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Operation Brass Drum 2017 - 1/3/2021 9:17:38 AM   
fitzpatv

 

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A complex scenario and NOT for the faint-hearted!. Iran gets frustrated with American support for Israel's actions in Gaza and blockades the Straits of Hormuz. Washington responds by ordering forces on hand to traverse the Straits, using force as necessary. You can only play the American side.

To do the job, you have the CVN George (HW) Bush, with the AEGIS cruiser San Jacinto, two DDGs and a supply ship as a main striking force. Nearby is the helicopter carrier America, with another DDG and two more-or-less useless landing ships. America carries 6 F-35 stealth fighters, oddly loaded with 13nm range guided bombs - these come with the caveat that any loss will bring a heavy VP penalty. Nearer the Straits and charged with breaking through are the stealth DDG Zumwalt, DDG Farragut and two littoral combat ships (Sioux City and Jackson), with the SSN Texas in support. There are land-based tankers, patrol planes and UAVs at Djibouti and Diego Garcia, but America's Gulf allies are concerned about Iran's ballistic missile capabilities and won't allow use of their bases, though overflight is OK. Overall, you have a strong, balanced force, with plenty of Tom Cruise missiles, excellent SAMs, lots of CAP which MOSTLY outranges the enemy fighters and pretty decent ASW.

Iran has had plenty of proxy support from Russia and China. In particular, this gives them a superb air defence network, with an SA-20 Gargoyle site, three SA-10 Grumbles and lots of other SAMs and AA guns. Sending planes into a zone covered by SA-20s or 10s is suicide. While the latter are more point defence, with a range of 20nm, the Gargoyles range out to 80nm and can command the Straits from their site at Bandar Abbas.

Backing this up, they have swarms of J-10 Vigorous Dragon, F-14 Tomcat and MiG-29 fighters, Fencer and Phantom strike planes, patrol and ASW aircraft and tanker support, as well as a heap of museum-piece MiG-21s. The Tomcats have to be respected, as their Phoenix missiles significantly outrange your AMRAAMs.

At sea, Iran has taken delivery of a squadron of Chinese-built missile frigates, including Houbei stealth boats. They also have an ex-Russian Kilo Varshavyanka sub with Sizzler missiles, two basic Kilo subs and a flotilla of cannon-fodder Toragh patrol boats.

In addition to the SAMs, there are six batteries of C-802 anti-ship missiles covering the Straits, with a range of 100nm, as well as a pair of shorter-ranged C-704s (20nm).

Perhaps worst of all, the Straits and the approaches to Bandar Abbas are mined. You don't need to go that near Bandar Abbas, but the only countermeasure you have for the ones in the narrows are four Sea Dragon choppers on the America, which tow magnetic sweeps. To use them, you first have to neutralise the Gargoyles and suppress the enemy fighters, which will obviously take time. It is then simple enough to create a minesweeping patrol, but my concern was how this would work in practice. Frankly, I had no confidence in this esoteric and rarely-used aspect of the game doing the job for me and it was a worry throughout.

Given the scale and complexity of the scenario, I'll spread this over a series of posts. It took me two sessions and many hours to analyse this before starting and it then took another four sessions to play.
Post #: 1
RE: Operation Brass Drum 2017 - 1/3/2021 10:30:51 AM   
fitzpatv

 

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PART 1 - TRADING STRIKES
First order of business was recon. I had a Triton UAV off Pakistan and sent this towards Oman and Saudi to keep it safe, supporting it with a Hawkeye 2000 from the Bush. Meanwhile, I set-up tanker stations S of the fleet and brought-up a Poseidon ASW plane from Diego Garcia to supplement the America Group's limited ASW capability. Meanwhile, I altered the Zumwalt Group's pre-set course to bring it to a point just short of the Narrows, with radars off to make the most of stealth and at below cavitation speed to watch-out for subs. I took the view that they could speed-up later. Using ASW choppers had to be done carefully to allow a rapid retreat should Iranian fighters appear. I also kept the America Group 'dark', but switched-on the Bush Group's radars to make the most of their excellent SAMs (the RIM-174 is even better than the Gargoyle and more mobile to boot). The game pre-sets some 'sprint and drift' orders for your escorts and you may wish to cancel these, as I did, depending on your style. As usual, planes launch with radars off and auto-evasion set to Yes, so I had to religiously alter this throughout.

I'd not been impressed with the Triton in earlier games, but this one did me proud. I was able to get a good picture of the Iranian air defence system in the first hour or so without taking risks. It turned-out that I had more space to play with than I'd thought. While the Narrows were locked-down tight by Gargoyles, supporting fighters and missile boats, the approaches were SAM-free and I could operate aircraft without fear. Locating the anti-ship (SSM) batteries took longer and had to be done by noting the number of components on the various 'unknown' sites (SSMs have 5, as do a few other things). The enemy had three mobile jamming vehicles, one at Char Behar and two at Bandar Abbas. As always, it wasn't really clear how much effect these were having.

I opened hostilities by launching all of Zumwalt's 72 cruise missiles at Bandar Abbas. As I saw it, there were two ways to negate the Gargoyle. Using the F-35s was a huge risk and I much preferred to run the thing out of SAMs by overloading it with unmanned missiles. Texas weighed-in with six more. I scored no hits, but did use-up a lot of enemy missiles. Vigorous Dragons and Tomcats helped reduce this problem for the Iranians, though, and I only drained 24 Gargoyles (a third of the total, as I eventually found) and 72 Grumbles, along with some Gadflies and Gophers.

The DDG Benfold then used six of her Cruises to hit the Iranian Air Defence HQ at Jask, SE of the Straits. This was only covered by Gainful SAMs, which can't engage low-flying missiles, so the strike succeeded and scored me 250VP. While a message said that enemy air defence would be adversely affected, I saw no sign of this. Meanwhile, the DDG Momssen launched 20 Cruises at the Gargoyle, but fighters arrived and intercepted the lot. Still, the enemy still used-up more SAMs. Under cover of this, the DDG Farragut fired MMT cruise missiles at the Iranian missile boats in the Straits. I aimed at a Houbei stealth ship, but hit and sank a weaker Fath boat instead (350VP).

Aroused, Iran began launching airstrikes. Four MiG-29s and three MiG-21s went after my recon aircraft and were all shot down without loss, but it cost a quite unreasonable 24 RIM-174s due to bad luck, so I had to put Farragut on Weapons Hold to conserve her remaining supply. Iranian fighters score 100VP each, apart from MiG-21s, which only score 20.

The enemy then sent-in a huge wave of Su-24 Fencers with anti-ship missiles, escorted by Vigorous Dragons and five more MiG-21s and followed by a flight of four MiG-29s. With CAP backing-up my SAMs and making the most of the AMRAAM's superior range, it was a slaughter. Iran lost 2 Dragons, all the MiGs and 17 Fencers, which never got close enough to fire missiles. I didn't take a scratch, but SAM expenditure was still too high. At one point, a MiG-29 spoofed two AMRAAMs in succession on 5% chances.

Next, another quartet of MiG-29s swept-in, along with eight more MiG-21s, going after vulnerable aircraft, which I had time to pull back out of the way. All 12 bandits went down without loss, but one MiG-29 needed at least six AMRAAMs.

Farragut now had a clear track on two dangerous Houbei stealth frigates and put them both down with her long-ranged MMTs for another 700VP. I was now in Minor Victory territory at over 4,000, but feared a huge penalty if I didn't get through the Straits.

Momssen loosed another 20 Cruises at the Gargoyle, scoring no hits, but taking enemy SA-20 spend to 47. Judging from the database, I estimated that they had 48, but was to be proved wrong.

Four more MiG-29s made a run at the fleet, no doubt dreaming of the Houris of Paradise. They soon found-out the truth of that. I meanwhile began using older F-18C Hornets as auxiliary fighters and sent them against the Iranian Orion and May aircraft that were cruising off Char Behar, steadily whittling them away. Usefully, these scored 150VP each. I was now on 5,270 and a Major Victory - for now.

Eight more MiG-21s launched from Char Behar (near the Pakistan border) and were duly wiped-out. Their only purpose must have been to use-up my SAMs but, as they are still deadly to Sea Dragon choppers and the like, I couldn't ignore them. Undaunted, the Iranian base sent a second squadron after the first, with similar results. Notably, one fighter was missed successively on 44, 75, 86 and 86% chances before running out of luck. I do wonder whether the game algorithm tends to generate several scores in the same range with its 'random' rolls, as this kind of thing happens far too often.

Enemy strikes kept coming in. Two Tomcats suddenly left their station near Bandar Abbas and went for Sioux City's ASW chopper. She just got away despite the handicap of having her dipping sonar deployed (you can't cancel this or stop the chopper doing it). One F-14 got too close to Farragut, which shot her down. This was a bonus, as I didn't dare put my fighters up against their Phoenixes. They are easily the most dangerous Iranian fighters in the scenario.

Another flight of four MiG-29s joined the surviving F-14 in making a sweep across the fleet. All were shot-down, though one Fulcrum was again extraordinarily lucky.

While this was going on, I noticed that my Poseidon was critically low on fuel and trying to rendezvous with a tanker. Infuriatingly, the AI made a total mess of this and the patrol plane crashed!. Worse, this cost me a cruel 500VP, emphasising that you just can't afford losses in this scenario. I checked and the Stratotanker was capable of both boom and drogue refuelling, so this simply shouldn't have happened. Very annoying. I recovered 50VP by rescuing the pilot using one of the Bush's Knighthawk SAR choppers.

Two more Tomcats committed suicide by overflying the Zumwalt Group. This occasioned a lull in the frenetic air activity, so I'll break the post here, just in Major Victory territory.








(in reply to fitzpatv)
Post #: 2
RE: Operation Brass Drum 2017 - 1/3/2021 11:32:13 AM   
fitzpatv

 

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PART 2 CLEARING THE STRAITS
At this point, my recon planes discovered an Iranian squadron hiding in the lee of the UAE peninsula. Farragut engaged with MMTs, sinking two Houbeis and a Fath with single shots.

By now, I had a good estimate of where the SSM batteries were. There were two inland from Jask and four on the island SW of Bandar Abbas, with four more to the N and NE of that city. I brought my Growler EW planes into play and used one to blind the Gainful battery near Jask. A Cruise from DDG Benfold and a Hornet using AGM-154s then killed one of the nasty C-802 SSMs, which score 100VP.

There was still a Fath boat off the UAE. Out of MMTs, I got the LCS Jackson into range with her RGM-184 missiles (100nm range) and put it away. Two craft in the Straits that I'd assumed were innocuous Toraghs then turned-out to be Faths, so Jackson dealt with them in turn.

A Hornet then tried to take-out the second Jask SSM battery, but was driven-off by two F-14s. These pursued suicidally over the fleet and paid the penalty. This left the way clear to deal with the C-802. The same Hornet then stalked and shot down a Boeing tanker, one of a pair that Iran was operating some way inland to the N of Jask. A useful 200VP. Two Vigorous Dragons went after me, but I stayed clear and lured them onto a CAP Hornet F. This used the superior range of her AMRAAMs to make short work of them (even with my luck, I was able to get two kills with six shots). I then sent another Hornet C to destroy the second tanker, making it harder for the enemy to operate their Dragons and Tomcats from Shiraz, to the NW.

SSN Texas then rose to periscope depth and fired 6 missiles at the Gargoyle. As hoped, the Iranians used SAMs profligately to stop this, but the count showed 63 Gargoyles expended - so they had more than 48, somehow!!. Was there an undetected second site?. If so, I was in trouble.

Advancing towards the Straits, Jackson's Seahawk then found and eliminated a Kilo-class submarine for a juicy 500VP. Detected sub = dead sub. A MiG-21 tried to intervene, but the chopper just got home in time and SAMs removed the threat. A second (and last) MiG-21 flew over the fleet and died.

Texas next fired her last missiles at the SSMs SW of Bandar Abbas. These weren't top priority for the AI's air defence and I did some damage to what proved to be four batteries of C-704s (not two, as wrongly stated in the first part of this AAR). Expecting the Iranians to send fighters to intercept the Cruises, I had a Hornet waiting in ambush. This bagged a pair of Dragons and took a chance against a following pair of Tomcats, downing one and escaping as the enemy concentrated on the Cruises. The other F-14 broke-up a drip-feed missile strike against the SSMs from Benfold.

Belatedly detected another Fath lurking off the UAE. This got the treatment from Jackson.

I continued to send a couple of Cruises at a time at the SSMs, while ambushing enemy fighters with a now-advanced CAP. This accounted for another pair of Dragons. I experimented by converting a Hornet F's Reserve loadout to carrying MALD decoys, but this was frustrating, as I could see no way to launch them. Assumed they function as autonomous defences only.

Eventually, the SAMs stopped coming and the Gargoyle count halted at 72 (there was only one site, after all). With Iranian fighters also becoming an endangered species, I now felt in control of the airspace over the Straits, but time was running low. Time for choppers. I sent-in a Venom from America to get rid of the lone Toragh left in the narrows, then brought-up my four Sea Dragons on a minesweeping mission there, while edging the Zumwalt Group up as near as I dared. It turned-out that the choppers have good endurance and do minesweeping at 30 knots and 250' ASL. Maddeningly, there was no feedback whatsoever on mines swept and the process was clearly going to take far too long. I resigned myself to being unable to break through and hoped that I could win (or draw) despite the penalties. It would have been madness to steam on and lose ships to mines, given the total lack of clarity. Quite possibly, there weren't actually any there.

A second Kilo-class sub tried to interfere and was terminated by Sioux City's Seahawk. The Varshavyanka, with its dozen Sizzlers, remained a concern. Tried looking for it in safe areas with a second Poseidon (which I refuelled first!!!), but without success. This plane also made itself useful by wrecking the Iranian Naval HQ at Bandar Abbas with an AGM-84. This scored 250VP, but I doubt the message saying it hampered enemy naval co-ordination.

A last pair of Vigorous Dragons showed-up, catching my CAP a bit more stretched than I'd have liked. Thankfully, Growlers carry AMRAAMs and helped the duty Hornet get the job done.

I then steadily whittled-away the enemy SSM batteries with Cruises and aircraft-launched missiles and guided bombs, eventually destroying them all while maintaining a strong CAP over the Straits. Oddly, the less dangerous S-704s score twice the points of the C-802s. While I was about it , I wrote-off the Gargoyle, one of the Bandar Abbas Grumble sites, both annoying jamming vehicles (100VP each, so worth it) and some lesser SAMs. Again oddly, the Gargoyle and Grumble sites score just 100VP each - I'd have been inclined to make them worth 1,000 and 500, respectively.

Towards the end, I got a bizarre message, presumably from the Iranians, telling me that Sioux City was violating international law by reaching the edge of the narrows. Had someone just woken-up?!!. Clearly, I was meant to have had this message much earlier in the scenario. When I ignored it, a dozen Toragh boats suddenly spawned in the Straits. They looked alarming, but four Viper choppers from the America dissolved the lot like melting snow for 20VP each.

I then ran down what was left of the clock and held my breath. The enemy Varshavyanka missile sub and Phantom strike planes never showed, for whatever reason. As it turned-out, the game did not penalise me for 'failing' to traverse the Straits and gave me a Triumph with a score of 14,190. It was undeniably a US victory, with total command of the Straits achieved. I lost absolutely nothing to enemy action and destroyed 97 aircraft, 23 ships, 2 subs and lots of ground facilities.

In conclusion, it was a long but very enjoyable scenario to play, with a lot of care required given the high VP cost of any losses. My only criticisms would be about the unclear victory requirements and the opaque minesweeping rules and results. I would also like to know why the AI allowed that Poseidon to go down.


(in reply to fitzpatv)
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RE: Operation Brass Drum 2017 - 1/3/2021 1:11:34 PM   
Eboreg

 

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In my playthroughs, I actually got the Zumwalt group to switch to line-ahead formation with the Zumwalt at the head and its mine-hunting Sonar on before sending it through the minefield at 10 knots. This actually helped the mine-clearing helicopters do their job as they could see where the mines actually were, especially if they were in the way of my task force. I also made sure the task force stopped whenever a mine was detected. I also find it interesting that you used the America's attack helos to take out the Iranian patrol boats as I found that the Farragut's 5-inch deck gun and the Hellfires from the LCSs were enough to do the trick.

(in reply to fitzpatv)
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RE: Operation Brass Drum 2017 - 1/3/2021 10:45:59 PM   
Excroat3

 

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Great AAR! For your information, the MALD decoys (as well as other air launched decoys such as the TALD) must be BOL launched. This option can be accessed after right clicking on the unit, and selecting "BOL launch" (there's also a hotkey, but I forget what it is). After the option is selected, you can choose the direction and range you want the decoy to be fired. Hope this helps!

(in reply to Eboreg)
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RE: Operation Brass Drum 2017 - 1/4/2021 12:52:52 AM   
AndrewJ

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Excroat3

This option can be accessed after right clicking on the unit, and selecting "BOL launch" (there's also a hotkey, but I forget what it is).


Ctrl-F1

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RE: Operation Brass Drum 2017 - 1/6/2021 1:28:47 AM   
Primarchx


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Good write up! I wrote the scenario in the early, early (pre-release) days of CMANO. I remember thinking that a good solution for neutralizing Bandar Abbas was to have an airstrike follow a big TLAM strike in and neutralize SAM sites that were concentrating on the Tomahawks (this does work...). Also one method of dealing with Chah Bahar was to get the Zumwalt in gun range and pound it with 155mm (back when there were effective long-range rounds for it). Glad it's still being enjoyed today!

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RE: Operation Brass Drum 2017 - 1/6/2021 5:59:39 PM   
fitzpatv

 

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Thanks for the tactical hints, folks!. I've made a note and will try them out at the next opportunity.

Regarding the Toraghs, I just fancied getting some use out of the choppers, to be honest. There was no longer any danger from fighters and SAMs and they did the job VERY efficiently and satisfyingly, with ammo to spare. It also avoided having to either wait for the enemy to get into gun/Hellfire range or steam ahead into the minefield, as I was as close as I dared at the time.

Primarchx, I'll take your word for it about sending strike planes in on the heels of the TLAMs, but it sure sounds risky. I guess if there are enough Cruises leading the way, they'll get prioritised and leave the planes alone. I did consider bombarding Char Behar at the outset, but decided that it was away from my path through the Straits and could safely be bypassed, saving ammo.

(in reply to Primarchx)
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