In this second attempt at a “Dead Is Dead” campaign in Strike Fighters 2, we once again visit a hotspot of the Middle East…
For this campaign we are going to give the Strike Fighters 2 War for Israel “Club Med” theater a whirl flying the awesome USMC AV-8B Harrier. While not as fancy as some of the other aircraft you can fly in the campaign, the Harrier has that certain challenge that appeals to me. You’ll find some notes at the end of the article on where you can find the War for Israel campaign as well as some links. The campaign map is extensive with a basic premise that stands up to reason – Israel is surrounded, their neighbors are angry, and war ensues. You probably don’t need to be Tom Clancy to build some plausibility into that scenario.
Playing the campaign using the “Dead Is Dead” rules, I create a new pilot with fresh statistics. That guy may be a rookie..but damn he’s handsome!
Our Harrier squadron will be based offshore in the Med as part of the Marine Amphibious Group 1. On our first mission we draw a strike on Tsaikal Airbase in Syria with fuel tanks as our intended target. A look at the planning map shows the disposition of forces, with Russian task forces bracketing our route to the east. A crap ton of other aircraft will be operating from bases in Israel and adjacent Carrier Task Forces, so the skies will be busy. Our two-ship flight will carry Sidewinder missiles, and bombs I’ve never used before – 1000 lb. Mk 10 retarded bombs. I don’t know if that is in any way historically accurate, but I don’t really care – I’m just out to make things go BOOM with Strike Fighters 2!
With the mission planning done, we head to the deck and a minute later we are off the deck using about 45° of vectored thrust and climbing away into Stary’s beautiful SARCASM 2.0 skies. As we climb out to the east the fleet maneuvers below…
I pull my wingman into formation and we head east and try to keep our ears tuned to the action. As usual with a SF2 campaign, there is a LOT going on all around and sometimes its fun (but dangerous) to just sit back and watch the action views of everything that is unfolding. Navy Hornets are already heading overland to their own targets while the E-2C and F-14s provide cover for the strikers.
Throughout the theater a coalition of aircraft spreads out. IAF F-16s head deep into Syria on strike missions…
After roughly fifteen minutes of flying, staying between the very active Russian fleets, we hit the coast and go feet dry. The moving map shows us crossing the coast just south of Beirut and I do a quick fuel check. The Harrier burns through the go-juice pretty quickly, so I need to keep enough reserve to return to the ship and make the vertical landing.
As we press further inland the brief coastal plain gives way to rolling hills and eventually mountainous terrain north of Damascus. Things are starting to heat up as Syrian and Egyptian planes start to meet up with Western and Israeli aircraft…
As we approach 40 miles from the target, I arm the bombs, set the ripple quantity to “2” and the ripple interval to 140 ms. For this mission I outfitted my wingman exclusively with air-to-air ordnance and with the threat radio calls from the E2-C bombarding me I cut #2 loose with a “COVER ME” command.
As we approach the enemy airfield, I roll over and head for the deck, preferring the cover from SAMs of the rolling hills to the safety from small arms fire at higher altitude. Rolling out at a few hundred feet we scoot along the hills and bear down on the airfield, which is just over the next rise.
I subconsciously lean on my throttle, wanting it to go further forward, but we are at maximum power and rocketing over the ridgeline. A few seconds after cresting the ridge we are swooping down into the valley beyond and I put my CCIP piper on the fuel tanks. If I were smarter, or less scared, I would have swung out to the south and aligned my attack with the axis of the tanks, but who has time for that??! Dead is dead doesn’t play that way!
It only takes a brief second for the piper to cross the target and I mash the release button sending both of my bombs off the racks toward the target. And what beautiful bombs they are! Nearly as soon as the second bomb leaves the rack I reef the jet around into a tight turn to the left. Light AAA chases me across the sky, but it isn’t that bad actually (whew!). The radar warning receiver is chirping a bit but no missiles have launched on me. The bombs hit with a satisfying “ker-thunk” and more of Stary’s awesome effects light up the battlefield. The explosion and subsequent mushroom cloud is awesome and the dark smudge can be seen for miles wafting over the airfield.
Completing my 180° turn I take a glance at my fuel gauge once more as my wingman also heads back to the west. Whenever you think you have enough gas for more time in the Harrier – you don’t. And I’m trying to be smarter about my “DiD” gameplay so even though I have some Rockeyes slung under the wings, I continue to scoot out of the area and call for my wingman to rejoin. We head due west for the relative safety of the coast.
As we approach the coast I see a pair of Su-30s converging on our course line (yes, the map is a bit of a cheat – but AWACS would build me a picture anyway right?) so we swing more toward the south and hope that some friendly CAP flights take up the challenge.
Meanwhile, the battle rages all around us. Ground forces are being pounded, missiles are being exchanged, and to our great concern, even the Iranians are getting involved with their F-14s – that can’t be good!
You know you are flying in an interesting theater and period combination when an IRIAF F-14 shoots down an US Navy F-14!
While the air and land battle rages around Israel, so to are strikes being made against the Russian and American task forces. Dozens of air-to-air missiles arc across the skies as the Blue and Red forces converge on each other’s fleets…
After swinging around to the south to avoid the Su-30s, we make the mad dash back to our fleet and soon we see our ship. As I overfly the ship I give my wingman the RTB command to make sure he doesn’t run into me or follow me into the ocean.
I commence my approach to the ship and start easing my flaps, gear, nozzles, then more flaps out until my speed bleeds off and I’m approaching the aft end of the ship at around 70 knots. As I start slowing further, I realize I’m too high and not in a good position to start the fine corrections necessary to get aboard. I am close to the deck, but elect to go around and get stabilized for a second approach.
As I make a close left hand circuit around I’m reminded of why you have to be so fuel conscious when flying the Harrier. I’m down to 1200 lbs., enough to make a couple more passes, but not a whole bunch more. I try to settle down and fly a good approach to avoid getting really fuel critical. This time I end up a bit lower, a bit slower, and in a much better position to move over the deck and ease down gently.
This time the approach looks good and I ease the Harrier down onto the deck, chop the throttle, and set the brakes. Whew – those last few minutes were the most tense of the whole mission! A glance at the fuel gauge shows about 760 lbs. remaining – enough to have tried about one more attempt, but that’s about it.
The mission debrief indicates my mission success with just under an hours worth of flying and two hits with my 1000 lb. bombs. My new Pilot Record gives the details of this fresh DiD start.
Once again, a fantastic job by the modders, aircraft designers, campaign creators, and special effects guys at CombatAce. There are so many people that contribute to these mods that it is impossible to name them all. Even little things like giving my AV-8B some extra smoke and the custom radio commands..they all combine to make Strike Fighters 2 an exceptionally fun game. If you have a chance to vote with your wallet and your voice, head over to Third Wire’s site and buy some of their sims. And don’t forget to encourage them to keep making stuff for the PC platform because the future looks pretty sketchy for the Strike Fighters series at the current moment. Once you have the base product, you can’t find a better place to get help and mods than the aforementioned CombatAce. While you are there snagging some mods, please consider donating to the site by purchasing a monthly or longer membership to help them with their enormous file distributions costs.
Spectre8750’s War for Israel V3.0+Sandbox: HERE!
I’ll keep you updated on my DiD progress with this new (dangerously handsome) pilot.
Chris “BeachAV8R” Frishmuth