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Subject: Straits of Taiwan 1967, "New Year's Eve's Shindig" rss

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B Chee
Australia
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"The destiny of nations is shaped by the plangent vicissitude of destroying enemy flattops, interdicting their convoys, and severing their reinforcements and supply lines. And, if you make ace along the way... well, that's just gravy."
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"The destiny of nations is shaped by the plangent vicissitude of destroying enemy flattops, interdicting their convoys, and severing their reinforcements and supply lines. And, if you make ace along the way... well, that's just gravy."
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Meteor-4256 from 41st TFS, Hsinchu AB // 1141 hrs // Over the Taiwan Straits, near the Kinmen Islands


Major Zhang Zhi'ao, CO of the 41st Tactical Fighter Squadron, had plenty to think about in the cockpit of his sparkling, new F-104G Starfighter. Being a newly-promoted squadron leader was harder than most people realized, and being one of the youngest to do so only increased the scrutiny. Combat leadership had little to do with scoring personal kills. The role of a leader was to bring out the best in his team, to achieve success not by himself but with the entire team, and to raise the squadron into an effective fighting force.

It was New Year's Eve, a day of dour clouds and persistent grey drizzle, with visibility clamped down by the overcast, and it had proved quite impossible to operate the squadron. But a new Starfighter had arrived a few days previously, gleaming with a new spring coat of green and tan camoflage, and it had been undergoing static testing in the workshops. The ultimate test was to take the new bird up and run it through its paces, which was exactly what Major Zhang was doing, in spite of the weather. The jet seemed very fast, the engine sounded sweet, and it responded to his joystick like well-bred racehorse. Zhang made a mental note to keep this bird for himself, when he returned, pulling rank if necessary.

The comms in his headset chirped once.

"Meteor-5-6 from Spyglass, bandit incursion in your vector, possible he has drifted off course. Steer 120."

"Acknowledged. Any height on the bandit?"

"Approaching level, from the coast, bearing 345. I am vectoring you on an intercept. You are authorized to go Condition Red."

"Copy that, Spyglass. Weapons Condition Red."

"Meteor-5-6, he will be crossing your vector seven miles ahead. Please exercise caution, major."

"Thank you, Spyglass. Out."

Quote:
Setup
This scenario is a 1v1 encounter, with one F-104 Starfighter (ROCAF) vs one Chengdu J-7 Fishcan (PLAAF), set on 31 December 1967. Pilots may not descend to Low Altitude because of weather. Order of Battle is:

ROCAF (Taiwan) Forces
01 x F-104G Starfighter, using Pakistan F-104G stats and loadout, plus 3 points of Skills (Guided Intercept 2, Gunfighter)

PLAAF (Chinese) Forces
01 x Chengdu J-7 Fishcan, using Indian MiG-21 Fishbed stats and loadout

Victory Conditions
Well, duh. (Shoot down the other fighter, if you really have to ask.)

The Kinmen islands were a sore point of contention between ROC and China, and tensions had once again been running high between the two governments. Nationalist propaganda from both sides claiming sovereignty over the disputed islands did not help matters, and "navigational errors" by aerial and naval forces into the disputed space were all part of the posturing. Except this time, someone wanted a more definitive message sent - and he was the messenger.

Zhang had throttled forward to supersonic speed on the vector provided by Spyglass, the radar controller, accumulating valuable airspeed. His interceptor was carrying a pair of AIM-9 Sidewinders, plus an internal Vulcan cannon, and he hoped it would be sufficient to the task at hand. Then he saw his quarry, approaching from dead ahead. The smoking exhaust was a dead giveaway for the Chinese-made Chengdu J-7 Firecan. If the intel reports were accurate, it would most probably be carrying AA-2 Atoll missiles, the Soviet copycat of the Sidewinder. Grimly, he set the Master Arm to On, and tightened his oxygen mask.

Quote:
Round 1
As both jets were carrying short-range, rear-aspect IR missiles, the objective was to close to HS range and gain a Tailing position. The Starfighter adjusted for Range and then Position on the Fishcan, closing to HS range, before finishing on an Advantaged position - close, but not enough to shoot.

The Starfighter had the advantage in raw speed and acceleration over the Fishcan, but it was not the most maneuverable in close-quarters combat. With visibility obstructed from above and below, the evolution would be constrained to a relatively flat plane. Zhang extended his airspeed into a series of rolls and turns to gain position on the Fishcan, which responded with small, economical movements that deftly countered his attempts. The speed of the Starfighter was starting to show its advantage, as Zhang started to literally run a circle around his opponent, rolling out into position behind the Fishcan, before braking sharply and forcing it even further ahead.

The sweet tone of a lock-on filled his headset, and without equivocation, Zhang fired both Sidewinders in tandem. The missiles flew straight and true toward the huge, orange-white exhaust of the Fishcan, which executed a sharp break to starboard, dodging behind an anvil-shaped cloudbank. To Zhang's consternation, the Sidewinders continued blithely on their unwavering course like a pair of javelins, before tipping over slowly in a gentle arc as their fuel ran out, spinning wastefully down into the sea-fret.

Quote:
Round 2
The Fishcan played a series of Actions to move out of Disadvantaged, only to be countered and neutralized by the Starfighter. The turn of play went to the Starfighter, which used its superior hand to move into Tailing position, acquiring Tone, and firing both Sidewinders. With a mini-hand of three, the missiles were easily evaded, fortunately.


It was now the Fishcan's turn to open throttles and swing around, matching the Starfighter move for move: a roll for a roll, a break for a break, wearing down the other aircraft's energy levels whilst jostling for position, like a pair of brawlers circling in an alleyway. The Starfighter was not an agile aircraft to begin with, and at falling airspeeds, to Zhang's dismay, it was wallowing like a beached whale. The Fishcan pilot wasn't a newbie, and he knew exactly what he was doing as the Chinese jet, afterburners flaring, now swept into a tailing position behind Zhang.

Two bright flashes emanated from beneath the Fishcan, signalling a double missile launch. The Starfighter released a string of flares, falling like pearls from a broken necklace, and both Atoll heat-seeking missiles were harmlessly drawn away. Without missing a beat, the Fishcan pressed forward to gun range. Short, controlled bursts of 30mm fire zipped toward the Starfighter from the Fishcan's twin Type-30 cannons, but the Starfighter broke hard to port, headed for the edge of a grey, formless nimbostratus, and quickly disappearing into the gloom. The Fishcan was now out of ammo.

Quote:
Rounds 3-5
The next two rounds saw the Fishcan and the Starfighter maneuvering for range and position: the former trying to hold the Starfighter at HS range and into a rear-aspect missile firing solution, the latter attempting to close to Gun range. With partially depleted hands, both players favoured caution over risk-taking in playing their cards. In Round 5, the Fishcan played afterburners to gain additional cards, getting onto the Starfighter's tail at HS range, then played Tone, and fired both AA-2 Atolls. The missiles had a combined mini-hand of two, of which one was a useless Ace Pilot. The Starfighter was nearly out of playable cards, but it had a Countermeasure which saved it from certain doom. The Fishcan pressed the attack, moving into Guns range, followed by a Guns attack, which was easily cancelled out by the last card in the Starfighter's hand.

Watching the smoke trails of the Atoll missiles corkscrewing away, followed by the enemy's tracers zipping past his canopy, Zhang knew that it had been too close for comfort. With the safe knowledge that his enemy was out of missiles, and probably cannon ammo as well, he throttled the Starfighter forward once more to afterburner. The General Electric J79 engine roared, and a baby elephant kicked him in the butt. With a practiced hand, he smoothly translated the interceptor's increasing airspeed into a horizontal scissors, applying more instinct than skill to move the jet around, whilst using the surrounding cloud froth as cover.

As if out of a mist, the Fishcan reappeared dead ahead at six hundred yards, starkly silhouetted sideways against the azure-and-white broken clouds, seemingly completely unaware of his presence. He could not have asked for a better shot, and he pulled the trigger. Something within the Vulcan cannon clanked and screeched, producing a most disagreeable sound of metal grinding on metal that culminated with a resounding bang, before the red warning light named "MISFEED" flashed on in the cockpit, almost apologetically. The aircraft was so new that the cannon's linked ammunition feed had not been calibrated, let alone test-fired, and Zhang knew that he was lucky that the magazine didn't simply just blow up on him.

With no weapons remaining on both sides, this day would belong to no victor. It could have been worse, Zhang reflected, as he throttled back. He could have been shot down in flames in his shiny new jet. (Was the ejection seat even armed? suddenly flashed across his thoughts.) The wing commander, his boss, would probably have some words for him back at the airbase. On the other hand, it was scientifically impossible for fighter pilots to consider even the smallest possibility of ever losing in a dogfight, or indeed at anything else. Flummoxed and exasperated, Zhang banked his Starfighter narrowly past the Fishcan, catching a brief sight of the other pilot canopy to canopy, before the jets separated from each other, the day's jousting over.

Quote:
Round 6
The Starfighter played afterburners to regain a full Action hand, using maneuvering and Scissors to reverse positions from Tailed to Advantaged on the Fishcan, and then Guns (Good Angle) - only to be defeated by an Ace Pilot. With no more missiles, Tone or Guns cards on both sides, the match ended in a hard-fought draw.

Footnote
New Year's Eve 2018. My daughter and I were counting down the hours and minutes to midnight, and we were playing this scenario as we waited. We decided randomly for aircraft, and she drew the Starfighter whilst I got the Fishcan. She has been learning the game, as well as reading up on modern air combat. Sometime during the play, the clock struck midnight and ticked over from 2018 to 2019, and I suppose it could be worse than seeing out the old year and bringing in the new over a session of Down in Flames: Locked-On.


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Ken Skinner
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Cherry Hill
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"I suppose there can't be many things worse..."


I'm going to guess you maybe meant to say "better".
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Brian
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thumbsup More great work here, Ben. Another outstanding, thoroughly immersive narrative that is a harrowing pleasure to read! Cheers for the New Year, mate!
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B Chee
Australia
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"The destiny of nations is shaped by the plangent vicissitude of destroying enemy flattops, interdicting their convoys, and severing their reinforcements and supply lines. And, if you make ace along the way... well, that's just gravy."
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"The destiny of nations is shaped by the plangent vicissitude of destroying enemy flattops, interdicting their convoys, and severing their reinforcements and supply lines. And, if you make ace along the way... well, that's just gravy."
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R M Chair General wrote:
thumbsup More great work here, Ben. Another outstanding, thoroughly immersive narrative that is a harrowing pleasure to read! Cheers for the New Year, mate!

Thanks for your kind words. The challenge was finding a compelling way to tell the story of a drawn-out, evenly-matched contest that basically ended in a stalemate.
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