Desert Shield Simulations

Last year, I did a three part series of posts on Baloogan Campaign detailing a big what-if that many alternate history scholars have speculated-if Iraq had been more proactive in the 1991 Gulf War, how damaging would it have been to the US-led coalition?

Now I’ve decided to link back to them, seeing another “WI greater Iraq competence” thread on alternatehistory.com (where I cited the simulation posts).

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3/Conclusion

 

A Simulation and A Scenario

One of the best things about Command is that it can be both a what-if simulation and an enjoyable experience at the same time.

So I designed a scenario, intended as an exercise (a favorite of mine). In this case, the exercising nation was Iran, and the goal was to see if its air force had any offensive capability whatsoever. Hordes of shah-surplus and ex-Iraqi “reparation planes” face against the best approximation of the Gulf States’ ultra-modern hardware-F-14s, modified I-HAWKs, and a Tor missile battery.

A combination of feedback and my own trials answered the question. “Nominally.”

Over two dozen aircraft were lost in the full playthrough in exchange for moderate damage to part of the target airbase. Enough to win the scenario (which was only asking if they can get anything on the target at all, regardless of cost), but in real terms, not cost-effective in the slightest.

Against a force with better missiles than the AIM-54, they’d have fared even worse.

The scenario is available under the Steam Workshop as “Iran Airbase Attack Drill”,  and has been submitted to the community pack. Making it was very fun-the concepts of both the player being qualitatively inferior and forcing them to take heavy losses are ones I’ve been interested in, and I’m already entertaining ideas for using a similar force mixture in a “real” battle scenario.

Cats Balancing Radars on Fulcrums-Iran’s Advanced Aircraft

Earlier, I theorized about an air battle over Iran and posted the results of several informal Command demonstrations that supported the seemingly obvious conclusion. The third generation fighters in the Iranian Air Force are not match for those of their likely opponents. But those were not the strongest or most recent planes.

First are the MiG-29s. Fulcrums get a kind of undeserved reputation as hopelessly inferior to F-16s simply because of the way they were designed-as the next type of short-range point defense fighter with very limited ground attack ability that was designed to work inside a Soviet integrated system rather than the F-16’s offensive multirole design. If I was to put MiG-29s on that Bushehr tethered intercept in their element, they’d do better.

F-14s are the most dangerous components of the Iranian air force, though not because of their threat to enemy fighters. They’re more dangerous than F-4s, to be sure, and I’ve frequently upped the proficiency to symbolize the prestigious nature of their assignments. But against an enemy F-15, they just go from “loses, but has a small chance of taking one down with it” to “loses, but has a somewhat better chance of taking one with it”.

They’re still a 1970s fighter that, Top Gun reputation aside, was more of a clunky missileer than a aerobatic champion in actual service. No, the biggest threat the F-14 poses is to support aircraft. The ability (assuming availability, of course) to fire long-range AIM-54 missiles is one that threatens the multitude of necessary but vulnerable platforms on the other side-AWACS, tankers, intelligence planes. The F-14 can also function as a sort of semi-AWACS by itself thanks to its huge radar.

The capabilities of these two types of planes are not to be exaggerated-their weaknesses are still known, there aren’t that many of them in service compared to the Phantoms and Tigers, and they have known serviceability issues. That being said, they are more capable.

Hindsight is 20/20-The JSF Bargain

Hindsight is always twenty-twenty. In light of recent struggles with military projects, I decided to write this hypothetical op-ed. One of my chief inspirations was a forum post where people were talking about the cancelled Space Shuttle as this hideous missed opportunity-why, it was a reusable craft that could pay for itself with commercial launches! The fun was that while we know now that the “self-funding” goal was too ambitious, someone who never had to experience it wouldn’t.

Now for what never was:

OP-ED: The missed opportunity.

The US Navy’s carrier decks have never been more diverse. A state-of-the-art carrier wing houses an air superiority squadron of Lockheed F-24 Hellcats, a squadron of A-6F Intruder IIs, and two squadrons of F-14 Super Tomcats-themselves divided into the 21st Centruy F-14E “Tomcat 21” and the mildly upgraded F-14Q “Quickstrike”. In practice, most carriers house “leftover” F/A-18 Hornets and F-14 “legacy” Tomcats, adding to the logistical backlog.

On land, the F-23 Kite now enters service as the US Air Force’s mainline air superiority fighter, despite having less powerful missiles and radar than the Navy’s F-24. The US operates four different air superiority fighters, four ‘multirole’ jacks of all trades, two specialized close-support aircraft, and two specialized “deep-strike” aircraft.

To find out this situation is not difficult. One need only look at the post-Cold War overcapacity in military aviation, and the desire of the military-industrial-complex to avoid any downsizing. Sen. Shaun Winters and Rep. Bill Morgan, the chairmen of the Appropriations and Armed Services Committee, both hail from New York-and both are very, very, good to Long Island-centered Northrop Grumman.

The A-6F was the most egregious example of the triumph of pork over common sense. Not only was it a simple update of an old, subsonic plane designed in the 1950s, but in terms of role, it clashes with its own successors. The Super Tomcat offers very similar performance and range in an agile, supersonic fighter body, and it is even made by the same company in almost the same location.

Grumman themselves were cool to the A-6F, feeling it could jeopardize the Super Tomcat and feeling the burden of producing still more aircraft. The real support came from the subcontractors and parts suppliers-all healthy donors to Winters’ and Morgan’s campaigns, and spread farther than just Queens and Nassau.

Thankfully, A-6F production stopped. But the looming gap in fighter quantity is fast approaching. Nothing is in sight to replace the thousands of aging F-16s-except maybe the Super Tomcat. Carrier crews will have to juggle parts for five types of airplane, and the taxpayers will be denied a true ‘peace dividend’.

And that is without the effects this aero-naval spending spree has had on the rest of the military. The Army’s much-ballyhooed “LI-21” plans for more of a focus on light infantry exist in large part because the buildup has hacked away at its budgets.

There was one spot of hope. The Defense Department initiated a “Joint Strike Fighter” program. This would provide inter-service commonality of parts, and, with twenty-first century computer design, make true multirole stealth planes that could serve equally well on carriers, VTOL amphibious ships, and conventional airbases. Both the capability and savings would have been immense compared to the current hodgepodge of souped-up Vietnam designs and one-trick ponies foisted on the actual military.
Naturally, Winters wasted little time in attacking the JSF program, and succeeded in killing it.

The Carrier Air Groups That Never Were

Command’s latest series of updates have brought a new array of hypothetical units to the forefront. The question is what units would be used in a way that would maintain plausibility.

A-6F

This is easy. The A-6F, being an upgraded version of the old A-6 Intruder, would replace older A-6E units.

Naval F-117

(Note: the biggest difference between the A/F-117X and F-117N is that the former has air to air capability and the latter doesn’t).

This is tricky. They can replace A-6s as carrier strike aircraft, or they can serve in small detachments (3-6 planes, numbers closer to a specialty plane like jammer or AEW than a basic attacker) to serve as niche attack aircraft.

A-12 Avenger

If the Terrible Triangle was made to work and became the Awesome Triangle, it would also replace A-6s. In what quantity depends on the degree of success-like the naval F-117, it could be either a full-blown replacement or a costly niche plane.

Super Tomcat

Trickier. Super Tomcats can easily replace their direct predecessors, as well as the A-6 in the long-range heavy attacker role. What’s harder to say is whether or not they’d muscle aside the Hornet family as well-whether the Super Hornet gets cancelled or replaces the original F/A-18 as a light fighter rather than as a do-everything plane depends on politics and funding.

SV-22

Replaces the S-3.

F-24 NATF:

Replaces the F-14 as the pure air-to-air fleet defense fighter.

So, for one of the carrier wings, not in a limited intervention/peacetime profile, but a fully-loaded major war loadout, composed entirely of hypotheticals (at least in the fighter/attack units)

12-15 F-24 (1 squadron, fighter VF)

24-30 F-14E (2 squadrons, fighter VFA)

12 A-6F (1 squadron, attack VA)

18 other (Ea-6, E-2, S-3/SV-22, etc..) (multiple smaller squadrons).

-This assumes a more balanced, offensive-focused deployment. For the threat of a continued Soviet Union or other opponent that posed a greater threat to the fleet, swapping one of the multirole squadrons for another pure fighter one would not be surprising.

-This also does not take legacy aircraft into account. Either unupgraded F-14s or those in the database that have the AAAM but nothing else can replace the F-24s, and Hornets (legacy or, more doubtfully, Super) can replace the Super Tomcats. The A-6F can be replaced by the stealth attackers or super/legacy Tomcats (Legacy Intruders were some of the oldest platforms in the fleet and badly needed retirement). The ratio can range from only one squadron of new aircraft on the carrier to one squadron of old ones left (i.e, the small force of A-7s in the Gulf War).

-Just because all the planes are on the carrier does not mean that they are all ready to fly at a moment’s notice. The F-14 in particular was a high-maintenance plane, and while Super Tomcats may have eliminated some of the clunkier components, its swing-wing design is still inherently time-consuming to service. So for high plausibility, put some planes of all types in “Maintenance-Unavailable” .