Monday, August 28, 2017

Phantoms Over Havana, Fight #9


So it's 1800 on 3 Feb 1990, and the Cuban Liberation Air Force (CLAF) has an entire flight inbound, looking to clash with a flight of Castro-regime MiGs intent on intercepting inbound CLAF ground attack aircraft.  Boxer 01, 02, 03, and 04 are ready for a fight; Boxer flight had suffered the heaviest so far in the campaign, and so now they were down to two Regular pilots and two Rookie pilots, men that flew F-4 Phantoms in the close air support/interdiction squadrons, now pressed into duty as fighter plots.  They will treated as Rookies only for their first fight, after that they will considered Regulars (they're not actually Rookie pilots, they're just not used to being used for air superiority missions).

The first two fights on Day 3 of the War of Liberation have been unqualified successes, with one F-4 lost and one damaged, to five MiGs lost and one damaged, with one pilot in the Bruiser flight becoming the CLAF's first Ace, and a pilot in the Blackjack flight getting his fourth kill.  Boxcar flight has but a single pilot with a kill, Boxcar 01, and it is but a single kill.

Overview, north is up, with the CLA aircraft at left (west), heading east, and the Castro regime aircraft at bottom top right  (northeast), heading west.   I'm using the relatively new set, "Lacquered Coffins," modified slightly.  The airplanes are 1/600; the CLA flight consists of F-4 Phantoms from PicoArmor, the Castro flight consists of MiG-21s from Tumbling Dice.

The CLAF F-4 Phantoms, speed 4/altitude 5, looking for trouble.

The Castro regime MiG-21s, speed 3/altitude 5, also looking for trouble.

At the beginning of each turn is the 'mandatory move,' where each aircraft on the board is required to move straight and level the distance of its current speed.  It's a pretty cool mechanism to make the dogfight even more unpredictable, and really gives me a feeling of the fight being dynamic, not fighter jets managing to somehow hang motionless in the sky.

The game begins with the CLAF cards all coming out in a row, then the Communists.  Blackjack 04 heads in, straight and level, spotting the enemy MiGs at 11 o'clock; "Tally Ho!!!"  Trying to get out of their line of sight and get lost amongst the ground clutter, Blackjack 03 drops and cuts right, 6/3, while Blackjack 01 and 02 do the same thing, but hold on course, straight at the bad guys.

Red 02 is up straight and level, and spots three of the Cuban F-4s, all but Boxer 03.  Red 01 receives the tally ho and power climbs straight ahead to 5/5, while Red 03 and 04 dive and come left (5/3), but as they do they spot Boxer 03. With that, both sides have not only spotted the enemy, but they've pretty much figured out they've been spotted as well.

Turn 2's mandatory move, with plenty of distance still between our antagonists.

Boxer 01, realizing he's been spotted, conducts a steep climb, back to 4/5, slowing down to let things develop a bit.  Red 03 cuts right, back into the face of the Cuban formation, as Boxer 04 zooms straight in, 6/5, and Boxer 02 dashes up and comes left onto Red 01 and 02.  Red 02 holds straight and level, picking up speed, 5/5.  Boxcar 03 begins coming around to his left, drawing the attention of Red 04, who holds course, looking to get into it with Boxcar 03.

And now things get interesting...

Red 01 rolls over and pulls back on the stick, coming left in a shallow dive, then pulling back even and launching a missile at Boxcar 02; the rookie Cuban fighter pilot is totally shocked at the pace of events and completely forgets (fails) about taking evasive action!  The enemy missile closes and explodes, damaging the large F-4 Phantom.

Turn 3's mandatory move shows a bit more of a hectic situation, as well as the damage to Boxcar 02.

And the fight has only begun, with the Communists proving themselves to be quite aggressive!  Red 03 kicks over and performs a climbing left turn, lining up a missile shot on Boxcar 01: the missile leaves its rails, but Boxcar 01's pilot gets his bird shimmying and shaking and the missile flashes past.

Red 01 wants to come hard left and launch a missile at Boxcar 01, leaving Red 02 to finish off the wounded Boxcar 02, but he gets caught staring a bit at Red 03's missile and the next thing he knows his windscreen is filled with a giant, smoking F-4, almost colliding with Boxcar 02!

Boxcar 02 spots Red 01 at the last second and dives to the deck, picking up speed in an attempt to make good his escape.

Further south, Boxcar 03, the other Regular pilot for the Cubans, pulls hard left into Red 04 and launches a missile, but the Commie pilot pulls into it and deploys countermeasures, causing the missile to overshoot.

Meanwhile, Boxcar 01 pulls hard left into Red 03 and returns the favor, sending a missile straight back at him.  But he didn't get a good tone, so despite the MiG pilot being bit shock and awed, the missile still manages to miss.

If you're thinking all these misses by the good guys are probably going to come at a steep price, you're probably right...

And it gets even worse: the other Cuban rookie, Boxcar 04, charges straight in and fires on Red 04, but the Commie pilot easily shakes off a second straight missile!

And with this incredible furball going on, Red 02 calmly and quietly hooks in from the north, looking to clean up scraps.

And then Red 04 returns the favor, on one of his assailants, at least.  He pulls hard right into Boxcar 03 and fires a missile just outside of minimum range.  The Cuban pilot barely has time to react, jinking wildly, and while the missile doesn't hit the F-4, it does detonate over Boxcar 03's cockpit, wounding the pilot!

I missed the mandatory move for Turn 4 but, as you see, things are a bit crazy, and not going well for the Cubans, who are still even in numbers but have one aircraft damaged and one pilot wounded.  Looking to get back into the fight, Red 01 and Boxcar 04 both manage to pull off a wingover to get back into a decent position (pretty impressive for a rookie!), while Boxcar 02 begins pulling gently right to get his wounded bird back home.

Boxcar 01 kicks over hard left and goes to guns, but Red 02 jukes and the 20mm tracers flash by his cockpit harmlessly!

Red 02 pulls through Boxcar 01's gunfire and immediately lines up a snap shot, firing a missile at Boxcar 04, who is so focused on his wingover that he's totally oblivious as the Communist missile closes in and detonates, damaging another Cuban F-4...

Red 03 spots Red 02's missile strike on Boxcar 04, and so he cuts speed and hangs back, waiting for the Cuban wounded duck (now two damaged aircraft and one wounded pilot, only Boxcar 01 still in the fight; the sharks are circling and this is about to get ugly) to pass, though Red 04 kinda screws up his plan by cutting hard right, back into Boxcar 04.  Boxcar 03's pilot, struggling with blood loss, pulls the F-4 left, trying to loop back around and get home.

Turn 5's mandatory move: the CLA Air Force is in serious trouble, with Boxcar 02 and 04 damaged and trying to get home, Boxcar 03 wounded and trying to get home, and Boxcar 01 trying to do something to help his comrades out, but not having much luck (he's fired one missile and made a gun run without hitting anything)...

Boxcar 04 dives under Red 04 and turns into Red 03, hoping to make them overshoot, a pretty shrewd move for a rookie, and certainly aided by Red 04 being a bit overaggressive.

Boxcar 02 (somehow didn't mark him, top right) continues pulling around, trying to get turned back to the west (left) and get off the map.  But there's a lot of ground and bad guys betwixt him and the exit...

Boxcar 04 is lucky: Red 03 is slow enough, but finds itself too high to engage, so he overshoots as he begins descending.

While in the north, Red 01 makes a helluva maneuver to cut back in on Boxcar 01, but it's a really bad deflection shot and Boxcar 01 just accelerates through the enemy cannon fire.

Boxcar 03's wounded pilot turns left, following Boxcar 01, hoping his comrade will draw enough negative attention that he'll be able to escape, while Red 02 (sorry, another one not marked properly, bottom center) pulls right.

And then more trouble: Red 04 forgets about Boxcar 04 (just off camera to bottom left) and sets his sights on Boxcar 01, firing a missile.  Boxcar 01 is too focused on Red 01's gunfire to notice.  Until the missile's detonation shakes his aircraft, that is.  The F-4 is damaged but still airborne, and now the Cubans have no one left in the fight...

And, of course, finally it's Boxcar 01's turn to activate, the very last aircraft this turn, right after he manages to get himself hit.  With nothing else to do, he drops down to the deck and begins pushing for home, every man for himself!

Turn 6's mandatory move shows a pretty dire situation, with every single Cuban aircraft combat ineffective, but not all that close to escaping, with the bad guys dominating the center of the battlespace, able to pounce on whichever wounded duck(s) they choose.

The situation well in hand, the Communist flight leader, Red 01, relaxes and begins coaxing his aircraft around, stalking Boxcar 02 who, like the rest of his flight, are all pushing for home, simply hoping to survive.

But it's not to be...

Red 03 is tired of messing around, pulling around parallel to Boxcar 04, making obscene gestures at the Yankee puppet pilot...

While Red 04 cuts left and pounces on the Boxcar 03, pumping 30mm shells into the F-4...

The wounded Cuban pilot is killed, by the gunfire, falling forward on the stick and riding it into the lush green jungle below (yes, I know the F-4 has a crew of two, doesn't matter).

Red 02 then decides he's not gonna let Red 01 have all the fun, so he pulls a wingover and turns into Boxcar 02.

Now I find myself face to face with the biggest, most important time in this entire fight: it's the end of Turn 6, so I have to roll 1D6.  If I roll 1-3, the game is over, and Boxcar 01, 02, and 04 manage to escape, but if I roll 4-6, the game will continue to a seventh turn.

Not hard to figure where this was going, given my luck, right?  Game on, and I've got three stricken birds still out there, easy pickins for the Commies...

Boxcar 02 pushes his plane for all it's worth.

Before Red 04 slides in behind Boxcar 01 and launches a missile...

Which sends the aircraft into a tumbling fireball as the crew ejects.

Two kills for the bad guys.

Boxcar 04 makes his run for the border, and he's close, ever so close, but Red 03 jumps on his tail and fires...

And another Cuban fighter is downed, crew ejecting to safety.

Third kill for the bad guys...

Red 01 hooks right to the south, but he's somehow allowed himself to drift too far away from Boxcar 02, but Red 02 rolls in and goes to guns.  The hapless rookie pilot scrunches down in his seat, expecting the world to end, but the Commie pilot was in such a hurry he took a really horrible deflection shot and didn't hit anything.  Boxcar 02 opens his eyes, and suddenly the sky is clear, the Castro-regime MiGs are gone, becoming low on fuel and returning to base!

Well damn, that didn't go well at all, did it?  I can't believe how many misses there were, on both sides, that was pretty crazy.  But all those damaged results (and wounded pilot) meant things couldn't end well.  Having said that, I really got close to escaping with but a single aircraft down and three damaged, but the damn roll to end the game passed and that final turn saw two more F-4s downed.  The final tally was CLA Air Force lost three F-4s and one pilot KIA, and one F-4 damaged, while none of the enemy MiGs so much as got a scratch.  The CLA crews were all picked up and returned to friendly forces; having said that, Boxcar 04 will still be treated as a rookie since he didn't actually complete the sortie, but Boxcar 02, though damaged, will be upgraded to Regular since he completed the mission.

Three more dogfights over Havana to come, then some different stuff, on the way!


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Phantoms Over Havana, Fight #8


So it's 1130 on 3 Feb 1990, and again the Cuban Liberation Air Force (CLAF) is enroute to tangling with Communist fighters of the Castro regime.  But things have changed up a bit: Generalissimo Waraldonez ordered a reorganization of the CLAF fighter squadron.  Heavy casualties have been sustained, and while the aircraft can (and are) be replaced, getting new fighter pilots is an altogether different story.  The Generallissimo ordered the best pilots of the attack squadrons (also flying F-4 Phantoms) to be reassigned as replacement pilots to bring the fighter squadron back up to 12 pilots.  The attack squadron commanders complained, but relented when the Generalissimo pointed out the attack squadron aircraft wouldn't survive the war without a fighter squadron to take on the enemy MiGs.

The first fight on the morning of Day 3 saw an even up fight between three F-4 Phantoms and three MiG-21s, in which the Castro forces downed one F-4 and Bruiser 04 downed all three of the enemy MiGs, becoming the CLAF's first Ace.  Now we have Blackjack 01 (a Veteran), 02 (Regular), and 03 (Veteran) squaring off against four of Castro's Air Force MiG-21s, so stand by for action.

Overview, north is up, with the CLA aircraft at right (east), heading west and the Castro regime aircraft at bottom left (southwest), heading east.   So the sides are bit different, with two groups of fighters having been out and about looking for trouble, but not finding any until they turned about to head home. 

I'm using the relatively new set, "Lacquered Coffins," modified slightly.  The airplanes are 1/600; the CLA flight consists of F-4 Phantoms from PicoArmor, the Castro flight consists of MiG-21s from Tumbling Dice.

The good guys, CLAF F-4 Phantoms loaded out for air combat but heading home in a hurry on the deck, speed 5/altitude 1.

And a flight of Castro-regime MiG-21s, loitering a bit at speed 3/altitude 2.

At the beginning of each turn is the 'mandatory move,' where each aircraft on the board is required to move straight and level the distance of its current speed.  It's a pretty cool mechanism to make the dogfight even more unpredictable, and really gives me a feeling of the fight being dynamic, not fighter jets managing to somehow hang motionless in the sky.

The game begins with Blackjack 01 moving up straight and level, noticing movement at his 10 o'clock.  He called out to his Weapons Intercept Officer, who agreed something was there, and he focused in on the location: soon he was able to make out the sun glinting off the bare metal wings of four Communist MiG-21 Fishbeds.  "Bandits, ten o'clock!"  Blackjack 02 hangs left, looking to get off the nose of the bogeys.

On the Castro side, Red 03 moved up straight and level, oblivious to the CLAF threat, but the flight leader, Red 01 moved up and spotted the rebel F-4s, calling it out on the radio to his comrades.

Red 02 and 04 both held course and performed power climbs, taking them from 3/2 up to 4/3.

Blackjack 03 performed a power climb as well, coming up to 6/2.

The mandatory move at the beginning of Turn 2, jets getting close to the merge.

Red 03 pushes the throttle to the wall, holding straight and level but powering up to 5/2, while Red 04 continues his power climb, holding course and rising to 5/4, while Blackjack 02, realizing they've been spotted, decides he doesn't need to stay on the deck so he power climbs to 6/2.

The CLAF flight leader, Blackjack 01, decides to get a bit fancy: he maintains speed and pulls right, waiting to see how things develop, while Blackjack 03, also a Veteran pilot (with two kills) races ahead.  Red 02 pulls right to deal with Blackjack 02 while Red 01 sees Blackjack 01 offer his tail and can't help himself, picking up speed and charging in at 5/2.

Turn 3's mandatory move, violence is imminent.  The Communist flight leader, Red 01, is already wondering if he didn't make a mistake by charging in on Blackjack 01, leaving Red 02 all alone to deal with Blackjack 02.

Blackjack 02 pulls the stick hard right, flopping the large fighter on its side, cutting to line up a shot with his 20mm gun.  Red 02 spots the maneuver, but the F-4 is on him before he can react effectively, losing speed and altitude (3/2) while fixated on the CLAF jet as 20mm tracers begin whizzing by his cockpit, some striking home and damaging Red 02.

Further north, Red 04 dips and comes left, firing his 30mm cannons at Blackjack 03, but the veteran pilot jinks and the cannon rounds zip by harmlessly.

Red 01 drops down to 6/1, picking up speed, and comes slight left, still tracking on Blackjack 01, who climbs to 4/2 and begins pulling his aircraft left.

And while Red 01 is wondering if he isn't screwing up by trading so much altitude for speed, and Red 04 is wondering how the rebel pilot escaped his cannon fire, Blackjack performs a climbing left turn to come nose to nose with Red 03, quickly lining up a missile shot.  "Fox One!"

The missile strikes the Communist jet, blowing it and the pilot up!

Red 02, damaged by gunfire from Blackjack 02, drops his jet down to the deck, picking up speed (5/1), hoping to escape the fight with his life.

Turn 4's mandatory move, really mixing the furball up.

Red 04 rolls over and pulls hard back on the stick, bringing the MiG into a hard left turn, lining his sights up on Blackjack 01.  The CLAF pilot has the F-4 shimmying and shaking like an expert, knowing he's in a tight spot, but miraculously he pulls through without being hit.!

And immediately he performs an Immelman, reversing course and climbing, though at the cost of quite a bit of speed (4/2), shocking the hell out of the Red 04 pilot!

With Blackjack 01 having just flipped 180 degrees, likely forcing Red 04 past him, Red 01 is realizing he made a mistake staying on the deck, not giving himself enough room to maneuver.  He pulls off a steep climb, gaining altitude at the cost of some much-needed speed (4/3), particularly with the rebel flight leader on his rear quarter.

Red 02 continues legging it for home, while Blackjack 02 and 03 both follow their leader, flipping their jets back around to stay in the fight.

Turn 5's mandatory move clearly shows the CLAF Phantoms with the initiative: three on three, one of the hostiles damaged, in dominant positions.

And Blackjack 03, fresh off a kill, puts said advantage to immediate use: the veteran pilot kicks the aircraft hard over to the left, gets tone, and fires his second missile at Red 04, who is so focused on Blackjack 01 he isn't even aware of Blackjack 03 (failed evasive roll)...

Until the CLAF missile strikes his aircraft, though he does manage to save himself by ejecting.

Red 02 keeps pushing east, so close to escaping he can taste it, while Red 01 manages to pull off a Split-S, losing a bit of speed, but reversing course.  This should get him out of immediate danger, though once again he finds himself with no altitude to maneuver.

Well, maybe Red 01 doesn't find himself out of danger: Blackjack 01 pulls off a steep diving left turn, lining up a bad deflection shot but taking it anyway! Red 01 spots the flash and jukes; the rebel missile sails by harmlessly.

Blackjack 02 damaged Red 02 and really wants his kill, but he does the math and realizes he's not going to catch him, so he pulls stick left, looking to help the flight leader out with Red 01.

Turn 6's mandatory move, with the damaged Red 02 making it to out safely, Red 01 finding himself all alone against three hungry tigers.

Blackjack 02 attempts to come left to engage Red 01, but he's taken aback at Red 01 actually seizing the initiative and cutting hard right on Blackjack 03, so he flubs the maneuver, too fixated on watching the Communist missile leave its rails and closing on his comrade.  The missile disappears in a dirty puff of smoke, with Blackjack 03 emerging on the other side, damaged.

*That was the first time either side failed a Maneuver Roll all fight.  Nice timing...

Blackjack 03 attempts a steep dive to aid in leaving town with his plane damaged but body intact, but the injured bird ain't having it, and so he sort of just coasts down, Red 01 still behind him.  Seeing his buddy in a bad way, Blackjack 01 flips a wingover, dropping speed to bring his aircraft around to threaten Red 01.  And with that, Red 01 hits the afterburners to disengage, leaving the CLAF Phantoms to rally and re-form before heading home.

He got lucky; at the end of Turn 6 I tested to see if the game was over and it was; another turn and I'd have dropped Red 01, too.

An excellent fight, with the CLAF turning a 3 to 4 numerical inferiority into a winner, with Blackjack 03 adding two more kills to his resume, bringing his total to four victories in only two combat sorties!

In the next fight we see a four on four match, thought he CLAF has two Regular and two Rookie pilots heading into the fight.  Coming right up!