Tuesday, 12 May 2020

A Bridge Not Far Enough

Given the limitations that isolation directives place upon managing to get a game in at the local club, I decided to write then test this Check Your 6 - Jet Age scenario. It is set within the context of the ImagiAfrica campaign run at Nunawading Wargames Association, so bear with the strange location names and abbreviations. They include the fictional nations of Ahmnesia (AHM) and Kalemnikta (KAL - the antagonists) and their respective air forces, the AAF and KPAF.

Entry for the KPAF was on the Western edge as far north as they could go, but facing southeast towards the bridge. They were at CAB Low TAL5 travelling at speed 5. The AAF Hunters entered the board on the Northern edge halfway between the centreline and the Western edge at CAB Low TAL 6 moving at speed 5, while the Hawks entered along the centreline, at CAB Surface Low TAL 6. Neither side had visibility of the other when they entered.  The AAF were all placed on the board at the commencement of the game, while the second flight of MiG-19s were going to follow on the first flight three hexes behind. The two flights of MiGs would manoeuvre in formation until they spotted the AAF, at which point they would allocate and vector towards their nominated targets.
Note that the board was going to be a rolling one, so each turn as the AAF flew South the bridge and AAA markers would roll further away from the edge of the board and their original position. We’ve found this to be an effective way of simulating a larger table space with a smaller & more limiting one.

T1 & 2 – Both sides tracked courses either forward or turning only to approach the objective effectively.

T3 – The MiGs eased in a slow turn to the left flying directly towards the AAA and the bridge, while the AAF continued straight ahead. Neither side were within visibility range, and the MiGs were pointed in the wrong direction to use their radars. Given the proximity of the bridge on their maps, the Hawks commenced diving to prepare for their attack run.

T4 – The MiGs made a tighter turn to the left, bringing them to bear directly on the approaching AAF. The latter continued to track ahead in the Hunters, while the Hawks continued to dive down to Surface Low TAL 3. With the range between 14 and 18 hexes between them, both the radars and eyeballs were within range. The MiGs split their searches between visual and their radars, with two attempts at each. Neither of their radars functioned that turn, but none blew out. One of the other pilots made their visual search roll, so they were suddenly in the game. One of the AAF Hunters made the first roll, so they became aware of the MiG-19s at the same time, and the fight was on for real.

T5 – The MiG flight leader chose to go after the Hawks and directed the other flight to delay the Hunters. MiG 41 and his wingman dove steeply, but doing the maths indicated that wasn’t going to help them too much: they would overshoot the Hawks before they were close enough vertically to shoot at them, and their IR missiles couldn’t attack from the forward aspect. The AAF Hawks turned to head towards the bridge keeping at TAL 3, while the Hunters turned towards the approaching MiGs, one to make a head-to-head gun run at it. COMMENT: At this point I realised that the MiGs, even if they’d headed directly for the Hawks at the start of the game, would have had little time to attempt to shoot at them. Consequently I reset the bridge and the aircraft so that there was an additional 10 hexes for the AAF to travel to get to the target.

T6 – The MiGs continued to diverge, the leaders flight diving steeply and turning tightly. COMMENT: I used for the first time an optional rule I’d read previously where vertical changes were removed from horizontal movement. So those two MiGs, at Speed 5, dived three TALs and moved forward two. END COMMENT. The other two MiG-19s banked left after splitting the two Hunters. The Hawks continued their run towards the target with their speed up to 6, their maximum, while watching the two MiGs turning tightly and diving down to them. The second Hunter flew directly forwards, passing directly over the top of one of the MiG-19s, while the flight leader turned tightly left towards the MiGs, trading altitude to maintain his speed.

T7 – The MiG leader continued to dive but in a wider turn, slowly starting to come around to angle for a shot at the Hawks as they approached the bridge and AAA. The high MiGs, both green pilots, continued their turn, keeping speed and altitude. The Hawk leader turned tightly in towards the MiGs, anticipating incorrectly that they’d turn more tightly and possibly put themselves into his sights. The second Hawk rolled to the right for a better run at the bridge. The first Hunter continued to turn tightly, losing speed but continuing to turn inside the MiGs, while his wingman dropped into a Split-S and bought the MiGs into his gunsights. Given they were almost at long range, it was a deflection shot, and he was firing Aden cannons, he declined the shot this turn.


T8 – The MiG-19s closing in on the Hawks turned in again, diving to maintain speed as they turned and taking the option of gaining another point of horizontal movement in a shallow dive. The high MiGs dived to maintain speed in the turn inwards towards the Hawks. The Sea Hawks both straightened up in their approach, continuing at TAL 2. COMMENT: The scenario didn’t specify what the ground was like on the approach to the bridge, so fog-of-war dice determined that it wasn’t broken, so removing the penalty to AAA against aircraft approaching at Surface Low TAL 1 in that terrain. END COMMENT. The Hunters continued to turn, the first diving while turning tightly trying to curve inside the MiGs. The second, still at TAL 5 (one over the MiGs) lined up the inside ’19 at short range. The Hunter missed, but was foreboding fire against the green MiG pilot.

T9 – The MiG-19 flight leader levelled out at TAL 2 and turned in towards the Hawks. Their manoeuvre had bought him into the side aspect of the Hawks, but his wingman was sufficiently in their rear, and not in his wing leader’s, to be able to launch his AA-2s. He fired both – but hand to wait for the appropriate segment. The other two MiGs, having been fired upon, split up in different directions. The lead Hunter adjusted his turn to come in behind the second MiG and just after his wingman flashed past his front he fired his Adens. The second MiG had continued its turn inwards towards the bridge, but the second Hunter turned inside him and also into a tailing position.
The AAA against the Hawks was ineffective: messy and noisy but failing to hit either aircraft. Next, the two AA-2s launched by flight leader’s wingman streaked off towards them, neither failing to ignite and launch. The veteran pilot in the Sea Hawk failed to see the launch (Awareness roll of only 5 – one short of a modified success). The both streaked in on the Sea Hawks, but missed by a narrow margin.

The second Hunter then fired on the MiG-19 it was tailing. This time it hit the MiG, which under the impact of four 30mm heavy cannons simply broke apart and fell in a fiery mess towards the ground. No ejection from the cockpit, nor parachute trailing the falling debris, was spotted from that aircraft.
Finally, the Sea Hawks fired their rocket salvos at the bridge. The lead Hawk, just missed by the AA-2s, fired and hit the bridge. His wingman however missed, the critical difference being that he was travelling too fast to bring the rockets onto the target.

T10 – The MiG flight leader and his wingman rolled left and flew towards the now lightened Hawks, though the latter turned fairly tightly to their left also. That left them still over the AAA, but took them out of cannon and missile fire arcs of the pursuing MiG-19s. The remaining high MiG dove steeply to the surprise of the following Hunter. The second Hunter maintained his heading towards the Hawks and dived to gain speed as well as reduce the altitude difference between them. The AAA fired at the Hawks that roared overhead, with one burst of fire virtually scraping paint off a wing, but otherwise failing to have an effect. The tailing Hunter tried an extreme shot at the MiG-19 two TALs below it, the MiG was hit and insufficiently robust to avoid breaking up into another bits-embedded fireball arcing towards the ground 500 feet below. That pilot managed to eject, unlike his wingmate mere moments before.

T11 – With two of their flight downed in just a short time, the Mig-19 flight leader decided that discretion etc etc. To that effect he and his wingman fired afterburners and picked up as much speed as possible, still rolling left (south) to get as much distance between them and the Hunters as possible. The second Hunter continued to dive and turn towards them, getting as much speed and distance as he could. His wingman turned as tightly as he could, diving, to bring his guns and missiles to bear for a possible shot. The Hawks simply powered forwards, though the mission commander was still in the range of one of the AAA batteries, the ground fire that followed him away from the objective couldn’t be bought to bear on him as he tore out of their range.
T12 – The MiGs continued at their maximum speed on their westerly heading, while the Sea Hawks turned for home (outside the range of the AAA). The second Hunter had dived far enough and had enough speed to bring it up behind the MiG flight leader’s wingman. The first Hunter continued to turn and dive, but with the speed the MiGs had it was unlikely to be sufficient to help him reach them in time to fire. The second Hunter decided to fire cannon given he was within Medium range and of a MiG and he felt he had plenty of rounds left. The MiG was at max velocity, so it’s Agility suffered. The Hunter fired, and another MiG burst into a fiery blaze that fell in increasing numbers of pieces. No ejection seat was sighted again.

At that point there the best option left for one of the Hunters as the last MiG-19 sped away, which was it’s AIM-9Bs. As the MiG headed off, four IR missiles were fired. Two were faulty, dropping to the earth and spinning off towards the heavens respectively. Two sped towards the MiG, who spotted them. He took evasive action and managed to avoid both of them. After this, he kept his speed up and outran the Hunters, which couldn’t close the distance to enable more effective cannon fire.

AAR: The Hunters simplified the job of the Hawks by dealing with half the MiG-19s, however they left the Hawks vulnerable to the other two MiGs. If chance hadn’t seen the MiGs flying at a cross-track (or thereabouts) to the Sea Hawks at the start of the action then they may have had sufficient time to either try a head-on deflection shot at the Hawks, or have sufficient time to turn in behind them as the Hawks tried to make their final run into the objective. The bridge was not destroyed (three or more hits were required), so the mission failed to achieve its primary objective. However, killing three MiG-19s isn’t a bad day in anyone’s books. In a campaign it might be enough to see the second Hunter pilot increase a level of skill, but that day isn’t today. Given all the relative losses I’m calling the game a draw, as the bridge will be back in action within the week, and the Kalemniktans can again use it to reinforce their Log nodes and so keep up the effectiveness of their forward Division in south-east Ahmnesia.

The scenario called for more experienced pilots on the Ahnmesian side, particularly as there were more dedicated dogfighters for the Kalemniktans, plus they had more IR missiles available. I reckon the scenario did amply demonstrate the difference made by having superior pilots, as when the Hunters started to manoeuvre behind the MiG-19s they were able to adjust their move options and so bring the KPAF fighters down fairly quickly.

On a modelling note, to-do tasks include making some fireball attachments to put onto the models to indicate their fiery-demise status, making some ground-wreckage-and-smoke pieces to indicate where an aircraft has been downed, and painting the Sea Hawks!