IL-2 Desert Wings – Tobruk (Part 2) – I Don’t Like Sand

Introduction

In this episode, Chuck straps on his camel pack and drops into the hot, desert sand to take a look at the environment modelled in IL-2 Sturmovik: Desert Wings – Tobruk.

If you missed one of the earlier sections, here is a reference list of what was covered (with links) and what is coming up in a future episodes.

  • Part 1 – The Desert War – An overview of the history of the North Africa Desert War covered by Tobruk;
  • Part 2 – “I Don’t Like Sand” – A review of the map, environments and units you will encounter;
  • Part 3 – The Aircraft – Which I think that you can guess, is about the aircraft that you get to fly;
  • Part 4 – Under the Hood & Final Thoughts;

Note: this article/review is not sponsored and reflects the thoughts and opinions of the author only.

PART 2 – “I Don’t Like Sand”

Now, let’s talk about the map itself. It includes parts of Egypt and Libya, from Derna to Sidi Barrani. Its size is 385 km x 385 km and includes over 75 airfields.

The Mediterranean Sea really steals the show. It looks warm and inviting. From a few thousand feet high, you can easily observe ship wakes and find convoys to either protect or sink to the bottom of the sea.

Ships are beautifully modelled and are some of the hardest targets to attack.

One could assume that Tobruk is a barren, boring, featureless bunch of sand. While the southern part of the map is rightfully called the Great Sand Sea and is a part of the Sahara Desert, Team Fusion went to great lengths to make the environment as immersive as possible. The searing heat significantly degrades engine performance compared to colder weather, and performing formation takeoffs is almost impossible due to the huge clouds of dust generated by the propeller. Runways are difficult to spot since most of them are, well, strips of sand in the middle of the desert. However, occupied airfields are generally filled with equipment, hangars, tents, planes and anti-air batteries (that’s up to the mission designer).

Taxiing can also be quite treacherous since the desert isn’t completely flat. There are bumps, hills, crevices… one can easily get a nasty propeller strike if not paying attention. In spring and summer, days are miserably hot and nights very cold. Desert winds and gusting can also be quite hectic. The Sirocco (Gibleh / Ghibli), a hot desert wind, blows clouds of fine sand, which can reduce visibility to a few metres and coats eyes, lungs, machinery, food and equipment; motor vehicles and aircraft need special oil filters.The desert is a hostile environment and one of the pilots’ main fears was to get shot down in the middle of nowhere. The best way to navigate in these desolate areas is to follow roads. Desert navigation was reliant on the sun, stars, compass bearings and “desert sense”, good perception of the environment gained by experience. Magnetic variation is also a factor to take into account when navigating: the magnetic variation for the 1940 Britain map is approx. 10 degrees, while the variation is 1.5 degrees for the Tobruk map.

The northern part of the map, on the other hand, is much more interesting visually speaking. The North African coast has plenty of recognizable landmarks, and much of the battle revolves around Tobruk and the Mediterranean where ship convoys need to be either escorted or destroyed. Seaplane bases are located at Sidi Barrani, Sollum, Tobruk, Gazala, Menelao Bay and Derna. Most of them are heavily defended and required concentrated efforts to attack efficiently.

Sollum is a small port town close to the infamous Halfaya Pass, which was nicknamed “Hellfire Pass” by the British due to the high losses inflicted by the German 88mm guns during Operation Battleaxe.

Fort Capuzzo stands a few miles west of Sollum. Initially built as a means to repress Senussi resistance against the Italian colonization in the 1930s, the fort changed hands several times throughout the war.

The port of Bardia dates back to the Roman Times. It suffered greatly from naval bombardment from the Royal Navy and changed hands several times, being occupied by Axis forces three times but finally being abandoned after the Battle of El Alamein.

Sidi Barrani was the site of the opening battle of Operation Compass, the first ambitious British attack of the campaign.

Tobruk is at the very centre of the map and is likely the one place where you are sure to find trouble. The first Siege of Tobruk, which lasted for 241 days, presents all sorts of different operations. Axis players can target the docks or the defensive positions to the South and West of the harbor-city. Torpedo aircraft can also perform dangerous low-level attacks on the Allied or Axis ship convoys. Air combat itself is a regular occurrence over the smoking Tobruk, and hot scrambles always are an exciting moment at the El Gubbi East and West airfields.

The colours of Derna are a superb sight to behold, especially during sunset. The western end of the map does not extend to the “Jebel Akhdar” (arabic for “Green Mountains”), a beautiful range of heavily forested, fertile mountainous plateaus cut by valleys and “Wadis” (or “Oueds”), which are dry ephemeral riverbeds that contain water only when heavy rain occurs.