Today's operation is a tricky one. From the game's briefing (bold is mine):
The Multinational Force in Lebanon (also MNF) was an international peacekeeping force created in 1982 and sent to Lebanon to oversee the withdrawal of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The MNF included US Navy and Marines, French Navy, Italian, and British soldiers and supporting aircraft. The destabilized Lebanese government was unable to prevent massacres in the Shabra and Shatilla refugee camps.
French aircraft flew airstrikes against PLO positions in the Bekaa Valley in November, hitting Iranian Revolutionary Guard positions. Tensions flared between Syria and the US as SAMs were fired at US Navy aircraft patrolling over Lebanon. These provocations triggered the first direct US air attacks into Lebanon on December 4, depicted in this scenario.
After firings by Syrian SAMs, US Navy fighters and attack jets targeted Syrian missile batteries in the Shouf mountains east of Beirut. In response to the US attacks Syrian SAMs shot down an A-6 Intruder and an A-7 Corsair. The pilot of the A-7 was rescued, but the A-6 pilot was killed and his bombardier-navigator was captured by the Syrians, to be later released.
This scenario is designed to be played solitaire as the UN MNF. Launch aircraft from the carriers offshore and search out enemy bunkers and bases for air attacks. Avoid Syrian SAM launches and stay out of Syrian airspace (No Fly Zone.)
Fighter, fighter-bomber, CSAR, and resupply aircraft are stationed on Cyprus shown on the northwest corner of the map. Fly in supply pallets to Beirut to help offset damage and increase your game score.This war game is engrossing and you get really busy tendering to every mission being flown. In this blog entry I'm going to focus only in one mission of reconnaissance-strike against enemy bunkers in the valley neighboring the Syrian border.
This is not a turkey shoot. Yes, you have air superiority but boy, this scenario will make you miss the sensors and stand-off ordnance of the modern F/A18s. Flying off the USS Independence (CV/CVA-62), some 50 miles off the Lebanese coastline, we have F14As in the air superiority and reconnaissance roles. Strike missions are available from flights of A7Es armed with free fall bombs.
Courtesy of the overzealous Syrian air defenses, we had to make use of stand-off jammers (SOJ) mounted on EA-6Bs. Tactical reconnaissance brought to us by F14s equipped with tactical airborne reconnaissance pods (TARP). Based on mission, I sorted my flights in two packages: a flight with a reconnaissance mission (flight 1) and a flight with a strike mission (flight 2). To avoid being hit by the Syrian SAMs coming from the blue area, each flight has its own pair of jamming aircraft.
|Click the image for a better view. This looks a lot like a hunter (flight 1) killer (flight 2) team.|
One may question the wisdom in putting all the above assets in the valley at the same time. One excuse is the lack of tactical marking in the game engine: if no aircraft is seeing (visually or by other sensor) a land target, the target will not be displayed or marked. With the abysmal amount of targets in this mission and my lack of memory, I need eyes on target at all times. I'm running some sort of "detect, acquire and strike" mission-tasking here. This should put bombs on target on short order. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
|Click the image for a better view. The Syrians light up the electronic warning receivers of the US pilots. The green areas are areas effectively jammed by the pods. Note the red circles indicating the range of the Syrian SAMs.|
|Click the image for a better view. The selected aircraft are the F14As of flight 1. Note the red pie-slice representing the reach of the TARPs. Flight 2 is immediately ordered to strike one of the rebel camps (white line in the northeast direction).|
|Click the image for a better view. The reconnaissance flight has turned back, but now the target is within visual range (blue circle) of the strike flight. The Lebanese have a SAM battery north of the target.|
|Click the image for a better view. The free fall bombs barely scratch the enemy forces. This is going to be a damn long day ...|