The scenarios of Shifting Sands – Part 2

October 12, 2017 · Posted in Command, Uncategorized · 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

Companion to Shifting Sands: The v1.13 update in a nutshell

October 9, 2017 · Posted in Command · Comment 

sm3Earlier today, the v1.13 update to Command was “unofficially pre-released” on the MatrixGames forums ahead of its official October 19 release. This update accompanies the Shifting Sands standalone expansion and will also be freely available to existing CMANO users.

Following the release of v1.12 and Chains of War, with their ground-breaking gameplay features (communications disruption, aircraft damage , the new weapon types and cargo, amphibious and airdrop ops), v1.13 returns to the more traditional “a thousand little things” form. That said, there are still a few stand-out items worth mentioning.

  • As in every past update, a major development focus is on simulation performance. Large, complex scenarios should now run even faster on the same available hardware.
  • The pan/zoom operations on the map have been given a major boost (or conversely, if you are having a lag issue this should now be significantly eased). Map icons are now also significantly “sharper”, for lack of a better term.
  • Tactical chaff laying is now available, allowing players to create chaff corridors to protect their offensive packages as in historical raids in WW2, the Middle East, Vietnam etc. The advantages as well as limitations of chaff corridors (and the technological reasons that gradually led to their obsolescence from the late 1970s) are faithfully modelled.
  • Sprint & drift behavior is now also available for single, non-grouped units.
  • AAW & ABM engagement mechanics have received a major overhaul. Various nuances have been added to the aircraft damage model, generally increasing lethality against large aircraft, conferring significant lethality bonuses to late-generation weapons (here is an example of how modern AAW weapons are scarily smart about optimizing their destructive effects), and properly rewarding hit-to-kill warheads. Numerous AAW/ABM weapons have had their max-target speed values adjusted so that they are realistically less capable at rising-speed targets (e.g. RVs), and the intercept aspect angle is also taken into account (a fully “crossing shot” can reduce the nominal PH by up to 50%).
  • An all-new Lua console is introduced, offering a substantially better editing experience and functionality. The Lua API has also received myriads of improvements, additions and fixes (as always, the online reference is the best resource).

The development team is already gearing up for the next game-engine update, which will match the release of the next Command-LIVE scenario. Stay tuned!

The scenarios of Shifting Sands – Part 1

October 5, 2017 · Posted in Command · 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 covers the period from the sidelines of the Suez Crisis to the Six-Day War, Israel’s strategic triumph that reshaped the Middle East.

1. Red Sea Rumble

Egypt vs. United Kingdom
Date/Time: 31st October, 1956 / 22:00:00 Zulu
Location: Egypt – Gulf of Suez
Duration: 6 Hours
Playable Sides: United Kingdom

On late October 1956, as the Suez crisis bloomed out to a full intervention, a number of RN ships found themselves in the Red Sea, cut off from the rest of the active British forces. As has always been the case, the Red Sea was chock-full of neutral and commercial shipping, so rules of engagement were tight. Even against positively identified Egyption vessels, the instructions were to warn and turn ships around, and engage only as self-defence.

On the evening of October 31, HMS Newfoundland, a British Fiji-class cruiser, encountered a darkened ship passing here in the opposite direction. The Newfoundland closed to 1,500 yards, and came parallel to this ship, signalling it to heave-to or be fired upon. The darkened ship, later identified as the Egyptian Navy frigate Domiat, signalled acknowledgement and appeared to slow down. Then suddenly it extinguished its running lights and trained her guns on the RN ship.

Newfoundland signalled to her consorts that she was engaged with a confirmed hostile, and Domiat likewise called for reinforcements. The fight was on.

2. Cross Border Skirmish

Israel vs. Syria
Date/Time: 13th November, 1964 / 08:00:00 Zulu
Location: Syria – Golan Heights
Duration: 4 Hours
Playable Sides: Israel

Following the first Arab-Israeli war, Israel and Syria both claimed sovereignty over several “Demilitarized Zones” along their border. These zones were set up as part of the cease-fire ending the war. Israel attempted to farm the land in these zones, while Syria developed a project to divert water from the Jordan River, which Israel shared with both Syria and Jordan.  Syrian forces often fired on Israeli tractors attempting to farm the zones, while Israel looked for ways to interrupt the Syrian diversion project.

On Nov. 13, 1964, Syrian forces stationed on the top of the Golan Heights, a plateau overlooking Israeli territory in the Jordan River valley, fired on Israeli tractors. Israeli forces returned fire. Syrian artillery then targeted Israeli civilian villages, and Israel responded with air attacks on Syrian forces. The skirmish then escalated rapidly.

3. Hit Hard Hit Fast

Israel vs. Egypt
Date/Time: 5th June, 1967 / 05:00:00 Zulu
Location: Egypt – Sinai Peninsula
Duration: 3 Hours
Playable Sides: Israel

In the months leading up to the June 1967, tensions among Israel and the neighboring countries of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria were extremely high. With the surrounding Arab nations, particularly Egypt, equipped with Soviet vehicles and weaponry and increasingly hostile to the existence of Israel, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) felt increasingly that only a massive pre-emptive strike would enable Israel to prevail in the coming conflict, and planned for it. One of the key components of this planning was Operation Moked (Focus), an Israeli Air Force (IAF) operation designed to completely destroy the Egyptian Air Force on the ground. Initially planned during the years following the Suez Canal Crisis in 1956, the operation was refined further by air force commanders prior to the war.

Operation Moked was launched on June 5 at 7:45 am, timed precisely to coincide with Egyptian early morning air patrols returning to their bases and standing down. Almost all of Israel’s combat aircraft were committed to the airstrike, with only twelve being held back to patrol Israeli airspace. The strike ingress was at extremely low altitude, hoping to duck under Egyptian radar and SAM coverage.

Egyptian airbase protective infrastructure was poor, with no airfields equipped with hardened aircraft shelters capable of protecting aircraft in the event of an attack. The Egyptians also hindered their own defence by temporarily shutting down their entire air defence network as they were worried that rebel Egyptian factions would shoot down the plane carrying Field Marshal Amer and Lt-Gen. Sidqi Mahmoud, who were en route from al Maza to Bir Tamada in the Sinai to meet the commanders of the troops stationed there.

On this dawning June morning, the IAF re-wrote the book on offensive counter-air (OCA) operations.

4. Rockstar Calling

Date/Time: 8th June, 1967 / 11:00:00 Zulu
Location: Egypt – Sinai Peninsula
Playable Sides: US 6th Fleet
Duration: 1 Day

The attack on the USS Liberty remains, to this date, one of the sore points of US-Israeli relations.

During the Six-Day War between Israel and several Arab nations, the United States officially maintained a neutral status. Several days before the war commenced, the Liberty (call sign “Rockstar”), an electronic intelligence ship (officially a “technical research ship”), was ordered to proceed to the eastern Mediterranean area to perform a signals intelligence collection mission in international waters near the north coast of the Sinai. After the war erupted, due to concerns about her safety as she approached her patrol area, several messages were sent to Liberty to increase her allowable closest point of approach (CPA) to Egypt’s and Israel’s coasts from 12.5nm and 6.5nm, respectively, to 20nm and 15nm, and then later to 100nm for both countries. However, due to ineffective message handling and routing, the CPA change messages were received too late.

On the afternoon of 8 June 1967, Liberty was attacked and heavily damaged by Israeli air and naval forces; eventually, 34 crewmen were killed and 174 wounded.

Two US Navy carrier task groups (Saratoga and America) were in the eastern Mediterranean, south of Crete, when the attack on the Liberty commenced. The intelligence ship called for immediate assistance to protect from the ongoing attack.

This is what might had happened next.

5. The Iron Coast

Israel vs. Egypt
Date/Time: 11th July, 1967 / 19:45:00 Zulu
Location: Egypt – Sinai Peninsula
Playable Sides: Israel / Egypt
Duration: 6 Hours

Israel emerged from the Six-Day War of 1967 with a much longer coastline to protect. The land borders were shorter, but the sea now included the entire Sinai coast. The actual fighting was over, but officially the state of war was not ended. Egypt sent intelligence operatives into the Sinai peninsula to gather information on Israeli dispositions. Israel, in turn, maintained patrols along the coast both at sea and on land.

The patrols in July 1967 were usually made by the destroyers Yaffo and/or Eilat. The destroyers were accompanied on these missions by a pair of torpedo boats from the 914th Division. These patrols covered the Sinai coast up to the approaches to Port Said. There was nothing in the written orders about seeking an engagement. However, Commanders were encouraged to ambush and destroy any Egyptian ship that ventured out. Despite this, they should avoid engaging ex-Soviet destroyers of the Skory class, now in Egyptian service, because of their superior firepower.

In one such patrol, on July 11, this proved easier said than done…

6. A New Age

Israel vs. Egypt
Date/Time: 21st October, 1967 / 14:00:00 Zulu
Location: Egypt – Sinai Peninsula
Playable Sides: Egypt
Duration: 6 Hours

The Soviet Komar-class (Project 183R) fast attack craft, entering service in 1958, were a revolutionary new type of coastal combat ships, thanks to their armament of SS-N-2 “Styx” anti-ship missiles, the first such practical weapon to be operationally deployed on tactical ships (larger missiles such as the SS-N-1 “Scrubber” and SS-N-3 “Shaddock” were typically nuclear-tipped and intended for strategic strikes). The Soviet Union mass-produced and distributed these ships liberally to its allies and client states as a way of reducing their vulnerability to western “gunboat diplomacy”. Egypt had received five such boats starting in 1962. They did not see much use in the catastrophic Six-Day War, but they would soon show their mettle.

INS Eilat (ex-HMS Zealous), a Z-class destroyer sold to the Israeli navy post-war, had already distinguished herself on both the 1956 and 1967 conflicts, most recently sinking two Egyptian torpedo-boats off the Rumani coast. On October 21, 1967, she was patrolling in international waters off Port Said in the Sinai. At the time, two of the Egyptian Komar boats were inside the harbor. They were ordered to attack and destroy the Eilat.

The engagement that followed would send shockwaves throughout the naval operations community and influence the design of ships, weapons, electronics and countermeasures for decades to come.

Next: From the War Of Attrition to Yom Kippur