This is a fictional scenario set during the First Gulf War/Desert Storm. The name Shamal seems to relate to the area of Southern Iraq where it takes place. You have the choice between commanding a USN carrier group or shore-based USAF units and, in either case, have to destroy a selection of ground targets while minimising losses.
Opted for the USN. They have three carriers with a wide range of aircraft, though some have no relevance to the job in hand. No naval escorts are included, as there is no real threat to the carriers. The targets are a chemical weapons factory near Baghdad and two airfields further West around Rutbah. Visible defences consist of two Guideline and two Goa sites near the chemical plant and a single Guideline battery covering the other two locations, but it is wise to assume that more are hidden. Intervention from the Iraqi Air Force is likely and they have a variety of fighters to call-on, from outmoded MiG-21s to modern Mig-29s and impressively fast Mig-25s.
I decided to start gradually and cautiously and sent-out a Prowler, escorted by Tomcats and backed by a Hawkeye and Intruder tanker, to engage the SAM site by the airfields. This wisely chose to keep its radars dark, but I discovered four other radar sites between Rutbah and Baghdad which had the range to spot for it. You have eight Prowlers, but they carry just one HARM missile each. My first sortie took-out the Spoon Rest radar by the airfields and the covering fighters shot down a MiG-21 and MiG-23 that tried to intervene.
By now, I'd realised that the Intruder tankers weren't really up to the job. There are only four and each one can just about refuel two client aircraft. Not sure why such a small aircraft was used as a tanker, but I suppose that nothing larger could operate from a carrier. To make things worse, a relief tanker refuelled two returning fighters (which then still had only 38 minutes' gas left) instead of the new shift it was supposed to be supporting. Largely gave up on them after that.
It was also clear by now that the USAF was going to do nothing all game, bar operating a Joint Stars AEW plane too deep to be any real use. I could only hope that the Iraqis were being similarly restricted in what they could deploy.
Using the Prowlers, I destroyed two Bar Lock and a Tall King radar, eliminating the Iraqi coverage apart from the sets integral to the SAM sites. It scored no points and I'm not sure how much it helped. A Mirage tried to interfere and was infuriatingly lucky - it took three Tomcats and nine missiles to kill it after some worrying moments. A big problem was that Sparrow missiles have to be steered onto the target, which hinders evasion by the firing Tomcat and largely negates its range advantage if it doesn't hit first-time. If you evade, the Sparrow goes blind and misses. Thankfully, the Mirage seemed to be having similar issues.
Meanwhile, I sent a Tomcat with a TARPS recon pod over the Western airfield (H3) in an effort to spot any hidden defences. Two transits at 36,000' spotted nothing (the weather was fine).
If the SAMs were going to stay dark, I couldn't destroy them without exposing aircraft to them. Tried putting a Prowler just inside Guideline range with a view to 'shooting and scooting', but the AI wasn't buying it. The task force has no cruise missiles and only short-ranged Paveway guided bombs, which have to be launched above the Guideline's 'floor'. If I sent a bomber in below the floor, there was the real risk of it being taken-out by unseen MANPADs or mobile SAMs. Couldn't see any other options.
As the Guidelines didn't cover airfield H3, I launched a strike at it, somewhat against my better judgement. Available strike aircraft are Hornets, Corsairs and Intruders. I soon found to my disgust that neither the Hornets nor the Corsairs had the range to reach any of the targets!!. As stated above, using tankers was a very unreliable solution.
Sent-in eight Intruders with Paveways instead. The weapons are best against 'soft' targets, so I went for the 16 ammo revetments on the hit list (targets at H3 and the chemical plant are clearly indicated on the map, but the situation at airfield H2 is less evident). Encountering no opposition, I sent the bombers in one at a time to avoid duplication of effort, launching from 36,000', which is just above the ceiling of the best Iraqi mobile SAM, the Gainful. It went reasonably well and I destroyed 6 revetments and damaged two more. However, this only scored 600 VP, which is still a Disaster (only designated targets score you any points at all).
Hit an annoying bug on the way out, with the AI calculating an RTB path which brought the Intruders up against an invisible forcefield on the nearby Syrian and Jordanian borders. Thankfully, I had fuel and time to sort this out by cancelling the RTB and steering manually.
Followed-up with my remaining eight Intruders (16 isn't many planes to destroy the number of targets you need to win). Again, I sent them in individually. The first plane suffered from bombing from 36,000' with dumb weapons and missed completely. Took a chance and sent the second one in at 15,000', but a Gainful popped-up and it was shot down. This cost me 400 VP and any real hope of a win.
Worse, the Iraqi Air Force chose this moment to counter-attack in modest strength, sending-in a Mig-25 and five Mig-21s. My two escorting Tomcats soon had their hands full and I ordered the other six Intruders to drop from 36,000' and get out. All 36 bombs predictably missed.
The Tomcats shot down the MiG-25 and four of the MiG-21s and the other one, showing unusual sense, fled, leaving the strike force free to return to the carriers.
This left me on a score of 200, with 15 viable strike planes and no guarantee of more than one sortie with each. While half the planes could use Paveways on H3, there was no other safe way of attacking the targets and victory looked totally out of reach. I still have the save game, but there seems little point in continuing.
Just an unbalanced scenario, or am I missing something here?