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Platforms That Never Were: F-20

The F-20 started off as an upgraded version of the F-5, a low-end fighter that had enjoyed great quantities of export success. The F-5 saw only limited use (largely as an “aggressor” trainer) in US service, but was used extensively by the South Vietnamese and Iranian air forces.

The F-20 grew more advanced, to the point where it kept the basic appearance and layout of the F-5 but little else. Promoted as an economical, reliable fighter, it nonetheless attracted only tentative sales that were cancelled when it was clear the production run would not be large enough to be profitable.

Was the F-20’s fate cruel, a can-do little fighter sacrificed for the sake of shallow shininess? Maybe. First, it was always a “loophole” fighter, being most intensely pursued during a period of Carter administration policy that prevented the widespread export of “first-line” equipment. Once the F-16 could be sold to more than just the closest allies, it was. For all of the advances of the F-20, it was still an older design compared to the much newer and more upgradable F-16.

A RAND Corporation study on the F-20 was somewhat sympathetic but still remained skeptical. The paper noted that the claimed serviceability and reliability figures were from a handful of prototypes in an environment where any fighter could be made to look good (rather than many fighters in a field environment, or, in the case of the F-16, actual combat over Osirak and Lebanon). Also, it noted that by trying to match and even exceed the F-16, the Tigershark was getting more and more complex.

Finally, while the US Air Force did have a vested interest in getting as much of an economy of scale for the F-16 as possible, this was not necessarily a bad thing. A huge dual F-16/F-20 buy for the Air National Guard would have created logistical issues and given the appearance of even more pork politics in an industry already notorious for its porcine qualities.


With the addition of the F-20 to the Command Database, it can be used. The question is who would use it? The plane historically was shopped around to nearly everyone from India to Venezuela.

The most obvious users of the F-20 are:

  • Users of the F-5 replacing it with the F-20.
  • Air Forces that historically bought the F-16, but chose the F-20 instead.

If one is willing to be more fanciful, it can be put in the hands of anyone not politically wedded to non-Western aircraft. One paper even proposed donating two hundred Tigersharks to mainland China to pin down greater numbers of Soviet planes away from the European theater.

As for whether it would be a good choice, well, that’s for the scenario designers and players to find out.

The Two Yemeni Air Forces

April 2, 2015, scenario. The Yemeni government faces mundane no-confidence challenges that nonetheless undermine its authority, and a coup is feared. US drone strikes, with the inevitable civilian casualties, are angering the population, and the Americans are moving ever-stronger forces into the area, assuming a total collapse is imminent.

Enter the unnamed and fictional defense minister, who has restored Yemen’s creaking air force to a level of readiness unseen in many years. The goal is simple-conduct aggressive air patrols, and shoot down American drones to show the people that the government cares about its national sovereignty. There’s a small chance that the air armada massed in Djibouti will challenge the  inferior YAF, but would it? Drones are meant to be expendable-right? Riiight?

April 2, 2015, real life. Yemen, a long-divided state that has been barely united at best, is now completely dismembered. With a coup amidst its longstanding civil wars, the nation has fallen into chaos. The military’s heavy equipment, already suffering from years of poor funding and countless bases overrun, is being pounded relentlessly by Saudi-led airstrikes that aim to destroy anything the Houthis can use.

Quite a different situation. Regaining Honor, the previously mentioned scenario, was made in mid-2014. I guess I was wrong. :p

But I wasn’t wrong in a bad way. This wasn’t a “predicting ten of the last three financial crises” boast, I wasn’t advertising it as being what I thought would happen, and absolute realism wasn’t the goal.

(The goals were A: To put the player in the shoes of an outgunned third-world air force and see how they could manage against a superior opponent, and B: To give them, in the form of the initially vulnerable drones, a chance to see how far they wanted to push their luck. Simply stopping after shooting down a few and accepting less points rather than risking escalation is a perfectly acceptable way to play.)

Just interesting to see how the actual situation regarding the Yemeni Air Force on the scenario’s April 2 was about as far as could be from its condition on the real April 2.

How to Name a German Unit

A Short History of the BundeswehrBundeswehr

Shortly after the end of the second world war the demand for a new (West) German army became clear, even though it was decided at the Potsdam Conference that Germany should be demilitarized. The German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer considered joining the NATO as one of the most important goals for his government and it was considered an important step to regain sovereignty.

First preparations were made when Adenauer named the former General Gerhard Graf von Schwerin his “special adviser for security questions”. In 1950 the so called “Amt Blank” was formed under Theodor Blank which would later become the ministry of defense. Strictly speaking this was illegal but the western allies tolerated and supported the step. The office was supposed to make plans to form a paramilitary police force.

The Federal Republic joined the NATO and regained nearly full sovereignty in 1955. This was the official start for forming new armed forces.

The new armed forces were supposed to have an army (Heer), a navy (Bundesmarine) and an air force (Luftwaffe) with a strength of less than 500.000 men. The FRG (Federal Republic of Germany) also assured that the armed forces would be part of a European defense system and that no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons would be developed. The United States agreed to deliver large amounts of weapons since Germany did not have any capability to build weapons.

Adenauer visits troopsThe Bundeswehr was officially founded on the 12th of November, 1955 – the 200th birthday of the prussian general and military reformer Gerhard von Scharnhorst. 

The nucleus of the new armed forces was the paramilitary Bundesgrenzschutz (Federal Border Guard). Nearly all the officers and personnel that joined the new army were former members of the Bundesgrenzschutz. The naval part part of the BGS was completely integrated into the Bundeswehr.

Finding a name was difficult: Wehrmacht was of course unusable so it was decided to use the name Bundeswehr since it was similar to the Reichswehr of the first German Republic. The proposal was made by the former General Hasso von Manteufel.

It was also difficult to find acceptable personal since nearly all potential officers and noncommissioned officers had served in the Wehrmacht. A committee was formed to test the candidates for the rank of colonel upwards. In 1959 of the 14.900 officers 12.360 had served in the Wehrmacht or the Reichswehr and 300 in the Waffen-SS. Confronted with that fact Adenauer answered: “NATO does not take 18 year old generals”.

The first bases were Andernach for the army, Wilhelmshaven for the navy and Nörvenich for the air force. A draft and reserve system was implemented.

HeerHeer

The plan was to form 12 divisions by the end of 1959. After consulting with military experts like the former Feldmarschall Erich von Manstein it was decided to make the Heer fully mechanized; with brigades as the smallest operational unit instead of regiments.

Three Korps were formed with 4 divisions each and a tank regiment as a mobile reserve. In addition to the field army a territorial army was formed which was not under NATO command.

Naming (Heer)

ManöverThe divisions were formed as tank or mechanized divisions in turn so that the 1., 3., 5., … were tank divisions and the 2., 4., 6., … were mechanized divisions. This pattern was disrupted by the 1. Gebirgsdivision (8) and the 1. Luftlandedivision (9) so that the next formed division was a tank division (10. Panzerdivision). Usually a Panzerdivision that had not reached full strength was classified as Panzergrenadierdivision.

The Brigades were numbered in the order they were formed. The 1., 2. and 3. Brigade where part of the 1. Panzerdivision, 4., 5., and 6. Brigade part of the 2. Panzergrenadierdivision. The army was supposed to have 36 Brigades. The additional Brigades of the Territorialheer started with the number 52. Every Panzerdivision had two Panzerbrigaden and one Panzergrenadierbrigade. Every Panzergrenadierdivision had one Panzerbrigade and two Panzergrenadierbrigaden.

The regiments were numbered 100, 200 and 300. The 300. Panzerregiment was never formed though.

The Battalions were numbered after the Brigades so the 1st Battalion of the 1st Brigade is the 11th Brigade. For example: The Panzerbataillon 64 was a Battalion of the Panzerbrigade 6. The Panzerbatallion 363 was an Batallion of the Panzerbrigade 36.

Today with only two divisions left and a lot of shifting units around its no longer possible to recognize the division or brigade a battalion belongs to by the number.

Some units are special training units and have a Lehr in the name and some units have an addition to the name usually referring to region they are stationed in.

Overview (Heer)

  • Heer – Army
  • Panzerdivision (PzDiv) – Armored Division
  • Panzergrenadierdivision (PzGrenDiv) – Mechanized Division
  • Gebirgsdivision (GebDiv) – Mountain Division
  • Luftlandedivision (LLDiv) – Airborne Division
  • Jägerdivision (JDiv) – Light Infantry Division
  • Artilleriebrigade (ArtBrig) – Artillery Brigade
  • Gebirgsjägerbrigade (GbJgBrig) – Mountain Infantry Brigade
  • Pionierbrigade (PiBrig) – Engineer Brigade
  • Luftlandebrigade (LLBrig) – Airborne Brigade
  • Artillerieregiment (ArtRgt) – Artillery Regiment
  • Falschirmjägerregiment (FschJgRgt) – Paratrooper Regiment
  • Artilleriebataillon (ArtBtl) – Artillery Battalion
  • Pionerregemient (PiRgt) – Engineer Regiment
  • Panzerartilleriebatallion (PzArtBtl) – Self-propelled Artillery Battalion
  • Feldartilleriebataillon (FArtBtl) – Field Artillery Battalion
  • Raketenartilleriebataillon (RakArtBtl) – Rocket Artillery Battalion
  • Gebirgsjägerbatallion (GebJgBtl) – Mountain Infantry Battalion
  • Aufklärungsbatallion (AufklBtl) – Reconnaissance Battalion
  • Pionerbatallion (PiBtl) – Engineer Battalion
  • Gebirgspionierbattalion (GebPiBtl) – Mountain Engineer Battalion
  • Panzerpionierbattalion (PzPiBtl) – Armored Engineer Battalion
  • Falschirmjägerbattalion (FschJgBtl) – Paratrooper Battalion
  • Panzeraufklärungsbattalion (PzAufklBtl) – Armoured Reconnaissance Battalion

MarineMarine

The Marine is the smallest branch of the German armed forces. It traces its roots back to the Reichsflotte (Imperial Fleet) of the revolutionary era of 1848-52. When the Marine was formed, it integrated several units of the former Kriegsmarine. Also included minesweeper units and small patrol vessels of the federal border guards.

During the Cold War the German navy had three major tasks:

  • Keep the entries to the Baltic sea open
  • Keep the navies of Warsaw Pact bottled inside the Baltic
  • Protect the Atlantic convoys

The duties have changed since the end of the Cold War. The German navy is now operating worldwide and is participating in counter terrorism and peacekeeping missions.

Naming (Marine)

ZerstörerThe first ships the german navy received were several Sloops and Destroyers of the Royal Navy for to train the sailors. Those units were named after famous Prussian officers:

  • Speer
  • Gneisenau
  • Graf Spee

The first Zerstörer were simply numbered (Zerstörer 1 – Zerstörer 6), the next class of destroyers was named after German countries. The last three destroyers lend from america were named after high ranking officers of the Wehrmacht. This was very controversial especially when it was realized that Mölders was a devoted Nazi and Rommel not involved in the resistance against Hitler. Later it was decided not to name any ships after Persons:

  • Lütjens
  • Rommel
  • Mölders

The Fregatten build in Germany are named after German countries or big German cities. The ships named Emden even carried the iron cross the 1st Emden had received in World War 1. Some of the Fregatten are often refereed to as destroyers outside Germany since they are similar in size and armament to destroyers. During the first years the Fregatte were classified as Geleitboote since the term Fregatte was not common in the imperial navy:

  • Augsburg
  • Emden
  • Schleswig-Holstein
  • Sachsen

The Korvetten are named after German cities:

  • Braunschweig
  • Oldenburg
  • Erfurt

The Schnellboote are named after birds and carnivores. The remaining Schnellboote are supposed to be replaced by a new class of corvettes in the near future.

  • Silbermöwe
  • Raubmöwe
  • Panther
  • Hyäne

Minesweepers and Minehunters are usually named after smaller cities:

  • Göttingen
  • Koblenz
  • Tübingen
  • Fulda

Landing crafts are named after fish:

  • Lachs
  • Schlei
  • Wels

The Replenishment Ships are named after German cities. The three ships of the Berlin-class are named after cities where a parliament was placed.

  • Lüneburg
  • Glücksburg
  • Bonn

Submarines traditionally are only numbered with a couple of exceptions for boats formerly used by the Kriegsmarine.

  • Wilhelm Bauer
  • Hai
  • Hecht

The Marine also operates a small number of planes and Helicopters for maritime surveillance, SAR and to be used on board of the frigates. The are organised into Marinefliegergeschwader (MFG).

  • Marinefliegergeschwader 3 „Graf Zeppelin“

Overview (Marine)

  • Zerstörer – Destroyer
  • Fregatte – Frigate
  • Korvette – Corvette
  • Schnellboot – Fast Attack Craft
  • Minenräumboot – Minesweeper
  • Minenjagdboot – Minehunter
  • Landungsboot – Landing Craft
  • Einsatzgruppenversorger – Replenishment Ship
  • U-Boot – Submarine

Trivia: The Gorch Fock

BundeswehrGermany had lost all schoolships after WW2 so it was decided to build a new ship after the same plans and name it Gorch Fock since the original Gorch Fock was delivered to the soviets and renamed Tovarishch.
The ship is named after the german Writer Johann Kinau who died in the Battle of Jutland and is supposed to be the most depicted ship in history since it was depicted on the 10 Mark bill.

The Tovarishch was bought by a German foundation and named Gorch Fock again leading to the confusing situation that sometimes two similar looking ships with the same name visit the same port…

Luftwaffe

BundeswehrOne of the biggest obstacles for the new Luftwaffe was to overcome the 10 years gap since World War 2 as the demands on an air force have changed since the introduction of jet planes.

Many well-known fighter pilots who had fought with the Luftwaffe of the Wehrmacht joined the new  air force and underwent refresher training in the U.S. before returning to upgrade on the latest U.S.-supplied hardware. These included Erich Hartmann, Gerhard Barckhorn, Günther Rall and Johannes Steinhoff. Steinhoff would eventually become commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe. Josef Kammhuber, also made a significant career in the post-war Luftwaffe, retiring in 1962 as Inspekteur der Luftwaffe (Chief Inspector of the Air Force).

With the introduction of the Starfighter the Luftwaffe faced a crisis because in the early years the crash rate and number of dead pilots was very high and unacceptable to the public. That changed after training was intensified and changes were made to the plane. Still the Starfighter was replaced by the Phantom and the Tornado much earlier than in other air forces.

In case of war several units can be equipped with nuclear weapons provided by the United States.

The Luftwaffe was the first German unit to experience combat when Tornados of the Luftwaffe took part in Operation Deliberate Force.

Naming (Luftwaffe)

Several units received a honorific title in April 1961, the anniversary of the death of Manfred von Richthofen, after famous fighter pilots of the first world war:

  • Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 31 “Boelcke”
  • Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 51 “Immelmann”
  • Taktische Luftwaffengruppe “Richthofen”

The honorific title of the Jagdgeschwader 74 “Mölders” was removed in 2005 after a decision of the parliament that members of the Legion Condor should not be honored.
Additionally the Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 73 received the honorific title “Steinhoff”.

Overview (Luftwaffe)

Starfighter

  • Jagdgeschwader (JG) – Fighter Squadron
  • Jagdbombergeschwader (JaboG) – Fighter-bomber Squadron
  • Aufklärungsgeschwader (AG) – Reconnaissance Squadron
  • Leichtes Kampfgeschwader (LeKG) – Light Combat Squadron
  • Luftransportgeschwader (LTG) – Air Transport Squadron
  • Hubschraubergeschwader (HSG) – Helicopter Squadron
  • Hubschraubertransportgeschwader (HTG) – Transport Helicopter Squadron
  • Flugkörpergeschwader (FKG) – Rocket Squadron (Pershing)
  • Flugabwehrraketengeschwader (FlaRagG) – Anti-air Rocket Squadron
  • Flugabwehrraketenbataillon (FlaRakBtl) – Anti-air Rocket Battalion
  • Flugabwehrraketengruppe (FlaRakGrp) – Anti-air Rocket Group
  • Flugbereitschaft des Bundesministeriums der Verteidigung (FlBschftBMVg) – Special Air Mission
  • Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader ( TaktLwG) – Tactical Air Squadron

In 2014 all Jagdgeschwader and Jagdbombergeschwader were renamed to Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader.

The Tradition of the Bundeswehr

TruppenfahneThe question of tradition was and still is a very difficult one.

One movement wanted to resume the traditions all German armies including the Wehrmacht others saw the opportunity to make reforms.

Topics important for the identity of the Bundeswer:

  • The Prussian military reforms of 1807-1813 during the wars against Napoleon (freedom wars). Especially the perception of Scharnhorst that every citizen has to be a defender of his state.
  • The military resistance against Hitler and that real obedience includes resistance against injustice. The Wehrmacht itself can not be a source for traditions.
  • Traditions formed by the Bundeswehr: the citizen in Uniform and leadership development and civic education

The Bundeswehr was formed colours but that caused problems with other NATO countries and using flags of the imperial army was not a real solution. President Heinrich Lübke endowed new flags to the battalions of the army in 1964 as “visible sign of the performance of duties for the people and the country”.

The current Traditionserlass (traditions decree) emphasizes the importance of

  • the black-red-gold federal flag
  • the national anthem
  • the eagle of the federal coat of arms
  • the iron cross
  • the Oath of Service and the solemn pledge
  • the “Großer Zapfenstreich” (Grand Tattoo )
  • “Ich hatt einen Kammeraden” (“The good Comrade”)

New recruits are sworn in on the 20th July every year either at the Bendlerblock (the place von Staufenberg was shot) or in front of the Reichstag the seat of the german parliament. It symbolizes the connection between the Bundeswehr and the resistance against Hitler and the role as a “army of the parliament”.

Exception to the Rule

WachbattalionWhile no unit of the Bundeswehr was supposed to continue the tradition of former german units an exception was made for the Wachbattalion. When the Möllendorfdegen was rediscovered after the reunification of Germany the heirs of the last bearer asked what to do. The german President Richard von Weizsäcker confirmed that the sword should be restored to the Wachbattalion as the successor of the 1. Garde-Regiment zu Fuß of the imperial army and the Infanterie Regiment Nr. 9 of the Wehrmacht.

Von Weizsäcker and several members of the military resistance against Hitler had served in the Regiment Nr. 9 including Henning von Tresckow and Axel von dem Busche. The Wachbattalion also has close ties to the Hohenzollern Dynasty.

Pictures: Bundesarchiv (Federal Archive), Wikipedia (public domain).

The Scenario Adaptation Balancing Act

I’m reading an alternate history story, Zhirinovsky’s Russian Empire, a dystopian tale where the death of Boris Yeltsin during the failed 1991 coup in the USSR leads to the titular extremist becoming that country’s head, and thus leading the world into over a decade of not-so-cold war.

There are some parts of it where I go “that would make an interesting enough Command scenario.” So I load up the scenario editor, start to put the Moldovan and Russian units, and then-lose enthusiasm.

This has happened to me many times before. Each time I read/watch some work of fiction that is theoretically adaptable to Command, each time I get the idea to try an adaptation, and each time the scenario ends up stalling in the editor, never getting anywhere beyond a rough draft.

Now, there are plenty of original scenarios that have never progressed beyond “make the log folder even more cluttered”, but that none of my attempted adaptations made it anywhere made me think there was something beyond issues with the specific scenarios.

There’s of course the possibility, however small, of the original author taking issue with the adaptation This would almost certainly not be the case with ZRE’s author, but for the rather thin-skinned writers who I’d considered adapting under the codename “Operation Silk Purse” (to make a bad story into a good scenario, hence the name), that cannot be counted out. But that would only apply to restrictions on releasing the scenario, not on making it.

Then, in the chat, I found the words for what I’d meant “Writing a story is a lot more fun than adapting one.”

With any existing work of fiction, there are some restrictions. With an original story, there are none. Want to write a straight-from-the-declassified CIA document tale of second-line subs rushing into the Atlantic? Sure. Want to do a silly plot where Argentina bombs badly named Uruguayan banks? Go right ahead. Want to do a generally faithful reenactment of an early, ferociously difficult Red Flag exercise? All right.

That being said, there are some instances where a scenario should be precisely researched (if one is looking for an exact reenactment of a specific battle, or just desires great attention to detail). And that’s when I found what I thought the problems with adaptations were-they have the weaknesses of both freeform and strict scenarios, but not the strengths.

What that amounts to is this-you’re stuck in the confines of the existing work, sometimes rigidly so. However, you still have a lot of blanks to fill (Ok, look at the surplus Soviet bases in the area to see what the Union of Independent States would have, now see how many of the fighters on them would be operational, etc..), as only the most dull and literalist work of fiction would spell everything on both sides out in exact detail.

So I found there was a balancing act that didn’t exist in original scenarios, even those based off of nonfiction historical references (since I used such ones as inspirations rather than situations I would attempted to duplicate exactly.) This act made making them less enjoyable

Making an adaptation scenario is not impossible. Other adaptations have appeared, most notably several based on the novel The War that Never Was. That book is somewhat anomalous in that the extreme detail and matter-of-fact tone make it good as a scenario-inspiration book (and to me, very bad as an actual novel). The inspiration to complete an adaptation scenario may very well come to me as well, ending my long “losing streak” of proposals.

But I still find it a lot more fun to write a story than adapt one.

Why the F-35?

The F-35 is one of those projects that people love to hate, and it’s very easy to do so. It’s incredibly expensive (the entire program, out to about 2050, will end up costing nearly $1 trillion), the aircraft itself has had teething issues, and questions have been raised about more or less every aspect of the F-35’s performance. However, I think that the F-35 is a highly suitable successor to the F-16, the F/A-18C/D, and the AV-8B, for a number of different reasons.

Let’s start with cost. The F-35 is planned to cost $85 million when full rate production starts, and costs $106 million right now, in LRIP 8. Furthermore, the Israelis bought 19 at $145 million each (including the entire rest of the support system). These are big numbers, but consider this – the UAE just bought 35 F-16 E/Fs, the latest and most comparable model, for between $161 million and $200 million each, also including support costs. The F-35 costs less than the latest F-16, then. The project estimates operating costs between 10% and 20% higher than those of the F-16, with current (test) O&S costs about 42% higher.

To discuss performance, we need to consider all the various things the F-35 does and consider them separately, comparing its performance to the airplane that it’s replacing in that role.

Fighter/Air superiority

Neither the F-35 nor the aircraft that it is replacing are air superiority fighters, per se. Instead, they are designed to make things on the ground explode first, then fight other aircraft second. However, the F-16 and F/A-18C/D have set quite a high bar for the F-35’s performance in this role, and it at least needs to do as well as its predecessors. In general, the F-35 doesn’t end up that badly in comparison with the F-16, at least kinematically. While performance data is mostly classified, pilots have said that the the F-35 can outturn a F-16 when both are carrying combat loadouts, a advantage made even more profound when the drag of the F-16 is increased by adding the conformal fuel tanks on the F-16 E/F. Additionally, the F-35’s acceleration at the same effective range is similar to that of an F-16, again putting it in approximately the same ballpark of kinematic performance.

Additionally, in comparison to the F-16 and F/A-18C/D, the F-35 has a critical advantage: IRST. The F-35 integrates a all aspect IR system called EO-DAS, combining IRST, MAWS, and navigation cameras into one unified system. This allows the pilot to see through the aircraft, removing the rear-facing blind spot as well as enabling the pilot to look through the floor of the aircraft. When combined with the other major benefits of IRST, most notably long range visual identification, this provides the F-35 with a major advantage against the legacy aircraft that it replaces.

In terms of radars, the F-35 wins yet again. The F-16 is the only predecessor that can even come close to competing, since in it’s E/F incarnation it carries the AN/APG-80 or a derivative of such. However, the F-35’s AN/APG-81 has 65%more elements, providing it with better beamforming ability.

Loadout-wise, the F-35 performs somewhat worse when limited to internal configurations alone. Until a tentative block 4 upgrade (to 6 internal), it can only carry 4 AMRAAMs internally, compared to the F-16E’s 4xAMRAAM + 2xAIM-9X or the F/A-18E/F’s 6xAMRAAM + 2xAIM-9X. This can be rectified by adding external weapons, up to the same 6xAMRAAM+2xAIM-9X as the F/A-18E/F, but the performance takes a hit and LO advantages vanish entirely.

Strike

The F-16 and F/A-18 were superlative strike fighters, and the F-35 continues that tradition. The platform provides better penetration, range, and ESM, all while maintaining similar payloads and self-defence capability. The F-35 can reach a combat radius of 613nm when carrying the maximum internal 2x2000lb+2xAMRAAM internal loadout, while maintaining penetration. Combined with its substantially higher usable payload (18,000lbs vs 17,000lbs (F-16) or 13,700lbs (F/A-18C/D)), the F-35 can hit its targets harder, further away.

The F-35 additionally adds the EOTS sniper pod system, essentially the well regarded Sniper XR pod, except mounted internally. This prevents the F-35 from having to carry a heavy and draggy external target designator pod as the F-16 and F/A-18 do, and enables every strike package member to self-designate LGB strikes.

Furthermore, the VLO capabilities of the aircraft become hugely useful in this regime. The F-35 can approach closer to radar sites without detection, enabling it to maximize range by reducing deviations around EW systems as well as penetrate deeper before employing weapons. This capability is largely retained against even metric-band systems, though detection range with these systems is increased due to larger RCS.

CAS

The main advantage of the F-35 in the CAS role is the integrated sniper pod. Every F-35 will have an optical system on it, not always true of the prior platforms (especially Harrier). This enables any F-35 to be able to provide CAS, no matter the low-altitude environment, while the VLO features enhance survival against medium range threats. Modern sniper pods provide substantial resolution, even from very high altitudes.

This high resolution capability enables identification and accurate targeting, even when friendly infantry is close to the target, and also enables the FAC to acquire better battlefield intelligence when combined with the ROVER datalink system.

Based on these features, the F-35 can provide comparable or better performance in the roles that it was designed for, all at somewhat reduced cost. Because of this, I think that the F-35 is a sensible investment as the US’s next fighter platform.

Guidelines and Suggestions on Side Proficiency

I eagerly took advantage of the side proficiency setting options in Command as soon as they became available, using them in many of my scenarios. When 1.06 was released with the option of setting proficiency for individual units, I became even more interested.

Many have undoubtedly asked “what determines the ideal setting for a side”? Now I can give the rough guidelines for how I choose proficiency settings-in the event that I choose them. Before I continue, I should emphasize that there is no harm in leaving both sides at “Regular”. Having done it myself often, the scenarios play extremely well even without the different effects caused by side proficiency, and it should not be something that the scenario author should obsess too much about (in other words, when in doubt, just go back to “Regular” for all sides).

That being said, here are my basic guidelines.

Regular

Regular is the default proficiency, I interpret as a ‘mixed’ force. Not (necessarily) an elite or battle-experienced faction, but one that has seen some fighting, or at least conducted reasonable training, and that knows something. From “Regular”, the faction can be more or less proficient.

Novice and Cadet

“Cadet”-level proficiency factions/units are ones that I interpret as having just a lack of something-maybe it’s training in the wrong way, maybe it’s a lack of resources, an over-politicized crew selection, or something different. “Novice”-level ones either have a combination of those or one of those carried to an extreme degree. They can also be, as their names signify, new to the equipment in question and thus unable to use it to the fullest.

Veteran and Ace

“Veteran”-level proficiency exists in those factions/units that have something more. They have the combat experience that their name implies, they can be highly selective and demanding in their training, or they can have a degree of both. “Ace”-level was one I felt uneasy applying to entire sides-I reserved it for the elite “Aggressor” sides in training missions, with the (player’s) trainees having much less skill.

So that is how it often works in my mind with side-level proficiency. Note that I avoided using specific national examples. This is because such comparisons lead to ugly beliefs, and also because the same nation can change dramatically over time.

Enter 1.06 and its ability to set proficiency for individual units. This allows for even more flexibility. Here’s how I changed my guidelines to account for it.

-Natural variation in proficiency. Some units will be above the median proficiency and some will be below it. A few pilots will stand out, and thus have a much higher proficiency than the side as a whole.

-Selectivity in units, either for better or worse. Either the best aircraft get the best crews-or they’re new/pushing the crews to the limit, and thus get lower proficiency.

-If two or more countries are on the same playable side, the variations that would make one nation’s proficiency different from another can be shown while keeping them both in the player’s control.

-Related to “selectivity”, certain units within a side (one example being special-forces supporting aviation like the 160th SOAR) can be set to a proficiency that matches their maximum training.

-Also related to “selectivity”, when I use two-seat training versions of an aircraft or dedicated trainers in a combat role, I take it as a sign that the instructors of that air force are thus being pushed into a front-line role in them and thus up the proficiency of those aircraft.

This is admittedly much work, so it is acceptable and understandable to either stay with “Regular” or select a uniform proficiency, especially in expansive scenarios. But adding the styling of different proficiencies can make a scenario that much more distinctive.

The Power of Overlays

One of the great things patch 1.07 added to the game was the possibility to load several layers of overlays automatically and an easier way to build a package to distribute them together with your scenarios. Overlays make the game more beautiful and add a great amount of immersion to the game.

Preparations

To make great looking overlays you need four things:

  1. GMap.Net
  2. An image editing program
  3. A text editor
  4. The game

When you are about to make overlays for a scenario, you most likely already have Command installed. Baloogan has modified GMap.Net specially for use with Command. His version can be found here: Baloogan’s GMap. As an image editing program I use GIMP. GIMP is free and can be downloaded here. To edit the .pgw files you can use every text editor but personally I prefer Notepad++.

Making the Overlays

When you want to make Overlays with several layers it is important to know which areas are to be covered by the scenario and where the player will zoom in to see more details and how much details he might want to see.
At the moment I prefer making up to five layers of overlays where necessary, with an increasing level of detail.

Getting started

Start up Command and load the scenario you are interested in, or create a new blank scenario, to get an overview over the Area the overlays are supposed to cover. Now start GMap and scroll to the Area you need.

Overlay GMap overlays

Of course a map doesn’t look good as an overlay but it makes orientation easier. To create your first overlay switch to one of the satellite views (1). I prefer BingSatelliteMap. After that click at “Get Static” and adjust the zoom level. Starting at Level 9 is a good idea when you want to cover a bigger Area without too much detail. Be careful a bigger area increases the risk that the overlay doesn’t fit.

Overlay GMap 2 overlays

Once you are are satisfied click “Generate” This will create two files at your desktop (‘.png and ‘.pgw’). To test if everything went right go to Command and load the overlay.

Overlay CMANO 1 overlays

After this continue to make overlays at different zoom levels. I like to use the levels 9, 12,13,14 and 15. In my example I am interested in Hamburg in general and the Hamburg Airport in particular. You can of course use every combination of zoom levels but be careful: with higher zoom levels the files can become very big very fast. This is not so much a problem as long as you only want to use the overlays yourself but it is problematic when you plan to share your work with others. The size of the files in the example is at this point 66mb.

Overlay CMANO 2 overlays

This already works but looks a little bit too artificial. To change that you can use GIMP. Open the overlays one after another and

  • Use the “free select tool” (1) to cut everything away you don’t want.
  • Click at: “Alpha to selection” (2, right click),
  • Select, “Shrink”, (3, right click)
  • Select “Feather”. (3, right click)

Gimp 1 overlays

This reduced the file size to 56mb and is a good opportunity to rename the files to something more convenient. It makes loading the overlays easier. They have to be named in a certain order since the overlay loaded last will be placed over the overlays loaded before. I use the following pattern: “0_Hamburg1.png, 1_Hamburg2.png,…” The first number represents the zoom level if you have made several files with the same level. It is important that the corresponding .png and .pgw files have the same name.
Now we should take a look at what we have achieved:

CMANO2 overlays

This looks like something we can use for a scenario.

Adjusting the Size

56mb is not a suitable size for distributing the files to others. An easy way to reduce the size of the files without loosing too much details is the “scale image” feature of GIMP. Rescaling the pictures by 50 percent reduces the file size to 10.2mb.
After those changes it is important to edit the .pgw files accordingly. You can open the files with Notepad++ or every other text editor. The first and the fourth line have to be doubled.

The magic of Lua

As mentioned before, one of the features introduced with 1.07 was the possibility to use Lua to load overlays using an event. This and the ability to make a package makes using and distributing overlays much easier.

 Preparing the overlays

First make sure your game does have the “Command Modern Air  Naval Operations\AttachmentRepo” directory. Load an existing scenario or create a new blank one. Go to “Editor->Scenario Attachment” (1). A new window will open. Click at “Create new, Type of: Map Overlay (Single Image)” (2). Load one of the overlays and repeat the step for every file. The game will save the files in the AttachmentRepo folder.

Package1 overlays

You can skip the next step but it makes writing the script easier, especially when you have already other attachments in the AttachmentRepo directory.
Go to “editor->Package scenario for distribution”. A .zip file will be created in the directory you saved the scenario. Unpack the “attachments” folder. This way it is easier to find the GUID used in the Lua script.

Setting up the event

The best way to load the overlays is an event using the “scenario is loaded” trigger. It is important to set the event to “Event is repeatable”.
To Load the overlays the triggered event needs an action. The action is the Lua script. Insert “ScenEdit_UseAttachment(‘AttachmentNameOrID’)” for every overlay you want to load. To find the GUID go back to the “attachments” folder you unpacked earlier. The important part is to load the overlays in the right order. Search for the “0_Hamburg1.png” and copy the name of the folder, for example “ac15fb3a-d2c1-45c9-91f7-e4deb7a4991c”. Repeat that for every overlay. Your script should look similar to this:

ScenEdit_UseAttachment('ac15fb3a-d2c1-45c9-91f7-e4deb7a4991c')
ScenEdit_UseAttachment('30e0c9fe-130b-491c-aa8a-88094197f26d')
ScenEdit_UseAttachment('a81e0a5c-e822-4cc8-856f-879a873ee98d')
ScenEdit_UseAttachment('516e919d-ea61-48f7-bdf1-6d5c3d8583a5')
ScenEdit_UseAttachment('5083bee2-7d99-4e40-a17c-29dd97e75f07')

Testing the package

Delete the .zip you created earlier and repeat the steps to build a package for distribution. Now delete to contend of the AttachmentRepo. Unpack the newly created .zip and load the scenario. The event should fire and the overlays appear automatically.

Using the package

Using the package is similar to the last step above. Just unzip the files into any directory and load the scenario. The attached overlays will be moved into the AttachmentRepo and be loaded every time the scenario is started.