RogerBW's Blog

Ninth Harpoon PBEM AAR: Again, Gulf Escort Deja Vu 04 May 2015

Back to basics with this introductory scenario, which we completed in a little over three weeks. This time things went very differently…

The missile boats started together, out to the north; the Canadians were in their standard start position, and asked for various movement and detection circles. Everyone had radars off, the first time I've seen this happen in this scenario.

The Canadians also asked for markers showing plausible positions of the missile boats, and with my latest software upgrades I was able to supply them. I inserted one datum per ten degrees, moving inwards towards the start position at forty knots; the helicopter followed a spiral course sweeping from datum to datum.

The helicopter picked up one of the boats by visual spotting, shortly followed by the other.

It was able to take up a zig-zag course, tracking one boat by its wake (usually both as they were close enough together) while remaining unobserved.

Meanwhile, the tanker and frigate were heading away from the goal, planning to take cover among the oil platforms.

The missile boats split up slightly, meaning the western one had broken contact, then assumed parallel courses.

The helo continued to keep pace with the boat, flying at minimum speed. The boats moved off to the south, and the tanker and frigate started to break north, planning to make a run round the back of the missile boats.

The missile boats carried on to the south, while the tanker and frigate made a break for the open water.

This carried on for more than an hour, with various course changes and the helo continuing to track the missile boats without being seen. The missile boats lit off their surface search radars from time to time, but were out of range to spot anything.

Finally, more than four hours after scenario start, one of the missile boats picked up tanker and frigate right on the edge of its radar range.

For the next hour, the boats moved east, then turned north for the attack, still tracked by the helicopter.

The helicopter increased speed while pacing both boats.

With the hope of distracting the attackers, the helo moved out to the east and fired a distress flare from just inside one boat's visual range, but they weren't distracted and carried on. The helicopter finally hit bingo fuel, and returned to the frigate.

The Iranians launched their missiles, then turned, one boat coming in for a gun pass while the other backed off. The Canadians were tracking with ESM, then when the attackers' radars were shut down they shifted to passive sonar.

The Canadians whittled down the missiles with Sea Sparrow, Bofors and Phalanx fire, but in the end two got through to the tanker. Their return Harpoon fire, conducted more or less blindly, was still able to sink the two missile boats.

The tanker was damaged and slowed to four knots, but not badly enough hurt to count as a victory for the Iranians, so nobody won this one. Thanks to Rory and Marco for playing. The moment-by-moment maps as shown to each player are available here.

Things I've learned from this game:

  • Having some relatively simple tools, like the ability to plot moving datum markers, allows the players to conduct rather more sophisticated navigation than the simple "turn to course X, go Y miles" approach.

  • The course deviation for a slow advance is arccos(advance/flight). So if your helicopter's going at 112 knot and the target's moving at 34, you need to zigzag 72 degrees from the line of advance in order to keep pace with him. If the helicopter's down at 65 knots, the deviation is only 58 degrees.

  • The sea is a big place, and hunting visually leaves you unlikely to find anything. Unless you work out where to look.

  • The speed-limiting thing about these games is waiting for a response. Blue wanted to do much more micromanagement than Red, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it did mean that most of the time I was processing orders for Blue. I could encode half an hour's moves for Red into a single string of commands and just let them happen, stopping when a contact was made.

  • More players always welcome!


  1. Posted by Rory at 01:12pm on 05 May 2015

    As blue I regret not moving East of Halul Island and moving due north from there, which may have been able to force a very wide-area search on the Iranians.

    Made a mistake when I sped up the Helo toward the end, if it had still been up when the Iranians launched their missiles I might have been able to take them all down. I was surprised not a single missile locked onto the frigate.

    I am still curious how the Harpoon target selection worked out and if the Iranians' defensive fire had any effect. I wouldn't quite classify those Harpoon shots as blind, but seeing the specific results may change my opinion. The ESM bearings and last known positions should have made it easy, but I was trying to avoid the Harpoons selecting the huge oil rig nearby, hence the dogleg flight paths.

    Well-played Marco! Thanks again Roger!

    -Rory

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 04:44pm on 05 May 2015

    Each Harpoon cluster overflew just one of the boats. One of them was moving in for a gun pass on the tanker, so took a shot at the missiles, but the gun they carry isn't really much good in that role; the other one was heading away and didn't get a shot at all.

  3. Posted by Rory at 12:28am on 19 May 2015

    Thanks Roger, it's good to know the Harpoons appear to have selected their intended targets and no oil rigs were harmed in the making of this scenario ;~}

    I kinda enjoy the idea of hiding within a group of large neutral targets though, let the enemy explain why they attacked expensive neutral platforms; an oil Tanker in an oilfield seems perfectly innocent.

    -Rory

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