In this challenging scenario, Spain and Morocco come to blows over an oilfield discovered between the Canaries and the African mainland. Spain builds five platforms, which Morocco considers to be territorial encroachment. Wanting the oil themselves and faced with domestic political issues, their government seeks to rally support and seizes the rigs, declaring an exclusion zone around them. Spain responds by sending a task force to take the platforms back, despite Moroccan threats to destroy them rather than see them exploited by foreign interests. France offers Morocco diplomatic support and sends a submarine into the area.
You can only play the Spanish side. To recapture and defend the rigs, you have two Harpoon-armed frigates (Canarias and Blas de Lezo), a diesel-electric sub (Tramontana), two Meteoro-class patrol boats with 76mm guns and no SAMs and a small selection of aircraft, many of which are unavailable at the start. Hornets provide fighter cover and a limited strike capability with 4nm range Paveways, while you have two Orions for recon, some Seahawk choppers with single-shot Penguin missiles and a Hercules transport. There are also some radars and short-ranged, altitude-limited SAMs on the Canary Islands.
Morocco has considerably more to call-on. They have the Mohammed VI, which is a high-tech stealth frigate with good SAMs and 100nm range Exocet IIIs, five more frigates and corvettes with Exocets (though only three have SAMs) and three patrol boats of limited value. There are numerous F-16 Falcon and Mirage MRCAs, a recon chopper, EW planes and tanker support.
The Spanish plan is to retake the platforms using special forces, with seven teams in RHIB inflatables carried by the Canarias, the sub and the Meteoros and another by the Hercules. The briefing tells you to get on with it, then defend the rigs from attack. This is unwise, as you lack the means to protect them and, as it turned-out, you don't need to retake them at all to win!!. You need to be cautious in the air, as your outnumbered fighters can just about tackle Mirages, but are inferior to the enemy Falcons, which can outrange and out-turn them.
Early indications revealed a Moroccan warship near the most Northerly rig (Bagre) and three more near the most Southerly pair (Eglefino and Tilapia). I provisionally assigned the Hercules to Tilapia and the sub, Canarias and the Meteoros to the other four rigs, sending them in that direction. (There's an issue with ships trying to go the wrong way around islands and overriding your specified course, so you need to keep an eye on this and correct it when it happens). I hoped to get the Hercules to its target before the Moroccan Air Force got its act together, sending four Hornets as escort.
Ignoring a warning from the Moroccans, I attacked. A Hornet from Lanzarote shot-down the enemy recon chopper (all Moroccan aircraft score 50VP, as do most of yours), then burned away to avoid retaliation from Falcons on CAP to the NE. Meanwhile, the Hercules team took Tilapia for 200VP. The Falcons chased the transport and damaged it with a missile, but it got home.
By now, I'd identified the Moroccan warships as a fairly weak Mohammed V frigate (no SAMs, short-ranged Exocets) to the N and another with a Sultan Moulay Ismail and Tarik Ben Ziyad corvette to the S. The Blas de Lezo hit the second frigate with a Harpoon (used them sparingly, as I only had 16 in total), leaving her limping at 5 knots. Her SAMs then defeated an Exocet counterstrike from the corvettes. Some of the Exocets were directed at Tilapia, which was damaged and dropped out of comms. I realised that taking a platform early was a big mistake and postponed the other four operations. Problem was that I needed to keep the transporting vessels alive if I was to do it later...
Blas de Lezo finished the frigate with a second Harpoon, scoring 250VP. A Bir Anzaran patrol boat, mounting 76mm guns, then popped-up near Tilapia and began firing at it. Blas de Lezo engaged, but had chronic luck when two Harpoons malfunctioned. With just four left, I had to conserve ammo.
Similarly, having re-armed her single mount with Harpoons instead of the pre-loaded SAMs (a careful judgement call based on the tactical situation), Canarias fired twice at the other Mohammed V, only to see both weapons overshoot the target for some reason.
Things deteriorated rapidly as Tilapia was destroyed by the Bir Anzaran, costing me 700VP. To add further insult to injury, Blas de Lezo's fifth Harpoon hit the patrol boat this time, but failed to sink her!.
Two Falcons pushed too far into Canarian airspace and were downed by Blas de Lezo's RIM-66 SAMs. Tramontana, deferring her mission to the Bagre rig, stalked the Mohammed V and sank her with torpedoes - a safe move, as she totally lacked ASW capability.
A lightly-armed Rais Bargach patrol boat then appeared near the frigate Canarias. It looked an easy kill for my 76mm guns but, in another jawdropper, I found I couldn't fire because a distant Moroccan EW plane (confusingly called a Falcon and a real pain) had jammed my radars. Thankfully, I was able to use a Harpoon to do the job instead, but it felt like a waste. Still, 150 more VP. The score was now Average again.
A second Rais Bargach followed the first. With my guns' fire control still jammed, my wretched luck continued and a Harpoon hit but failed to sink her. At this moment, I detected a volley of four Exocets approaching from the NE and just switched the mount to SAMs in time to stop them. Canarias then launched her chopper to finish the patrol boat with a Penguin, landing immediately to elude the Falcons.
It did me no good!. Immediately, a shoal of eight Exocets came-in from the NE, overwhelming my defences and sinking the Canarias for a loss of 450VP including the ship's choppers and RHIBs. Things now looked truly dire, as I had just three Harpoons left on one decent ship. There was some hope in that I still had five RHIBs for four platforms, assuming I could split them. It was also likely that the Moroccans, who clearly had the Mohammed VI and a corvette in the NE, had used all their Exocets.
Things got even worse when Mirages launched from the former Spanish Sahara, chased my cautiously-positioned Orion out beyond the Canaries and destroyed her, costing me another 150VP. I intercepted the pair on the way back with Hornets and took revenge, but still lost 50VP overall. Worse, the Mirages were immediately replaced by another pair!. These seemed to be making an attack run on the Meteoros and their vital RHIBs, so I engaged them, each side losing a plane. Two more Mirages then sortied!. These, too, seemed to be heading for the Meteoros, but I had no CAP left, as all other planes were still readying. Fortunately, the Mirages' flightpath towards the patrol boats and their RHIBs was just a coincidence and they flew-on to become SAM fodder.
While doing this, Blas de Lezo had been closing with the damaged Bir Anzaran, which she now caught and sank easily with gunfire. She now had to choose between engaging the two corvettes to the SW or the Mohammed VI group, now detected by their emissions to the NE. As the latter was the bigger threat (especially to Tramontana), I went that way, trusting in my 127mm gun outranging their 76mm weapons and hoping I had enough ammo.
To delay the chasing corvettes, I launched three Seahawks, which had just become available on Lezo and the patrol boats. Using the volcanic terrain of Lanzarote for cover, their Penguins managed to hit the Tariq Ben Ziyad and slow her down (her consort matching speed). Unfortunately, the choppers had no Penguin reloads and were now only good for recon.
Between six and eight enemy F-16s then came-in from the NE, no doubt bearing Mavericks and Paveways against my ships. Engaged with two Hornets based on Lanzarote and SAMs. Both fighters were lost, predictably, but the Moroccans were bloodied, with six Falcons destroyed and their missiles taken-out by RIM-66s and ground-based Mistrals. However, Blas de Lezo was now out of SAMs and I was very exposed.
It looked hopeless, but I battled-on. Blas de Lezo fired her remaining Harpoons at Mohammed VI and wasn't surprised to see them stopped, but I had to try. She then closed and, manoeuvring to make the most of range advantage and fight her opponents one-at-a-time, used her guns to make a nasty mess of both Moroccan ships. Conscious of the need to conserve ammo, I broke-off after neutralising them and moved to engage the corvettes, detailing a Paveway Hornet and Tramontana to finish the cripples. As it happened, they sank anyway for 500VP total.
At this point, the French sub Amethyste appeared on Tramontana's sonar and began to pursue Lezo at Flank. Surely the French, in 2016, were not going to attack Spain over a Moroccan oilfield?!. Lezo could just outrun the sub and did so.
Engaging the corvettes, she defeated them easily, sinking one and leaving the other crippled for a Hornet to kill. Out of ammo, she made for the open Atlantic. You can't beat an old-fashioned 5" gun!. I was now, astonishingly, in Triumph territory, but would I lose 2,800 VP for failing to take the remaining rigs?. If I did, would the enemy bomb and torpedo them (Amethyste) to hell?.
I decided to wait until my second Orion was ready with an ASW loadout to deal with the Frenchman before moving on the rigs. While I was doing so, a huge Mirage strike came-in from the NE - there must have been 20 attack planes, escorted by F-16s. Put-up every available Hornet and intercepted them. It was utter carnage, with five of my six fighters lost but 13 Mirages downed for a net gain of 400VP. This was offset by enemy missiles hitting Lanzarote Airport, which was the surprising target (no doubt because I didn't hold any rigs) and destroying a hangar and Mistral team.
Not much happened for over a day as I bided my time. I lost a Hornet trying to protect the Orion from F-16s as she shadowed the Amethyste, but it became apparent that the French sub wasn't going to attack, after all. Nor, it seeemd, did the Moroccans have any airstrikes left.
Eventually losing patience, I moved on the four rigs. Tramontana and the Meteoros released their RHIBs, which closed within the specified 1nm. In each case, I got an error message and nothing happened (there's also a bug with the autosave in this scenario). With the score on 2,350, I decided to run down the clock and take the Triumph (actual score 3,150) even if the game cheated me at the end. As it happened, it allowed me the 2,350 - there had been no need to take the rigs at all....
Overall, an exciting and challenging, but buggy and inconsistent scenario. Your best bet is probably to make no attempt to take the rigs, be very cautious with your vulnerable assets and try to attrite the Moroccans for a positive score, using the sub and choppers with Penguins on the less-well-defended ships and picking-off aircraft as opportunity allows.
Just four more scenarios to go in this series. I'll start thinking about what to do next, but it'll probably be Northern Fury.