Thursday, 25 June 2015

More Phantom Leader

Dashed exciting time last night with Phantom Leader, the iPad version of the game from DVG. This is a solo wargame about air warfare in Vietnam in the 1960s. It is not a first person game - rather you plan and execute raids on targets with multiple pilots. The player manages a roster of fly boys, examines intel on enemy ground targets, and decides on munitions load outs, as well as making tactical decisions in-raid. What you aren't getting here is the cockpit level view, but then that has never really pushed my buttons. It is more a squadron leader simulation.

Last night I began a new campaign with the US Navy on Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tongking. It was 1967 and we were taking part in a week long operation against North Vietnam. I'm starting to get the hang of this. First off, the USN gets a better selection of plans, IMHO (and yes, I was in the RAF section at school, so I shouldn't have a navy bias). Most importantly, the Navy has the A6 Intruder, which was state of the art in 1967 (see below). It was introduced in 1963 and only fully retired in 1997. To my knowledge it has never been offered to foreign governments, which tells you how good it is.
A6 Intruder dropping payload in Vietnam.

The Navy also used the A7 Corsair, which is not such a good plane, as I found out. Other jets on offer include the wonderful F4 Phantom, A4 Skyraider and some others.

I'd learned my lesson from the first game, this time making sure I had at least one Phantom on each raid, armed with air-to-air missiles and rockets for ground suppression. My idea was to use the F4s to counter any MiGs (more of these the closer you go to Hanoi), leaving my other pilots to go in and bomb. Secondly, there were some bombs that could be dropped from high altitude, like the Paveways, first generation laser guided munitions which mean planes can hit targets without having to get too close and personal. Finally, I started equipping my bombers with ECM pods - this made a big difference to their ability to evade enemy radar.

My first mission was against a minor bridge in North Vietnam. This did not go that well, as I ballsed up my approach and some of my pilots got hosed by enemy AAA. I lost one Skyhawk which made my other pilots start to panic and miss their targets. Luckily the pilot ejected and evaded capture. He was rescued by Navy SEALs but is not currently classed as fit to fly.

Navy Phantoms attacking a bridge in Vietnam.

Second day, new target, new pilots. This time we ran into a SAM battery en route (always a risk over the North) - these were SA2s I believe, but luckily a combination of ECM and some bombing by an F4 got us through. This mission was a doozer, however, as we then ran into three MiGs over the target, including a brace of MiG 19s. I decided not to abort the mission, but go for it regardless. One of my Intruders flew in (call sign Pluto), evaded the enemy fighters with his ECM, and was bracketed by a horrendous amount of AA, but dropped a huge payload on the target, an oil refinery. It flattened it totally, to the extent that we got ticked off by the Pentagon for 'overkill'.

The experience with the MiGs frightened the heck out of my pilots, and even Pluto, who must have needed a stiff drink when he got back to the carrier, was looking too shaky to fly on Day Three (he was classed as Stressed, which means he's not going to be so accurate and more likely to bottle the mission).

Never good news for Navy pilots...

Day Three I stood the whole squadron down for compulsory rest and got chewed out by the Admiral, who felt we needed to be getting better results. The pilots were cheered up by the news that the SEALs extracted their buddy in one piece.

Day Four I only really had four pilots good to go. Most of the targets looked horrendous, including a naval base. We went for an easy suppression mission against AA emplacements. This one went pretty well; we got bounced by MiGs on the way in, but my F4 Phantom escort was tooled up with air-to-air missiles and shot down two MiGs. The mission went better as I'd figured out who was going to attack from range with Paveways, and who would go in and dump more conventional bombs. We hit and destroyed all targets.

MiG 19 over Vietnam, Phantoms in background.

So, as we proceed into the fifth day, the trick will be getting enough jets in the air to tackle some of the harder targets. Thus far my performance is not being well rated by the staff. A high profile target is in the offing, but can we tackle it with some pilots in a tired / stressed condition?

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