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MadMax1716 Mar 2017 10:14 a.m. PST

Hey all,
I am a ground guy through and through, and my knowledge of anything air-related is extremely limited. I'm working on making my own counters/unit values for the board game "Air and Armor" from the mid-80s; I re-vamped the ground stuff quite a bit for equipment and doctrinal differences between the various belligerents. But need some help with the air part.

I am having my game take place in 1983, before all the flux-capacitor technology takes over. The various sides and equipment are:

-Canadians: CF-104
-West Germans: F-104G, F-4F, Alpha Jet
-Americans: F-4E, F-16A, A-10
-Soviets: MiG-21SMT, MiG-27/MiG-27K, Su-17M2, Su-24

In the game, a plane can attack in one of two modes: bombing (right on top of the target; includes everything like strafing, rocket pods, dumb/smart bombs, etc), or stand-off (a specified number of KM away, if capable) at either High or Low altitude. Air to Air combat is outside the scope of the game, it's all about their ground attack roles and capabilities. In each of the four modes (Bombing High, Bombing Low, Stand-off High, Stand-off Low) there is one attack factor and one defense factor.

My questions are:
1) The CF-104/F-104G do not have the ability to fire stand-off weapons such as AGM-65 Maverick and the like correct? Should there be any difference between the Canadian and German version due to doctrinal/variant differences?

2) Likewise, the Alpha Jet has no stand-off capability correct?

3) The German F-4F did not originally have stand-off capability, but received Maverick capability under the Peace Rhine upgrades, ending in 1983 correct?

4) After the Peace Rhine upgrades, should there be any difference between the F-4E and F-4F?

5) Pretty much all the Soviet aircraft should have stand-off capability due to Kh-66 (MiG-21SMT), Kh-23, Kh-25, and Kh-28 (MiG-27, Su-17, Su-24), correct?

6) The game designer says that NATO aircraft would most likely attack at low altitude, while the Soviet aircraft would attack from high altitude. This doesn't strike me as quite right; it would seem very hazardous to one's health to fly at high altitude given all the radars and SAMs likely to be flying around. But again, not really basing that on anything other than books like "Red Army," etc. I would think pretty much everyone would be at low altitude. Please correct me if I am wrong.


shaun from s and s models Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2017 10:41 a.m. PST

i would recomend getting a book called
air battle central europe
quite an eye opener

Personal logo taskforce58 Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2017 10:53 a.m. PST

I don't think there were any Starfighters anywhere that were ever air-ground stand-off capable, AFAIK it was all dumb bombs and rocket pods. German navy Marineflieger F-104 did use the AS34 Kormoran anti-ship missiles.

Canadian CF-18s became operational in October 1982, although I'm not sure when did the squadrons based in Baden-Soellingen started receiving them.

Mako1116 Mar 2017 11:24 a.m. PST

Can't say definitively for most, but suspect you are right about the lack of standoff capability for most, if not all the NATO aircraft you mention.

IIRC, the F4F doesn't have an air-to-air radar, or if it does, it is certainly not as capable as that of the F4E. Seems crazy in the modern age, but that's apparently the way they were built. I/R missiles only, IIRC.

Not sure if they got an air-to-air radar when/if they were upgraded.

Yea, I suspect flying high for both sides would have been dangerous, given the large number of SAMs available. Probably only makes sense to do that to go after the other side's aircraft if they fly that profile, and I suspect many will be at lower altitudes – also very dangerous, due to SAMs, and AAA.

Firing from standoff ranges would be preferable, especially if your missiles outrange those of the enemy's SAMs.

BattlerBritain16 Mar 2017 11:57 a.m. PST

Mig-21's wouldn't have carried anything other than dumb bombs and rockets. No Kh-66s or anything fancy.

US planes flew high to stay out of the way of AAA, but UK and WG flew low a lot of the time.

When you've finished your tweeks any chance you could post them up on the Air+Armor Comsimworld forum? I did a BAOR expansion for it a few years ago and would be interested.

Ta, B

MadMax1716 Mar 2017 12:57 p.m. PST

@Shaun: will check that book out, thanks!

@TF58: The Canadian squadrons in Germany didn't switch over until the mid-80s; for example November 1985 for 439 Squadron. Didn't know that about the Kormoran missiles, thanks!

@Mako: According to this: and link the upgrades gave them a new radar, and allowed for the Sparrow, Sidewinder, and Maverick.

@BattlerBritain: According to this site link MiG-21 variants from PFM on (1968+) could carry Kh-66; was just going off of what it said there.

Ok so you would say US tactical aircraft would stay High most of the time, while WG would go Low? What about the Soviets?

Sure thing, could you shoot me a link? My Googling turned up nothing.

Thanks all, loving the discussion!

ScoutJock16 Mar 2017 1:26 p.m. PST

A10s would only be low in a high threat environment such as your scenario.

Vostok1716 Mar 2017 1:36 p.m. PST

X-66 could be launched with MiG-21 (more precisely, MiG-21PFM, 4 X-66 per 1 plane). Moreover, it could be launched with MiG-19.


5 – correct.

Regarding the height of the flight, I can not say anything special, but the early X-66 had to be launched during the dive.

BattlerBritain16 Mar 2017 1:56 p.m. PST

Try this link

emckinney16 Mar 2017 3:04 p.m. PST

MM17, when Red Storm comes out from GMT Games, it will be an excellent resource. link It's a raid-level air combat system using the tried and true Downtown/Elusive Victory system. A big step up in detail from A&A for for air, but much lower detail than dogfighting games--you'll be running dozens of aircrfaft and a whole sector of air defenses.

You want to read Break Right!—SAMs and AAA in Red Storm which includes some great illustrations of what real-life SAM/AAA defenses would look like in a sector.

If you go to the main game page (first link), you can also read an AAR to see how a raid would work in that sort of environment. There's also an article on BVR (beyond visual range) combat. If you follow the Consimworld link, you can download the aircraft data charts. They have fairly abstract air-to-ground ordnance information, but neither MiG-21s nor F-104Gs list guided ordnance. However, short-ranged weapons may be rolled into the bombing factor. OTOH, I think the AAR shows FE-16As with Mavericks as being armed with EOGMs (electro-optically guided missiles).

emckinney16 Mar 2017 3:27 p.m. PST

Decided to break this into two posts …

Some broad information link

If you want to find out exactly what weapons each aircraft could carry, get PDF aircraft data cards from Birds of Prey and its supplements. Birds of Prey has the most detailed and accuracte information on aircraft loads and aircraft users anytwhere. Yes, better than reference books, Janes, etc.

You can see exactly what's in each product here link

You can purchase the PDF here link (the print products are on the same page, so pay attention!).

Here's an example of the load information for a late-model F-4E


You'll want to right-click the image and then click View Image. That way, you can see it at full size/resolution.

capnvic Inactive Member16 Mar 2017 11:21 p.m. PST

One aircraft that you failed to mention is the A7D Corsair II. While it was not in Europe. It did have the capability of using standoff weapons systems like the Maverick, anti radiation missiles, and tv and laser guided bombs like the Paveway series. Plus it had a nasty 20mm M61A1 gun in the nose.

Fatman Inactive Member17 Mar 2017 11:19 a.m. PST

One thing to remember is that just because a plane could carry a munition doesn't mean it would. Back in the 80's those weapons were rare in the USAAF & USN/USMC and practically mythical in other Air Forces. Because of cost and scarcity they would have only have been used against extremely important targets.


MadMax1717 Mar 2017 12:17 p.m. PST

@ScoutJock: that's what I figured; semantics question based on your answer. When you say "only be low in a high threat scenario," do you mean that they would normally prefer to operate high altitude, and the only reason they would go low would be a high threat scenario? Or do you mean they would normally operate at either high or low, but would restrict themselves to low so long as it was high threat?

@UsmanK: Thanks!

@Battler: ok will check it out, thanks

@emckinney: Thanks, you're the second person to tell me about that game in the last few months, looks great! Definitely a lot of thought is going into it. Thanks for the Birds of Prey suggestions, got a few of those, very helpful!

@Fatman: good points, thanks!

So in scouring the internet and looking at the very detailed BoP charts, it appears the answers so far are:

1) No; no difference after Canadian AF dropped nuclear strike mission from CF-104s

2) No

3) Yes; though some sources also acquired Sparrow ability, others say No

4) Still unsure, Sparrow capability in question; ground attack would pretty much be the same though I think

5) Yes, many sources don't list late-model MiG-21s as Kh-66 capable though

6) Still unsure

It would appear that early F-16s did not have Maverick capability, until the F-16C Block 25 in the mid-80s and the F-16A Block 15-OCU in the late 80s:

For the F-4E, models from Block 53 (1971) on had Maverick capability, and models back to Block 36 (1967) were upgraded to do so:

Question concerned guided missiles like the Maverick: I assume these can be launched from whatever altitude, though launching from tree-top level your field of view is likely more limited, so even though the Maverick can go 12 miles, at treetop level you likely can't see and engage targets that far out right?

On the guided bombs, you can only really use those from high altitude, given the fact that inertia and gravity are the propellants, and the guidance just provides corrections ("falling with style" as Buzz Lightyear would say… my kids have watched it like 5 times this month…), correct?

Did the Soviets use guided bombs, or just the missiles like Kh-23/66, etc?

Thanks all!

nikolas93ts17 Mar 2017 12:34 p.m. PST

In late Cold War, guided ammunition stockpiles were actually quite massive both for the USA and the Soviet Union, but they were reserved only for the most important targets, at least by Soviets.

In 1980s, Soviets expected to use their KAB-1500 (Su-24) and KAB-500 (Su-24, Su-17M4 and MiG-27K) guided bombs primarily on bridges, lesson learned from Vietnam, that bridges were notably hard to hit and destroy with conventional bombing. Tactical missiles (Kh-23/25/29) would be used in attack sorties on high-value airports and command centres, and most Soviet aircraft could carry them. Pretty much everything else was to be attacked with "dumb" bombs and rockets.

Considering that even small conflicts drain Western stocks considerably, and Soviet stock of guided weapons was not that small at all, that says a lot about what their expected use ratio would be in conventional, wide war.

28mm Fanatik17 Mar 2017 1:46 p.m. PST

6) Still unsure

It may be doctrinal. Any invasion of West Germany would presumably be preceded by massive preparatory air and artillery strikes on known Nato defensive positions. These rely on brute strength rather than tactical finesse or precision.

The Soviets and their WP allies rely on overwhelming numerical advantage in armor and motorized infantry supported by artillery to overcome Nato defenses much more than low-level airstrikes against localized opposition.

This isn't to say that they won't launch any low-level strikes with aircraft like the SU-24 and MiG-27 at all, but they're just not significant in the big picture.

Nato planes would attack at low altitude to evade SAM's and AAA to break up massive concentrations of tanks and infantry, of course.

Mako1117 Mar 2017 7:48 p.m. PST

I suspect the F-16s would have been primarily tasked with air superiority, and combat air patrol missions along with the F-15s, so probably little time for them to be involved in ground attack sorties, if the Cold War had gone hot.

ScoutJock18 Mar 2017 7:05 a.m. PST

A10s were designed to be "mud movers" in USAF parlance, which means their mission was ground support and therefore would spend the bulk of their time at low altitude engaging armor with the 30mm Gatling gun as well as dropping cluster munitions. While extremely maneuverable, they were too slow to stand much of a chance evading SAMs or other fighters at altitude although they could carry a full suite of countermeasures.

Interestingly enough, in Desert Storm, once the Iraqi air defenses were neutralized, they spent most of their time above 10,000 feet destroying ground targets with maverick missiles as the gun wasn't very effective from that altitude.

MadMax1718 Mar 2017 8:47 a.m. PST

@nikolas93ts: great info, thanks! Were those the only Soviet aircraft rated for using guided bombs?

Would either you or UsmanK be able to provide a list of weapons that the following aircraft could carry?
-Su-24 (base model, not M)

@28mm Fanatik: got it, thanks! Just trying to figure out where each side's aircraft would spend most of their time altitude wise

@Mako11: This site, link says the 50th TFW had "a distinct air-ground mission." They were the first wing in Germany equipped with F-16. Says their primary role was air defense, but also had an "advanced air-ground role," in addition to a nuclear strike role. For these reasons the wing had to wait for the F-16A Block 15s rather than the Blocks 1, 5, or 10. From what I can tell the Block 15s did not have AGM-65 capability, but I assume they had laser guided bomb (GBU) capability…?

@ScoutJock: thanks! Yeah i read somewhere that due to their speed bombs wouldn't likely be part of the weapons package in central Europe. Would they use the Maverick at low altitude? Or is that mostly a high altitude weapon due to the necessity to see the target miles away?


Fallout207718 Mar 2017 9:01 a.m. PST

I assume you have seen this site yes? It shows the contents of the Soviet 16th Tactical Air Army in 1983 link

As to the MiG-27s payload, I have this chart:

I have also been told these were some of the more common combinations but cant confirm, so I would also be interested in what others have to say:

--MiG-27 Armed with 1 23 mm GSh-23L Autocannon and 1 of the following:
-2 Kh-23M Grom Air-to-Surface Missiles
-4 S-24B Missiles
-2 S-24B Missiles and 5 500kg FAB-500 Bombs
-4 UB-32M Rocket Pods with 32 S-5 Rockets each
-2 UB-32M Rocket Pods with 32 S-5 Rockets each and 5 500kg FAB-500 Bombs
-22 100kg FAB-100 M62 Bombs
-9 250kg FAB-250 M62 Bombs or RBK-250 Cluster Bombs
-8 500kg FAB-500 M62 Bombs or RBK-500 Cluster Bombs
-4 500kg ZB-500 Napalm Bombs

I also mainly focus on the 1983 era, I am not sure if the above would be correct for 83 or if it is more of a later set up. I have been doing alot of searching to figure out an era correct payload for the MiG-27 and 27K but have not been able to find much help.

ScoutJock19 Mar 2017 8:48 a.m. PST

The pilot would need line of sight to get the electro-optic seeker to lock on so that would determine the attack profile. Terrain, weather and vegetation all contribute to the distance and altitude required for a lock. It is fire and forget so once the missile is locked on and fired, the pilot can maneuver and egress. The I/R version was just coming into the arsenal in 83 which mitigated the weather and vegetation constraints somewhat.

Mako1119 Mar 2017 4:23 p.m. PST

Don't forget, in Germany, and over Western Europe, the weather is very frequently cloudy, and/or rainy, year-round, so not the best for all that wonderful, high-tech gear.

It is certainly not like in AZ, where many pilots, including those from Europe train, or the Middle East.

MadMax1720 Mar 2017 6:28 p.m. PST

Those are great Fallout, thanks! Can't read Russian, but I can stumble through that I think. The list is also very helpful!

Thanks ScoutJock; so one could conceivable launch an EOGM from low altitude, but the range would likely be much less than if they did it at high altitude.

Great point Mako. Not a dissimilar situation from that on the ground… with average engagement ranges of ~800m in southern Germany, all that gee-wiz technology won't mean much… the person that sees and fires first wins.

Mako1120 Mar 2017 11:43 p.m. PST

Yea, from the bit I've been reading on Germany's weather and clouds, for WWII bombing night raids, and just looking on-line at weather averages in general, seems there's about a 50% chance of rain on any given day, and about 50% cloudcover too.

Varies of course a bit by season and region, from 20% to almost 95% – 100%, but you get the idea.

Lots of mist, fog, and drizzle too, when it isn't raining, or sunny.

ScoutJock21 Mar 2017 5:14 a.m. PST

Yes the A10 drivers I knew preferred to use the 30mm GAU-8 Gatling gun at low altitude and "knife fighting" range.

Mako1121 Mar 2017 5:43 a.m. PST

Yep, dipping behind hills and trees is apparently a very good way to avoid enemy fire, and to maintain surprise.

MadMax1721 Mar 2017 6:04 a.m. PST

@ScoutJock: makes sense; do you think they would have bothered carrying things like bombs, cluster munitions, or napalm (obviously depends on the target i know, but given their slow speed and attack profile…)? Or just the 30mm and maybe Mavericks for further away work?

ScoutJock21 Mar 2017 8:58 a.m. PST

They would definitely carry cluster bombs as they were pretty effective against armored vehicles. Possibly napalm when appropriate for the target. These would be delivered from low altitude in most cases.

Legion 423 Mar 2017 3:59 p.m. PST

No one mentioned SEADS. Suppression of Enemy Air Defense Systems. Enemy ADA/AAA can be suppressed by some aircraft[like Wild Weasels], FA, naval gunfire, etc. Along specified flight routes of ingress and egress to the target. Even if only localized Air Parity exists. As opposed to the preferred Air Superiority.

Regardless, Strike Packages on specific designated targets. Would possibly include SEADS, "Wild Weasel" type aircraft, CAP and then the Strike Aircraft.

And a ScoutJock mentioned, after Iraqi ADA was next to non-existent the A-10s could operate more easily. That is what you would try to accomplish in any situation.

When I was a Bn Air Ops Ofr in the 101, '82-'83. There was a tactic known as a JAAT … Joint Air Attack Team It was a combined US ARMY & USAF technique. To attrite the massive waves of WP armor, etc. That would cross the Inter-German border if WWIII happened.

The US ARMY Gunships, AH-1s or AH 64s depending on the time period. Would hover behind cover. Like a ridge, wood line, etc.

The ground assets i.e. MBTs, Mech, etc. would call-in SEADS with FA, etc. WP ADA vehicles were usually designated Priority Targets, along with MBTs and HQs. And those US MBTs, etc., would open up trying to take out the Priority Targets. And anything else that they can in range.

Then as the attrited WP armor advanced, the Gunships would pop-up and fire. Then would rapidly go back under cover.

And immediately A-10s would come in and strike.

As they pulled up and out the Gunships would pop-up again and fire.

Then the A-10s would come in again as the Gunships would go back under cover.

This could be done as long as both type aircraft have ammo, etc.

And once they ran out of ammo. Other Gunships and A-10s "loaded for bear" replaces them, if available.

A great example of Combined Arms …

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