A Korean MTB squadron pursued the British, but all three boats were soon sunk.

Even though the enemy had NO long-range surface search capability and were not using recon planes, simultaneous strikes then went unerringly for both task groups. Weird Factor #5. Not for the first time in the game, I was faced with the impossible task of having to micro-manage multiple combats in different parts of the map. Could only put my forces on automatic engage or CAP missions and prioritise my attention as best I could.

The British were horribly exposed, with no CAP and I quickly lost Consort, Cossack and Shoalhaven. Perhaps I should have kept half my Seafires back, but this would have meant less strike power over Haeju and, in any case, all planes had been weighed-down with bombs and rockets, which I'd have had to unload, risking getting struck, Midway-style, while doing so. A moot point. The Americans were much-better placed and repulsed their attackers, with several shot down.

Decided to retaliate and repeat the earlier Air Superiority missions over Pyongyang and Onjong-ni, as destroying Korean planes was clearly the best way to improve the score. This generally went well and I followed-up with a Skyraider dive-bombing attack on Onjong-ni, which knocked-out the control tower and did a fair amount of other damage for four planes lost to flak.

However, the Koreans sent another strike against the British, who they simply couldn't have detected and sank the Belfast while inflicting heavy damage on the Wave Conqueror.

I then had an unexpected present as the Russian subs' luck abruptly ran-out and both were detected and sunk in quick succession by the same Avenger ASW plane. This could easily have happened earlier, though I guess there was background noise from my ships at that time. Of course, I scored NO VP for this.

The battle then wound-down with more skirmishes over the enemy airfields, which scored me some more points for downed Korean fighters.

As I said, a total bloodbath. The UN lost a cruiser, 4 destroyers, a frigate and 17 planes, with an oiler heavily damaged and two destroyers moderately so. North Korean losses totalled 3 MTBs, 5 minelaying MTBs, a radar, a control tower and 54 planes, while the Soviets lost two destroyers, two subs and two patrol boats (being completely wiped-out).

This made for a score of +140, with no verdict on victory or defeat. If losses of UN planes and Russian ships had been included, I estimate that it would have been about +225.

The scenario is not at all realistic. Quite apart from the Soviets departing from history and starting WW3, the North Koreans had a far more effective air force than they actually had in 1950, with numerous pilots trained in anti-shipping operations. They also had a remarkable ability to detect naval task forces without appropriate radar or shadowing planes.

It could be improved by having proper victory conditions and by addressing Weird Factors 1-5 above. In a way, though, it was quite enjoyable once I recognised it for what it was.

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