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North Pacific Shootout 1989

 
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North Pacific Shootout 1989 - 5/9/2020 9:14:51 PM   
fitzpatv

 

Posts: 88
Joined: 3/20/2019
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Chronologically the last Cold War scenario in the standalone set. The Soviets have been harassing US aircraft over international waters near Kamchatka, so the Americans put on a show of force. You can play either side.

There are some parameters you have to confirm before you start. One sets all units to random experience levels and another (Set First Start = False) made little sense to me (I took the default 'OK').

As the Americans, you have a carrier task force centred on the Forestal-class USS Ranger, with a Belknap cruiser, three destroyers and two ASW frigates. The destroyer Paul F Foster houses an arsenal of Tomahawk cruise missiles. While you have a variety of aircraft, a large proportion are down for maintenance, leaving you short of strike planes. Very limited support is available from a pair of Orions based at Adak in the Aleutians. There is also an 'allied' USAF base at Eackerson, but it played no real part in proceedings.

The Soviets have a surface strike group off Petropavlovsk in Kamchatka, with a Kresta II cruiser, two destroyers and a frigate. While strong in SAMs, this force does not have the heavyweight long-range missiles familiar from earlier scenarios, its longest reach coming from a Sovremenny which is unlikely to get into range in the 6-hour timescale.

More worrying threats are Backfire bombers based at Kamenny Ruchey in Ussuriland, W of Sakhalin and leading-edge MiG-31 Foxhound and Su-27 Flanker fighters at Petropavlovsk. The Foxhounds are faster and the Flankers more agile than your Tomcats, though you have slightly longer-ranged missiles and radar. The latter advantage is offset by the 100nm Phoenix needing to be steered to within 10nm of the target (or else it goes blind), which hinders the Tomcat using its range to escape. The Phoenixes also have to share their platforms with shorter-ranged Sparrows and Sidewinders.

The Soviets have at least one Akula sub, but it is only armed with torpedoes and, in any case, failed to put-in an appearance in my playthrough. Finally, they have plenty of Gammon, Goa and Guideline SAMs and radars ashore, so keep well clear of them with your planes.

Started by moving the frigate Holt to a less vulnerable position in the formation, remembering the fate of HMS Cleopatra in Duelists (qv). Kept the fleet's radars off and relied on planes for search (annoyingly having to turn their radars on manually every time I launched one - this really shouldn't be the default).

The action started with 4 Foxhounds escorting a pair of recon Badgers in from Petropavlovsk. I intercepted these with Tomcats and, unwilling to be taken for a mug, initiated hostilities (there is no penalty for doing so and a score of zero is a Disaster anyway, so war is mandatory). Leaving the decision too late meant that I only won the dogfight 3-2, to find that Tomcats score 100 VP to Russian fighters' 50.

As two Flankers reinforced the Russians, I fed-in three more Tomcats and one splashed both Badgers for 250 VP each.

Thought about hitting Kamenny Ruchey with my 1,350nm range TLAM-N Tomahawks, but discovered that this model was nuclear only, so this wasn't an option. Instead, I had the Foster fire some shorter-ranged TLAM-Cs at ground installations.

Four more Foxhounds and two Flankers arrived with a third Badger. Fed-in more F-14s and destroyed all of these bar one Flanker for two Tomcats. The dogfights continued, with another group of four Foxhounds arriving and losing two of their number without loss to Uncle Sam.

The Tomahawks had helped by distracting the Russian fighters, but this meant that only a couple got through, one destroying a radar (which scored nothing). Thankfully, I had plenty more in reserve (Foster carries 45 of this type alone).

Crisis point then arrived, with a dozen Backfires coming-in from the W. My patrolling Hawkeye spotted them in good time and I committed my remaining Tomcats. The plan was to engage the Kitchen missiles with them but, in the event, I was able to intercept the bombers before they could launch. Despite some initial bad luck, the result was carnage, with all of the Backfires massacred before they could fire. This put me in Triumph territory (Backfires score 350 each) and largely drew the Soviet sting.

A feature of the scenario is that both sides have 'maritime surveillance' choppers for rescuing downed pilots. I was able to recover two Tomcat pilots in this way, scoring 50 VP for each, but it was fiddly. You learn as you go along that you have to place your helicopter over the pilot, drop to minimum altitude, hover, then click a lightning-symbol button on the toolbar with both chopper and pilot selected. Clicking 'Execute' then does the job. Unfortunately, I tried to rescue both pilots with the same Sea King, which crashed the game!! Mercifully, I'd saved shortly beforehand...use different choppers for each rescue (you have three).

As I had nothing to lose, I sent my four available Intruders against the Soviet squadron with Harpoons. The last two Flankers were flying CAP but, although I failed to destroy them with Tomcats due to some foul virtual dice, I did use-up their ammo and, engaging at extreme range, was able to avoid retaliation (the Russian missiles petered-out).

Predictably, though, just eight Harpoons were never going to penetrate the Soviet SAMs, even with a second wave of Foster's Tomahawks timed to head past on their way to Petropavlovsk and distract them. No hits and the Russian ships then withdrew, leaving no chance of getting Foster's 250nm TASM Tomahawks into range.

The cruise missiles flew on and did considerable damage to the enemy SAMs, radars and AA guns on Kamchatka, not that I scored anything for it.

So, unusually, a scenario without a single ship sunk, but an American Triumph with a score of 5,150.

I suspect that playing the Soviets will prove a bit more of a challenge.....

Post #: 1
RE: North Pacific Shootout 1989 - 5/10/2020 9:34:11 PM   
fitzpatv

 

Posts: 88
Joined: 3/20/2019
Status: offline
Played it again as the Soviets. Not subtle!. The Russian surface group isn't capable of mixing it with the Americans, so I just withdrew it to Petropavlovsk under cover of the SAM batteries with its radars off. Similarly, the Akula hasn't a hope of getting close enough to attack, so I withdrew it SW. Took the view that ground losses to Tomahawks didn't cost points, so it was a risk I could live with, switching-on all the coastal radars plus the one on the Gammon battery (which has a 320nm air search range). The other SAM sites stayed dark until needed.

As a score of zero is a Disaster, I had to damage the USN. The best strategy seemed to be to fly the Backfires to Kamchatka right at the start, then send them straight in behind a Badger D and every fighter I could get into the air in an effort to swamp the American defences. The Backfires would keep their radars off as long as possible and rely on the Badger for spotting.

The recon Orion soon appeared and I felt I could spare a lone Flanker to shoot it down. It did so with unnecessary difficulty, requiring three missiles, then returned smartly to base. Worth it for the 250 VP.

As my main attack went in, the AI predictably (and rightly) scrambled every available Tomcat. A furious dogfight ensued under AI control and resulted in four Foxhounds lost for five F-14s, two Vikings, a Hawkeye and a Prowler. This gave the Soviets a big positive margin, but only enough for a draw.

Pulled-out the fighters and Badger as the Backfires came into range and unleashed their 24 Kitchens. These were the Model A variety, which only ranges to 215nm. Only one got past the SAMs, but it sank the frigate USS Cook (and her Seasprite) for a total of 1,050 points - enough to win.

I had three downed pilots, but it wasn't possible to reach them in time with my Haze rescue choppers and the reappearance of Tomcats made it inadvisable to try. One F-14 strayed into the Gammon umbrella, but got lucky, spoofed the two missiles aimed at it on low odds and escaped.

Apart from a plethora of neutral air contacts (I counted ten at once!), that was that and I scored a Minor Victory with 2,350 VP. Par for the course and a fair description of what happened.

On now to the brave new post-Cold War world for the next review....

(in reply to fitzpatv)
Post #: 2
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