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White Night #1: Unknown Aircraft

Joe Legan writes:

I it though I currently dont have the aircraft. Not sure the harrier could completely vector away enough exhaust to avoid a missile though.



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Revision Log
3 September 2021page first published

1,953 hits since 3 Sep 2021
©1994-2024 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian writes:

This is the start of a new series of articles, where I'll extract the basics of a scenario from history, a novel, or a movie, and hopefully stimulate discussion toward a full scenario development.

White Night

White Night is a book I recently reviewed. It's a novel about a confrontation between well-funded South American revolutionaries (FSAD) attempting to seize the Antarctic Peninsula, and a secret United Nations mini-carrier (the U Thant).

There's a lot of military action in the early parts of the novel, but it's not something you'd be excited to put on your tabletop – it's the revolutionaries bombing polar bases and intercepting unarmed vehicles or ships. So it's not until page 203 that we get something we can really wargame…

Rebel Side

Sancho Amador, mercenary pilot for the FSAD, is flying patrol over the Antarctic Peninsula. He's alone, because his wingman went back to base for repairs, and he doesn't know what he's looking for, because no enemy planes are thought to be in the area. So he's just having fun when his nose comes down and his radar detects a low-flying aircraft. He doesn't recognize the type, but it definitely doesn't belong here!

The novel mentions that Sancho is flying a Mirage 2000. Elsewhere in the novel, we're told the rebels are equipped with a mix of Mirage A, B and C, with only the C having an integral gun (the others could have gun pods). The armament is the Matra R.530 air-to-air missile (number not given). Fighter's markings are not described, but appear on an alternate novel cover:

White Night

Sancho is 60 kilometers south of Primavera Base (the rebel HQ), 30 kilometers inland, at 8,000 meters altitude, sun behind him, in a nose-down attitude when his picks up the enemy on radar.

These special rules should apply:

Inexperienced Pilot
Sancho lacks the knowledge to identify the enemy aircraft.
Pride & Glory
Sancho's goal is to bring back gun-camera film proving that he has been the first to be blooded against an armed adversary. He does not inform Primavera Base of his interception.
Limited Sensors
The rebels have a C-130 transport up as radar patrol, but it has no look-down radar capacity and cannot detect the enemy aircraft at its current low altitude.

U.N. Side

Colonel James 'Shark' Cady (U.S. Marines) is the U.N. air group commander. He is returning from a flight to drop supplies to Antarctic scientists. It was hoped that by flying a low level, he could escape detection.

He is flying a Harrier III at 450 knots, 500 meters off the ground, heading west, radar off, IFF off. Armed with at least two AIM-9L Super Sidewinders. Aircraft is low-viz gray with no markings – or would you use an 'unidentified' marker?

These special rules should apply:

Experienced Pilot
Veteran of Vietnam, Grenada, Persian Gulf.
Limited Sensors
Out of range of ship radar. Satellite intelligence not yet available.

The Scenario

Would you game this? Is it fair? What would you change to make it a better scenario – more planes? What information would you add?

For repeat playability, the unknown aircraft could be determined by dieroll.

In the novel, the Harrier pilot evades the Mirage's heat-seeking missile by keeping his hot exhaust turned away, dodges the Mirage's guns by vectoring thrust, then fires a Sidewinder up the Mirage's tail. Realistic? Can you do that in your ruleset?