Silent Hunter III Malta Scenario

Malta is the sixth of 10 single player scenarios available in the game. It takes place in August 1942 and is based on U-Boat operations in the Mediterranean Sea. The boat that I am piloting for this mission is the U-331 that in real life was skippered by Kapitänleutnant Hans-Dietrich von Tiesenhausen who was featured in the first episode of this series Barham. In real life during this period the U-331 was on a number of uneventful patrols in the Med, and would later be attacked and sunk on November 17, 1942 while on her 10th wartime patrol.

It is interesting to note that the vessel was damaged after an engagement with a Lockheed Hudson bomber that left it crippled on the surface and unable to submerge. The U-Boat signaled surrender to the Hudson while the British destroyer HMS Wilton was ordered to move in and sieze the boat. However at this time a flight of torpedo-bombers from the carrier HMS Formidable launched an attack on the damage U-Boat (apparently unaware of its surrender), strafing it with machinegun fire and eventually sinking it with a torpedo.

The default submarine selection is a Type VII-C/41 (1942 series) U-Boat, and as with other single player missions I am running the game at a moderately increased realism setting of 49%. The primary objective of the scenario is to engage merchant ships, a goal that in my opinion is too vague to be useful to the player going into the mission.

The message to “report contact with convoy and engage” has no material impact to the successful completion of the scenario.

At the very beginning of the mission I raise my periscope and observe a British Task Force directly in front of me at less than 1,000 meters, moving left to right across my bow in a perfect T angle of attack.

Son of a bitch.

This contingent of warships consists of Dido Light Cruisers and a big fat Nelson Battleship, which is screening a small convoy of merchant shipping operating some 4,000 meters off the port side of the warships.

Checking the mission orders interface I see that the merchant ships are the priority targets of the scenario. I have played this mission previously and have engaged the warships first, several times sinking the battleship but never actually winning the scenario. I then checked the mission editor and had seen where the parameters for victory are to sink 20,000 tons of merchant shipping. Given that fact any torpedo “wasted” on a warship would not count towards the goal required for success.

In my opinion this is just poor scenario design. Why put a significant Task Force directly in the face of the player submarine and then create a situation where engaging it would mean almost certain mission failure? In real life had the U-331 come back to the docks and reported that they sunk 20,000 tons, but took a pass of a set of cruisers and a battleship, the captain would have probably been summarily executed. 

Sinking a battleship is a big sexy propaganda sell in the press (whether the Admiralty admits the loss or not), and always took precedence in the media over merchant shipping.

Using the Crew & Damage Management interface I stock up the bow torpedo room with a full complement of personnel to increase efficiency as I am using realistic torpedo loading times.

My available weapons load out is much improved over the previous single player scenarios and features several wakeless electric torpedoes such as the T III (G7e), and two T I FaT I (G7a) gas/steam torpedoes that have a ladder search pattern guidance capability that can be configured using the Torpedo Data Computer.

Ignoring the British Task Force directly in front of me, I set my sights on a T2 Tanker and fire a single electric torpedo at it from a range of 4,403 meters. The fish is configured to a depth of 10.5 meters and a magnetic pistol setting to detonate under the keel of the merchant vessel.

As soon as I release the torpedo at the target I witness a German bomber shot down over the convoy and crash directly into the sea behind my tanker.

The first torpedo attack fails as the convoy begins to scatter about while maneuvering evasively. In the inset another German torpedo-bomber is shot down by the Allied Task Force and would eventually crash into a Victory Cargo merchant ship.

Sensing a cheap kill I configure another electric torpedo at a 3 meter depth with an impact pistol setting and fire it at the crippled ship from a range of 2,876 meters. This would prove to be yet another waste of a warhead as the ship would eventually maneuver in such a way as to inadvertently avoid being hit.

I turn back to the T2 Tanker that I missed on my first shot and this time I configure the FaT torpedo for a 10.5 meter depth and a magnetic pistol, with a straight run distance of 2,500 meters. In hindsight this was a waste of a valuable torpedo as I should have waited for a less advanced warhead to become available as the tanker appears to be listing, possibly from some damage due to the Luftwaffe air attacks.

Now I am getting frustrated and make hasty decisions. Here I fire off an unknown torpedo type set at a 3 meter depth and an impact pistol at a Troop Transport approximately 2 kilometers away. I have yet to cause a bit of damage to this small convoy (the flaming merchant on the horizon was struck by airplane debris).

Finally at 6:01 I land my first blow on the convoy with this strike against the Troop Transport (however it did not destroy the target).

At this point I have one torpedo ready, one being loaded, and two in the fore reserves (in addition to the one preloaded aft tube and single aft reserve).

Here I am firing off a standard configuration of a 3 meter depth and an impact pistol setting at the sweet spot of a C2 Cargo ship approximately 1,800 meters away. Frustration is mounting among the crew as we are going through an awful lot of work with absolutely nothing to show for it. My Weapons Officer asks why I let the Nelson Battleship go earlier, so I shot him.

At 6:05 the torpedo aimed at the C2 Cargo ship strikes the hull and detonates, however the vessel had altered course and took the impact forward of the superstructure and therefore did not immediately break apart and give me credit for a kill.

I shot my Weapons Officer again. He is bleeding pretty badly.

Bound and determined to sink that damn tanker, I fire off another 3 meter depth impact pistol high speed fish at the listing hulk, not caring too much anymore about angle on bow…the WO has lost so much blood that his speech is starting to slur.

The torpedo would hit the tanker at 6:09 and do nothing that I could determine: at this point I am beginning to wonder if the scenario is bugged somehow due to the aircraft hitting various ships, possibly rendering them invincible.

Finally at 6:12 I receive notice that the Troop Transport has sunk for 8,032 tons. I allow the medic to attend to the WO at this point as things are starting to look up a bit.

Here I am making a series of course corrections to align the bow of my U-Boat up with Super Tanker, the extraterrestrial merchant vessel made of Kryptonite.

At 1,352 meters I fire a 3 meter depth impact pistol fast setting torpedo at the sweet spot of the T2 Tanker.

At 6:27 the fish strikes the hull of the tanker but yet again does no discernable damage. The Weapons Officer is in hiding and I cannot find him at the moment to shoot him again. This sinkable tug boat is cursed.

With my patience wearing quite thin I immediately configure the next available torpedo and fire it at the sweet spot at 6:28.

At 6:30 this fish would also strike in the perfect spot yet seemingly do nothing to the floating hulk. I want credit for this beast and if I have to stick around until nightfall to hammer it with the deck gun I will. 

At this point I am actually thinking about ramming the damn thing.

At 6:37 I waste a valuable FaT torpedo on the T2 Tanker. Had I remained focused on the task at hand, I would have swung my boat around and expended the aft torpedoes before releasing this fish.

That shot landed at 6:38 and set the vessel ablaze (yay progress): during this time I dived to approximately 30 meters while a lone destroyer came to investigate, only to immediately turn and leave the area.

Finally at 6:59 after five torpedoes the T2 Tanker breaks up and sinks to the ocean floor, crediting me with 10,521 tons worth of merchant vessel.

At this point I only have one torpedo loaded in the bow and one in topside reserve which requires me to surface to obtain it, in addition to the aft warheads.

With the British Task Force and convoy ships having long departed the area, I surface the boat after 7 PM and order ahead standard in search of additional targets in an attempt to complete the scenario. At the same time I also order the torpedo crew to begin moving the externally stored T I (G7a) warhead below and forward to the bow.

The time on the surface allows several critical elements to be refreshed, such as oxygen reserve and electric batteries.

I would eventually make my way all the way to the enemy port at Valetta and spot a big fat T2 Tanker tied to the pier, but frankly with the issues I had with the last tanker and the immense ASW presence the risk was too great and I abandoned the idea of raiding the docks.

Here while running on the surface I plot a search pattern at the mouth of a known convoy route just to west of Marsala.

At 8:08 the next morning while patrolling on the surface we are swiftly attacked by an aircraft and have to crash dive as it drops a depth charge directly in front of the boat.

Although we suffered no damage, it could have been catastrophic if it landed 20 feet behind where it did. The Happy Times are but a distant memory for those who are stuck inside the Mediterranean Sea in 1942.

After changing up the search pattern to some nonstandard lattice type designs, I happen upon a lone C2 Cargo ship traveling northwest. I position the U-Boat for an optimal kill shot and hope this can end the scenario.

At less than 1,000 meters I flood the remaining tube four and release a 3 meter depth impact pistol torpedo set to fast. The aiming point is the sweet spot on the C2, just between the flag and the smoke stack.

At 01:13 I record my final successful engagement having bagged the cargo ship.

The Captain’s Log details my three kills before exiting the battlespace.

After-action Report

Three merchant ships sunk over a period of four days for a total tonnage of 24,953 to successfully complete the scenario. I am making it a point now to work my way out of danger and surface the boat to avoid the “U-Boat lost” message here.

Post Mortem

This is a tricky mission in my opinion because the British Task Force almost seems like bait thrown in by the scenario designer. It does add a difficult calculation to the mix with the primary objective focusing solely on merchant tonnage. In real life I would have engaged the battleship and sank it, then egressed the area to reload torpedoes and seek out another convoy to engage.

I certainly could have done the same here since the final sinking of the C2 Cargo was not part of the original convoy yet counted towards the victory tonnage required, but I opted instead to engage the small assembly of ships placed before me.

The result was that several torpedoes were wasted, and although I was not actually harassed by the Task Force the mission became drawn out, not the least of which was due to my failure to properly employ my aft torpedoes as I had just did it the previous scenario.

This mission was played on 7/24/15 on a Windows 7 machine.

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