War Over Vietnam Operation Flaming Dart II

Flaming Dart was a series of reprisal air strikes carried out against various North Vietnam targets. The first attack consisted of 49 sorties and was flown on February 7, 1965 as a response to assaults on US bases by the Vietcong. In retaliation for the first strikes, the VC attacked a hotel housing US personnel which prompted the Americans to respond in kind with a second attack consisting of 99 sorties that was flown four days after the first attacks.

This scenario covering the second set of retaliatory strikes focuses on the US Navy and their raids on the NVA barracks at Chanh Hoa. These strikes were launched from the aircraft carriers Coral Sea, Hancock and Ranger from Yankee Station just off of the coast from the Da Nang airbase which has available aircraft for the operation as does Ton Son Nhut to the south. The scenario that I am playing was designed by Gary Morgan and lasts for 1:30.

Given the distance traveled by the Navy sorties off of the carriers and the time constraints in place, I am better served to land the strike aircraft at either Nakhon Phanom or possibly Udorn in Thailand in order to have them reloaded in time to perform and additional run at the NVA barracks. There simply is not enough time for them to launch, attack, return, reload, re-launch and attack a second time.

The carriers on station with aircraft to contribute to this operation are:

USS Coral Sea CV-43

USS Hancock CV-19

USS Ranger CV-61

The available airbases with aircraft to contribute to this operation are:

Da Nang

Ton Son Nhut

The scenario designer has laid out various steer points and corridors (Attack CAP, Attack Support, Attack Ingress and Attack Egress). These are recommendations and do not need to be followed, however it is easier to manage this amount of combat aircraft in the air at the same time if there are basic flight plans that are adhered to. Failing to do so can result in an unmitigated mess of flights on the map.

The three carriers at Yankee Station: Coral Sea, Hancock and Ranger. The aircraft launched from these platforms will carry out the bulk of the pain to be inflicted on the Viet Cong; however the mission will certainly be aided by the strike sorties coming from the land bases as well.

Da Nang Orders

I order the two flights of 476 TFS (4 X F-104C armed with AIM-9B A2A) to take up CAP starting points on either side of the target objective. Once they arrive on location I will then specify patrol routes as the situation warrants.

Ton Son Nhut Orders

I order the six flights of 481 TFS (4 X F-100D armed with Mk-117 general purpose bombs) to take up ground attack starting points just off of the Attack Ingress point. Once they arrive on location I will order the attack on the NVA barracks. I order the four 522 AWECW EC-121 airborne early warning radar surveillance aircraft just further east and north of the F-100D’s. Once they arrive on location I will disperse them in a box pattern patrol around the target area.

USS Coral Sea CV-43 Orders

I order the strike aircraft and one CAP flight to take up ground attack starting points just off of the Attack Ingress point, pushing further out east in order to manage these flights once they are on station. The one E-1B platform is left on the carrier.

USS Hancock CV-19 Orders

I order the strike aircraft and one CAP flight to take up ground attack starting points just off of the Attack Ingress point, pushing further out east in order to manage these flights once they are on station. The one E-1B platform is left on the carrier.

USS Ranger CV-61 Orders

Similar to the orders above, with the exception that the one spike furthest east is an RVAH-5 RA-5C reconnaissance aircraft that is needed to recon the target area after the strike packages begin their attacks in order to maximize the available victory points available in the scenario.

11/02/1965 10:15 The sortie of North American F-100 Super Sabre aircraft from Ton Son Nhut are almost at the Attack Ingress horizontal line I have drawn and will be ordered to attack the barracks.

I order the first sortie from Ton Son Nhut to land at Nakhon Phanom for rearming. So far I have picked up 720 ground points which equates to an American Minor Defeat if the scenario ended now.

10:30 The first flight from the USS Hancock has arrived and is beginning their run at the target, while other flights are stacking up behind them. The Victory Point balance bar on the far right is starting to swing in the favor of the Americans.

After the second pass I stand at 1,650 ground points and a potential Draw. With the target location identified and visible to existing flights, I pool together several of the upcoming aircraft and add attack orders early.

10:45 I order those flights that landed at Nakhon Phanom for rearming to launch again towards the target area (F-100D’s armed with Mk-117 bombs).

11:00 With only a few flights from the carriers remaining I am hoping that the rearmed F-100D’s can make the difference. With only 3,000 points I stand to achieve only an American Minor Victory if the scenario were to end now. I order the RF-8A’s that have been loitering off the coast to perform their recon runs at the target.

After-action Report

An American Minor Victory outcome is somewhat disappointing considering the amount of airpower I had at my disposal.

Review Final Situation

The three flights of A-1H aircraft that did not make it to the target in time is directly my fault as I should have had them approach at a higher rate of speed (knowing that I had airstrips close to the target where they could land since they would have been bingo on fuel if going back to the carriers).

Post Mortem

The last time that I played this game was on my Windows XP machine back in October 2011. The two years that I was out of the game made me quite rusty coming back to it when I installed it on my Windows 7 gaming rig. Further confusing the issue is that two years ago I was playing the game in its original 1.0 state. I am not sure when it was released, but the 1.2 patch that I installed for this effort completely changed the game interface. This patch has to be the most comprehensive overhaul of a game that I have ever seen.

My effort above is chock full of errors as well. The reason I did not score an American Major Victory outcome is that I kept pounding the target long after it was completely destroyed: I failed to check the target status window after each pass, only the victory condition dialog. This put more aircraft in the area of operations than was needed for the mission, and as they were loitering one was shot down which is what denied the Major Victory (not that I didn’t have a couple of planes make it there on time as I thought originally).

This is what happens when you hit the target and run back to base:

This is the correct way to use the Attack Ingress and Egress markers on the map: select an aircraft, shift rick click mouse on head of the marker and select “Fly To”, then shift right click mouse on the next marker and select “Fly To” again. In the screen shot above, those nice clean lines are actually the routes of multiple aircraft approaching to attack, provide CAS or other attack support functions. If done correctly, in just a few clicks a flight will have a complete route ending with it landing on a carrier or its home airstrip.

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