In this scenario, oil and gas reserves are starting to be exploited off SW Cyprus. Turkey muscles in on what Greece and Cyprus see as their territory, sending-in a drilling platform with powerful military support. While just accepting the situation and allowing the Turks a share might have been wiser, Greece opts to destroy the rig and send a signal to Turkey to keep away. You are tasked with executing this rather dubious plan. The result is Pyrpolitis (qv) on a larger scale.
The Greeks have 36 viable strike/escort aircraft on bases strung-out between the mainland and Crete. AEW support, patrol planes and recon drones are available, but no tankers or SEAD aircraft. Off Cyprus (and feeling very exposed) are a Harpoon missile frigate (Elli) and a torpedo-armed diesel sub (Poseidon), while another sub with AIP and Harpoons (Papanikolis - Father Christmas??) lurks further West. There are also some useless Hind choppers at Paphos on Cyprus, while the island state has numerous SAM batteries, including one of the dreaded Gargoyles. More SAMs ward the Greek mainland and Crete.
Turkey has an abundance of assets. The massive rig (3,980 DP) is escorted by seven frigates and corvettes with Harpoons, efficient short-to-medium ranged SAMs, decent sonar and ASW choppers. At least two Turkish submarines are in the area. There is a massive air presence, with around TWENTY high-quality F-16s, bristling with AMRAAMs, flying CAP at any time, supported by patrol planes, tankers and a well-screened Wedgetail AEW aircraft. All of these aircraft benefit from being close to the area of operations and astride the Greek approach path, while the Greeks must operate at extreme range. As if this isn't enough, the Turks also have batteries of Yildirim ballistic missiles (which only Gargoyles can engage) and Harpy anti-radar drones poised to hit Cyprus at the first sign of trouble.
The prospects for Greece are bleak. As many of your aircraft start on Reserve loadouts, you are encouraged to customise your weapons for the strike, which takes out half of the 12-hour scenario unless you fancy sending planes in piecemeal. You then have to balance your 36 planes between strike and escort roles. Having played Pyrpolitis, I rather feared that it would be impossible to get air superiority. Given the SAM cover (no doubt augmented by fighters), I would also need every missile I could get to score enough hits on the rig to have any chance of sinking it. Accordingly, I armed all of my 16 Mirages, based near Athens, with single-shot Exocets and my 14 Cretan F-16s with a mix of HARMs, JSOW BROACH and SPICE2000 glide bombs. All of these weapons outrange the 30nm SAMs on the Turkish escort ships. My 6 Phantoms couldn't carry any strike weapons that could do this, so I gave them old-model 40nm AMRAAMs with a view to drawing-off at least some of the Turkish F-16s. I would have to attack in one go from the SW to stand any chance.
Elli and Poseidon were under the Gargoyle umbrella and close enough to provide mutual support, so I kept them there for now, staying as stealthed as possible (however futile it seemed with all those planes about). Papanikolis was ordered to approach to within Harpoon range, but no nearer, as the ASW cover made a close-range attack suicidal.
Not feeling confident, I made lots of notes, then started in real-time, sending my EMB-145H AEW plane close enough (at maximum altitude) to get a look at the rig. Apparently, the Turks would not shoot at anything that didn't attack and stayed over 50nm away and I could stay much further out than that. In this way, I was able to locate the rig, which had no emissions but gave the game away by being motionless. Enemy air cover exceeded my worst fears.
After much thought, I came-up with a cunning plan. The best way to minimise retaliation (and put maximum stress on Turkish CAP endurance) was to wait until the last minute before sending-in the strike. Ideally, I could approach and assemble the force outside the exclusion zone with about half an hour left, close, fire missiles and have the game end before half the F-16s could reach me or Turkey could hit back against the Elli, subs and land bases.
To test enemy readiness, I sent an unarmed Pegasus drone to my intended rendezvous point (RP) about 70nm to the SW of the rig. Two F-16s checked it out, but did not attack, so I left it there.
A wait ensued, but not without problems. First, the Turkish diesel sub Atilay appeared close to the Papanikolis. Thankfully, it had no ASW weapons so, while I could have sunk it easily enough, I left it alone to prevent an early and ruinous start to hostilities (which would have prevented me from assembling the strike without interference at the RP).
Next, another sub, the Preveze (which has ASW torpedoes and maybe Harpoons) materialised 1.94nm from the Elli. Although I'd taken no aggressive action whatsoever and was well inside Cypriot waters, she launched torpedoes at me!!. Moral high ground, at least. Things got stranger. Poseidon fired back without orders as Preveze went Hostile (but no other Turkish units did). Resignedly, I launched Elli's chopper and took the frigate away at Flank. All torpedoes missed as Preveze evaded in turn...then went Unfriendly again!!!. On this basis, I restrained myself and passed-up an easy kill with the chopper. I retreated Elli S while keeping her in Harpoon range of the rig and, as Poseidon was a liability, got her away towards Larnaca before Turkish ASW planes and an approaching Heybeliada corvette got her. She had to accelerate twice to outrun torpedoes from what might have been a third Turkish sub, but got clear. The Turks remained Unfriendly and the lid stayed on.
With a couple of hours to go, I sent-up both AEW planes and pinpointed the rig. With just over an hour and a half remaining, I launched all of my strike/escort planes, having calculated the timings to gather at the RP. This all went fine and I recalled the Pegasus in the process.
By sheer bad luck, about a half-dozen enemy F-16s just happened to be sweeping the RP area as my planes arrived. They didn't attack and turned away. With about 20 minutes to go, it was now or never. Papanikolis rose to periscope depth, cancelled the Dive When Threat is Detected annoyance and fired her four Harpoons. Elli switched-on her jammers and loosed her eight missiles at the rig. All the Cypriot SAMs switched on and engaged any Turkish aircraft within range. My four HARM F-16s fired eight missiles at the nearest escorts, with particular attention to the most dangerous Gediz frigate. The Phantoms blasted the nearby fighters with AMRAAMs, downing most of them before they could react and then ran interference while the strike planes bore-in with their JSOWs, Exocets and SPICE.
There were lots of problems. I was using Group View to minimise the micro-management and some planes in flights were at higher altitude than others, delaying their attacks. One flight of F-16s with JSOWs went RTB for no apparent reason, went to Full and had reached Bingo fuel before I could haul it back. The Turkish fighters were reinforced and, once over their surprise, made their superior quality tell with volleys of 60nm AMRAAMs. The escorts had spread-out since my initial recon and I couldn't approach the rig without risking their SAMs, which took a toll. Worse, the Turks reacted very fast and a Yildirim strike came-in against Paphos airport, taking-out a radar and a hangar.
Overall, it didn't go well. I destroyed 14 Turkish planes (11 F-16s and 3 patrol planes), losing 15 aircraft in return. None of my air-launched missiles (not even the HARMs) got past the SAMs and fighters. The Harpoons, coming from W and E, did better and scored four hits on the platform, but this was nowhere near enough to sink it or score any VP. The rig is worth 1,000 VP, but perhaps I should have gone for the escorts instead?. Ironically, in view of my 'just in time' strategy, the AI had the last laugh and made a second Yildirim strike on Paphos in the last two minutes, taking-out the control tower while my Gargoyle site was taking over 30 minutes reloading.....
There were issues with the scoring. What was quoted as VP in the on-screen messages didn't correspond to what appeared in the Scoring Log. Turkish fighters score 20VP each and this was consistent, but I didn't get the advertised 50 each for the patrol planes. While my fighters were also worth 20VP in theory, the Turks seemed to be getting two 20VP awards for each in practice, but not always (five of their kills appeared to score them nothing)!!. I was also told on-screen that the strikes on Paphos were repeatedly costing me a gruesome 70VP but, on the log, I only lost 100VP for the radars. In practice, it didn't make much difference and, with a Scoring Log result of -220, it was a Major Defeat.
Maybe I could have fine-tuned aspects of the strike or aimed at the escorts instead of the rig but, for now, I can't think of a better strategy than the one I used.