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!

New Command video: Mines in the Hormuz straits

July 17, 2011 · Posted in Command, Uncategorized · Comment 

Build 160 of Command was released today to the internal testing crew, and it features a significant new feature: Individual naval mines. Command is the first air/naval wargame of its class to model individual mine objects (as opposed to abstract “minefield” objects commonly employed in similar games, both on paper and computer) so this event marks a new milestone for the genre.

There are several reasons why mine warfare, an absolutely essential part of air/naval operations, has been poorly represented in games of this scale so far: Laying, hunting and sweeping mines is a slow, tedious process typically performed by positively unsexy platforms. Properly modeling a non-trivial minefield requires placing and tracking up to thousands of mine objects, a work that can extremely time-consuming (on paper) or CPU-killing (in computers) or both. Finally, public documentation on mine seeker & activation systems, underwater shock mechanics and mine sweeping/hunting technologies and countermeasures is less extensive than on other naval weapons.

The Command development team has applied a number of solutions to the above problems and has produced a “Mk.1” implementation which, albeit limited in several ways (see below) still sets new standards for simulation fidelity in its category.

Let’s take a look at a common what-if scenario for mine aficionados: Interdicting the straits of Hormuz. (Watch in full-screen HD for better detail)

 

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 straits in order to transit to the Persian Gulf. Unknown to them, we are laying a pre-made minefield using the relevant scenario editor functionality. 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:

  • Platform-initiated minelaying and minehunting/sweeping is not included in this implementation, so only “pre-existing” minefields are supported. As can be seen, however, laying such minefields is literally a few clicks’ job.
  • Four mine categories are currently supported: Floaters, moored, mobile and bottom-laid. Rising/rocket mines (like the very dangerous Chinese-made, Iranian-owned EM-52) are included as part of the moored category.
  • Emphasis has been given on making the mine operation efficient in terms of CPU/RAM resources. A scenario author can place even thousands of mines or more and still get good performance (depending on the hardware of course).
  • 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.
  • The mines are assumed to have a generic pressure/magnetic fuze with a nominal detection range of 150-200m, modified by the size of the ship/submarine being detected. As minehunting/sweeping is introduced in later revisions of the model the seeker types & capabilities will have to be explicitly defined.
  • 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.
  • After this video was published, a flaw was discovered in the code that models the underwater shock generated by a mine detonation. This resulted in the shock being less powerful than in real life (dissipating at a faster rate, in fact). This was rectified in Build 161 (under development) and as a result mines are now much more damaging than what is demonstrated on the video.
  • The “killer bubble” effect is not yet represented; this is a future addition.

We will be providing more updates in the future on this significant feature as additional aspects of mine operations are implemented, such as realistic laying and hunting/sweeping performed by suitably equipped platforms.

Triple whopper: Updated Community Scenario Pack with 28 new scenarios

October 16, 2020 · Posted in Command · Comment 

It has been a busy week, that’s for sure. Yesterday we had the release of the massive v1.02 update and the new Command-LIVE “Sahel Slugfest” scenario, and today it’s the turn of another Command stable, the Community Scenario Pack (CSP). Brandon Johnson (Kushan) has updated the pack with updates & refreshes to existing scenarios, as well as 28 brand-new creations. Let’s take a look:


Airstrikes on Zinder, 2025 – This scenario assumes that in the near future Niger will experience a civil war.  An organization known as the ZLA seeks to establish a separate country in the Nigerien territory of Zinder.  It has already occupied the largest city in the region, also known as Zinder, and is presently operating as a de facto state.

Assalto in Pakistan, 2018 – After the multiple terrorist attacks by Pakistan .. NATO has decided to teach him a lesson .. by sending the nearby Italian fleet.

Baltic Fury 2 – Borscht on Bornholm – In this scenario you are playing the Soviet side and are charged with conducting an airborne and amphibious landing on Bornholm. NATO is on the backfoot so this should be a quick and relatively simple operation, but it’s essential that the island is seized and secured rapidly to allow for future operations.

Carrier Hunt, 2024 – China’s surprise attack hit every US-alliances in North-East Asia. While major military assets in Japan and South Korea took severe damage by Chinese ballistic missile strikes, Chinese forces have captured the Japanese Okinawa Islands and seized control.
Although the United States and its allies have suffered significant losses, they are still far from beaten…
This is a medium, single-sided battleset scenario with a duration of 2 days. You have two US Carrier Strike Groups with mostly three anti-ship weaponry: AARGM, LRASM, and Multi-Mission Tomahawk. Your primary target is Chinese Carrier ‘Shandong’ around Okinawa.

Galveston Gets a Mission, 1960 – Nikita Khrushchev believed that the role of the Soviet Navy was to support the Army, and once referred to surface warships as “molten coffins.”  He did, however, believe that submarines, especially those armed with nuclear missiles, were a good idea.
During the Cold War, both the Soviets and the Americans used submarines to gather intelligence on each other and often tried to sneak submarines close to the territory of their rivals as possible.  They also used cruisers and destroyers to find those submarines and to chase them away.

Greek-Turkish EEZ Conflict, 2021 – In late November, 2019 a diplomatic crisis erupted between Greece and Turkey when Turkey announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Libya outlining their maritime boundaries. This particular dispute, amongst all of the other conflicts simmering between the two rivals involved an agreement between Turkey and Libya that defined oil right for a newly found oil field in an area Greece claimed as part of its Maritime Zone (MZ).

Hell of the East, 2019 – In this alternate future, the dispute and arguments between Turkey and the United States of America lead the Presidential Republic to leave NATO in favor of its alliance with Russia.
Due to growing military actions from the Turkish armed forces in the contested waters, Greece agreed to allow the Italian forces to field it’s air defense batteries and part of it’s air force in Greek territories and move it’s Ocean-Capable fleet in International waters.

Leathernecks are Watching, 2025 – This scenario assumes that Indonesia is going through a period of civil unrest.  Separatists in western New Guinea have renewed their efforts to force Indonesia to give them independence.
There is evidence that China is providing the rebels with financial and material support.
The rebels recently seized control of the town of Jayapura and nearby Sentani Airport.  They have also taken two groups of American civilians hostage.
The only American vessels in the immediate vicinity are a surface group centered on (LHA 6) and the attack submarine (SSN 766).

Nile Delta Strikeback, 2012 – Israeli-Egyptian relations, in a grudging peace for 33 years, have once again flared into war. The Israeli Navy has deployed in force off the Nile Delta. Opposing it is only a pair of old Romeo submarines. Command either side for a different experience.

Operation Cachalot, 2023 – Pakistan is in the middle of a civil war between the loyal moderate government and the islamic radicals and the latter are winning. European Union, with France on the front line, is helping the loyal and trying to defuse the situation. Radicals allied groups conduct a surprise attack to France forces in Djibouti and hijack the French research ship Cachalot with 50 sailors on board in the Gulf of Aden, asking for France disengagement and sailing toward Pakistan. The negotiations do not produce any useful results and in a few hours the French merchant Cachalot will reach the main Pakistani port of Karachi. The French carrier group centered on Charles de Gaulle just arrived in the area of operation and is ready to take the merchant back and teach the Pakistan radicals a harsh lesson.

Operation El Dorado Canyon, 1986 – A highly detailed recreation of the April 1986 US air strikes on Libya.
On the 5th of April 1986 terrorists detonated a bomb in a Berlin nightclub. The bomb killed 2 American soldiers and a Turkish woman and injured 229 others, 79 of whom were American.
In response, citing evidence that the government of Libya was responsible, US president Ronald Reagan ordered airstrikes against Libya on the night of April 14/15, codenamed OPERATION EL DORADO CANYON.

Operation Locusta, 1990 – Following the invasion and annexation of Kuwait by Iraq, on September 25, 1990, the Italian Government sent eight multi-role Panzer Tornado IDS fighters (plus two in reserve) belonging to the 6th, 36th and 50th Wing in the Persian Gulf. Operation Desert Shield, which were deployed at the Al-Dhafra air base near Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
The use of Italian aircraft in the Desert Storm operation represented the first operational use in combat missions of Italian Air Force aircraft after the end of the Second World War.

Operation Northern Stork, 2018 – Four EuroFighter aircraft from the Italian Air Force took off yesterday from the Grosseto military airport to the airport of Keflavik, in Iceland, to launch the NATO Interim Air Policing operation, called “Northern Stork”. The aim of the operation is to preserve the integrity of NATO’s airspace by strengthening Iceland’s skies surveillance, which does not have the capability and autonomous air defense structures. Italy contributes, with periodic shifts with the other countries of the Alliance, to this NATO mission.

Putin’s War – In the Jaws of the Bear, 2022 – The time had come to take the war to Russia. MAG-31 was to launch SEAD attacks from its base in Norway attacking from the landward flank. The USAF aircraft in Iceland would fly a circular route north of Jan Mayan Island launching a SEAD attack with their decoys, jammers and JASSMs and the USN would follow up that attack with a Tomahawk strike on the major Kola Peninsula naval bases and air fields.

Putin’s War – Midnight Sun, 2022 – The Baltic Crisis finally erupted into a full-scale NATO-Russian/Belorussia conflict on the morning of June 6th. The Baltics and the Suwalki Gap were rapidly overrun by the evening of the 7th with Russian forces reaching Kaliningrad by advancing west along Highway A16/E28 from Vilnius to Kybartai. They then turned southwestward reaching Highway 63 in Poland on the 11th, where they paused.
Under the midnight sun on the 7th Russian air forces bombed the Norwegian expeditionary air base at Banak and ports near Nordkapp.   The war above the Arctic circle had begun…

Putin’s War – Operation Exodus, 2022 – After the onset of Russian military operations against Norway it was decided to move Norwegian Vessels, under maintenance or damaged, to Royal Navy ports and shipyards in the United Kingdom.  Norwegian and British yard workers worked 24/7 to get as many of the vessel’s systems up as possible, and propulsion back online. By the 14th escorts were in place and the exodus to the UK ready.

Putin’s War – The Bodo Express, 2022 – On the morning of the 7th Russian air forces bombed the Norwegian expeditionary air base and port at Banak, near the Nord Kapp. By afternoon Russian paratroopers had seized the air field with Northern Fleet’s 61st Naval Infantry Brigade conducting a follow up landing at the port that evening. The 200th Separate Motor Rifle Brigade crossed the Norway-Russian border that morning brushing aside the tripwire Norwegian outposts. More follow up forces from 80th Independent Motor Rifle Brigade follow on advancing west.

Putin’s War – Threading the Needle, 2022 – As chaos continued to descend upon the Baltic all three nations jointly invoked NATO Article Five asking Brussels for aide. Debate raged in NATO General Council during the late week (June 1st and 2nd) until it was proven on Friday (June 3rd) that “Little Green Men” were appearing more and more frequently in the growing civil unrest. To date, the crisis had been confined to the Baltic States but at 18:00 UTC a French satellite pass noted the Russian SSBNs getting underway from the Kola Peninsula and other satellite passes confirmed the rest of the Northern and Baltic Fleets getting ready to stand up…

Royal Problems, 1962 – Following the Coup of September, 26th, 1962. Egypt immediately recognized the newly declared Republic of Yemen. Supposedly concerned over a possible Saudi intervention from the north and a British move from the south from the Protectorate Aden, Egypt actively supported the new Republic of Yemen.
In October 1962 the situation escalated quickly as the pro-royalist forces gained more and more support from Saudi Arabia. Additionally the United States of America sent weapons and aircrafts to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

South Atlantic War, 1982 – Sneaky Beakies in South Georgia – Following the successful Argentinian occupation of the Falklands Islands and South Georgia, the first steps in the UK military response was to start to gain ground-level intelligence on the occupying forces.
This scenario is playable by the UK side only and re-creates the covert insertion of SBS reconnaissance teams by the SSN HMS Conqueror on the night of 18/19 April 1982.

Sumatra Crisis 1 – Mayday, 2022 – Indonesia is under a civil war, facing separatist rebels in North Eastern Sumatra, getting extensive support from abroad, against the official government. To stop the foreign assistance, Indonesian Navy started to board and inspect some merchant ships passing through Strait of Malacca and along the western Sumatran coast that could provide help to the rebels. More than one time ships coming and going from Singapore port were harrassed, causing considerable concern and tension. After a few days Singapore Navy started patrols along their line of communication to ensure freedom of navigation. The next time an Indonesia patrol boat stops and inspect a friendly merchant, hopefully Singapore Navy will be in position to perform a show of force.

Sumatra Crisis 2 – Trade Paralisis, 2022 – After the strong Singapore reaction to Indonesia inspections and harassment to merchant traffic around Singapore, Indonesia government stopped using ships for the activity and resorted to submarines, sinking any vessel suspected to bring equipment to the rebels in the Strait of Malacca. This is a inacceptable limitation for Singapore lines of communication, heavily dependent on naval traffic transiting in the strait. A special task force is immediately assembled to hunt the enemy submarines.

Sumatra Crisis 3 – Singapore Surprise, 2022 – In a final step to reduce merchant traffic providing help to Sumatran rebels, Indonesian Navy started placing mines East of Palau Lingga Island in Malaccan Strait. Singapore Navy immediately moved heavily escorted mine countermeasures vessels (MCV) to remove the weapons and establish full freedom of navigation in the area. This time Indonesia forces are ready to react in force and teach Singapore a harsh lesson.

The Desperate Hours December, 1985 – World War Three is entering its third month. Amazingly neither side has yet resorted to nuclear weapons but the balance of power is gradually shifting. Younger members of the Politburo prevented the old guard from implementing the “Seven Days to the Rhine” plan with its first use of over 600 nuclear weapons, arguing the Warsaw Pact’s conventional forces can carry the day.
In Moscow, the balance of power is shifting, the ministers who opposed the “Seven Days to the Rhine” plan have now been discredited and the nuclear war hawks have neutralized them. NATO intelligence begins to pick up indications of Soviet preparations for a nuclear strike on the Continental United States (CONUS), Alaska, the UK and France. NATO navies are out of position for this with most forces involved in the Battle of the Atlantic and reinforcing Israel in the Med. USS Pharris FF-1094, charged with defending the GIUK Gap, and a few P-3s are all that stands between a Soviet Yankee reinforcing Soviet nuclear forces in the Atlantic and maybe the tipping point in the balance to nuclear war.

The Laser Dance, 2024 – A few hours ago, China declared war on the United States and its two major alliances in the Pacific. Right after the war declaration, a massive Chinese ballistic missile strike had initiated. Many air bases in Japan and South Korea have neutralized, their air forces in the region suffered critical losses.
When a large scale of Chinese naval activity is detected near Okinawa Island, the United States Pacific Command made a decision to save one of its hidden cards, a Surface Action Group which was conducting tests of new weaponry in the region.

The Missiles of October Part Deux, 2020 – During the Spring of 2020, the new Coronavirus “COVID-19” strain caused serious disruption to the world order and economic systems, diverting the West’s attention from military matters to lock downs, market crashes and sealed borders. Quietly ties between Russia’s President Putin and Partido Comunista de Cuba (PPC), First Secretary, Raúl Castro warmed over this period of disruption. By late May, Russian engineers began construction on a series of bunkers south of Habana (Havana) which bore a striking resemblance to similar bunkers recently completed in Kaliningrad.
In mid-August Russian antishipping missiles took up position along the Florida Straits. Between 15 to 25 September, as chaos reigned in American and European cities, several Russian ships docked in Cuban ports disgorging Intermediate Range Cruise Missiles and their Transporter-Erector-Launchers (TELs). Satellite imagery took several days to analyze, due to the virus, but by October 3rd it was obvious that Iskandar missiles were being positioned in Cuba. The clock had been turned back 58 years!

The Olutanga Rebellion, 2020 – The Philippines has long struggled with civil unrest.
This scenario assumes that a separatist group has seized control of much of the island of Olutanga.

Two Cutters in the Gulf of Mexico, 2020 – In war and peace, the United States Coast Guard wages an endless battle to protect America and Americans from criminals and, sometimes, their own stupidity.


The new community scenario pack is, as always, available for download at the WS site: http://www.warfaresims.com/?page_id=1876 , and also on the Steam workshop.

The CSP now proudly counts 549 scenarios in its stable!

Stay home and play: Twelve new CMO community scenarios

March 23, 2020 · Posted in Command · Comment 

Kushan has released the updated version of the Command community scenario pack. In addition to updated and refreshed versions of existing works, the new release includes twelve new scenarios:


119 Squadron Makes a Little Noise, 2021 – This scenario assumes that Syria is using local militias to support its political agenda in Lebanon. There is compelling evidence that the militias have conducted terrorist operations both in and outside Lebanon and are planning attacks on Israel.

Air Battle over Metema, 2019 – Hostilities have erupted between Sudan and Ethiopia.

Assault on Banak, 1985 – A “Bolt out of the Blue” Warsaw Pact assault on NATO began at 04:00 utc/Zulu time this morning. Since then airfields and army units in northern Norway have been hit hard. You have been ordered to get your Type 207 Class submarine r underway ASAP and interdict a Soviet amphibious group rounding Nord Kapp destination Banak Diversionary Airfield. Your mission is to engage and destroy as many Soviet Amphibious vessels as possible and still bring your crew home!

Fiery Cross Reef, 2021 – The world is at war… After three weeks of fighting the fronts are stabilized on fronts, except in the Middle East where Israel is driving into Southern Lebanon and Damascus. The time has come for the West to take the offensive and the first move will come against the PRC/PLAN with the Spratly/Paracel Islands as your target.

Hormuz, 2020 – Iran decides to close the Straits of Hormuz.

Operation Quiet Rodeo, 1994 – During the 1990s, the United Kingdom and Libya provided support to different factions during the Civil War in Sierra Leone. This scenario assumes the situation escalated. British and Libyan forces have become directly involved in the conflict and, on occasion, have engaged each other in combat.

Senkaku Islands Clash, 2019 – The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands are disputed by the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), Taiwan and Japan, with Japan currently controlling the islands. For decades they were little more than navigational markers and a fishing grounds until in the late 60s when oil reserves were discovered near the islands. This increased in 1971 as the United States turned over control of the Ryukyu Chain, including the Senkaku, to Japan. Jockeying for control of the islands really began in earnest in the 1990s with the situation becoming more nationalistic during the 2010s. By 2016 the dispute had reached a fever pitch when the United States confirmed it was committed to assisting the Japanese Self Defense Forces with the defense of the Islands.

The Battle of Vogel Seamount, 1981 – This scenario assumes hostilities erupted between NATO and the Soviet Union in 1981.

The Corfu Channel Episode, 1946 – The historical Corfu Channel Incident does not make a very good war game scenario. It involves several British ships conducting a Freedom of Navigation Operation. Two British ships were damaged by mines and more than forty British sailors were killed. This version assumes that the British have more information and have sent two minesweepers to clear the mines and a surface action group to protect them. The scenario is set at about the same date as the actual Incident and the SAG includes most of the historical vessels involved.

Vikrant goes to War, 1971 – You are Commander, Eastern Fleet of the Republic of India’s navy with war against Pakistan considered imminent. After deliberate preparations, the Fleet has sortied with your flagship INS Vikrant and you have been briefed by the Chief of the Naval Staff on the Chief of Naval Operations intentions for your force.

Northern Fury #40: ‘Tongs’ – The new global war between East and West has been raging for a month, NATO is on the offensive but the Warsaw Pact is far from defeated and still has the ability to counter attack. The ground war in Europe continues to be brutal and deadly. Conflicts in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean have stabilized in NATO’s favour. Commander STRIKFLTLANT has set in motion a series of attacks designed set up the conditions for upcoming amphibious operations in central Norway – Operation Thor’s Lightning. This is one of those actions.

Mediterranean Fury #4 – Secure the Flank – Three days into World War Three and you as Commander 6th Fleet are finally able to focus your efforts. It looks like the Turks are solidifying their position on the Bosporus, although it will be a while before the Soviets are finally dealt with; Libya and Algeria have been neutralized, at least for now; it’s been very quit in the Balkans and Aegean Sea; and the sting has been taken out of Syria’s offensive capability. Now it is time to make sure Syria is pummeled into submission!


The new community scenario pack is, as always, available for download at the WS site: http://www.warfaresims.com/?page_id=1876 , and will also soon be available on the Steam workshop.

The CSP now proudly counts 521 scenarios in its stable!

The scenarios of Desert Storm – Part 2

March 26, 2019 · Posted in Command · 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.


8. BUFFed Up

Coalition vs. Iraq

Date/Time: 29 January, 1991 / 04:00:00 Zulu
Location: Middle East
Duration: 72 Hours
Playable Sides: Coalition

The B-52 Stratofortress (aka. “Buff” for “Big Ugly Fat… Fella,”) has enjoyed a long history in the US Air Force. The bomber was contracted in June 1946, made its maiden flight in 1952 and has been in service since 1955, operating in every major US air campaign since, with final retirement still decades away. Anecdotally, there are a handful of cases where the sons (and grandsons) of early B-52 pilots have also flown the aircraft – and, reportedly in one instance, the same airframe.

During Desert Storm, B-52s flew 1,624 missions, dropped over 72,000 weapons, and delivered over 25,700 tons of munitions on area targets on airfields, industrial targets, troop concentrations and storage areas across Iraq. They also performed standoff precision attacks with AGM-86C cruise missiles (a conventional-warhead modification of the nuclear-tipped AGM-86B), a weapon still classified at the time.

In this representative scenario of Buff operations during the air campaign, aircraft dispersed at four different bases in Saudi Arabia, the UK, Spain and Diego Garcia are tasked with attacking multiple Iraqi airbases and knocking them out of action.


9. Alliances

Coalition vs. Iraq/Iran/USSR

Date/Time: 30 January, 1991 / 23:00:00 Zulu
Location: Middle East
Duration: 24 Hours
Playable Sides: Coalition

Recognizing the importance of Middle Eastern oil resources, the USSR had long nurtured favorable relationships with the major oil-producing states. Publicly, and more often privately, they would provide financial, technical, diplomatic, intelligence and military support as needed to cement these links.

The Gulf War found the USSR in a precarious situation. After the fall of the Berlin wall and re-unification of Germany, Russia found it increasingly difficult to contain the other states within the Soviet sphere of influence. A number of them had already declared their independence by 1990. In January of 1991, just as Desert Storm was starting, the USSR was busy in Lithuania trying to suppress rising nationalist independence movements. By the end of the year, Soviet premier Gorbachev abandoned this futile effort by officially dissolving the Soviet Union.

Beset by these various headaches at home and a domestic economy that was already visibly collapsing, Gorbachev was disinclined to interfere with either the western build-up of Desert Shield, or the subsequent air & ground campaigns of Desert Storm. While Soviet diplomatic delegates played a major part in the prewar negotiations between Iraq and the coalitions, the political apparatus very explicitly declared the Union’s neutrality – declarations matched with overt gestures of military stand-downs and reduced readiness in Central Europe and other theaters in which Soviet forces had traditionally been on high peacetime alert, ready to commence offensive operations.

It is hard to overstate the importance of this very visible Soviet neutrality on the coalition’s ultimate success. Active Soviet support for the west’s adversaries (in many forms & guises) was one of the defining attributes of almost every military contingency the western powers had fought throughout the Cold War. This time, the Soviets would literally sit it out. In addition, the visible reduction of the Soviet threat in Central Europe (a process begun in 1989 with Gorbachev’s massive unilateral troop reductions in Warsaw Pact states and further codified by the provisions of the CFE treaty) allowed the expedited transfer of massive first-line, high-readiness forces (such as the entire US 7th Corps) from the European theater to Saudi Arabia. This move – which ultimately enabled the strategic “left hook” maneuver that outflanked and destroyed the bulk of the Iraqi army – would have been unthinkable with a politically-hostile USSR, or at any time prior to ~1990.

While the USSR was in no position to commit significant assets to the theater in 1991, it maintained regional forces and basing arrangements much as the US did; part of the long chess-game of positioning and influence peddling that characterized the Cold War. In addition to the latent threat those assets posed, materiel aid, technical support and military advisers would have significantly boosted Iraq’s chances of effective resistance. It is unlikely the USSR would remain on the sidelines if it perceived that a significant portion of the Middle East’s oil production was about to fall completely into Western hands.


10. Reprisals

Coalition vs. Iraq/Iran

Date/Time: 01 February, 1991 / 04:00:00 Zulu
Location: Middle East
Duration: 36 Hours
Playable Sides: Coalition

In retrospect, the risk of Iranian involvement in the Gulf War seems minimal to nonexistent; the unmitigated brutality of the Iran-Iraq war ensured that no love was lost between Tehran and Baghdad. However, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s brief history had been one of constant animosity with the west – the Iran hostage crisis and subsequent economic sanctions, US support for Iraq during the war, constant support for terrorist actions against Israel, Operation Praying Mantis’s reprisal bombings in 1988, the shootdown of Iran Air Flight 655, and numerous smaller incidents. The Islamic Republic’s theocratic leadership, then and now, embraces a vision of grand ideological clash; Islam versus the West; which in practice means Islam versus the US. Tehran’s open hostility and wars-by-proxy against Israel, and the US-Israeli alliance, have always been part and parcel of this. Had Saddam’s attempt to draw Israel into the Gulf War via Scud attacks been successful, these underlying factors might well have overcome even the bitterness of a brutal eight-year war and impelled Iran to action.

Absent such events, Iran still had plentiful means, motive and opportunity to harass Coalition forces. In possession of the Persian Gulf’s entire northern shore – including the crucial strait of Hormuz – Iran could have utilized its preferred plausible-deniability tactics with irregular and terrorist forces utilizing light craft, speedboats, and mines. Its qualitative military edge was in better balance with the US than it is now; with much of their military inventory (like Tomcats and Phantoms) mirroring assets still in active US service at the time, making such provocations less risky. Such action would require curtailing if Coalition efforts against Iraq were to be successful, and as Operation Praying Mantis shows, the US was not adverse to reprisal attacks to effect that outcome. This hypothetical scenario explores how such an operation may have been conducted.

Additionally, this scenario includes two proposed, but never-built platforms – the A-12 “Avenger II”, a flying-wing, stealthy carrier bomber meant to replace the A-6, canceled in 1991 as the full-scale mockup was nearly complete, and a proposed carrier-capable variant of the F-117A Nighthawk. These units “stand-in” for the land-based stealth capabilities the coalition historically had in-theater, and also allow a retrospective look at early efforts to bring deep-penetration, stealthy strike to the carrier battle group. The wedge-shaped A-12’s strike role was later subsumed by the nascent MQ-25 Stingray (before urgency prompted the Navy to delay its strike capacity in favor of fielding carrier-integral air tanking ASAP). Likewise, the F-117’s navalized variant was declined as the Joint Advanced Strike Technology program was already promising a superior aircraft – which would eventually emerge (after a program renaming) as the F-35 Lightning II.

These aircraft were early attempts at the capabilities the F-35 is now delivering to the fleet, after a protracted delay. The future is finally here. In 1991, the future of carrier strike looked very different – and had the possible scenarios (like this one) that prompted the Navy to chase these capabilities been judged more probable, the future might have arrived earlier than expected.


11. Extreme Prejudice

Coalition vs. Iraq

Date/Time: 01 February, 1991 / 10:00:00 Zulu
Location: Middle East
Duration: 48 Hours
Playable Sides: Coalition

“I heard the bullets whistle and, believe me, there is something charming in the sound…”

            -George Washington

“By God, he would not think bullets charming if he had been used to hear many.”

            -King George the Third

For reasons both political and practical, the Coalition never made an explicit goal of decapitating Iraq’s leadership – but nonetheless, a small, concentrated and persistent effort was made to hit headquarters units and command bunkers throughout the war. Strike planners knew they were unlikely to catch Saddam Hussein, known for his caution even prewar, and political optics revolved around the liberation of Kuwait, not the execution of the Coalition’s enemies. However, a 2,000 pound bomb hitting one’s HQ tends to inhibit the command performance of even the most composed of generals, and scrambling between bunkers by day to flee invisible black bombers hunting by night wears on the nerves of any general staff.

A portion of these efforts pursued Saddam Hussein himself, as often as intelligence sufficed to cue them. From the opening strikes in the early hours of January 17th to the last “Winnebago hunt” strikes on February 25th, high-explosive, precision-guided ordinance dogged Hussein’s heels. F-117s and F-111s delivered almost 200 precision-guided weapons against roughly 40 separate targets to include Iraqi’s general command staff in the harrowing experience.

This scenario is representative of this small, but important category of strikes that persisted throughout the conflict, including the intensive ISR, SEAD/DEAD and intelligence gathering efforts that preceded them.


12. Bubiyan

 

Coalition (UK) vs. Iraq

Date/Time: 29 January, 1991/ 10:00:00 Zulu
Location: Middle East
Duration: 30 Hours
Playable Sides: United Kingdom

“If any battle squadron goes to sea it will run a fearful risk of annihilation from torpedo craft, and it is unlikely to sink any torpedo craft save some of it’s own side by accident. Until the masses of mosquito craft are accounted for, it is quite on the cards that only cheap (i.e., small and relatively unimportant) ships will dare go to sea.”

            -Jane, Fred T., Fortnightly review, May 1865-June 1934; London Vol. 70, Iss. 416

 

A century before armchair admirals declared aircraft carriers obsolete in the guided missile age, the mighty battleship had its own turn in the theorist’s crosshairs. The slingstone hailed as Goliath-slayer was a fearsome new high-tech weapon – the self-propelled torpedo. Capable of transforming any small boat into an “eggshell carrying a sledgehammer,” battleships were decried as obsolete targets, easily sunk by ships a bare fraction of their extreme cost.

Torpedoes would soon prove their lethality, but much like airpower, never realized the wildest dreams of its proponents, even when pursued with a will (e.g. Imperial Japanese Navy). History would repeat itself when the humble torpedo boat evolved into the missile boat, or Fast Attack Craft (FAC). The sinking of INS Eilat by Egyptian missile boats in 1967 and a superlative showing by Indian FACs in the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war lent weight to those claiming the obsolescence of the large surface combatant.

On the 29th of January, 1991, those theories were tested when the bulk of the Iraqi navy (plus captured Kuwaiti vessels, manned by Iraqi crews), attempting to flee to Iranian ports, was engaged by coalition naval airpower and completely destroyed in a drawn-out, 13-hour engagement. Bereft of the air-defense systems carried by larger hulls, the missile boats were little more than targets. Antiship missiles fared little better. HMS Gloucester made history by shooting down a shore-launched Silkworm aimed at USS Missouri; the first-ever interception of an incoming missile by a ship-launched interceptor.

Being more of a turkey shoot than a “battle,” Bubiyan never provided definitive answers in the surface combatant debate. Had a few things gone differently, however, the clash in the Bubiyan channel might’ve provided a test of doctrine closer to the battles of Lissa or Latakia. Had the Soviet Union’s historical neutrality failed to materialize, or Saddam’s Scud barrages against Israel succeed at fracturing the Arab coalition arrayed against him, things could have gone very differently.

This semi-historical scenario expands on the actual engagement and explores a more massive “Battle of Bubiyan” that never was, but easily could have been; one that would have put the question of missile boat doctrine to a much more definitive test.


13. Shooting Gallery

Coalition vs. Iraq

Date/Time: 26 February, 1991 / 08:00:00 Zulu
Location: Middle East
Duration: 36 Hours
Playable Sides: Coalition

After their rough handling in the Iran-Iraq war, the Iraqi Air Force entered Desert Storm with a realistic view of their chances against first-rate coalition assets (ie. practically none), and planned accordingly. Tucked away in hardened aircraft shelters (HASs), Iraqi aircraft patiently rode out the first few days of strikes, trusting in their air defenses as they waited for an opportunity to strike; a kind of air-fleet in being. It was a well-considered strategy, but it was invalidated from January 23rd, when US F-117s and F-111s with bunker-buster bombs began cracking open the shelters that the Iraqis (and the Soviets before them) had considered immune to non-nuclear attack. Unable to fight, and with nowhere to hide, the IAF’s only remaining option was to run.

The resulting mad scramble produced the most unexpected challenge to coalition forces of the entire war. Given the IAF’s evacuation of assets to friendly neighbors in the early years of the Iran-Iraq war, coalition planners anticipated a possible retreat to their mostly-friendly neighbor, Jordan.

Instead, the IAF fled for Iran.

Nobody could imagine that Saddam would hand his air force to a bitter enemy he had just fought a brutal eight-year war with. Caught off-guard and out of position, the coalition scrambled to seal the Iran-Iraq border and destroy the remainder of Iraq’s air force before they could escape. The geography – and the odds – were weighed against them. The border’s distance let bandits slip through, when F-15s – flying grueling seven-hour BARCAPs – suffered breaks in coverage during station rotations. Iraqi pilots usually made their dash for survival on the deck, where the coalition’s distant AWACS over northern Saudi Arabia could scarcely detect them. Despite every effort, over one hundred Iraqi airframes escaped to Iran, with only thirteen shot down running the gauntlet.

The consequences were ultimately few – Iran, unsurprisingly, declined to return the aircraft postwar – but the coalition would still have preferred those aircraft destroyed, rather than in the hands of the Islamic Republic. This scenario replicates the historical challenges facing coalition fighters attempting to check the retreat. It also explores the scale of effort comprehensive destruction of the IAF’s inventory would have required, with a hypothetical airborne operation.


14. Liberation

Coalition vs. Iraq

Date/Time: 27-28 February, 1991 / 01:00:00 Zulu
Location: Middle East
Duration: 36 Hours
Playable Sides: Coalition

“There is nothing as melancholic as a battle won – except a battle lost.”
– Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

After weeks of unceasing attack by coalition airpower, ranging from tank busting with guided weapons to area-bombing attacks by B-52s, Iraqi ground forces were ill-prepared to hold Kuwait. Less than a day after coalition ground forces joined combat on Feb. 24th, Iraq’s army was beginning a full retreat northwards. Coalition airpower fell upon them like a thunderbolt, sealing choke-points with burning vehicles and bombed bridges. Once the routed army had piled up into miles-long traffic jams, continued air attacks began a rain of destruction to rival the carnage unleashed on the Falaise Pocket in WWII. Entire vehicular columns vanished in flames, including 1,400 vehicles along Highway 8, the fabled “Highway of Death.”

Though technically a media misnomer (many vehicles had been abandoned by the time they were struck, and far more trucks died than troops), Highway 8 was a microcosm of how Coalition airpower had shattered Iraq’s ground troops as an effective fighting force. Weeks of punishing bombardment had convinced many Iraqi soldiers that their heavy equipment was of no use, or worse, actively detrimental as it attracted airstrikes. The Iraqi soldiers’ decision to abandon their vehicles on Highway 8 – and their subsequent prompt destruction by airstrikes – underlines how effectively coalition airpower had disarmed, demoralized and dismantled what had once been one of the largest, most battle-hardened mechanized forces in the world. Of those units that hadn’t already abandoned their equipment, some did so upon engaging coalition ground forces, others surrendered to same when air power showed up, and the rest were paralyzed. Unable (due to lacking supplies & support) or unwilling (due to the threat of air attack) to maneuver effectively, they could only face the ground assault and return fire from their prepared positions. Airpower asserted itself even in these desperate last stands, such as the close air support of Marines advancing on Kuwait International Airport.

Though strategic bombing had proved its worth in WWII (though at steep cost), tactical airpower had never before accomplished such complete devastation of fielded units in detail. Despite tasking its forces with attriting Iraqi ground forces by 50% before the ground invasion began – more than had been expected or asked of airpower in any previous conflict – the US military expected these results mostly from the same dumb munitions that had failed to deliver effectively since WWII. The surprise superstar of the war was the humble Laser Guided Bomb (LGB), which soon proved efficient at destroying tanks, a feat thought technically unfeasible prewar. Given their low cost compared to dedicated anti-tank missiles like Mavericks, many F-111s were hastily devoted to “tank plinking” for much of the war. Ultimately, the power of the Precision Guided Munition hadn’t been fully understood even by the military that pioneered them.

This scenario is representative of the four-day ground/air campaign; reducing the numbers involved (and consequently compressing the timeline) to something manageable by the lone strike planner (i.e., you.) The rain of steel you can unleash is staggering, but ultimately just a sampling of the colossal destruction Coalition airpower historically wrought.


BONUS: Israeli Counterpunch

Israel vs. Iran

Date/Time: 06 April, 2019 / 04:30:00 Zulu
Location: Middle East
Duration: 72 Hours
Playable Sides: Israel

“-the greatest dangers facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons. To defeat ISIS and let Iran get nuclear weapons would be to win the battle, but lose the war. We can’t let that happen…

“…as a prime minister of Israel, I can promise you one more thing: Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.”

                        – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, March 3rd, 2015

 

Of all the existential threats to Israel, none loom larger than the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has made the destruction of Israel the core tenet of its foreign policy since its inception. It’s pursued that goal with devoted persistence, pouring money and materiel into a three and a half decade effort to damage or destroy the Israeli state in any way possible. This hypothetical scenario explores how this long-simmering conflict might boil over into all-out war. North Korea and the Indo-Pakistani conflicts have attracted more attention of late, but with the status of Iran’s nuclear program still in doubt (and bitterly debated,) the Israel-Iran conflict is still a potential nuclear flash-point entering 2019. This hypothetical scenario explores one possible – and very probable – way this flash-point might finally blow.

Due to geographic distance and inferior military strength, Iran has traditionally utilized proxies such as Hezbollah to pursue its ends. In 2011, Iran joined the Syrian civil war, eager to gain an easier overland supply route to its proxies. What started as weapon shipments to Hezbollah eventually grew into a comprehensive Iranian forward-basing effort, including construction of missile and rocket factories, with output intended for Hezbollah. This led to direct conflict in 2018, when the Israeli Air Force began routinely attacking Iranian troops, facilities and supporting elements in Syria to stymie their efforts.

Looming over the worsening situation is Iran’s longstanding nuclear weapons program and the dramatic impact – literal and figurative – an Iranian bomb would have on the conflict. In light of Iran’s already-extant delivery systems and Israel’s all-but-confirmed nuclear capability, such a development would instantly place Israel and Iran in a nuclear standoff.

Despite the obvious deterrence potential of nuclear-tipped IRBMs, Iran might still opt for deployment via proxy. Silo-launched missiles have an obvious return address, and Israel – protected by a dense, multi-layered anti-ballistic-missile system – might handily “win” a full exchange. Iran seeks to damage Israel, not deter it, and its terrorist proxies have enjoyed long success in that mission, sometimes with methods as primitive as flying flaming kites over the border fence to ignite Israeli farm fields. A nuclear device infiltrated over the border by terrorists would be almost impossible for Israeli forces to stop, and most importantly would offer some level of plausible deniability that might forestall nuclear retaliation.

However, even a conventional Israeli response would surely be comprehensive.

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