01 September 2012

Harpoon: 1.30

The world has changed; the USSR has entered the dustbin of history and a good number of naval units will be turning into scrap much faster than anticipated.

With superpower confrontation moved from "possible war" to "alternative history", Harpoon had to change its focus somewhat. I'll get onto some of the "small wars" stuff later.

1.3 brought the HDS1 group of 4 new battlesets, with new scenarios in the existing four areas (GIUK, NACV, IOPG and MEDC) covering potential conflicts that could arise from the "CIS 'Bargain Basement Sale of Slightly Used Weapon Systems'", to quote the description of HDS2 IOPG; one of Harpoon's best lines, up there with "The Ship of A Thousand Names" - as well as other things related to the events of the early 1990s.

We start getting a more "military format" order system with the HDS I battleset. We also get considerably more platforms.

It is worth noting that scenario dates are given in the orders, although the game clock seems very much linked to my system one for starting times. The scenario I chose was the first from HDS1 GIUK, The Svalbard Incident.

The date here is given as April 1998. The V-22 Osprey is present in this in ASW and transport forms; it would not enter RL service until 2007, although that was more due technical issues.

Playing the CIS (now there's a term that's somewhat fallen out of use), my mission is to attack and destroy a US amphibious group as it leaves the Arctic. Now the normal CIS approach to that would involve liberal use of "Backfires"; I don't have any.

My land-based air consists of 6 "Bears", 3 recce "Foxbats", 5 "Flankers".

I have two groups of surface forces. To the east is a "Krivak III" and three "Matkas". The III version of the "Krivak" was the KGB Border Guards version, which removes one of the SA-N-4s, the SS-N-14 and one of the 100mm guns, shoves the other one to the front and adds a helicopter pad with two AK-630s. The database describes it as "actually a better ASW weapon than either the Krivak I or II class", but I'm not hunting subs here and this proved to be rather poor in a surface-to-surface role - the Soviets never really went for helicopter AShMs, while the best surface weapon the class has, the "Silexes" are gone. The "Matkas" are the lightly defended fast attack craft loved by the Soviets; in other words, targets.

My other surface group looked a bit better. A lot better. A "Kresta II", another "Krivak", a "Sovvie" and... Kalinin. Yep, I had a "Kirov" to play with. This ship swapped out the SS-N-14s for SA-N-9 point defence missiles (or would have done if they'd been fitted in RL); considering that a ship like this would be a target of a good couple of squadrons of aircraft, it's a good decision.

Two diesel subs wrapped things off.

As I started, I noticed that my groups already had pre-set travel paths. I decided to leave these until I got a contact.

I then launched my recce Bears out on patrol. As I was dealing with an American amphibious group, I assumed Harriers would be present; a correct assumption. I set the repeating patrol feature, with patrols every 10 +/- 2 hours.

I also launched my three Recce MiG-25s for a search. Their ESM systems promptly detected a Seahawk hovering around.  Since these were ship-based aircraft, it became clear that the amphibs were nearby. However, I wasn't able to shoot the Seahawk down - as my MiG-25s didn't carry any weapons. Who designs a recce bird and doesn't give it a couple of missiles for targets of opportunity?

Then I detected fixed-wing aircraft. Harriers! My "Flankers" didn't have the range to intercept the Harriers, which was rather annoying, particularly in light of later events.

With this location, I vectored my "Krivak" group towards the general area. The Harriers got into Sidewinder range, the MiGs went to afterburner and ran for their base. Unfortunately, they ran out of fuel and crashed. That was stupid.

At the same time, my submarines detected an aircraft flying above them by their passive sonar. Since I couldn't do a thing about this and no torpedoes were being launched, I ended up ignoring the repeated detections throughout the scenario.

Then problems started to occur more serious than the loss of three MiGs - my "Krivak" group was about to run into some very tough opposition.


I was now about to discover that removing the forward SA-N-4 from the "Krivak" may not be an issue when dealing with refugees, but it is when you're dealing with Harriers.  I got inbound aircraft on my group. Aircraft that promptly launched Maverick missiles, which go just above Mach 1.

With the Matkas only equipped with "Grails" for their own defence, it wasn't surprising when a Maverick hit one of the hydrofoils and sunk it. Then the "Krivak" took a hit and was slowed down to 24 knots. I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and ordered the ship to head for Severomorsk at full speed.

Then another "Matka" proved that it was actually a bit more capable. As the Harriers closed, the ship shot down two of them! More Mavericks were launched and I turned my frigate back to help the "Matkas"; otherwise they'd go down very quickly. I also scrambled the "Sukhois" to try and intercept the Harriers.

Realising that the SA-N-5s were rear-mounted, I turned the ships around to bring their weapons to bear, but it ultimately didn't do anything. All the ships were destroyed by Mavericks, with multiple hits on the "Krivak III". I reflected that this wouldn't be so quick with my other surface group; they would put up more of a fight.

Happily, things were about to start going my way. The Su-27s arrived and launched medium-range AA-10 at the Harriers, which launched Sidewinders back. In the exchange of fire, I destroyed two Harriers for the loss of a single Su-27. I considered that an acceptable loss ratio.

A later patrol from the "Bears" and the "Flankers" found a Seahawk and an Osprey. They were operating without their radars on. Going active, I located surface contacts and found that they were in range of Kalinin's SS-N-19 "Shipwrecks".

The reporting name of the P-700/SS-N-19 is a very good one indeed. These are among the most powerful missiles in the game; very high speed, enough DPs to severely damage most vessels and with a huge range. I proceeded to launch all sixteen at the group; I could only fire four at a time, so it took four trips to the allocation screen. As I was launching, my air group had to level and lost the ships on radar; the last eight launches were bearing-only. 

Not that it really mattered. Once the missiles were in flight, I set an intercept course.

They would take nine-and-a-half-minutes in game time to get there; I used time compression until the last minute.

It's plain to see why the "Kirov" class was as feared as it was; it's a positive killer to everything that's not a carrier group packing AEGIS. The first salvo sunk an Anchorage class; not a new ship but still rather large The second did not appear to get anything; while the third took out a Large Slow Target of the Newport class. The fourth hit an already blazing target, I don't remember which.

I got the victory message and was asked if I wanted to play on. I chose to do so.

My submarines found a surface contact, but it was too far and too fast for them to make the intercept. A Tornado F.3 proved too far for my Su-27s to reach, turning and running as they arrived.

I then IDed another surface group, which included a British Type 22 frigate and a Canadian Iroquois destroyer. Then two Seahawks arrived.

They launched Penguin missiles at my group. I was a bit concerned; my orders said protect the BCGN at all costs. The SA-N-6 missiles launched but completely missed! My "Sovvie" was hit by two missiles, which merely slowed it down. The "Grumbles" were being particularly poor today; it took several of them to finally destroy the Seahawks.

I was asked if I wanted to leave the destroyer behind. I said no; as I needed the "Sunburn" missiles for the surface action. I would use them shortly afterwards on the 'phib group.

When we got into range, I launched my eight "Sunburn" missiles. Four of them went for the amphibious carrier Tarawa and four at another Newport. I didn't watch the flight in 1:1, something I now somewhat regret, because it's always fun to watch these anti-shipping attacks in real-time. Both vessels sunk, but not with a victorious Soviet anthem, but sad music. Perhaps more appropriate in a way; there would have been a lot of men on those ships.

With only an Over Head Projector (Oliver Hazard Perry FFG) left of the PHIBGRU; I turned my attention to the other larger group. A Lynx made an attack with its Sea Skuas. It made a hit on the "Sovvie" (which took all the hits that group got), but took a SAM of its own. Then the Canadian Iroquois destroyed one of my few Ka-25 "Hormones" with an SM-2MR.

The surface group turned to run; going too fast for the damaged "Sovvie", I had to leave it behind. Even then I couldn't keep up, so I turned for Severomorsk.

Then the enemy SAG turned to follow me! I decided to turn for a surface action (which might have a mistake), landing my choppers. I readied my "Flankers" with iron bombs and launched them; the range was too far. I decided to use them against the lone OHP when they'd been readied again.

Our groups got into range, a Charles F. Adams DDG started firing Standards at me... then the game crashed to desktop.

Oh well... 

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