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Unintended Rapid Raptor Deployment

The Air Force has recently began training for so-called “Rapid Raptor” deployments-plans to move a small unit of their deadliest fighters to any dangerous area very quickly. While I might have heard the Rapid Raptor name, until recently it wasn’t in my mind.

That is, except when I made a scenario where just that occurs. Taking place during the 2013 Syrian chemical weapons crisis, immediate action is necessary to destroy a group of the Assad regime’s L-39s before they can be modified for chemical spraying and dispersed. Because there isn’t time to deploy a full package into what remains a heavy air defense system despite its age and obsolescence, a small group of planes will have to do the job all by themselves-these planes being the F-22 Raptors. I released the scenario and gave it the joking name “Operation Square Peg”, as it involved the air-superiority F-22s in a ground attack role.

After Square Peg’s release, I moved on to other scenarios, and didn’t seem to pay it much attention-until there was talk in the chat about making a Rapid Raptor scenario. The discussion of what circumstances would merit a small group of those planes (as opposed to either non-intervention or a larger deployment) was ongoing, and without solid answers.

At some point, I suddenly realized that a Rapid Raptor scenario had already been made-and that I’d made it. Square Peg fit the criteria for such a deployment, and while it was not exactly the same (ten fighters, as opposed to multiples of four), it was still a good impression.

Quite interesting.

Chatroom Downtime

Hey guys, this weekend I’m moving so the chatroom will be offline for a period. I’m expecting it back up Monday at the earliest, Wednesday at the latest.

There is a backup IRC chatroom, please use this webchat or navigate to Freenode #baloogan if you know how to IRC.

Baloogan Campaign 2015

BalooganCampaign.com started back in August 2013 as a place to organize recordings of my streams of Command and other games as well as providing future stream scheduling. Before BalooganCampaign I’ve been interested in Warfare Sims for more than a decade now.

Throughout 2014 BC expanded to include a YouTube channel, a set of plugins, a chatroom, a wiki, a Command database viewer, a tumblr photo/video blog, a twitter feed, and a forum. Most importantly I got to know a number of you guys who make up our little community.

2014 saw a number of BC milestones, 1.5 million hits on the wiki, 1300 subscribers on YouTube, 200 followers on Twitch.tv, 275 twitter followers, 5000 community submitted posts on the tumblr photo blog, and a quarter million unique sessions on BalooganCampaign.com! Truly a banner year for BC!

With the dawn of a new year I’m very pleased to introduce the first Baloogan Campaign authors: Coiler12, JanMasterson & MiGF.

Coiler12 is a prolific scenario author, with many scenarios released and in the community scenario pack. Chances are you have played a Coiler12 scenario! He brings his expertise in Command scenario design to the table, along with his Command experience too!

JanMasterson shares his insight into European militaries. His article on french air force designations as well as his work on orders of battle (Italian Navy, Chinese Air Force, Danish Navy, Dutch Navy) have shined a spotlight onto topics that usually fly under the radar.

What will 2015 bring?

  • More streams!
  • More articles!
  • More authors!
  • And a podcast!

I’m working on doing a series of podcasts titled “Please Remain Calm” with TheHistoricalGamer focusing on all the issues in the world that give you a really warm and fuzzy feeling. Warm, from the thermonuclear fireball; and fuzzy from the radiation poisoning!

The Kuril Islands War that Wasn’t-How Scenarios Stall

Late 1993. Russia’s eyes are focused on the showdown between Yeltsin and the parliament, the crisis that would end the country’s experiment with democracy almost as soon as it began. But in the Far East, a seemingly long-defeated adversary hopes to take advantage of it…

Fleets of ships and aircraft rush from Hokkaido and strike at the two disputed Kuril Islands, thinking that the collapsed nation is too politically and militarily weak to do anything but quickly give up…

The Third Russo-Japanese War pits the previously restrained JSDF against the crumbled shell of Russia whose Soviet-era arsenal has not entirely been scuttled yet. This seems like a piece of cake for a scenario. And yet-it hasn’t developed into anything beyond a few scenario editor experiments.

Why?

Realism:

Not the biggest challenge. I’m willing to make concessions for the sake of playability, as long as its close enough. The hardest part would be the airbases, and that’s not very difficult.

Scenario creep:

This is a bigger problem. Either I end up with a restrained skirmish that doesn’t live up the full potential of the war, or I get a massive bloated mess where F-4s and MiG-23s fight to see who will be spared the indignity of the boneyard, Oscar subs and Kongo destroyers answer the question of Aegis vs. Granit, and you have to escort troop convoys.

Finding a middle ground is tough. So is making a scenario that takes advantage of both sides.

Uneven sides:

The initial assault on the Kuril Islands could very well be a difficulty five scenario by itself. This is because, especially at the time, Japan’s air-to-ground capability is very weak, and in no state to challenge Russia’s infamous defenses. A few platforms with unguided bombs are not exactly in good shape to conduct a SEAD campaign against even a Vietnam-vintage system. Against anything better, they will be utterly hopeless.

At sea and in the air, they’re better matched, although success depends on how many of the bigger Soviet-surplus platforms are still useable. The large submarine fleets make for something interesting-Pacific Fleet SSNs against top-of-the-line diesels operating in the defensive littoral element they excel in.

So it’s hard. But is it impossible? Nope. As the “Sakhalin or Karafuto” scenario shows, a modern Russo-Japanese War in Command is still possible. But the difficulties have nonetheless kept me from making it, and pushed me towards easier creations.

Armée de l’Air 101

Trying to figure out French Air Force units’ name meaning can result in a serious headache so here’s a quick guide that will hopefully alleviate the pain.

 

Let’s start with an example: “EC 03.004 Limousin“.

  • EC: is the “role” acronym. More on that later.
  • 03.004: here are the “Escadron” (squadron) designation followed by its original “Escadre” (Wing) one, so this squadron is the third of the fourth Escadre. Note that the format “3/4″ can be used interchangeably even within the same official document.
  • Limousin: is traditional name of the unit, often with a long history as most units can trace their roots back as far as WW1.

Now let’s deal with these role acronyms we may find in an Order Of Battle:

  • EC:“Escadron de Chasse” meaning, as you may guess, “Fighter Squadron”.
  • ECE: “Escadron de Chasse et d’Expérimentation”, “Experimentation Fighter Squadron”.
  • ED: “Escadron de Drones”, UAV Squadron.
  • EDCA: “Escadron de Détection et de Contrôle Aéroporté”, “Airborne Detection and Control Squadron”, flying E-3F AWACS.
  • EE: “Escadron d’Entrainement”, “Training Squadron”.
  • EEA:“Escadron Électronique Aéroporté”, “Airborne Electronic (Warfare) Squadron”, flying C-160G Gabriel.
  • EH: “Escadron d’Hélicoptères”.
  • ER:“Escadron de Reconnaissance”.
  • ET: “Escadron de Transport”.
  • ETD: “Escadron de Transformation Mirage 2000D”, “Conversion Squadron”, similar to “Operational Conversion Unit” you may be familiar to.
  • ETM: “Escadron de Transport Mixte”, “Mixed transport Squadron”, ie. flying both aircraft and helicopters.
  • ETO: “Escadron de Transition Opérationnelle”, more than an OCU, it’s an Advanced Jet Training unit where both Belgian and French pilot are training on the Alpha Jet.
  • ETOM: “Escadron de transport Outre-Mer”, “Overseas Transport Squadron”.
  • ETR: “Escadron de Transformation Rafale” meaning “Rafale Conversion Squadron”, a joint Armée de l’Air/Marine conversion unit.
  • GAM: “Groupe Aérien Mixte”, “Mixed transport Group”, that one is the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure’s airline (equivalent to the CIA).
  • GRV: “Groupe de Ravitaillement en Vol” meaning “Air refueling group”.

 Note that “Groupe” is a holdover from pre-1949 naming, at which point most Groupe were renamed Escadron to match with NATO’s “Squadron”, there’s no differences otherwise.

 

Trivia: randomly wandering online or actually researching data to improve your scenario you may come across French “Escadrille” (Flight) names, eg. “SPA 96″ or “SAL 6″ or even “BR 44″ and get, understandably, quite confused. Well, it comes from WW1 era during which the Escadrille’s name also informed spies and generals the same about the aircraft type it was flying, and that designation was kept as an element of tradition. So we have SPA for Spads, SAL for Salmson, BR for Breguet, C for Caudron, N for Nieuport and so forth.

Please note that the “Escadron” is the basic operational unit, thus an Escadrille is not an autonomous operational unit (in the AdA).

Also, a quick word on airbases. When you see “BA188″, don’t confuse with a British Airways flight, the French-speaking resource you are staring at in awe is probably more about the “Base Aérienne 188″, or Airbase #188, which is at Djibouti.

More could be said on the Marine Nationale (Navy), and will at some point, but just knowing that “BAN” is for “Base de l’Aéronautique Navale” (very much like Naval Air Station), “12F” is for “Flotille 12″ (12th Flotilla of course) and “22S” is for “Escadrille 22″ should be enough.

Now with these new tools take a look at the French Order of Battle!

Voilà! Hopefully French OOB ain’t so cryptic now.

The Strange Attraction of Sub Scenarios

Why do I like sub scenarios? I’m not very good with subs in Command, so playing with anything less than an advanced sub compared to its target isn’t the most fun. ASW (Anti Submarine Warfare) – mockingly but accurately referred to as “Awfully Slow Warfare” – also holds generally as much appeal to me as the nickname would imply. (Although there are moments of undeniable satisfaction when you finally get and blast an enemy sub to ruin). Yet I’ve made a lot of submarine scenarios, and dream of making even more.

What is the attraction to submarine scenarios that grips me? The most obvious is simple-they’re very easy to make. Making the attacker’s assets is as easy as plopping down a single sub, and for a defender, all you need at best is a few ASW missions.

Of course, not all is smooth underwater sailing. Although my impression of sub scenarios is that they’re very easy to make, they’re very difficult to do well. The first issue is one of balance. While this may be just my own lack of skill using subs, I find that experimental scenarios are often either too easy for the sub or too easy for the defender. If the sub has plenty of missiles, and the defending fleet’s defenses are too weak, then the attacker barely has to fire torpedoes.

In the impromptu “goofing around in the editor” scenarios, this sort of thing isn’t the biggest problem-after all, most of the fun is seeing what happens, and “balance” isn’t an issue any more than it is in turkey-shoots where you see how long it takes a Sverdlov cruiser to sink an LCS.

But in competitive scenarios, it is. In many cases, as long as sinking the ship/sub isn’t totally impossible, the scenario is release-worthy. But in many others, it isn’t. One of my endeavours, The Okhotsk Bastion, is an ambitious but inherently flawed scenario-since watching subs and escorts alike bumble around with poor 1961-vintage sonars isn’t the most fun, I had to add a small aerial component just for the sake of fun.

So with sub scenarios still holding an appeal to me, have I learned my lesson? Yes. Probably the best thing to add is surveillance assets to the submarine side. Satellites are the best form of these, but MPAs and surface ships like AGI trawlers can also be used. (Trawlers get a boost from Lua, which makes it easier to have the opponent change posture and attack them at certain intervals). For early subs with sonars that seem about as effective as pressing one’s ear against the side, they’re a practical necessity. Even for more advanced vessels, they can make it considerably less frustrating without being a total gimme that starting them next to the enemy is.

Command is very good at modelling submarines, and that in and of itself may be a reason why I keep coming back to undersea warfare.

Je Suis Charlie