The scenarios of Desert Storm – Part 1

March 21, 2019 · Posted in Command, Uncategorized · Comment 

The new “Desert Storm” DLC is now well into production, and is set to launch on March 28 (see the trailer!). The companion v1.15 update has also been released, and the dev team is already tweaking the new features and fixing issues based on early feedback. Let us take a look through the scenarios available in this battleset and explore the historical and hypothetical events that it surveys.


1. Invasion

Coalition vs. Iraq

Date/Time: 1 August, 1990/ 23:00:00 Zulu
Location: Middle East
Duration: 48 Hours
Playable Sides: Coalition

On August 2, 1990, the world watched in stunned surprise as Iraq’s elite armor divisions invaded and conquered Kuwait within two days.

This irrevocable act was the culmination of years of disputes between the two states. During the Iran-Iraq war, Kuwait had made a series of large loans to Iraq totaling over $14b. By the war’s end in 1988, Iraq was unable to repay and repeatedly asked Kuwait to forfeit the debt, arguing that by standing up to Iran it had indirectly protected the small, wealthy state. Furthermore, Iraq accused Kuwait of “drinking its milkshake”, i.e. using slant-drilling techniques to exploit oil reserves from the Iraqi portion of the rich Rumaila field.

The US administration, balancing between its long-standing allies Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and its desire to continue using secular Iraq as a bulwark against fundamentalist Iran (as it had done throughout the 1980s), had long been trying to mediate a solution that would placate all sides. During the spring and summer of 1990, Iraq’s military preparations were closely observed by western intelligence but were interpreted as a show of force designed to intimidate Kuwait and third-party negotiators rather than as the prelude to action. On July 25, the US ambassador met with Iraq’s leader, President Saddam Hussein, to reaffirm that (a) the US was committed to a peaceful resolution of the disputes between the two states and (b) that they held no opinion or favor towards either side in the disputes themselves. Hussein apparently interpreted the former as a token statement and the latter as a tacit approval of his regional ambitions. He thus finalized his operational plans and, just one week later, set them in motion.

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) had long-prepared plans for the rapid transfer of heavy US forces in the Middle East and Arabian peninsula. The concept of the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) postulated a sudden threat to the oil fields of Iran or Saudi Arabia, in both cases from a sudden Soviet invasion out of Afghanistan or the Caucasus TVD. To counter such a threat, multiple rapid-reaction forces and schemes were put in place: Elements of the 82nd Airborne Division were on a constant two-hour alert, with a brigade-size commitment scheduled 18 hours later; division-sized army forces were to be airlifted and delivered within 2 weeks; multiple container ships pre-positioned in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean carried supplies to be used by the arriving troops; multiple tactical and strategic airwings were earmarked for immediate relocation, and more. CENTCOM regularly practiced these plans in concert with regional allies, e.g. the bi-annual “Bright Star” exercises held in Egypt.

Though nobody on the ground yet knew it, all these plans and preparations were about to be put to the real test.


2. The Thin Red Line

Coalition vs. Iraq

Date/Time: 15 August, 1990/ 20:00:00 Zulu
Location: Middle East
Duration: 38 Hours
Playable Sides: Coalition

 

“I can tell you this, those first few nights were pretty strenuous, we didn’t have very much to stop ’em. [If the Iraqis attacked], the plan was to hit the supplies for the attacking army, slow ’em down that way, and meanwhile we kept a full tank of gas in all of our cars and we were ready to [withdraw] to Jeddah (Red Sea coast).”

– Charles Horner, commander of coalition air ops on Desert Shield / Desert Storm

Emboldened by his army’s swift success in conquering Kuwait and its oil fields, Saddam Hussein considered a possible advance into Saudi Arabia.

US reinforcements had already started pouring into the country, but slower than required, because the Saudi monarch was unconvinced that Iraq would invade (Saddam had privately assured the Saudis that Kuwait was his sole objective). A massive global air/sea-lift operation was well underway, but forces and supplies were by necessity streaming in piecemeal and simply getting the right people and hardware where they needed to be was challenging. In many ways, the rapid-reaction force being assembled in Saudi Arabia during August & September was a rag-tag motley crew of assets. Opposite them, just across the border stood Iraq’s best armored units, flush with confidence, ready to advance on a moment’s notice.

If that armored fist had crossed the border, would the thin red line have held?


3. First Night

Coalition vs. Iraq

Date/Time: 17 January, 1991 / 00:00:00 Zulu
Location: Middle East
Duration: 48 Hours
Playable Sides: Coalition

Two Soviet generals sit at a café in Paris, watching the Red Army’s victory parade. One of them turns to the other and asks: “By the way, comrade, who won the air war”?

This grim joke, popular in NATO circles in the 1970s and 80s, reflected a common prevailing wisdom distilled from the lessons of WW2, Korea and Vietnam: Airpower alone had never been able to decisively determine the course of a war.

The potential of airpower as a paradigm-shifting strategic weapon had been evident since its inception. Capable of bypassing the front lines to strike at the enemy’s heartland, it might end wars in days, rather than the years of brutal front-line attrition required in past conflicts. A century of failed attempts dispelled the dream; the reality was an attritional war of fighters and flak (and more recently SAMs), as bloody as anything earthbound. The same applied to direct destruction of fielded enemy forces; airpower was important, but as plenty of experience attested, never dominant.

As the US-led coalition air forces prepared for their first round of offensive operations against the Iraqi military, a lot was riding on the men and machines tasked with the job. The machines themselves were a mix of old and tried, and new and untested. The US military still lied in the shadow of the failures of Vietnam, where “a thousand tactical victories” had nevertheless ultimately resulted in strategic and political defeat. The directives from the highest level were clear as crystal: This would not be allowed to turn into another Vietnam. Strategic victory had to be achieved swiftly, massively and decisively – in other words, unlike any previous major conflict the US and its allies had ever fought.

Some students of airpower pointed to Israel’s swift victory in 1967 (and especially the first-day annihilation of the Egyptian air force) as a possible model to emulate. While there was indeed much to learn from the Arab-Israeli conflicts of the past (indeed, Israel’s extensive use of electronic warfare in 1982 did not go unnoticed and was to be intensely replicated), the reality was that the conditions that enabled the IAF to triumph in 1967 had come and gone. Low altitude was no longer a safe sanctuary for strike aircraft; Radars had become more resistant to jamming; Aircraft were no longer parked in long rows in the open begging to be bombed & strafed, each instead now being individually protected by a hardened aircraft shelter (HAS) seemingly impervious to anything but a dead-on nuclear impact. Catching the Iraqi air force on the ground and wiping it out within a few hours was a pipe dream. The Iraqi integrated air defence system (IADS), an odd mix of Soviet-supplied radars and SAMs together with a backbone of mostly French-originated command, control and communication infrastructure (a detail that turned out to be eminently exploitable) appeared to be a very tough nut to crack. Campaign planners, by every right a conservative group, estimated potentially heavy aircraft losses for the first nights of intense airstrikes.

Desert Storm would famously prove the “never dominant” claim invalid, but before airpower savaged the Iraqi army itself, it reached one more time for the first and dearest dream – overwhelming and instant strategic supremacy. The first night’s strikes on Iraq proper saw a dizzying ballet of assets, coordinated by modern AWACS and satellite communications, overwhelm Iraq’s air defenses, plaster its airbases and hammer its C3 infrastructure – simultaneously. Assets ranging from fighters and bombers to attack helicopters to drones to cruise missiles struck their targets with impunity, but none more boldly than the F-117s which braved Baghdad itself, hit their targets, and returned without loss.

To what extent those first-night strikes realized the traditional goals of strategic airpower – especially the shattering of enemy morale – is a question still debated and might never be truly answered. But one promise, beyond a shadow of a doubt, had finally been realized: At long last, the bomber had gotten through.


4. The Gates of Hell

Coalition vs. Iraq

Date/Time: 18 January, 1991 / 04:00:00 Zulu
Location: Middle East
Duration: 36 Hours
Playable Sides: Coalition

Prior to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, it had been established that Iraq possessed a significant chemical weapons capability. Iraq’s military had used chemical weapons on numerous occasions against Iran, as well as various rebel groups such as in Kurdistan. By the time of the coalition build-up during Desert Shield, the consensus of western intelligence agencies held that Iraq still had a sizable chemical arsenal, had likely forward-deployed these weapons, and was prepared to use them against coalition forces.

The concern about Iraq using WMDs as a counter to the coalition’s superiority in conventional forces prompted numerous US officials to implicitly or even explicitly state that the US would respond to such an attack with WMDs of its own, probably employing tactical nuclear weapons.

At the tactical and operational level, Iraq’s chemical weaponry constituted one of the prime strategic targets of coalition air power. The effort to neutralize it was two-pronged: chemical agents still stored in their rear-area bunkers were attacked before they could be deployed; and ready-forces already outfitted with chemical warheads (Scud missile batteries, artillery units, etc.) were prioritized by coalition airpower. But as frequently happens with such plans, the best efforts still resulted in misses and leakers.

On January 18, the second day of Desert Storm, Iraq’s President Hussein – dismayed by Iraq’s inability to resist the coalition’s massive aerial onslaught – conveyed an ultimatum to CENTCOM headquarters: unless coalition forces immediately ceased offensive actions and withdrew from Kuwait, Iraq would strike coalition troops and/or any city of their choice with chemical weapons.

While US forces scrambled to locate and neutralize the chemical threat immediately, other standing-alert assets prepared to deliver the nuclear response the US had committed to. The gates of hell were about to swing open…


5. Scud Hunt

Coalition vs. Iraq

Date/Time: 19 January, 1991 / 00:00:00 Zulu
Location: Middle East
Duration: 36 Hours
Playable Sides: Coalition

Saddam Hussein’s first serious reaction to the commencement of Desert Storm was to unleash a protracted bombardment of Israel (and to a much lesser extent Saudi Arabia) using Iraq’s considerable arsenal of SS-1C Scud-B tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs). While the strikes against Saudi Arabia were merely punitive gestures, attacking Israel was an astute political gambit: if Israel retaliated, as Hussein hoped, reawakened anti-Israel fervor in the various Arab states that had either remained neutral or actively joined the coalition could fracture the alliance mere days into the campaign.

CENTCOM planners and Schwarzkopf himself had neglected the Scud threat up to that point, correctly considering the missiles as militarily insignificant without WMD warheads (which the US nuclear deterrent would preclude.) Though tactically and operationally ineffective, they had suddenly become a serious strategic/diplomatic threat. Persuading Israel to hold back was no easy task, again demanding multiple parallel measures. First, several Patriot batteries with PAC-2 missiles (optimized for TBM engagements) were hurriedly deployed to key Israeli target areas like Tel Aviv. Secondly, Iraq’s TBMs and launchers became priority targets for air campaign planners.

The missiles installed in fixed launchers at the large H2 and H3 airbases in western Iraq were straightforward enough to attack; however, most Iraqi Scuds were deployed on highly mobile 8×8 transporter/erector/launcher (TEL) vehicles exploiting the vast Iraqi desert to hide themselves. To destroy them, a large portion of available coalition aircraft and special operation forces (SOF) teams were re-tasked to seeking out and eliminating Scud TELs exclusively. This veritable “needle in a haystack” hunt would become the longest operation of the entire conflict and a maddeningly frustrating experience for everyone involved.


6. Reviving a Giant

Coalition vs. Iraq

Date/Time: 24 January, 1991 / 00:00:00 Zulu
Location: Middle East
Duration: 48 Hours
Playable Sides: Coalition

By January 20th, 1991, the initial strikes on Iraq had been highly successful, destroying or degrading much of Iraq’s communication and anti-air capabilities. However, the coalition naval fleets in both the Eastern Med and Persian Gulf had by this point expended most of their long-range land-attack capability. In particular, the Persian Gulf Task Force needed to replenish its stock of Tomahawk cruise missiles as soon as possible.

Historically, two Iowa Class battleships, Missouri (BB-63) and Wisconsin (BB-64), played a part in the Gulf War. Four Iowas were built during WWII and two other keels were laid – the Illinois (BB-65) and Kentucky (BB-66). These two hulls were to be the Iowa’s follow-on class, the “Montana Class” battleships. In real life, the end of WWII halted their construction and they were never commissioned. The BB-65 hull was broken up in September 1958.

In the 1950s, several proposals were floated to complete the Kentucky as a guided missile battleship. This project was authorized in 1954, and Kentucky was renumbered from BB-66 to BBG-1, only to be canceled later.

Conversion of the 73% complete Kentucky would have entailed extensive refits to replace the two original aft 16″ turret barbettes with an assortment of missile launchers and sensor systems. Apart from Phalanx CIWS, quad Harpoon launchers and Tomahawk armored-box launchers received by the four Iowas during their 1980s modernization, the Kentucky would also have room for multiple SM-2 Standard area-defence missile and Sea Sparrow point-defence missile launchers, plus their associated air search and SAM-illumination radars. Its original twin 5-inch gun turrets would’ve been replaced with modern Mk45 guns. If employed correctly, the last of the BBs would have been a fearsome addition to coalition naval power.

In this hypothetical scenario, the conversion was completed instead of abandoned, and BBG-1 Kentucky has been commissioned into service, receiving subsequent modernization during the 1980s similr to the Iowas. The Kentucky and her accompanying escorts and supply ships have been tasked to reinforce the Coalition’s naval force in the Northern Persian Gulf and relieve the first-strike shooters.


7. Israel Stands Up

Israel vs. Iraq/Gaza

Date/Time: 26 January, 1991 / 23:00:00 Zulu
Location: Middle East
Duration: 36 Hours
Playable Sides: Israel

Desert Storm was arguably the strangest war in Israel’s military history. Even though a nationwide state of emergency was declared, and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) were put on alert, the order to commence offensive operations never came.

Saddam Hussein had attempted to turn Iraq’s dispute with Kuwait into a larger Arab-Israeli matter long before the air campaign started. For example, on August 12, 1990, just ten days after the Iraqi invasion, he had publicly suggested that Iraq might withdraw from Kuwait if Israel withdrew from all occupied Arab territory and Syria withdrew from Lebanon. Unsurprisingly this proposal drew considerable praise from the Arab world, even from principals that were otherwise critical of Iraq and its invasion.

Hussein’s order to fire a protracted barrage of Scud missiles against Israel right after the beginning of the coalition air campaign was therefore a step-up in this shrewd political maneuver: he attempted to draw Israel into battle, thus transforming what had started as an Arab-Arab conflict into an Arab-Israeli conflict, one in which Iraq would suddenly find new allies. Realizing this, the US-led coalition urged Israel to “stay down” and take the punches on the chin. It was necessary to keep Israel out in order to keep the Arab states on the side of the coalition. To demonstrate the US commitment to Israeli defence, a number of Patriot missile batteries were hastily ferried to Israel to provide additional ABM cover, and a substantial part of the coalition’s tactical airpower was dedicated to eliminating the Scud threat at its source. The Israeli government understood the stakes and, despite suffering repeated Scud impacts on Tel Aviv and elsewhere, held fast.

In this hypothetical scenario, Saddam’s gamble paid off: mounting public pressure in Israel from the relentless Scud bombardment has reached the breaking point. Rumors are spreading that dissident Arab factions within Palestine and the Gaza Strip are assembling material, supplies, equipment and personnel to launch independent attacks against Israel in support of Iraq’s pressure. The government feels that it has to respond, even in a limited fashion, or completely lose legitimacy. Israel’s gloves are about to come off.

Command: The Silent Service announced

January 31, 2018 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 

Announcement at MatrixGames

Product page at MatrixGames

The scenarios of Shifting Sands – Part 2

October 12, 2017 · Posted in Command, Uncategorized · 1 Comment 

Shifting Sands, the new standalone expansion for CMANO, is to be released soon by MatrixGames, together with the new v1.13 game update. In this multi-part series we cover the scenarios of this new campaign set. Part 1 covered the period from the sidelines of the Suez Crisis up to the Six-Day War. Now we move forward to the War Of Attrition and the great strategic surprise of the Yom Kippur War.


7. Sledge Hammer

Israel vs. Egypt
Date/Time: 20th July, 1969 / 11:30:00 Zulu
Location: Egypt – Sinai Peninsula
Duration: 6 Hours
Playable Sides: Israel

Despite Israel’s decisive victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, there were no diplomatic efforts in subsequent years to resolve the issues at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In September 1967 the Arab states formulated the "Three Nos" policy, barring peace, recognition or negotiations with Israel; and believing that "what was taken by force, will not be restored except by force", President Nasser of Egypt soon approved resuming hostilities along the Suez Canal. These initially took the form of limited artillery duels and small scale incursions into the Sinai, but by 1969 the Egyptian Army was prepared for larger scaled operations. On March 8, Nasser proclaimed the official launch of the "War of Attrition", characterized by large-scale shelling along the Canal, accompanied by pinpoint sniping and commando assaults.

The Egyptian Army was superior in both manpower and equipment to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and thus were able to sustain a lengthy static war. Israel, therefore, sought to demonstrate its aerial superiority to deter Egypt from a continuation of this low-level war. In early July 1969 the Israeli Air Force was tasked to prepare an assault on Egyptian positions on the western bank of the canal. The plan, codenamed operation "Boxer 1", was to be a gradual attack starting at the northern end of the Canal, where defences were weak, and moving southwards as the attacks continued.

Before operations against the Egyptian positions could start, the IDF had to disable the early warning radar and ELINT facilities on Green Island, a fortified island located near the southern end of the Canal, which was deemed a threat to Israeli aircraft operating in that region. The island was attacked by Israeli special forces on July 19 as part of Operation Bulmus 6, destroying its AAA defences and early-warning radar. IAF A-4 Skyhawks struck the island before the attack commenced, while Bell 205 helicopters participated in the extraction of Israeli special forces after their departure.


8. The SAM Busters

Israel vs. Syria
Date/Time: 7th October, 1973 / 07:00:00 Zulu
Location: Syria – Golan Heights
Playable Sides: Israel
Duration: 4 Hours

The sudden outbreak of the Yom Kippur War on October 1973 was an unmitigated disaster for the Israeli Air Force (IAF). Numerous aircraft had already been shot down in the first 48 hours, and the force was nowhere near to contributing its expected share of the burden of repulsing the attacks on either the Egyptian or the Syrian front. Arab air defences were nothing like six years ago, and even their mobile formations were moving under a very strong protective umbrella of mobile anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-air missile batteries. Even so, the IAF got to work using its pre-war plans for such a contingency.

One such plan, operation "Model 5", was a pre-planned operation to destroy all of the Syrian SAM and AAA batteries on the Golan front, in the area later known as the "Valley of Tears", by using unguided weapons from strike aircraft approaching targets at very low level; this was expected to keep them from being detected by Syrian radar systems.

Despite outdated human and imagery intelligence, the urgency of the theater situation (specifically, the depleted Israeli troops about to be overrun by an attack more than five times their size) dictated that the operation was greenlighted and launched on October 7, the second day of the war.

And from the beginning, things started going horribly wrong.


9. Hunters

Syria vs. Israel
Date/Time: 7th October, 1973 / 21:00:00 Zulu
Location: Eastern Med – Port of Latakia
Playable Sides: Israel and Syria
Duration: 10 Hours

During the 1973 Yom Kippur conflict, the Arab-Israeli war at sea would be the first conflict in which the primary naval weapon on both sides was the surface-to-surface missile. After the loss of the Eilat, the Israelis felt they could no longer try to maintain a traditional navy. They undertook a new crash program that would not only change their navy, but would change naval warfare. The Israelis chose to convert their navy over to one where small fast missile-armed ships would be the main combat force.

With this decision they began developing their own SSM, the Gabriel, and designing ships to carry the missile. But more importantly, the Israelis began to look for a way to defeat the Styx missile. For their missile boats the Israelis invested heavily in a new shipboard electronic warfare system, which included electronic support measures (ESM) to detect the enemy search radar and Styx homing radar, electronic countermeasures (ECM) to jam these radars, and chaff rockets to create false radar targets.

By the time war broke out in 1973, the Israeli transition to the new missile boat navy was practically complete; but the entire force was still untested and many wondered if the new missile and electronic warfare systems would work.

As the bulk of the "new" Israeli navy headed down towards the port of Latakia on October 7 to force the Syrian navy into an open confrontation, the very same question lingered on the mind of every military observer watching the battle to unfold.
 
Designer Notes:

Historical Outcome: Two Syrian Komar and one Osa class missile boats along with a Syrian minesweeper and a torpedo boat were sunk in the battle of Latakia, the Syrian navy returned to port and did not fight again for the rest of the war. No Israeli ships were damaged.

This scenario is based on the original scenario "Battle Of Latakia", with many enhancements and the addition of playable Syrian side.


10. Hide And Seek

Israel vs. Egypt   
Date/Time: 8th October, 1973 / 21:00:00 Zulu
Location: Southern Med – Baltim and Damietta [Egypt]
Playable Sides: Israel
Duration: 6 Hours

The battle of Latakia, although easily the most memorable naval clash of the 1973 war, was in fact not the only one. On the other major theater of the conflict, the battle of Baltim was fought between the Israeli Navy and the Egyptian Navy on October 8–9, 1973. It took place off the Nile delta, between Baltim and Damietta.

On the third day of the conflict, Israel launched a counterattack in the Sinai in an attempt to push the Egyptian Army back across the Suez Canal. The Israeli naval command expected ground pressure on Port Said to prompt a withdrawal of Egyptian naval forces to Alexandria, 180 km to the west. A squadron of Israeli Sa’ar-class missile boats, some of them in fact returning from the bloody shootout at Latakia, was therefore ordered to proceed to the Port Said area.

The battle commenced when the Israeli boats, heading toward Baltim, were engaged by four Egyptian Osa-class missile boats from Alexandria.


11. Downtown in Damascus

Israel vs. Syria
Date/Time: 9th October, 1973 / 12:30:00 Zulu
Location: Syria
Duration: 4 Hours
Playable Sides: Israel

On October 7, Syrian FROG-7 missiles struck the Israeli airbase at Ramat David. Additional missiles struck civilian settlements nearby, causing light physical damage but plummeting the already fragile morale.

In retaliation, the IAF was tasked to destroy the leadership & infrastructure on which Syria’s war-making capacity depended, targeting strategic targets in Syria such as its oil industry and electricity generating system.

The first target was to be the Syrian General Staff Headquarters in the prosperous Abu Rummaneh district of heavily-protected Damascus. The raid was intended to disrupt Syrian command and control capability for operations against Israel.

The raid was launched on October 9, 1973, the fourth day of the Yom Kippur War – and F-4E Phantom IIs from 119 Squadron screamed into the hornet’s nest of downtown Damascus.


Israel_nuclear12. The Samson Option

Date/Time: 10th October, 1973 / 11:00:00 Zulu
Location: Egypt – Sinai Peninsula
Playable Sides: Israel
Duration: 4 Hours

Officially, Israel is not a nuclear power.

During the first days of the Yom Kippur War, with the initial surprise breakthroughs on both the northern and southern borders by the combined Arab armies, Israel’s military was in near-panic. The alarmed Defence Minister Moshe Dayan told Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir that "this is the end of the third temple." He was warning of Israel’s impending total defeat, but "Temple" was also the code word for nuclear weapons.

Dayan again raised the nuclear topic in a cabinet meeting, warning that the country was approaching a point of "last resort". The same night, Meir authorized the assembly of thirteen nuclear ‘physics packages’, to arm Jericho I missiles at Sdot Micha Airbase (aka "Second Wing"), and F-4E aircraft at Tel Nof Airbase (aka "Black Squadron"), for use against Syrian and Egyptian targets. They would be used if absolutely necessary to prevent total collapse at the front lines, or as the final retaliation for Israel’s destruction. However, the preparations were deliberately performed in an easily observable manner, likely as a signal to the US and USSR.

US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger learned of the nuclear alert on the morning of October 9. That day, in keeping with his deal and warning which prevented a pre-emptive Israeli attack on the massing Arab armies, US President Nixon ordered the commencement of Operation Nickel Grass, a massive airlift operation to replace all of Israel’s material losses (especially its aircraft) and provide additional support hardware such as brand-new electronic jammers to defeat Arab SAMs. (According to anecdotal evidence, Kissinger told Sadat that the reason for the US airlift was that the Israelis were very close to "going nuclear".)

In this hypothetical scenario, the US took too long to commit to providing the vital assistance, and Israel’s leadership became desperate enough to step into the nuclear abyss.


13. Seconds Out – Round Two!

Syria vs. Israel
Date/Time: 11th October, 1973 / 21:00:00 Zulu
Location: Eastern Med – Port of Latakia
Playable Sides: Israel
Duration: 5 Hours

The Second Battle of Latakia was another small naval battle of the Yom Kippur War, fought between Israel and Syria on October 11. Israel’s 914 Division fielded Sa’ar missile boats armed with Gabriel anti-ship missiles, while the Syrian Navy were equipped with Soviet Komar- and Osa-class missile boats armed with Soviet-manufactured SS-N-2 "Styx" anti-ship missiles.

After losing 3 missile boats during the first Battle of Latakia, the Syrian navy changed its tactics and refused to engage the Israeli navy in open battle at sea again. Instead, it used its missile boats on short "dash in and out" forays from harbour mouths to launch missiles, relying on coastal batteries for defence. To provoke the missile boats into open combat, the commander of the Israeli Navy missile boats flotilla, Michael Barkai, was dispatched with 7 boats to launch a night attack on the Syrian ports. Oil tanks at the ports were marked as secondary targets.

Barkai split his forces so that 2 Sa’ar 4-class missile boats were to attack the Port of Banias, while another 2 boats would attack the Syrian naval base at Mina Al-Baida. The last 3 remaining boats, 2 Sa’ar 3-class missile boats and 1 Sa’ar 2-class boat were to attack Latakia again.

Both sides had already learned lessons from the previous battles at Latakia and Baltim, and would now put their new tricks to the test.


Next: From Yom Kippur to Bekaa

Matrix Games LLC is hiring!

January 31, 2017 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 

http://www.matrixgames.com/news/2143/New.position.open.at.Matrix.Games.LLC

This is an excellent opportunity to join our professional simulation and wargaming team in the U.S.A.

Professional strategy gaming developer and publisher Matrix Games LLC is looking for a Strategy Gaming Specialist to help develop the next generation of professional Battlespace Simulations.

Role: Strategy Gaming Specialist

This position will support a new effort in strategy gaming for operational customers.

The position will require an understanding of strategy gaming structures, LUA scripting, and military operations.

The successful candidate will provide technical support to strategy and wargaming tasking, including database development, scenario development, and process definition support. Some ancillary software support will be required.

The majority of work will be to support government customers; the successful candidate must be able to obtain a US security clearance.

Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s of Science Degree, or experience in LUA scripting and strategy simulations and  gaming
  • Proficiency with Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint
  • Experience with complex strategy gaming environments
  • Understanding of LUA scripting
  • Attention to Detail
  • Excellent written communication skills
  • Self-motivated with ability to work with minimal supervision
  • Due to the nature of this position, US citizenship is required

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Engineering, Software Engineering, or Electrical Engineering
  • Experience in complex strategy gaming design, application, or use
  • Demonstrated experience working with customers at various levels
  • Effective interpersonal communication skills
  • Demonstrated effective verbal communication with clients at all levels
  • Demonstrated successful collaboration within a multi-disciplinary team
  • Strong organizational and time management skills to effectively manage various project activities ensuring accurate task completion

The candidates should apply in writing to jobs@matrixgames.com.

Naval mines in Command

December 16, 2016 · Posted in Mines, Uncategorized · Comment 

 

Image result for naval mineThere has been a question about Command’s mine warfare model on the forum so we would like to cover our mine model in more detail than the current manual covers.

To start it’s a good idea to have a little background on what naval mines are how they are detected and neutralized. If you’re not familiar there are some really great resources online that do a good job explaining the basics. Please do give these a good read if you’re unfamiliar with the concepts.

Now how does CMANO model mines, mine deployment, mine strikes, mine detection, and mine neutralization?

Mines in the database

CMANO eschews the traditional “minefield area with % chance to stumble on one” wargaming model and instead treats mines as discrete individual objects (yes, that means you can have thousands of them in a scenario. The sim engine can take it.). Let’s take a look at the general mine categories currently modelled in Command:

  • Bottom Mine. As the name implies, laid on the sea bottom. These are quite hard to pick on sonar and (if they are properly camouflaged) even with visual cameras. They can be used only in relatively shallow waters (if they are laid deep, when they detonate their explosive shock will dissipate until it reaches the surface).
  • Moored Mine. These are deliberately filled with some light material to provide them with positive buoyancy and then anchored to the bottom, suspended in mid-water. Because of this they can be laid in deeper waters than bottom mines. They are, however, easier to detect and neutralize.
  • Floating/drifting Mine. These float on the surface. They can be spotted and neutralized more easily than other types.
  • Moving/Mobile Mine. These are often converted torpedoes, fired from standoff range by ships or submarines, traversing a distance before settling on the bottom.
  • Rising Mine. These nasty weapons are either bottom-lying or moored, and instead of an explosive warhead their payload is a homing torpedo or rocket. When they detect a suitable target, the payload is launched and homes on the target independently.
  • Dummy mine. A fake mine, meant to delay counter-mine operations.

The mine attributes listed in the database include fuse types (magnetic, passive acoustic, pressure, seismic), arming delays, different warhead explosives and properties etc. Some of these attributes are not currently used (for example target discrimination is currently listed but not actually used in code) but have been included nevertheless for future revisions to the model. We’ve also provided generic examples of each major type in the database and in case where we’ve found detailed information on real life mines we’ve added them.

 

Deployment: Pre-fab and in-game

Mines can be deployed in any water area that meets the depth requirements for the mine. You can find these depth requirements in the database viewer or, if using the scenario editor to add a minefield, in the drop down select menu next to the mines name.

Mines are deployable in CMANO in two ways.

The first way is via the mining mission in the mission editor in either game or editor mode during gameplay by an air, sea or subsurface unit. You can create a mission by first defining an area by dropping some reference points, then selecting them and finally creating a Mining mission. This will open the mission editor allowing you to modify the mission parameters and if the mine type supports it an option to add arming delays for fields you want to activate later. Once a unit is assigned it will launch and drop mines about 400 meters apart in random lines dispersed in your defined area.

Here is an example of laying mines via a mission:

 

Things to note:

  • Multiple assets of different type can be used for the mining mission. In this example we are using the Iran Ajr in combination with a squadron of B-52Hs based at Bandar Abbas. (Yes, “Red” would not normally have access to B-52s but the Buff is as good a mining demonstrator as any. Cope!). To ensure the bombers have enough mines to sow, we are adding 10.000 Quickstrike mines to the base’s stocks. Submarines can also be used in the same manner.
  • One of the most useful custom options for the mining  mission is arming delay. This can range from 1 second up to years. This can help significantly in preventing the assigned forces from literally mining themselves into a corner. This can happen both in real life and in Command, but the delay option makes it far less likely. It also adds an extra element of uncertainty for third-party observers (“can I pass through that area before the mines are armed?”). In this example the delay is 1 hour, and every sown mine has a visible timer indicating the countdown to being armed.
  • The laying pattern is highly irregular and very rarely are 3 mines laid in a straight line. This is deliberate, as it prevents the enemy from discovering a few mines and then using their regular pattern to determine the locations of the rest. It does of course mean an uneven distribution of the mines and the possible presence of gaps in the coverage, but with enough density this is acceptable.

If you ever want to add a mine rack to a surface or submarine unit you can do so. We have added a number of mine rack type weapons records which you can add to any mount. Many combatants actually have mine racks in real life (Chinese FF, Soviet Destroyers) but aren’t filled or used unless specifically tasked.

The second way to deploy mines is there is a function in the game editor. To do so simply drop some reference points to define an area and select them. Next, go the editor dropdown menu, select minefields and then create minefields in designated area. A dialog will then appear allowing you to pick the mine you’d like and number. The editor will then do its best to randomly disperse mines in the area you’ve chosen with the correct depth requirements.

 

Going BOOM

Mine strikes are resolved in the game as follows. Once a ship or submarine reaches a certain distance from the mine a calculation is made to see if the mine is armed and triggered. If so then the mine explodes or the payload is released. If it is an explosion than our CEP modeled is leveraged and damage is applied accordingly. If it’s a payload the torpedo hit is calculated like any other torpedo and if it’s a rocket munition it will be resolved using CEP on its own. Keep in mind that any unit in range of the explosion could take damage. This includes mine hunting UUVs and RMVs that could be destroyed as well as minesweepers themselves. This could also occur during mine neutralization involving explosives or a failed attempt.

Here is an example:

 

A small USN amphibious group (an Essex LHD and a Mars replenishment ship, escorted by a Ticonderoga cruiser and a Burke destroyer) is about to enter the Hormuz straits in order to transit to the Persian Gulf. Unknown to them, we are laying a pre-made minefield using the scenario editor. We are laying approximately 500 mines, half of them moored and the other half floating ones. Despite stumbling on some of the mines and setting them off, the group crosses the minefield seemingly intact – however, close examination of the ships’ damage reports reveals that most of them have suffered substantial hull damage and many of their critical systems have been damaged or destroyed; the group is thus now a significantly easier target for follow-up attacks or may even have to abandon its mission altogether.

Several things to note:

  • Each mine category (and indeed in most cases each individual mine type) has its own operating depth restrictions. This, combined with the fact that most seabeds are non-uniform in their depth, means that laying a single-type minefield is frequently impractical. A multiple-type minefield is both easier to lay and tougher for an adversary to sweep.
  • Most modern mines follow a two-step arming & detonation logic: First the detection of an incoming valid target “wakes up” the mine, and only when the distance to the target opens (ie. the target is passing its nearest point relative to the mine, almost certainly beam-on) the warhead detonates. This protects the mine against simple “prodding” sweeps, retains the element of surprise and ensures the maximum damage to the target. Command models this faithfully.
  • If the mine happens to be right under the target, its destructive potential is magnified because of the “gas bubble” effect; under ideal circumstances the mine can even literally break the ship’s back  (similar to an under-keel torpedo detonation).

Mines are very cost-efficient and, if properly used, a tremendously effective naval weapon. It is illustrative that they have damaged and sunk more ships than any other weapon since WW2. So how does one counter them?

 

Detection

 

Mine detection varies based on the type of mine and technology used to detect them. Floating mines can be detected visually with the constraints of time of day and weather. All mines can be detected using mine hunting sonar. We do mark them as such within the database so you can use the database viewer to see what kind of sonar or gear a unit has. In general, bottom and moving mines are the most difficult to detect followed by floating and then moored and rising.

 

Sweeping

Sweeping is the most common countermeasure. Basically the sweeper is trying to prematurely trigger the mine so that it detonates (or releases its payload) while friendly forces are at a safe distance. Mine-sweeping gear is included under the sensor grouping in the CMANO database. All sonar detection is impacted by range of the unit and speed of the host unit and all mechanical gear is constrained by speed of the host vessel and usable depth of the equipment. Keep in mind all sweeping equipment has width, depth and speed constraints (ex. Mechanical sweep can sweep down to -70m to -10m at 8 knts.). If you zoom in on any unit with sweeping gear the sweeping arc is visible behind the unit.

Let’s look at an example of sweep operations:

 

“Red” has created a mine barrier on the entrance to the straits of Hormuz, and side “Blue” has to neutralize it by clearing at least part of it to create a safe transit lane. Blue has access to two Avenger-class and one Osprey-class mine-warfare ships (MCM), plus a dozen MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters at nearby airfield “Base 1”, fitted with the Mk105 mine-countermeasures equipment.

First, we take a peek “behind the scenes” by briefly enabling “God’s Eye” view, to see what Blue is up against. The minefield looks pretty thick (around 3000-4000 mines). Normally Blue does not have access to this information.

Switching back to normal view, we define an area for the safe transit corridor we want to open. Using the created reference points, we create a new mine-clearing mission and assign all available assets to it, enabling the 1/3rd rule (more on this later). Then we sit back and watch them get to work: The ships activate their HF sonars and plot a course towards the area, and some of the helicopters begin their air ops procedures for taking off. This is going to take a while, so time acceleration is widely used.

Some observations:

  • Zooming on the MCM ships and helicopters shows their mine-sweep coverage (the blue triangles). Once one or more mines are detected, the vessels maneuver in such a way as to place the target mine inside this coverage area in order to trigger it. (The odds of this happening depend on the tech levels of the sweep gear and the mine being prodded; an old mine is much easier to sweep with modern equipment and vice-versa). If no mines are detected the units will still patrol inside the designated area, aiming to set-off undetected mines (hopefully without being damaged by them).
  • Helicopters are much more efficient than ships at sweeps against detected mines thanks to their speed (and reduced vulnerability) but are less effective at detecting the mines in the first place. Ships on the other hand have the sensors suitable for detecting mines en-masse but are less effective at clearing them, and more vulnerable. As is obvious in this example, ships and helicopters are most effective in this mission when cooperating to maximize their strengths.
  • All ships (including MCMs) try as much as possible to avoid passing too close to detected mines (the pathfinding code takes known mines into account when plotting a course). The “minimum safe distance” is estimated based on the ship’s own signature characteristics (magnetic, noise etc.) and whatever information is available about the mine contact. Smaller ships have a smaller keep-out distance and MCM ships have a big advantage thanks to their special signature-suppression techniques (non-metallic hulls & structure, enhanced degaussing, low-noise motors, reduced pressure etc.). This enables them to maneuver much closer to mines than other ship types in order to sweep or hunt them.
  • Despite these measures however, all 3 ships progressively suffer blast damage. (MCM vessels are designed with the assumption that they will suffer multiple proximity blasts during their lifetime, much more intense than for frontline warships). Even the best MCM ships are vulnerable to this; during the mine-clearing operations off Inchon in 1950, multiple MCM ships and destroyers were lost. Normally the ships withdraw after a certain damage threshold and return to a tender or naval base for repairs, rotating with others.
  • Midway through the operation one of the helicopters is destroyed by fragments from a surface mine detonation. This is not a bug; helicopters occasionally do get damaged or lost while detonating nearby mines (the USN lost two helicopters this way while clearing the Haiphong harbor in 1973). One of the upcoming new features of Command is gradual aircraft damage; this will enable sending the half-damaged helo home for repairs instead of permanently losing it.
  • At 8:53 we enter the mission editor and deactivate the mission’s “1/3rd rule”. This option dictates that hosted aircraft & ships will depart for their missions in 1/3 increments rather than all together, in order to rotate and thus provide continuous coverage of the patrol/mission area. Disabling this option allows us to perform a “surge”: All available assets tasked to the mission are immediately launched, providing temporarily a significant increase of on-station assets at the cost of reduced coverage in the long term. This is one of the typical trade-off decisions that the player must make.
  • Different sweeping gear types have different probabilities of setting off a given mine, based on the fuse type involved and the technological level. Old equipment can only get you so far!

Towards the end of the video, we pause the scenario and activate “God’s Eye” once more, to witness if the sweep team has made a difference. As can be seen, a very obvious dent has been made on the mine barrier; there is still much work, but the safe-transit corridor is beginning to take form. There is also something else noteworthy: Some mines close to the sweep team have not been detected at all. Such is the uncertain nature of mine operations.

This example was presented under favorable conditions for the sweep team: No unsweepable mines were included, and these do exist. Other mine types can be swept but are really hard to detect in the first place. Sweeping in general is efficient but bound to miss some here and there; a hard proposition for the forces that have to pass through the supposedly sanitized area. Thus sweeping is typically complemented by active mine-hunting operations.

 

Hunting

Compared to sweeps, hunting mines is extremely tedious and inefficient (it is sometimes described as the difference between using a lawnmower and cutting individual grass leaves one at a time); however, it is sometimes the only way to deal with sophisticated mines that ignore sweeping countermeasures.

CMANO includes a range of equipment types to neutralize mines in the game which gives players a range of options with different degrees of success. The equipment is deployed on traditional minelayers, aircraft, UUV, USV and RMVs and includes: divers with explosive charges; explosive charges hosted on units (killer type ROV/USV), moored mine and mechanical cable cutters (moored mine only) etc. Divers with explosive have the best probability of success, followed by explosive charges and all other equipment after.

Let’s look at an example mine-hunting operation:

 

In this video we present a typical mine-hunting scenario taking place inside the Persian Gulf. The Scout and Gladiator, two Avenger-class MCM vessels team up with The Sullivans, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and the Canadian frigate Halifax. The Avengers are the main mine-hunting force while the warships are screening them against any attacks. To hunt the mines, the Avengers are carrying SLQ-48 and Remus-600 tethered remote-operated vehicles (ROVs); these undertake the brunt of the mine neutralization process so that the ships stay (mostly) out of harm’s way. The Sullivans is also aiding the mine search by carrying and deploying a WLD-1 autonomous ROV.

At some point during the mine hunt, the force has to deal with some surprises. Things don’t always go as planned!

 

Delegating: The mine-clearing mission

CMANO provides a mine clearing mission within the mission editor. You create it by dropping some reference points, selecting them, selecting new mission from the Reference Point and Missions drop down and then add the units you’d like in the mission editor. The third rule is available for aircraft and ROVs. ROVs never appear in the mission editor but are added to the mission when their host unit is.

 

Hunting strategies

To effectively hunt mines in the game it is important to evaluate the constraints of the threat and the capabilities of your equipment.

The ocean is a big place and your ability to successful search any great swath of it for mines is pretty low even with the best gear. It is best to constrain your searches to areas that have the depth characteristics to contain mines and that the forces you are trying to protect might actually transit. Anything larger is a waste of time and resources. You may even consider rerouting transiting forces instead of trying to sweep lanes. It’s a strange game but the only winning move may be to not play.

Evaluating the mine hunting equipment you have is critical. Please do take a look at your order of battle and use the database viewer to see what units you have, the equipment they carry and evaluate their capabilities when developing a strategy.

Here are things we think you should consider and take note when make your decisions.

  • Traditional minesweeping ships are vulnerable even when successful at doing their job because depending on the size of a mine’s warhead it is likely the minesweeper will take points damage with any detonation from sweeping. We have coded in some things to reflect some of the design features to minimize this but it will happen and your ships have a limit as to how many close order detonations they can take.
  • Aircraft are preferable over ships because the likelihood of them being destroyed or damaged during sweeping is lower. Likewise UUV’s are somewhat more expendable and their losses hurt a little less than a mothership.
  • Many modern minesweepers act more as motherships for UUV or USV’s that sweep so it may be best to keep them out of the mine zones themselves thus only assign the UUV’s or aircraft to the mission.
  • Consider hunter-killer pairings. Aircraft and UUV/USV may have payload constraints so please review loads to make sure you actually have units that can detect and units that can kill mines. If it’s the case that a loadout can do one or the other please do assign both types.
  • Keep in mind the difference between a ROV and UUV. ROV equipment is tethered to the mothership. When a mothership is assigned to a mission all hosted ROV units will be assigned as well and launch once in the patrol zone or if a killer type once the mothership detects a mine. Keep in mind the tethers have a limited range which will constrain how far the ROV can travel from the mother ship and also means the mothership may have no choice but to move into the mined zone. On the other hand UUV and USV units are independent units that can be assigned directly to a mission within the mission editor. This is modeled this way to reflect their independent nature and lets the mothership standoff.
  • Do not create massive search areas when creating mine clearing missions. The patrol paths are random and the larger the area the more dispersed they are. Try to create search boxes smaller than 40 nautical miles (even smaller if just sweeping a lane) for best results and then create new ones or move the existing reference points to move ahead and shift the search area. If you don’t like a current plot you can just hit F3 for a new one.
  • If mines are smaller larger ships could be used to sweep with their own structures. You run an absolute risk of losing those ships but it’s a valid strategy that was utilized during the Iran/Iraq war.

Conclusion

We hope we’ve covered most of the basic questions about how the game models mine warfare and provided enough information for you to devise your own strategies. Please do feel free to contact us with any further questions!

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