In June 1988, Iran laid mines in the main shipping channel in the Persian Gulf. After an American destroyer was damaged, Washington ordered a retaliatory strike against the Islamic Republic's oil infrastructure. The result was a sharp engagement which saw the only instance of a US warship sinking an enemy combatant with missiles. The scenario is something of an escalation of real-life events.
You can only play as the Americans. There are 5 US task groups with different missions. Iconic carrier Enterprise, with the cruiser Truxtun, frigate Reasoner and an oiler, is charged with supporting the other three groups from just outside the Straits of Hormuz (the chokepoint of the Gulf). Force Alpha consists of just two ships, with the frigate Gary escorting the regional command and control ship (an amphibious dock called Coronado) on the W side of the theatre of operations. Forces Bravo and Charlie are tasked with at least disabling two Iranian oil platforms/rigs. Bravo has the amphibious dock Trenton (with a selection of Marine choppers) and the destryers Merrill and McCormick, while Charlie comprises the cruiser Wainwright and frigates Simpson and Bagley. Finally, Force Delta (destroyers O'Brien and Strauss and frigate Williams) is just W of the Straits, looking for the Iranian frigate Sabalan (which has been singled-out as a high-priority target for some reason).
It's a big, complex scenario. As in reality, the Gulf is thronging with ships large and small, mostly massive tankers in transit. There are three British warships under AI control, which are supposedly allied but provide no help beyond a bit of intel gathering. A UAE patrol gunboat with Exocets is around somewhere and, surprise, surprise, a Soviet squadron is in town (where have we seen this before?).
The Iranians have a couple of dangerous missile frigates, a larger but older destroyer, a number of Boghammar fast attack boats with short-ranged rockets, a minelayer and a tug. Their air force boasts some F-14 Tomcats (someone slipped-up here!) which are thankfully less well-armed than their counterparts on the Enterprise. They also have older Phantoms with strike capability, Chinese-made Airguard fighters (nimble but lacking punch) and Orion patrol planes (happily unarmed). Other threats include Gammon and Guideline SAMs, AA guns and mines, but a particular concern are batteries of Seersucker (who thought of that name?) anti-shipping missiles with a 110nm range, which are ideal for closing-off the Straits.
Lots of threats, limited intel and only so much you can do. Concerned about mines, I deleted all the pre-set missions, which would have had ships wandering around in patrol zones and ordered everything to stay still unless it had to move. In the event, no mines were encountered, but that doesn't mean there were none there. Opted to have radars on, sent-up recon choppers and exercised restraint on CAP numbers, as I expected lots of bogeys over the eight hours of the scenario. Something clearly had to be done about a Gammon battery near Bandar Abbas, which (like the Guideline) was ineffective against planes at low altitudes but greatly constrained Enterprise's operations, so I scrambled some Corsairs with HARM and Shrike anti-radar missiles (keeping them low).
Things got off to an infuriating start as the Soviet destroyer Sovremenny promptly appeared W of Force Bravo and pumped Sunburn missiles at me!. So much for historical accuracy!! This was the era of Glasnost and Perestroika and here we were with the Soviets recklessly triggering WW3!! This happens too often in these scenarios and it's starting to get monotonous. Worse, one missile got past my SAMs and sank the 1,220DP destroyer Merrill, which had most of Bravo's Harpoons. There were also issues with some ships not having Harpoons mounted (because they shared the rails with RIM SAMs). Helped by Gary from Force Alpha, I eventually sank the Sovremenny, but it took three hits to do so. To add to the irritation, the enemy score for ship sinkings, but the Soviet ships score you nothing.
A Krivak frigate (mainly an ASW vessel), the Iranian destroyer Damavand and a minelayer were sighted in the Straits and engaged. The Krivak defended herself against the first pair of Harpoons from O'Brien, but succumbed to the second. Lacking SAMs, the Damavand went down readily. Neither scored me any points and nor did the minelayer, which was picked-off by an Intruder from the Enterprise.
Meanwhile, Iran sent up two Tomcats and two Airguards, which were slaughtered by SAMs. Two more Airguards then followed and suffered the same fate, as did a rather lucky Orion which came in from the E. Every downed Iranian plane scores 5 VP, but your own aircraft losses don't count - the victory conditions are a bit odd...
By now, my ARM Corsairs had badly degraded the Gammon and Guideline sites, which were blinded and posed no threat for the rest of the game (having gotten a few SAMs into the air and forced my planes to dive a couple of times). In the process, we found some Seersucker batteries either side of Bandar Abbas. Fortunately, these seemed limited by the 40nm range of their linked Chinese surface search radars, which had no AA protection. A few runs with iron bombs removed this potent threat, much to my relief. The Straits were now open.
A prolonged bombardment with guns by Forces Bravo and Charlie had, by now, severely damaged the oil rigs. Though the briefing tells you to damage them 50% (and you score 150 VP each for doing so), you get a series of confusing messages over the course of the game, like one of your ships threatening to open fire AFTER both platforms have been crippled. Your ships will also continue to fire at the rigs beyond the VP award point unless you order Weapons Hold on them (declaring the platforms Unfriendly does the same for all other Iranian units). In the end, I destroyed them both without penalty to deny the enemy vision.
At this stage, my choppers (busily identifying ships) found a flotilla of six Boghammars N of Force Alpha, clearly targetted at the Coronado. Trenton had fun sending her Sea Cobras and Huey at them with TOW anti-tank missiles and HYDRAs. This tickled five of them to death and I eventually sent a Corsair to waste a Walleye on the last one. It saved time. Boghammars score 10 VP each.
After a bit of a lull, the Iranians launched four Tomcats and two Airguards from Bandar Abbas, targetting my recon helicopters in courageous fashion. They caught and downed two before they could RTB. All the bogeys were shot down in the end, but not before some had been outrageously lucky. A number of RIM SAMs petered-out (fired autonomously by the AI) just before reaching them and one dodged four Phoenix missiles on better than 50% chances to hit, taking advantage to destroy the luckless US F-14. A couple more Orions showed-up, but didn't last long.
This pretty much put a dampener on Iranian activity (and there were just the two Soviets). In any event, I'd kept plenty of Tomcats back and could probably have coped with a late air surge.
I occupied the time demolishing the enemy radar grid with Corsairs, Intruders and Sea Cobras. Towards the end of this, I found some ships in Bandar Abbas dock and several Phantoms dangerously close to Enterprise at Jask, E of the Straits. This allowed rather a spectacular finish, with Walleye strikes wrecking two frigates (including the elusive Sabalan) and most of the dock and clobbering six Phantoms on the ground. The frigates score about 50 VP each.
At this point, the scenario concluded. It makes no judgement on victory or defeat, but I scored 565. Losses came to a destroyer, a Tomcat and 3 choppers, while the carnage on the other side was 2 destroyers, 3 frigates, a minelayer, 6 Boghammars, 2 oil platforms, a tug, 6 Tomcats, 6 Phantoms, 6 Airguards, 3 Orions, 3 Seersucker batteries, 14 radar installations, an AA battery and Bandar Abbas dock. Oh, and a partridge in a pear tree!!