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Subject: Five Days in 2014 rss

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Tuomas Takala
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Introduction

I was a squadron commander (Callsign: Tigger) aboard CVN-74 in the Sea of Oman, during April 2014. March had seen heightened activity in Iran’s nuclear program, and the situation was tense. Iran was not giving ground, despite severe international pressure. In early April, US forces in the area (and elsewhere) were in a state of high alert. Then, on 9 April, a small nuclear device was detonated above ground in the Great Salt Desert. The US declared war on the next day. Exactly how the war was to be fought, was not clear to us, and perhaps not to the high command. This is my story of those five days of war.

April 10

Things were hesitant on the first morning of the war. We had a briefing about the general situation in noon, and then were given targets. These baffled us; a Rail Yard, a Major Bridge, and IRIA Barracks near the coast. Were the Marines planning and invasion? My squadron received orders to bomb the barracks, commencing 1200, when the hostilities were scheduled to start.

I was worried about the SAMs present in the area, with two batteries of SA-11s, one SA-10, and two SA-15s. Also, it seemed likely the IRIAF would deploy most of its assets to counter the USAF and USN strike packages. Therefore, we saddled our most experienced pilots, with one Growler, three F/A-18Es (including mine), one Legacy Hornet and our trusty Hawkeye, Brick. The main battery was to be me and Scout, with a full load of Rockeyes. Scotty’s Growler would carry a lot of HARMs for the enemy anti-air threat, and a single JSOW. Dodger would also pack a JSOW, to deliver an early punch. With him, Hunter (our Green Legacy Hornet pilot) would provide AtA cover with AMRAAMs, Falcons and Sidewinders.

Funny thing about the first day of the war was that we were still close to our base in Oman, and were planning to dock there that night, to load final supplies. Thus, if were not to fly any more missions, we could have a short leave at the dock facilities. [Shore Leave Target Bound Event]

We took off at 1200 sharp. Immediately we were informed that IRIAF indeed had all of its birds in the air. In our area, there was the whole range; a Foxbat, a Fulcrum, a Flanker, a Fishbed and two Floggers. A lot of work for Hunter and Dodger.

The engagement began in a flash. Scotty released a HARM and took out the first SA-11. At the same time Hunter launched two AMRAAMs and a Falcon, splashing the Foxbat and the Flanker. A good start. Additional ordnance was launched to keep the enemy’s head down, as several radars were painting us. In the haze, Dodger and Scotty let loose the JSOWs, which glided in the compound, resulting in severe damage. But, the barracks area was large, and we would need to deliver the Rockeyes in as well.

The fight continued, with A-A radars flashing everywhere, HARMs streaming down and Falcons following the MiGs. Our ECM equipment was excellent, jamming most of the attempts to lock on us, and we downed several aircraft in the next minute, I splashing the precious MiG-29 with my single Falcon.

We were close, and the remaining A-A missile batteries were becoming hot. Scout barely evaded a SA-10 launch, cursing into to headset. Dodger was not so lucky, and his Super Hornet took shrapnel from a SA-15 missile detonating 10 feet away. His plane was out of the game, but fortunately able to fly back. Hunter had expended all his ordnance, but dove in behind the remaining MiG-21 and gunned it down. Not bad for a beginner!

Then, we were over the barracks, at low level. Our ECM pods were screaming high and loud now, and all enemy missiles and shells went high and wide. Scout and I released the 12 Rockeyes we were carrying in a neat pattern and sped away. Behind us, we could see enormous explosions all over the compound. Scotty verified this, and we left the area. A hair-raising experience, but an elating one as well.

In the night, we could take the promised shore leave (though a short one), which considerably eased our stress. And, the guys who did not fly that day were both amazed and frightened by our stories. The war, in our part, had begun well enough.

April 11

It was obvious that this was going to be a busy day. The war effort was geared up, with major operations beginning in many fronts, not just our carrier. We were given two targets, first of which I would fly. This was a large Power Station near Arak, in central Iran. This would be a big mission, and far away, so we arranged for a tanker to fill us up above the Persian Gulf. The armament consisted of SLAMs and Mavericks, the former to allow us to attack from a stand-off range, not exposing ourselves to the defenses around the target, and Mavericks as a backup. Hunter would join us again for AtA cover, and Brick would fly AWACS. I and Scotty would deliver the punch, while Scotty in his Growler would take care of any SAM threats. Everything looked good.

After taking off, we heard that a Cruise Missile Strike in the area had destroyed a SA-11 site, which was welcome news. Brick informed us that there were a few planes, but nothing like yesterday; two Foxbats and one Fulcrum, mostly patrolling in the area opposite to our entry point. We were ready, though, knowing of the long-range AtA missiles these enemy planes were carrying.

Immediately after coming in range of the SLAMs, we launched them. They hit the Power Station, but at the same time we were engaged by the enemy planes. We evaded their attacks, and Hunter killed both Foxbats with his AMRAAMs. His third and fourth kills in the war! Scotty’s HARMs were mighty useful, taking out two SA-11 sites, and making it possible for me and Scout to get in range to fire our Mavericks at the smaller transforming stations that were still standing after the SLAMs. [Here, the target was already destroyed, but I wanted to try to attain Overkill with 14+ hits]

As there were still SAM sites in operation and a single high-performance MiG in the air, we had to be fast. Hunter tangled with the MiG, not hitting it and almost getting blown away, a nerve-racking moment. As Scotty blasted the final SA-11 battery away, I and Scout launched our Mavericks, delivering them spot-on [Overkill Achieved]. It was time to leave. Some missiles were still flying our way, but Scotty greeted the operators with his last HARM. [Shoulder Launched SAMs Homebound event]

As we got back at 1700, our squadron mates were preparing for their run. It made me grit my teeth. It would be a Night time raid against Heavy Industry near Kerman [In this campaign, a +1VP target]. What worried me was that two of the three pilots assigned to this mission hadn’t yet flown in this campaign, and they were young. [Griffin was Green, and Lightning Newbie]. Dodger would be flying with them, unshaken by the events of yesterday.

This target wasn’t that far away, but they’d need all the payload they could carry, so they would be refueled on the way. Also, to ensure success and the (relative) safety of the pilots, we loaded up all our remaining SLAMs and AMRAAMs. [After arming this mission, I had 0 SO points, but would receive 4 if I destroyed the target]

At least the SAM threat would be low, with some primitive guns and a single SA-10 on the factory grounds. As the flight took off and proceeded to refuel point, we heard that this target was very important; it was manufacturing parts for the nuclear program, possibly the only one in Iran able to produce the specific items [Event: Important Target, +1VP if destroyed, making this a 4 point target!]. There was a single Su-27 flying in the vicinity, but it was distracted by another mission nearby, and didn’t see our guys. [Over Target Event: Good Briefing]

As we heard in the debriefing, the mission was short. The SA-10 didn’t manage to acquire because of our ECM pods, and then the SLAMs were off. Griffin’s three missiles hit right where they should, causing enormous damage. Still, Dodger would need to hit as well. His first SLAM went off course, but the remaining two hit, entering the partially collapsed structure and leveling it entirely [12 hits total]. The guys were happy to be done so fast. The gamble with rookie pilots and our last special ordnance paid off, and the higher-ups were very satisfied with this one!

April 12


Heady from the previous day’s successes, we were a bit disappointed by our target for the day. It would be Enemy Tanks. But, it was understandable since we could utilize our large inventory of Mavericks. Also, other available targets [Laboratory and SAM Sites] would have been very stressful for our pilots, who were starting to show the exhaust of two days of war.

So, we loaded our planes with Mavericks, and both I and Scout received one SLAM each. AMRAAMs were loaded on Griffin’s and Lightning’s planes for long-range AtA threats. The inability to get tankers for this mission hampered our planning, but we were confident we could get the job done. Hunter and Dodger were left to sleep in their racks, what was good for them, we’d need them fresh for future missions. [Event: Rack Time]

What should’ve been a relatively easy mission, wasn’t. First, there was a helluva lot of enemy aircraft in the area. Three Floggers, one Mirage, one Fishbed, and most threateningly, two Flankers. SAM threat was not so high, with only two SA-11s operating in the area, but contrary to our briefing, both of them were in position to engage us. [Over Target Event: Rotate Approach Sites]

Scotty immediately managed to destroy one SA-11 with a HARM, but another one released a salvo of missiles. We didn’t realize until too late, that they were targeting Brick! Scotty tried to get them to switch off their radar by firing off another HARM, but one missile homed in, and detonated near the Hawkeye. Brick’s plane was damaged but able to limp back. It could have been worse.

Meanwhile, ferocious air-to-air combat was on. Lightning killed the Flanker with an AMRAAM, but missed two Floggers. Griffin managed to kill a Flogger seconds later, as I and Scotty launched our SLAMs. They hit, but because the enemy tank formation was widely spread, damage was limited. But, that was only the first strike, our Mavericks were armed and ready.

As we closed in on the tank formation, the remaining two Floggers engaged us again. Griffin was unable to evade and his plane was damaged, and he had to retreat. Scotty managed to evade the missile, but I could hear it in his voice it was close. As if that was not enough, the remaining Flanker dove out of the clouds and fired a missile, at Scout. Pulling an impossible turn, he was able to evade the attack, and called that he was ready to release the Mavericks! [Now, Scout was at 4 Stress, one more would have made him Shaken, severely reducing his AtG skill and endangering the mission’s success. Fortunately the Flanker missed altogether]

We did just that. Our Mavericks left a mass of tanks burning, and we headed back. This mission was crucial to our squadron, since now I was confident our guys could tackle anything the planners and the Iranians threw at us. [Brick, Scout and Scotty were all promoted to Skilled after this mission, but all were also Shaken. Griffin was Unfit after being damaged]

April 13

This day’s recon briefing was cut short by an alarm call; Republican Guard Navy had launched its missile boats, and we were to take care of the problem. So, other guys would take care of the interesting targets, namely a Nuclear Power plant, among others. But, this was important and we were in a hurry. [Event: Charlie Foxtrot; +1XP, -1 Turn Over Target]

Loaded with Mavericks again, we took off and headed to the Straits of Hormuz. There were some active SAM radars on the coast, but some nice guys in another squadron took care of one SA-10 [Over Target Event: Pre-Strike]. IRIAF was seriously toning down its involvement, and only a single Mirage was seen between us and the boats. It was splashed only a moment afterwards by Dodger. The SA-11 couldn’t acquire us, so we had a free highway towards the target.

I and Scout were the bomb trucks, and had no trouble delivering the Mavericks onto the boats. The remaining few scattered and headed back to the coast, and we turned back to our carrier. Then we saw a couple of bandits heading our way, but a salvo of Falcons and AMRAAMs convinced them we were not a good target after all. [Event: Bandits, cancelled by 4 AtA counters]

After landing, we found out that there would be no more missions, so we had a long debrief and some rest. I felt that we had reached a level where complex and sudden situations could be handled in a routine yet professional fashion by my squadron. [Tigger was promoted to Veteran, Dodger to Skilled, and Hunter to Average. Brick was Unfit after this mission.]

April 14


The last day of the war dawned clear. We knew that the Iranians were hard pressed, and that our operations were successful. But, there was still work to be done. There were some AAA sites in the northern region of Iran, and we were tasked to take them out. We didn’t ask why, but loaded SLAMs and HARMs and requested a tanker for our journey up. It was only I, Scout and Scotty, and it was going to be a long flight.

On the way, IRIAF mounted a last ditch attempt to get us, but we shook them off. [Event: Short Range Threat; 3 AtA Attacks. One cancelled by AtA counter, two negated by an ECM pod]. We stood well clear of the target sites, which were mostly primitive guns, and let loose our ordnance. It didn’t take long for our SLAMs and HARMs to take them all out. It was more like target practise, but I didn’t feel sorry for the experience, only for the long flight, which left us all pretty exhausted. [In the end, all three pilots were Shaken]

In the afternoon our squadron launched the last mission. There were already talks of negotiations and high-level political meetings, but we couldn’t let that affect our thinking, yet. There were POL Storage facilities to be destroyed, and it was a job for Dodger, Lightning and Hunter to take care of them. Maybe it would finally show the government in Tehran, and the Mullahs, that there was no way they could continue to defy the might of the American military.

[Actually, at this point I already had 19 VP, so the next mission was not necessary, but I decided to fly it anyway.]

The problem was that we were practically out of ammo. No SLAMs, No JDAMs, no anything, except for a single AMRAAM. We took that. The rest was a bunch of good old iron bombs, namely Mark 84s. I don’t know if the guys were happy to fly low, or was it a grimace of pain I saw on their faces when the ordnance crew rolled out those ancient bombs. It didn’t help much to learn that there was a new RoE out; due to political limitations we could not engage any sites outside the Target. And, there were bound to be several missile batteries on the way.

So, loaded up with Stone-Age tech, our three guys flew to Bushehr, pretty sure to be blown away by the SAM sites in the area. Somewhere along the way it dawned on them, that maybe there was a benign God, or some other force who loved naval aviators. All the sites reported between them and the POL Storage facility were gone! [Over Target Event: Sierra Hotel; All approach area sites destroyed!]

That made the job easier. The flight in was smooth, and only over the facility did the guys meet any fire. Hunter evaded a barrage of Strelas, and Dodger dodged a stream of 23mm shells coming his way. Then, the iron bombs were off. Dodger’s bombs hit nicely, but the other half of the storage still needed some hits. Hunter screamed in, and seemingly at least some of his ordnance hit, because vicious balls of flame shot upwards from where the storage tanks had once been. [We needed 6 hits. Dodger had scored 4, and Hunter had to roll at least 5 to score 2 hits. He did, but it was close.]

On the way back there were some AAA vehicles out for revenge, and Scotty got to fire the last shots (HARMs, actually) in anger in our campaign. [Event: AAA Vehicles; cancelled by AtG counters]

In the evening we were informed that the hostilities would cease, and Iran had surrendered, for the moment. We were happy, proud, and tired. [All pilots except Hunter were Shaken at this point. Lightning was promoted to Average. I had 20 VP, meaning a Great evaluation.]


An “off-game” afterword


This was my fifth campaign. After I purchased the game, I played three campaigns in Iraq, first short, then Medium, and finally Long, receiving Adequate, Good and Great evaluations, respectively. Then, I played one short Iran campaign with Adequate evaluation. This I considered a simulated exercise for the campaign reported here. In that campaign I had two F-35s, which were nice, but didn’t make final cut. The Stealth feature was nice at some occasions, but the higher SO cost and low payload doomed them. On the other hand, I loved the F/A-18Es for their great payload capacity (same reason I love the Intruder).

So, having trained once for Iran, I decided to play again, and to take extensive notes during the missions, because I wanted to really see what I did and how, and, of course, to write a session report for BGG.

I could certainly write a lot more, but I think this session report tells enough of my enthusiasm towards this game. Please feel free to comment. And, many thanks to Dan for designing the game, and to all who have posted on the H:CAO forum here in BGG and in so doing convinced me to purchase this game.

[edit: added a few line breaks]
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Dan Verssen
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Great AAR! Thank you! I liked the story added to the action.

In researching the F-35, I've also had some reservations about its real world usefulness. It is kind of stealthy, but I don't get the idea it is fully stealthy, like the B-2. It also has limited weapons lift capability compared to the latest F-18s.

I'd be intersted in hearing comments from people who are more knowledgable than myself on such things.
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Andrew Walters
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The real snag with gaming stealth is that they are simply not going to tell us the relative stealthiness of these planes. It absolutely can and has been quantified, but it just has to be secret. The latest Chinese and Russian planes are supposed to be stealthy, and I'm sure they're stealthier than the previous generation. But how does this impact the AMRAAM die roll? It's a classic case of those who know aren't talking, and those who are talking can't demonstrate that they *know*.

But back to topic, great writeup!
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Roger Brandon
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Thanks for sharing your AAR!
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Mark Robinson
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Likewise! Thank you. Thank you also for your command of written English! cool cool

Diff.
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Tuomas Takala
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Just to add a few words.. I don't think the Lightning II is totally useless at all (I don't feel I'm qualified to give such judgment after playing five campaigns). I'm sure to include it in my squadron when I eventually try Iran again for a longer campaign and get to choose more planes, and it's great that the plane is included in the game. Actually, the only thing I miss in this game are TU-22M counters for the North Atlantic campaign. Well, I can just pretend the bombers are Backfires, when I get to play that particular campaign. Not for a while, though...
 
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Tuomas Takala
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Rockhopper01 wrote:
An entire F-16 squadron could be purchased with the price of ONE F-22. Let's be honest here... an F-16 or F-15 is still superior to nearly every operational aircraft in the world. An F-14 could reach out and touch anyone at 200 miles, far beyond the radar range of any fighter.


Good comments! As a military jet enthusiast (totally non-professional), I agree that many good planes were retired too early (including the Space Shuttle), replaced by overtly expensive and complicated projects.

And, many thanks for the tip!
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Andrew Walters
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Stealth is still very important for several reasons...

#1 It's part of reducing the enemy's air defenses in the first hours,

#2 Radars and other equipment can be repaired and brought back online,

#3 Some enemies might have more bench depth than Iraq.

The Air Force program of a few hundred F-22s and a few thousand F-16s (later F-35s) is probably a good one. You have enough stealthy, unbeatable, twin engine jets to dominate, and enough cheaper, single engine jets to get all the work done. The problem with air-to-air combat is that you don't get anything for being a close second place; the tip of the spear has to be the very best airplane it can possibly be. The cost of the F-22 is pretty shocking, but it just has to be the best.

I highly recommend Clashes by Marshall Michell. It discusses the air war over North Viet Nam in fascinating detail. There were some expensive lessons learned there, and in my completely amateur opinion those lessons are pretty well applied in the current air war doctrines.

Now, if we can just quit losing F-22s in accidents...
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Ryan
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andreww wrote:
The Air Force program of a few hundred F-22s


Something I recently read said the Air Force, or rather Congress/the Administration, stopped production with 180+ F-22s in service. All are supposed to be service aircraft with no spares in reserve. It will be interesting to see how they deal with repairs over the years. I think one just had a bad landing which resulted in expensive repairs after the Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony a few days ago.
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Scott Key
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If I remember right the F-22 had some really serious (pilot killing) defects in the oxygen system... so a lot of the expense controversy revolves around that.

Obviously not the best if your plane kills more pilots than the enemy is likely to.
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Tuomas Takala
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andreww wrote:

I highly recommend Clashes by Marshall Michell. It discusses the air war over North Viet Nam in fascinating detail. There were some expensive lessons learned there, and in my completely amateur opinion those lessons are pretty well applied in the current air war doctrines.


I second that! An excellent book. The Eleven Days of Christmas by the same author is also very interesting, albeit on a different topic.
 
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