You could look miles away for a safe spot to cross the labyrinth of taxiways of the King Fahd airbase and you wouldn't find one. The massive collective roar of the fighter's engines -some taking off, others taxiing, many waiting to taxi- could be heard as far as at a gas station 12 miles northeast of the airbase. In the nearby town of Al Taif, a minor-league soccer game had to be interrupted because it was impossible to hear the referee's whistle.
Air superiority is an ungodly monster that devours resources, flight time and available wings. King Fahd is where I started paying the price.
Starved for realistic air operations in the Persian Gulf, I opened up my copy of Command Modern Air and Naval Operations (CMANO) and let loose the Black Gold Blitz DLC.
After a few tries with this scenario, and an equal number of cases of bloody nose. I realized that I was not playing the air superiority game correctly. In particular, the amount of fighter aircraft in the AO was sorely insufficient.
I'm playing as the Saudis and this is the briefing:
Commander, Saudi Air Forces
The recent naval incident has given us the go-ahead to launch the attack and cripple Iran’s oil industry for years. If Iran does not beat us to the punch with an air and missile strike of their own, we expect that they will do so in retaliation from the moment we the begin the attack-and that their intelligence will detect us doing so very quickly.
Even our normal allies have warned in favor of caution, but that time has passed. We shall do what must be done. The weather is clear and expected to remain so for the rest of the day.
Iran’s air force is old and familiar. Although it contains hundreds of aircraft, the strain of the shah-era equipment is such that we estimate no more than fifty or sixty at once can be deployed even on a desperate war footing. Only the F-14s massed at Isfahan are likely to conduct roving CAPs. The rest of the IRIAF’s fighter aircraft will almost certainly remain on the ground and launch pop-up attacks on nearby strike planes. Their ground attack aircraft are likely to either remain at their bases or launch a suicidal bombing raid.
Besides the concentrated F-14s at Isfahan, the IRIAF has its F-4s and F-5s spread throughout the country at airports and airbases, rotating them and changing names to confuse enemy intelligence. They pose little threat to our F-15s and Eurofighters.
Ground-based air defenses consist of the recently-delivered S-300 batteries and the old, familiar Cold War surplus weapons. The S-300s have been spotted defending Tehran and are unlikely to have moved much farther south-even if the regime had wanted to, the TELs could not physically move that far that fast.
Their missile force is the biggest threat, and the one least able to be countered. Our operations staff have determined that it will not be cost effective to play “whack-a-TEL” with the enemy missile force during these operations, as the size of Iran means that most will be able to launch in time. Our only chance is to trust in the Patriot batteries.
Irregular and special operations will undoubtedly be attempted, but that is out of your hands. The security forces will try to handle that.
The Saudi Air Force is at your disposal. As many aircraft as possible have been readied for the strike.
Al-Kharj AB: E-3 and Saab AEW aircraft, tankers.
King AbdulAziz Airbase: F-15C and F-15S fighters, Tornado ground attack aircraft.
King Khalid AB: F-15S fighters, including the new F-15SA.
King Fahd AB: Eurofighters and F-15Cs.
King Faisal AB: F-15C.
In addition, the nation’s arsenal of DF-21 missiles has been readied and leadership is considering deploying our outdated DF-3s as well. (To request the deployment of the missiles, go to “Special Actions”)
The navy remains in port, as its deployment in the congested waters has been judged cost-ineffective until the Iranian sea and missile threat has been totally cleared.
The principal targets are the Kharg Island export terminal and as many of Iran’s domestic oil refineries as possible. Beyond that, oil rigs, pipeline segments and power plants are valid as well. Absent the northern-based S-300, the defenses cannot completely stop a strike package but can maul it. POWs will be an important bargaining chip, therefore losses of aircraft must be kept as low as possible.
The kingdom’s defenses, even in a severely weakened state, are more than capable of stopping any conventional air offensive by the Iranians. The wild card is their ballistic missile complex. An apocalyptic barrage is possible but unlikely-our intelligence believes they view a long-term deterrent to threaten the Gulf and keep oil prices high as an important priority, and will be unlikely to launch en masse unless they start losing missile systems in battle.
That being said, a missile attack of some kind is inevitable. Intelligence obviously cannot pinpoint the exact target, but believes it to be either the Abqaiq processing complex or an airbase, likely Al-Kharj or Abdulaziz. As Abqaiq is both vital and not as easily repairable as other refineries, it is a weak link, and a Patriot battery has been deployed specifically to defend it from missile strikes.
Be aware that our improved ties with the rest of the world mean we can repair our infrastructure far more easily, so be aggressive and do not be overly scared by the loss of buildings.
Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar, and Oman have forbidden the use of their airspace. Our other neighbors have either allowed us to pass through or are in no shape to contest an intervention.
EMCON state C, unrestricted emissions.
I'm not going to spoil the scenario for you, but I want to share what I did in my fight for air superiority. Well, actually I already spoiled it for you: the claim that the IRIAF is not a problem is most certainly untrue.
So, I tweaked the only air warning platform so it would station a bit closer to the Gulf ...
And plotted a CAP area north of King Abdulaziz AB (red area in the screenshot above). Although we have decent air defenses, I don't want IRIAF aircrafts roaming inland the east coast of the Kingdom.
This air superiority phase will start after I transfer all I have on the West coast of the Kingdom, at the King Fahd AB. In the screenshot below you will see the frantic activity at this airbase.
By the way, the war started with assertive Iranian across-the-Gulf rocketry backstabbing. Nobody said it is supposed to be fair.
Those IRIAF aircraft were Su-24MK Fencers. The F-15Ss I had on patrol engaged them con gusto and with AIM120C missiles.
As seen in the screenshot below, my F-15Ss destroyed 14 Su-24MK Fencers (small window). Yet there are contacts -likely fighters- coming from inland Iran. Although we fared very well in our first air to air match, the conspicuous IRIAF response kind of stunned me.
Where are those fighters from King Fahd AB?
Am I putting all my eggs in one basket with the transfer from King Fahd to King Abdulaziz?
Are those IRIAF fighters coming for a kill?
... And I don't even have formulated a plan for ground attacks on Kharg Island!