31 August 2012

Harpoon: 1.2

If I hadn't made an error at the beginning, this would have been a total victory. Instead I had to settle for a minimum one in what was largely a walkover.

Having watched a documentary on the Top Ten Fighting Ships where the Iowa-class battleship was rated the greatest warship type of all time (second was the Nimitz-class supercarrier), I chose a scenario from MEDC that featured one - Study 1.

My mission was to conduct "fire suppression" on the Lebanese coast, occupied by Syria. In practice this meant levelling a couple of airbases and a port with TLAMs and the 406mm guns on Missouri.

So, my force consisted of five ships; Missouri, a Leahy CG, a California CGN, a Kidd DDG and USS Farragut (DDG-37). All of the vessels had Standards for defence, but none of them were Aegis vessels, something felt to be rather unbalancing in this battleset (it's unbalancing in naval warfare full stop).

I decided that the best defence is a good offence, so I chucked my Tomahawks at a Syrian airbase. All 32 of them, which duly flattened the joint. The Tomahawks here appear to be the 250-mile anti-ship versions with a land-attack capability thrown in and not the thousand mile plus TLAM version. I also launched some of my ASW helicopters to patrol for any submarines in the area, even if Syria is not a country renowned for its prowess in submarine warfare. Or in other forms of warfare, as amply demonstrated in nearly everything from the 1948 Israeli War of Independence to 2007's reactor destruction.

In retrospect, using all 32 on a single base was a mistake; I should have spread them to the other bases. This prevented me from getting a total victory.

As I started up, I detected no less than 24 MiG-25s on my ESM. I decided that since I'd been detected, I might as well switch everything on to give me a maximum chance.

Then things started to get fairly easy. The MiGs didn't even attempt to run or accelerate; they wandered into SAM range and went down like grouse on 12 August. Recce MiGs, regular MiGs, it didn't matter.

Eventually, somebody launched some missiles at me; 4 AS-12 "Keglers", which would feature a lot in this scenario. My notes record my initial thought that I was dealing with SSC-3 "Shaddocks"; I was expecting some shore-based SSMs. I got none.

At about this point, I decided two things; I was going to need to use my Harpoons on land targets and that with this many fighter jets buzzing around, it was best to land my rather vulnerable ASW helicopters.

It now becomes necessary to complain about the AI in this version. This scenario is meant to showcase the potential problems the Syrian Air Force can cause close to home. Not when it comes in one or two at a time against a highly capable US force in aircraft designed to tackle heavy bombers and which handle like pigs. The AI had no idea of a mass attack.

This is not to say that I didn't have some slightly hairy moments; one missile in this first wave narrowly missed my battleship and there were others that were destroyed by Phalanx or splashed harmlessly. However, such was my confidence in my SAM capabilities that I was able to time-lapse some of my SAM engagements.

As I headed north, I detected a surface contact on radar. I decided to ready my Seahawks for a stand-off attack with Penguins, not desiring to get into a missile duel. They took a while to ready and I ultimately just forgot about them.

Three were three contacts at this point; heading at 30 knots. I determined these were probably not fishing boats (are there neutrals in this?) and decided to engage with Harpoons.

I was correct; they turned out to be four hostile ships - a "Petya" corvette and three "Osas". I lobbed Harpoons at them and three were sunk. What is the name of that sinking tune? Is it "Anchors Aweigh?" (which I only know because it was a corpse's ringtone on NCIS).

I decided to hold off on further 'Poons on the last "Osa" to let my BB have a go with its 406mm guns, having not used my guns before. Three shots were fired, but all missed. At this point, with no nice animations here (there is a hit flash, but I didn't see it), I lobbed a couple more Harpoons at this last ship and it sunk.

I continued north, intending to use my Harpoons on another Syrian airbase that I wasn't in range of yet.

As I headed north, I found another four surface contacts. I decided to engage these with Standards and guns, to save my Harpoons for later. When my recommendations came up, I removed the Harpoons and replaced them with Standards; somehow I managed to launch two Harpoons though. Again, same result.

When I finally got into Harpoon range of Damascus AB, I lobbed 16 missiles at it, fending off another missile attack. When this only did 13% damage to the installation, I realised that I was going to have to sail up the coast and level Latakia with guns.

After dealing with another attack, I decided that I might as well attack Beirut port (I'd held off believing that targets would "pop up" when I got there), which would give me the second base anyway. I launched 42 SM-1s in two waves at the place. Missile launch animations can take a while when you're launching that many missiles. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh...

At this point, I decided to save my missiles; I was getting a tad concerned about running out of them. I fairly quickly destroyed the port; those guns are powerful!

When I didn't get a victory message, I double-checked my orders. I needed to destroy one hundred aircraft and I'd only got 74. So, I'd need to destroy Latakia as well to get the aircraft there.

I carried on up the coast, adjusting my formation to move Kidd up to the front as it had more SAMs. It's worth discussing that class here; originally intended for export to Iran, they ended up in US service after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. They are clearly powerful vessels and the large number of SAMs here proved very useful.

There's not a lot else to say here. I thought I was facing a mass attack from Latakia, but it never materialised; I also realised that a number of aircraft attacking me came from Minakh; somewhere else that I should have Tomahawked.

I fended off all the attacks, although there were some near misses and then took out the airbase with just three salvoes from my battleship. Shortly after that, the Star-Spangled Banner played with the victory message and asked me if I wanted to carry on. I didn't really - I couldn't get a Total Victory.

I'd destroyed eight ships, 101 aircraft and three bases, damaging a fourth.

That scenario needs a decent AI to work; later versions will hopefully have it.
The next mission will The Svalbard Incident from HDS I; I get to play with a "Kirov" :)

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