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"DANGER ZONE AAR: GAME 3 – Indian Country" Topic

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Bozkashi Jones01 Sep 2019 2:30 p.m. PST

"It was one of those things where we both knew exactly that we had to get behind that big fat ship!"
Lt. Steven Johnson, on board the USS Fox, after the SS Bridgeton hit a mine in the northern Gulf

In the last game in our Operation Earnest Will campaign, TMP link , the US got through the Straits of Hormuz unscathed, despite being targeted by land-based Silkworm missiles. If you remember, I had masses of air support and the USS Ticonderoga at the entrance to the Gulf due to US public opinion being firmly behind action after the USS Kidd was damaged in the first game.

This time I was feeling very alone as my convoy threaded its way past Farsi Island – this far into the Gulf I was out of range of US carrier aircraft. My only top cover was an E-3 Sentry operating out of Saudi. I was in what the US sailors called ‘Indian Country'.

As I had some extra support points because of US public opinion, I'd selected an extra frigate, the USS Flatley. I also selected the E-3 and an Intel Report so that Henry would have to declare if surface units had been deployed, but then I forgot to ask him! Otherwise I had the USS Fox (Belknap class CG) and the USS Jarrett (OH Perry class FFG) and the two American-flagged tankers, the Bridgeton and the Gas Prince (to which, every time I said it, Henry had to add ‘of Belle Air…')

At 0700 Delta on July 23, 1987, the sun was up and the smell of bacon and eggs was drifting up from the mess. Overnight reaction back in the States to yesterday's shoot-down of an Iranian Orion by the Tico was muted; after the attack on the Kidd the public wanted revenge, and now they'd got it, but Iranian TV footage of wreckage and the claims that the P-3 was unarmed have made people back home think.



Then there was a sort of thud. A muted thud. Nothing more.

Until the radio chatter started, "Um, this is the Bridgeton, ah, we think we've hit a mine". There was no damage topside and the huge supertanker was able to absorb what damage there was below, though the shockwave on the thousand-foot-long leviathan rippled along her deck like someone whipping ‘a rug on the floor', according to the Navy's liaison officer aboard.

In the operations room of the USS Fox one of the sailors watching the air contact displays calls out, "two contacts in formation, 65 miles East-Northeast". Immediately the duty officer is checking the screens, "ok, I'll let the Captain know, just keep watching".

Meanwhile, the Flatley had found itself in the middle of a minefield. Slowing to just 6 knots it cautiously edged forward. It would be three quarters of an hour before it was clear.



The air contacts kept on coming; commercial airliners don't fly in formation, so I knew this was ‘something', but were any of the contacts innocent civilian? The Iranians (Henry) had made good use of using commercial air lanes before, and the last thing I needed was to blast a civilian airliner out of the sky.

"Um, I've got three contacts now, at 20 miles and closing"

"Lock them with FC"

Two of the contacts were ‘painted' with the fire control radar by the Fox, they passed their ‘resolve' check, and the Fox didn't get a fire solution on the third.

"Contacts at 10 miles"

At last I got a lock on all three and all of them failed their resolve checks. They scrammed, pulling back; a P-3 Orion, escorted by a pair of F-4 Phantoms. Live to fight another day? Too right: after the Kidd I'd blast them out the sky. The next fifteen minutes were a bit of a hiatus, the Phantoms reformed after scramming and the Orion pulled back to the southwest.



By 07:45 the F-4s were moving round to the northeast and another contact was coming in. Predicting its plot, it was going to overfly the Fox. I hailed it in English and Farsi. No response. Then a visual I/D – it was a commercial airliner.


The next quarter of an hour was crucial; the F-4s worked their way round behind my convoy and I was concerned that I might be caught in a pincer. The Fox again got a lock on and they again pulled back, this time off the table, much to Henry's annoyance. One threat gone – what else?

The USS Flatley's helo was, by this time going to check out some surface contacts some 35 miles ahead of the convoy. I got a shock: it was the Sabalan, a British built frigate. Its Sea Killer missiles only had a range of 16 miles but, because of the tankers having to stick to the deep-water channel, I had no way of bypassing it. At this point, I confess, I almost considered the tankers expendable – I just didn't want another warship hit, so I deliberately kept them out of harm's way. I also allowed the helo to linger rather longer than was absolutely necessary, and I will admit that I was provoking Henry into firing on it – If he fired first, I could unleash an absolute storm of missiles and blast the Sabalan out of the water.



But he didn't; he announced that he was withdrawing and the game was over.

* * *

So, a wargame without any actual shooting?! That's a bit bizarre! I've never played a game like this before but, then again, I've never played a campaign before. Henry was disappointed – not because of the lack of action because it was an incredibly TENSE game – but because he felt he could have goaded me better. I must admit, if he hadn't have pulled back, I would have fired first, which means that I would have suffered a backlash. As it was, I still had a further knock to public opinion – if the tankers still get damaged, what is the point in the Navy being there?

So, when is a wargame not a wargame? We thoroughly enjoyed it because it was very, very tense, though I am certain the next game, which deals with the capture of the Iran Ajr whilst laying mines, will certainly have a resumption of hostilities – can't wait!

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP01 Sep 2019 6:54 p.m. PST

Sounds like fun!

Definitely a nice, realistic twist on how things go, sometimes.

Rev Zoom02 Sep 2019 9:00 a.m. PST

I would also purchase a copy of your rules should you make them available – I would just love to try out something like this for a US or Japan – China encounter around the Flatley Islands. Maybe some submarine involvement also.

Bozkashi Jones05 Sep 2019 3:32 a.m. PST

Cheers guys.

The modern period (say, from 1970) is a fantastic period for 'what ifs', with proxy wars and End of Empire being rich veins for scenarios.

A good thing is that even fairly small naval forces are quite interesting and provide forces big enough for an interesting campaign but not so large as to make their assets expendable.

Take Morocco, for example – 3 frigates, 4 corvettes, 4 fast attack craft, all armed with modern, capable SSMs – and now imagine if Morocco wanted to claim back Cueta and Melilla from Spain…


Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP05 Sep 2019 5:53 a.m. PST

This was definitely a wargame in my opinion, felt plenty tense from my perspective! And welcome to the grand world of campaigning, it really makes the gameplay even more rich.

I've been thoroughly enjoying these battle reports, can't wait for the next one.

And I'll echo Rev Zoom: the rules sound great, I'd love to give then a try.


PVT64106 Sep 2019 11:51 a.m. PST

I agree that your rules sound very interesting and would entice me into Modern Naval gaming.

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