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"Mercenary Air Campaign with Missile Threat" Topic

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782 hits since 15 May 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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NKL AeroTom16 May 2018 9:40 p.m. PST

Greetings all, I'm playing a solo mercenary air campaign using the Missile Threat rules, thought I'd write it up here.

The idea of the mercenary air campaign is that you run a group of fictitious mercenaries, buying aircraft and ordnance, flying missions, getting paid and trying to survive. Its slightly a-historical and aimed at "rule of cool", but using period accurate aircraft tailored to a certain theater and alignment.

I'm aligned with the government forces in Eastern Europe / Balkans in the 1980s. Which means I'm working for the Soviets and/or Yugoslavian government and will be up against Western tech.
Playing medium difficulty, so starting with 2 pilots and 120 million rubles (last time I played hard mode with 1 pilot and limited funds…)
Bought myself a MiG-23, and a G-4 Super Galeb, as well as a few R-60 Aphid missiles and a casual 30 250kg bombs.
Should hopefully be able to provide my own air cover with the MiG-23 while the Galeb does the bombing.
Our Situation at the start of the campaign, after purchasing our aircraft and ordnance:

First mission seemed to go ok, until the last turn…
Simple strike mission, shot down a poor quality pilot in a Saab 35 Draken, no biggie, bombed the target (although turns out the G-4 can't carry enough bombs to gain a "partially successful" strike mission result only carries 4 and we need 5 points of damage!)

We were on the way out of the area when an F-4E appeared behind us, poor quality pilot, but with some top gear. Casimir turned back and loosed his last 2 R-60 Aphid missiles, and it looked like that was it for the F-4. The F-4 pilot fired 2 AIM-9Ls before being blown to smithereens.
The AIM-9Ls homed in on Casimir's MiG-23, he went evasive but the missiles still exploded nearby, severely wounding Casimir and damaging the MiG. He was able to land regardless, and will have to spend 3 months recovering before being able to fly again (3 campaign turns). The damage on the MiG isn't a problem, but looks like this crew will need to re-think their ground attack tactics and weapons, and maybe hire another pilot while Casimir recovers….
Situation after the first mission:

Next month, flew an uneventful CAP with just Lazlo in the MiG-23. Saw a Puma helicopter just as the 'bingo fuel' warning was coming on, so no chance to turn back and engage.

Then the month after flew a medium risk CAP same set up (still waiting for Casimir to recover from the close call with the F-4E).

Straight away the CAP got interesting Hostile aircraft! piloted by a Competent pilot! This is where I started stressing out, as Lazlo is average and this competent pilot would be activating first…
Then I randomized the enemy aircraft an Aermacchi MB-339A light ground attack / trainer aircraft with only 2x 7.62 MGs on board.
Then I didn't feel as stressed.

The MB-339 climbed to try to get to the same level as the MiG-23, but its service ceiling was much lower, and it was much less powerful so it was a bit of a sitting duck, even going first each turn.
Lazlo pulled the MiG around and loosed 2 R-60M aphids at the Aermacchi, but the good pilot was able to evade them and take no damage. The Aermacchi lost crucial speed during this defensive maneuver, and so was not able to make a cannon attack during its next turn.
There was some jostling for position and both aircraft turned hard to get on the other's tail, the MB-339 was able to get a bead on the MiG for a cannon attack, but it was just out of range, after which the MiGs power put it in just the right place for a missile launch. The MB-339 was out of speed at this point and the single R-60M Aphid streaked in, the enemy pilot unable to do anything about it. The R-60 impacted and the Aermacchi disintegrated, although the pilot did eject.

Finally, the first partially successful mission of the campaign we were paid 12 million rubles, and Lazlo gained 1 xp.

Current situation:

This now means I'm out of R-60s and will have to rely on the radar guided R-23Rs (and the cannon) from now on, unless Some R-60s come on to the market next turn.

Thankfully haven't met any F-16s yet…

Personal logo aegiscg47 Supporting Member of TMP17 May 2018 6:21 a.m. PST

It might be interesting for others if you would describe the rules, some interesting aspects compared to other air combat games, miniature scales that can be used, etc.

haywire17 May 2018 3:02 p.m. PST

So you are playing Area 88?

NKL AeroTom17 May 2018 8:08 p.m. PST

It might be interesting for others if you would describe the rules, some interesting aspects compared to other air combat games, miniature scales that can be used, etc.

Good idea, I've done a few AARs Here and Here.

There is a link to the full description in the title post (just click the word "Missile Threat"), but Missile Threat is a fast paced air combat game aimed at 1/600, 1/300 or 1/144 scale aircraft, covering every major air conflict from 1960 2000. What makes it unique compared to other modern air combat games is the complete lack of hexes and the focus on ground elements such as SAMs, radars, AAA, ground forces, and the inclusion of naval vessels and helicopters. With such granularity in ground assets, SEAD flights and recon have a purpose in the game, and CAS and CSAR missions can be made very interesting and dynamic, as enemy forces attempt to capture downed pilots, or friendly forces are threatened with being overrun, forcing you to choose between helping them and dealing with SAMs, AAA, and/or hostile aircraft.

Missile Threat is also cool in that you can choose the loadout and pilot quality of your aircraft. So multirole aircraft can be truly multirole. An F-16 could be fitted out for Air to Air, Ground Attack, SEAD, or a mix. Aircraft, pilots, ordnance and ground assets all have a points value which keeps the game balanced.

Like all of our air combat games, there is also a "mandatory move" in which aircraft move forwards depending on their current speed. This makes the game a bit more chaotic than the usual "I choose exactly where my aircraft will go" affair. You can still make turns and increase or decrease speed, but the mandatory move simultaneously moves all aircraft on the table forwards, often resulting in unforeseen situations. Activation is then carried out in order of pilot quality, with the best quality activating first. So the game gets away from the usual IGO-UGO activation and everyone activates in the same turn.

The Solo Rules and Mercenary Air Campaign are just a bonus add-on to the system, which I haven't made any posts about or done any AARs, so I figured I'd make some posts so people can see what they're like.

So you are playing Area 88?

I'm not familiar with this series, but looking it up it does seem like a similar premise.
The inspiration for the mercenary air campaign is pilots like Neall Ellis and Count von Rosen, but taken to the extreme being able to buy aircraft on a market which could potentially be any available aircraft in the theater and period, rather than just being limited to light attack aircraft and/or helicopters.

NKL AeroTom20 May 2018 1:19 a.m. PST

Flew another mission today:

Took the MiG-23 out on a high risk Combat Air Patrol, just the one aircraft, as my other pilot is almost recovered (will be able to fly again next campaign turn).

The mission started quietly, with our intrepid pilot carefully circling outside of the enemy IADS System (which was impressive – 2 SA-2 sites, 2 SA-3 sites, 2 SA-6 sites and a smattering of AAA, including heavy AAA with guidance radars)
Staying outside of this enemy SAM envelope seemed like a very good idea…

On turn 1 an enemy AH-1 cobra appeared, but being a helicopter it elected to stay low and well inside the IADS system, to keep away from our prowling MiG-23. A wise move as it would be an easy kill for the MiG.

Turn 2 an enemy aircraft appeared with a veteran pilot (the highest quality possible), flying a Saab 37 Viggen. The Viggen had 6 Rb.71 semi-active radar-homing missiles (SARH) and it immediately went on the attack, getting a radar lock on our MiG-23 and ripple firing 2 Rb.71s. Our MiG was at a decent distance away, and the missiles didn't hit immediately, but this also meant that the Viggen was out of range of our R-60s (we managed to find some more on the market – only 8 of them though…), and our MiG pilot didn't have time to get a lock as well as fire the R-23Rs. Our pilot attempted to gain a radar lock, but was unable.

Another hostile enemy aircraft turned up – a Harrier FRS.1 pilot by a competent pilot. He appeared at low altitude and began to climb and turn to intercept.

The Rb.71 missiles closed in on our MiG, but the Viggen also closed in – the Viggen was pointing off on a tangent and ended up in a position where his radar was no longer able to see the MiG. This happened at a crucial time, as the MiG was cutting across the Rb.71s, and due to the lack of guidance from the Viggen, both Rb.71s missed.

Our MiG turned hard and was able to launch 2 R-60 missiles at the Viggen from close range, but the skillful pilot in the Viggen evaded them (although sacrificing much speed to do so.)

The Bingo fuel warning was sounding, and our MiG attempted to disengage, although the dogfight had bought the MiG into the engagement envelope of 2 SA-3 sites, whose Low Blow radars immediately locked on and each fired a single SA-3 missile. Our MiG was able to evade the closest missile, diving for the ground and pulling a hard turn, and we were able to disengage.

Not a successful mission, so we didn't get paid, but at least we survived a high risk mission… Hopefully with 2 pilots we will have better chances in the future.
We still can't afford to buy any new aircraft, so hopefully we can just scrape by with the MiG-23 and the Super Galeb.

NKL AeroTom24 May 2018 3:24 a.m. PST

The next month, Casimir (our main pilot) had finally recovered enough to fly. We perused the available aircraft and ordnance:

A J-22 Orao new on the market looked particularly appealing, being able to carry enough bombs to easily complete a strike mission, but we couldn't afford it. Hopefully after our next mission we will be able to purchase it.
We selected a Medium Risk Strike mission, as we weren't equipped for CSAR (need a helicopter), and the other missions didn't take our fancy. A strike would be easy enough, and with some planning we knew we would need to strafe the target as well as drop 4 250kg bombs in order to inflict enough damage for a partial success (and to get paid…)
We wrote our flight plan, Lazlo in the Galeb with 4 bombs, Casimir in the MiG-23 with the usual A-A ordnance or R-60 Aphids and R-23R Apex missiles. Lazlo would come in at low altitude, while Casimir covered from above, hopefully out of the enemy air defense envelopes.
As we got closer to the area of attack, we realized it was much more heavily defended than we thought:

2 SA-3 sites, various AAA and AAA guidance radars (the Fire Cans), as well as an SA-6 site. Each SAM site had dedicated guidance radars (the Low Blows for the SA-3, and the Straight Flush for the SA-6).
Game start: (using a Mirage F-1 as the Super Galeb, as I have yet to see any 1/600 Yugoslavian aircraft…)

It looked like we would need to slightly alter the plan in order to get past these fairly formidable defenses. Casimir immediately dropped altitude, planning to strafe the SA-6 site with his MiG's cannon, in order to make a hole in the defense network. This would allow both aircraft to bypasss the SA-3 sites, which were the real threats. AAA we would just have to weather as it happened.

Casimir lined up for a strafing run on the SA-6, but its Straight Flush radar immediately got a solid lock on his MiG this wasn't part of the plan!
Casimir made a hard break, knowing he was within the SA-6's engagement envelope and attempting to break the lock before it fired. The maneuver didn't work, but it did cost him precious speed. His Radar Warning Reciever switched from "enemy lock detected" to "MISSILE LAUNCH" and a screaming came through his headset. The SA-6 had launched!
The SA-6 missile streaked in, Casimir quickly climbed and made a last ditch break, but the SA-6 blew the entire rear off the MiG. Casimir saw the rear half of his aircraft in front of him and decided this was a good time to eject. He ejected safely, and miraculously made it to the ground completely without wounds. Goodbye MiG-23 though.
The MiG explodes:

Meanwhile Lazlo in the Super Galeb decided to try to hit the SA-6 site as well, he squeezed off a few rounds, but they didn't hit the target. Meanwhile the SA-6 switched its lock on to the Galeb.
The SA-6 launched, this time at the Galeb,

Seeing the SAM launch gave Lazlo the exact location of the SA-6 site, and he squeezed the trigger, 23mm rounds ripping through the SA-6 site and destroying it! Lazlo was also in a good position to avoid the SA-6 already in the air, when he heard his radar warning reciever groaning, a Low Blow radar had just locked on to him…
The SA-3 being guided by the Low Blow immediately launched!

With the MISSILE LAUNCH alarm screaming in his ears, Lazlo swooped past the now burning SA-6 site, and was able to position himself outside of the tracking area of the SA-6 missile:

SA-3s each hold 4 missiles though, and the Closest SA-3 launched again!

It didn't look like Lazlo would make the mission target all of this was in vain! No wonder the governement wanted to hire expendable mercenaries for this mission!
Lazlo, low on speed and unable to break the lock from the Low Blow SA-3 guidance radar, decided to ignore the incoming missile and attempt to make it into bombing range of the target. This proved to be a very bad idea, and the SA-3 streaked in, 60kg of high explosive tearing his Super Galeb apart:

Lazlo was able to eject, and the sudden silence around him was deafening as he floated back to earth.

Meanwhile Casimir had made it back to friendly lines on foot. Lazlo, severely wounded by the Missile impact, was able to limp past the burning SA-6 site, admiring his handy work through the pain and disappointment, he made it through a small forest and eventually back to friendly lines.

And with both our aircraft destroyed, and not enough cash to buy a new one, our Mercenary Air Campaign comes to a close.

The final look of our roster sheet:

So that's the end of the campaign, hope you guys enjoyed reading about it. I certainly have some things to think about, both as a player, and perhaps tweaks to the system with regards to the number of air defense assets in each mission.

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