Saturday, March 31, 2012

DCS Black Shark 2 - Thunder Run, Russian Style - Debrief

Armor doesn't do well in built up areas, neither do attack helicopters.

The hazards many, the enemy disorganized and our luck immense. Not sure for how long things will stay the same.

With our flight plans and indirect fire deconfliction areas loaded in the ABRIS, we depart the Kutaisi airbase with no incident. The radio traffic from the ground forces, even when it is limited to the self-propelled artillery coordinating their fire missions, is awe inspiring. I hope that the rebels are picking up our transmissions ... They almost always do. This time their numbers are up.

Our flight plan will take us north of the action, flying to waypoint 2 and then occupying a battle position north of Kutaisi. Our flight path and battle position are conceived to keep my flight out of the way of the shells from the self-propelled artillery units, which are located east of the engagement area.

On our flight towards waypoint 2, we catch a glimpse of the indirect fire already falling on Kutaisi. Is a fire plan focused in the main route of advance of the ground forces and intended to clear up rebel ambushes along it.
Near waypoint 2 and maneuvering towards the battle position. In the background, that Kutaisi avenue is getting pounded fiercely by our artillery.
We are now in our battle position. Our tactical tasks are a handful. (1) Clear any remnant rebel ambushes along the ground forces main route of advance, (2) Provide security and early warning to friendly during their dash towards the objective and (3) Isolate the objective from rebel reinforcements. The indirect fire, while not overly intense, produces enough smoke and dust to obscure our observation of the engagement area (see SHKVAL on the lower left). Our relative position is shown in the ABRIS (lower right): note the area delimited by yellow lines (indirect fire deconfliction), our flight path (black line from the aircraft icon) and the line of sight from our main sensor (yellow line from the aircraft icon).
Smoke and all, we are able to pick up dismounts with the SHKVAL (lower left monitor). Range is a bit extreme for the cannon, but with a bit of spray and pray we take them out in no time.

We scan the route of advance back an forth. It's not easy at this range and we have to get a bit closer to the city. Not fun, but we need the shorter range. We acquire another insurgent team (SHKVAL monitor, lower left) and we dispatch them with the cannon. 
The lead elements of the friendly ground forces finally show up in the eastern edge of the city. We nervously scan their route ahead over and over, just in case there are rebels remaining.

The whole battle gets a new twist in no time: rebel tanks (captured T-55s?) are moving into position from the western edge of the city. All credit to my wingman for this discovery. They appear to be moving towards the objective area (bridge labelled with a circle in the ABRIS (lower left of the screenshot). Unfortunately, we are able to take out just one of the tanks with a Vikhr ATGM fired from our hover position. The other tanks stop on their tracks and remain hidden from us.
By this time, the lead elements of the armor column (BMPs) we are supporting cross the bridge and move into position to secure it. 
Quickly enough, all the friendly forces cross the bridge and move into position on the other side of the river.
We move into a new battle position to engage those enemy tanks that have stopped before we could engage them. Note the smoke billows on the right (east) side of the river: these are fires burning from the artillery bombardment which has ended a good time ago. Also note the tiny little smoke column on the left (west) side of the river: this is the burning enemy tank we destroyed.

We have moved far away from our original battle position in order to engage the remaining enemy tanks. Even when we have put our noses into enemy territory, the long range to the enemy tank (4.5 km, see SHKVAL monitor, lower let) gives us a false sense of security. One enemy tank acquired.
A perspective of our new battle position deep into enemy territory. Note the smoke in Kutaisi and the smoke column from the previously destroyed tank a bit more in the background. A second Vikhr ATGM goes downrange.

Now we are back into the battle position, for a final scan before we sign off.

Friendly tanks moving into position after the bridge crossing. Note the flight path in the ABRIS (lower right, black line). With all friendly forces safe across the bridge, it is time for us to bug out.
Safe landing at Kutaisi airbase.

Lessons learned:

1) The indirect fire plan used in this virtual mission was used in real life during the first Chechen war. I can only imagine the immense risk of blocking the route of advance with debris.
2) Although problematic for us (see below), the indirect fire cleaned up around 35 enemy dismounts. We just picked up a couple of enemy teams. The amount of enemy ambushes that the ground forces had to engage remains unknown.
3) Attack helicopters do not perform to expectations in urban areas. The line of sight is too fragmented and keeps the helicopters in distant battle positions out of fear of anti-air ambushes within the city. The urban fight is close and intimate. Our distant battle positions didn't seem to cut it.
4) Smoke and dusted lifted by the artillery shells was the worst challenge we faced to acquire enemy teams within the city.
5) FAC (for target acquisition) and better coordination with ground forces is needed for the Ka-50 attack helicopter. The TV-based target acquisition in the Ka-50 just doesn't cut it. As for coordination with ground forces, we just guessed their support needs by keeping an eye on them. This takes one sensor out of two from observing enemy maneuvers elsewhere.



Goannaman said...

While not the same game, this makes me wish I'd get off my lazy butt and learn to fly the A-10, instead of playing Steel Beasts all the time!

JC said...

Nothing wrong with your "game plan", sir ... :)

Anonymous said...

Beautiful stuff! Well flown and well written!

JC said...

Thanks for your comment, sir.