Thanh Hoa, Vietnam: This scenario is a hypothetical attack on the North Vietnamese Ham Rung Bridge by the US Air Force flying out of the Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand. The mission starts with your forces airborne over Laos and en route to The Dragon's Jaw in Thanh Hoa Province, Vietnam.
I honestly tried to follow the tutorial for this mission written by Adam Parker, but dare I criticize a fellow combat writer by suggesting that mixing war fiction in with what purports to be instructions on how to play a war game is something that should be avoided at all costs.
The scenario presents you with the following ten flights under your operational control: Three CAP flights of F-4E's, two Bombing flights of F-4E's, one F-4E Chaff flight, one RF-4C Reconnaissance flight, one EB-66 C Jamming flight, one KC-135 Tanker flight and one F-105 G SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses, AKA "Wild Weasel" or "Iron Hand") flight.
The actual bombing run will be completed using 48 Mk-82's per each flight; however this attack route and ordnance selection is already mapped out for you at the start of the mission. As the Strike Commander, the rest is pretty much up to your trial and error pleasure.
My game plan (after having become frustrated with the Daniel Steele tutorial) was to effectively ride a "Chaff Train" all the way home. This was accomplished by running the flight call-sign "Cheetah" over the target area, and directly over a SAM site on the way back to base past the Mekong and Laos.
Instead of leaving my two CAP flights rolling in with the Bomb flights, I peeled them off as soon as contact was made to the North with some Bogey's, setting them to Auto-Fire and Auto-Intercept. My rationale was based on two factors:
First - I would rather engage these Bandits away from my Strike Package, and Second - I fully intended to have the Phantoms ride the Chaff Train straight into the target.
My entire mission was based solely on the success or failure of the Chaff flight - to that end I brought in the EB-66 C call-sign "Echo" to overlap the "Cheetah" flight with jamming coverage, further increasing the possibility of success.
Once my Bomb flight (I hate calling F-4E's "bombers") had dropped their ordnance and mucked things up on the ground for those "Stinking Dinks", I pulled everyone behind the Chaff Train and ran them straight over one of two SAM sites. The "Waistcoat" flight of F-105 G's did not disappoint, coming in hot and taking out the SAM battery.
This opened up a clear path over the border into Laos, and even though the Strike Package could not make it back to base before the end of the scenario (not required), I had them safely en route with several planes loitering around the tanker.
Other thoughts: When reviewing the saved battle file, I noticed that the only airplane loss I suffered was the return flight over the enemy SAM site. While this path may seem aggressive, it was tactically sound but poorly implemented. The tutorial instructs you to turn on the chaff of "Cheetah" flight at 24:16 remaining, but does not instruct you clearly when to cease this task.
On the return flight I had turned off the chaff to save it for the SAM site flyover, however I wasted too much chaff over the South China Sea. I should have had it turned off after the bombing run cleared the AO, then I would have had enough for the Chaff Train home, instead of running out right over the top of the area.
I am not sure how the game records your acknowledgement of fuel consumption, especially in regards to the KC-135 tanker. I am not sure if it is just enough to have the flights heading home, or towards the tanker itself as this is somewhat poorly documented in the tutorial. There also appears to be no "refuel" waypoint command either.
After reviewing the User Manual in the game folder structure, I realize I did not actually do a BDA (Bomb Damage Assessment) and thus did not receive any recon points for the following reason: Simply having the reconnaissance aircraft flyover the target is not enough - nothing automatic will happen.
Per the User Manual: "Certain aircraft are flagged as being Recon. These aircraft have special sensors. Recon aircraft are identified in the Database Dialog, or by holding down the right-mouse button in the Flight List. Recon aircraft can be used to "attack" a ground site. When the over flight occurs, the Recon aircraft performs a recon of the site and the flight is then flagged as "Has Recon".
Once a recon aircraft has performed a recon of a site, any damage associated with that site at the time is counted towards Recon Points in the determination of victory conditions. In addition, any subsequent damage of that location is given a bonus towards the victory point calculation. The magnitude of these additional points is determined by the Pre-Recon and Post-Recon parameter data values.
A recon aircraft can only perform one recon mission during a scenario and a given ground location can only have one recon performed against it in a scenario."