RogerBW's Blog

Twelfth Harpoon PBEM AAR: Still Gulf Escort Deja Vu 25 September 2015

The latest Harpoon PBEM game was a return to the old standard scenario, to get a new player up to speed.

The missile boats started together, and approached from the east; the convoy moved westwards towards the Qatari coast, then turned north. Everyone kept radars off except for the search helo, and it was several hours before anyone was spotted; the first contact was an ESM hit from the missile boats, soon followed by a reverse ESM detection from the helo.

The boats conducted evasive manoeuvres, varying courses and speeds but keeping track of the helo. They were inevitably spotted, though.

The helo kept pace with the boats, which stayed together and occasionally pulsed search radar. The convoy went north-west towards the deep-water channel off northern Qatar.

The helo adopted a slow zig-zag course to remain in contact with the boats without entering weapons range. The convoy turned into the channel. At the same time, the missile boats picked it up on radar.

The boats went round to the north, ahead of the route to the safe zone, and the convoy reversed course, planning to head back through the channel.

The boats swept in from the west, and launched missiles at close range.

As soon as these were detected, the frigate returned fire with Harpoons. And then things moved very quickly.

The missile boats were trying to split missiles, seven against the merchant and one against the frigate. But they aren't such precision weapons; three of them went for the frigate.

The helo had spotted the missiles' launch flares, and the frigate brought up its defences in time to shoot down two vampires with Sea Sparrow and a third with Phalanx.

Three missiles attacked the tanker. One missed; the others hit, slowing her severely (particularly with a rudder hit) but leaving her barely seaworthy.

The one that missed, and the other two, went on to the frigate. All three of them hit. That left the frigate dead in the water and burning fiercely.

The Harpoons destroyed one of the two missile boats, but the other survived (it was only attacked by one missile, which missed). It cautiously circled to see if the frigate were only playing dead, but by the time it came in close to attack with gunfire the frigate's fires had got out of control and her crew were abandoning ship. This left the tanker in Iranian hands. The helo had sufficient fuel to recover to Qatar, but sinking both ships is a strategic victory to the Iranians.

Thanks to Gareth and Marco for playing. Full charts as presented to the players are here.

Things I've learned from this game:

  • I added a limited arc to the automatic sighting checker (most aircraft radars only operate in the front 120 degrees). I do prefer games that are on this sort of scale rather than the huge size of the fight in the western Med; it's just easier to keep track of everything, and my code still needs a lot of human intervention. (I have released the code, such as it is but don't recommend it to the non-technical.)

  • Red was very surprised by that course reversal. (So was I.)

  • After the missiles had hit, Blue could have fired his last two remaining Harpoons using targeting data from the helo. But I didn't want to suggest this in case he hadn't thought of it, and he may not have known it was possible. If the tanker had survived to limp away, the scenario would have been a draw even with the loss of the frigate. (Yes, I know that some players feel this is unrealistic.)

  • I need to get a new small, repeatable scenario set up; this one's rather been done to death. Perhaps one or two type 23s, escorting a convoy through what might be several small attacks or might be one large one, with the convoy under random number control (captains who decide to break off and run for safety if their morale fails). Still considering.

  • More players always welcome!


  1. Posted by Ryan at 03:58pm on 25 September 2015

    Looking forward to seeing a new intro scenario. Will have to give the code a spin soon. Time to knock the rust off my PERL.

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