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Shamal 1991

 
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Shamal 1991 - 5/18/2020 8:14:43 PM   
fitzpatv

 

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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?
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RE: Shamal 1991 - 5/18/2020 9:53:33 PM   
Gunner98

 

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quote:

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).


Problem is that you're at 36K, which equates to about 6 nautical miles and the TARPS pod has a range of 5 nautical miles. If you bring it down to 30,000 feet which is about 5nm you will be looking through a straw at an band about 2ft wide on the ground.

To use the TARPs or any other recon pod properly you have to take into consideration 'Slant Range'. The attached slide is way to much for the game but it gives you the idea that you need to get low to use the sensor properly. So at 10,000 feet you will be seeing a band about 1.4nm to each side of the AC (~3nm wide).

It's been a long time since I played this but from what I remember you need to go in low and fast with the TARPS with your bomb-trucks following to take out the targets. PGMs used for cleanup once the SAMs are down.






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RE: Shamal 1991 - 5/19/2020 12:09:33 AM   
Eboreg

 

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After looking at this scenario, I'm beginning to think it got broken with the move to C:MO. The Iraqis just aren't trigger-happy enough and don't have any decent IFF skills which makes taking out their Air Defense network a real pain in the tush.

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RE: Shamal 1991 - 5/19/2020 11:47:24 AM   
fitzpatv

 

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Point taken about the TARPS recon pass (can't say I understand the maths behind the chart but I get the general idea). The thought had occurred to me, but flying below 35,000' would have put the plane within reach of any lurking Gainful and losing it costs 400 VP. Same applies for sending bombers surging in behind a fast-moving recon plane. The Gainful can engage targets moving at 1,150 knots and has a range of 13nm, so it's long odds on that you'll lose 2-3 aircraft. This not only costs crippling numbers of VP but means that the planes concerned won't be available for any second strike.

A big problem with this scenario (which it shares with Down Town) is that ANY losses are costly, so you have to be extremely cautious. Even in the essentially one-sided dogfights in my playthrough here, there was risk on the several occasions where I failed to hit enemy fighters first time and they got close enough to think about firing back. You only have to be unlucky once and that's another 400 points gone.

It all begs the question of what was different in reality. I've not read any detailed history of Desert Storm, but assume that SAM sites were taken-out by cruise missiles or strategic bombers. The targets in the scenario are also well away from Kuwait and were presumably not attacked in real life (if they even existed), so the US carrier planes would not have had the range issues featured here. I also wonder about the number of planes that are habitually down for maintenance in Command scenarios - is the situation really that bad in reality or is it just a game-balancing device?.

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RE: Shamal 1991 - 5/19/2020 11:54:47 AM   
fitzpatv

 

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Another frustration was that the Gainful appeared the first time that I didn't have a Prowler available and ready to retaliate. Unfortunately, you only have so many of them. No doubt, I could support any follow-up strike accordingly, but it still risks a plane to get the thing to illuminate first.

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RE: Shamal 1991 - 5/19/2020 12:00:57 PM   
Eboreg

 

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Well... one thing to note is that when engaging BVR with SARH missiles, it's often best not to allow your fighters to automatically evade because they lose track when they do. The enemies also always have automatic evasion on so if they have SARH missiles, they will never hit if you keep firing at them.

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RE: Shamal 1991 - 5/19/2020 3:08:16 PM   
vettim89


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I actually altered this scenario in CMNAO to give the USN side more refueling (the S-3s can carry buddy stores but there is not enough in the carrier magazines).

Played it through in CMNAO with the USAF side and it is MUCH easier yet still really hard to get a decisive victory because, as you pointed out, losing a single aircraft is devastating to your score.

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RE: Shamal 1991 - 5/23/2020 8:31:42 PM   
fitzpatv

 

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Just played this again on CMANO (puts a whole new meaning on the phrase, "Play it again, SAM", doesn't it?!). As Eboreg surmised, it's a whole lot easier on the earlier version of the game but, as mentioned by vettim89, still very hard to get more than a Minor Victory.

I just managed to achieve the latter with a score of 3,600, having lost one plane. This was an Intruder which strayed into the altitude reach of an undetected Gremlin after I forgot that absolute altitude and AGL are different things. I was only a few hundred feet inside its reach, but...

The main difference is that the Iraqi radars are on almost all the time, making their SAM sites much easier to detect and disable with HARMs. The one HARM per plane limitation still hurts, but you have enough sorties to cope with firing a few duds, as I did.

It was still very hard work destroying the targets at H3 and I only managed to dispose of the 16 revetments and one hardened aircraft shelter. The real points-earner is the Taqaddum chemical weapons factory. Having taken down the SAMs (or so I thought), I went in with the 8 Paveway Intruders, only to find that the NW Goa site still had a functioning secondary radar. My lead A6 was very lucky to avoid four missiles and felt guilty enough to completely miss the target. After a Prowler slagged the Goa (which may have been out of ammo anyway), my second Intruder somehow destroyed 21 (!!!!) buildings with two missiles. This may have been a game 'feature', but I can only assume that a hit started a fire, which engulfed most of the plant. Certainly wouldn't have won without this. I then needed three more bombers to get rid of the last two buildings, two Paveways being shot down by a ZSU-23. Virtual dice matter a lot when bombing, I'm afraid.

I also made better use of the Intruder tankers and found that two of them are enough to support eight Hornets or Corsairs. Supported strikes like this accounted for three revetments at H3.

Still not sure what part airfield H2 is supposed to play. With no targets marked, I was reluctant to waste sorties on things that might have scored me no points so, after silencing the SAMs (probably a waste of time, however satisfying), I left the place alone.

My thanks to Eboreg for the tip about switching-off automatic evasion. I will try this out at the next opportunity. The advice I get on this forum definitely helps improve my game.

Overall, then, quite an immersive scenario and a good learning exercise. However, I wouldn't recommend playing it on CMO (as opposed to CMANO) until such time as a patch is put in for the non-illuminated Iraqi radars issue. I also noted that the Syrian/Jordanian border 'forcefield' bug doesn't occur on CMANO (planes can navigate around it under AI control), so it was introduced with the newer version of the game and needs fixing.

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RE: Shamal 1991 - 5/24/2020 12:23:44 PM   
vettim89


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The two runways at H2 are targets

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RE: Shamal 1991 - 5/24/2020 1:19:44 PM   
Eboreg

 

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No, they're not. They're marked as targets but you get no points for damaging them. However, all ammo revetments and hardened aircraft shelters are targets no matter whether they're marked as targets or not.

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RE: Shamal 1991 - 6/14/2020 11:49:16 AM   
boogabooga

 

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I've read that in real life, the Navy aircraft launching from the Red Sea were supported by heavy USAF Tankers with drogue pods. The buddy refueling might work better if there was a way to limit how much fuel to offload to each reciever; topping everyone off to 100% until supplier depletion is not always the most efficient method.

I found this to be an enjoyable scenario even in CMO, but I played as the USAF (and allies)- which are apparently much better equipped.

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RE: Shamal 1991 - 6/18/2020 6:49:07 PM   
fitzpatv

 

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Yeah, guess I should play as the USAF, but after two playthroughs, I'll save this for another time.

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