Command Fiction: Elephant Tusks

Intro:

This Command Fiction vignette is based on the scenario Standoff-21, a futuristic version of the Black Buck air raids of Falklands fame. In real life the Nimrod MRA4 was cancelled, but in Command it exists as a hypothetical unit, including a variant armed with Storm Shadow cruise missiles.

This is kind of “Britain YEAH!”, which is weird because I’m American. Oh well.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Maybe they were white elephants all along, a last gasp of the British Imperial mentality. But as the Nimrods returned to the field on Ascension Island, one thought went into the mind of the technician watching them.

Even white elephants have tusks.

They’d flown through the tanker chain-far and away the hardest part of the mission-, released their Storm Shadows, and hit their targets on the Argentine mainland. Now the crews were getting ready to repeat the process.

They weren’t foolish enough to try and invade en masse, instead settling for a mixture of small ops. While the Army, Navy, and FDF had dealt with them, they weren’t stopping. The time had come to up the stakes and let Buenos Aires know what HM Armed Forces could do.

All it needed was the political go-ahead, and once that was achieved, they were off. Off without a hitch.

Now it could very well have been done more efficiently. But it was done. And what a suitable fiftieth birthday present for the Nimrod-for that was how long it had taken between its service introduction and something like the events to happen.

Missile Outliers

I’ve looked at missile outliers in Command and real life.

From what I’ve read, just one AMRAAM has been successfully dodged from an optimal firing position. Looking up more of the “Kosovo Slammer Dodger”, and reading about the engagement in detail gave me a fuller appreciation.

The context is like this: Capt. Mike Shower fired an AMRAAM (which missed), launched a second missile, stated by some sources to be an older and less capable AIM-7[1]. Whatever it was, the context was that of a shot to keep the enemy on the defensive. This worked, and the third and final shot (of an AMRAAM) hit home.

The other AMRAAM misses involved either “insurance shots” where more were fired than turned out to be necessary or shots at extremely long range (where the lack of maneuverability is obvious no matter what the missile).

One thing that makes AMRAAM PK even blurrier is that the sample size is so small that a single incident could make its on-paper hit percentage much higher or lower. You don’t fire missiles to look good on the stats sheet, you fire them to destroy the target. This context has also given me more appreciation for the F-35’s seemingly small missile capability-if its LO features and sensors give it the ability to better set up an optimal shot, then the PK noticeably improves.

F-15C

[1]Mixed loadouts were indeed carried during Allied Force, as shown in this picture taken during the operation.

Of course, my “favorite” outliers are missiles against low-capability targets. These include Sea Darts against a 707-turned recon plane in the Falklands and AIM-7s against an Iranian C-130 in the Tanker War. These have the mitigating factor of extreme range, but still show that you can’t spell “missile” without “miss”.

So, with real outliers out of the way, I’m trying to remember my Command unlucky/lucky missile rolls.

One I still vividly remember is missing with three out of four MK48 ADCAP torpedoes against a North Korean minisub that never saw anything (BuOrd strikes again!). Another more recent one is a novice proficiency Catalina taking seven (albeit early) SAMs to bring down, while in the same engagement, the identical Sea Slugs one-shotted several proper combat aircraft.

Finally, although not containing an unusual roll, an embarrassing incident (well, embarrassing to the Raptor crews at least) happened in a scen where F-22s were present, but the one air-to-air victory was scored by an A-10.

Weird stuff happens.

The Saga of the Escort Cruiser

This all started off with me seeing a database entry in Command, and ended with me understanding a fascinating process of evolution in naval history. The British “Escort Cruiser”, beginning as a supplement to its large carriers, ended up replacing them.

(The most invaluable sources on these never-were ships were DK Brown’s Rebuilding the Royal Navy and Norman Friedmans British Cruisers, Two World Wars and After)

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the escort cruiser concept was conceived of as a way to increase the ASW power of a carrier task force, leave space on the deck for strike aircraft by putting the helicopters on a separate ship, serve as a potential independent force for the RN’s defensive ASW mission (extra-crucially after the large carriers were cancelled), and in desperation, be a staging ship for helicopter landings. Thus they were to be helicopter carriers with a SAM armament.

Early designs were called cruisers but had the size and would-be construction standards of a large destroyer.

(early escort cruiser, source shiplover on ShipBucket )

Later they grew bigger, to become “proper” cruisers.

(late escort cruiser, source shiplover on ShipBucket )

This design was not unprecedented. Similar ships with a similar role can be found in the Italian helicopter cruisers and the Soviet Moskva .

Due to the “issues” in the postwar British economy and military system, the escort cruisers were never built. The story might have ended there, except the still-larger proposals turned into the  actually-built Invincible-class .

HMS Invincible turned into an impromptu American-style power projecting carrier for the Falklands, and the rest is history. Now to describe my own experience

When I first saw the escort cruisers in the Command Cold War Database, it was an early build, the game didn’t have the marked “Hypothetical Unit” symbol it now does, and so all I was looking at was a cruiser I couldn’t find a name for, with a strange missile-only armament and helicopter deck. (At the time I didn’t even know the Italian or Soviet counterpart).

While looking around on ShipBucket and Alternatehistory.com, I found the escort cruisers with the hull numbers the DB entries matched. Then I, interested, looked up their history (and saw some discrepancies with their in-game portrayals that I noted in the CWDB thread, backed up with sources as is proper procedure).

It’s extremely fascinating to look at such a clear evolutionary process, from drawing to drawing to actual ship.

Rereading Lion Resurgent

So I read a bad book again. This was rereading it, and I honestly had more fun looking at it again than I expected.

When I first read the book Lion Resurgent several years ago, my first thought was that it was dull even by the standards of The Big One series it belonged to. That it was unmockably bad, and in an Amazon review, I even called it “the flat-out worst book I’ve read”.

I decided to read it again. Why? I had nothing better to do.

I was “pleasantly” surprised.

  • The book has, very early on, a briefing given to President Reagan. Not only are there a million “Look how much better he was than Carter” claims, but that it’s the Mary Sue Seer giving the briefing puts it over the top in terms of wish fulfillment. “See, I’m-I mean, the guy I know is giving briefings to Reagan and he’s liking them!”
  • Then there’s the “plot”. Like watching a scene in an action movie where the hero has to try to act, this can be unintentionally funny. There’s a death scene that is, with apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, extremely foretold. Then there’s a spy plot that’s about on the same level as the shoved-in footage in They Saved Hitler’s Brain where “agents” with bad post-Sergeant Pepper Beatles mustaches spent several minutes getting and out of cars before the ‘real’ story began.  The icing on the cake is a plot with South Africa whose sole contribution is-delivering armored vehicles.
  • Then it was back to drudgery with the main story of the alternate Falklands War. Everything has to be explained, even something as simple to show and not tell like the missiles are missing their targets. 
  • In my first reaction, I said the following about the battles. “The Americans get a “look we’re awesome” scene like they do in all the books, the British take more casualties but you have as much attachment to them as you do to CMANO units so it doesn’t have any emotion”. This was unfair to the units of Command.
  • The most interesting part-Packard and Studebaker are still in the passenger car business. A part of me was going “Well, even with a different market their survival is dubious because they historically failed at the height of the domestic industry’s power.” That’s what I was thinking of. Cars.
  • The whole thing has a sort of detachment to it-like Stuart’s trying to tell of naughty seductions, but it’s told through the filter of an old military encyclopedia, with exactly as much emotion.
  • The plots don’t connect. Not just mechanically, but creatively. It’s like there’s a story of a conspiracy of long-lived “immortals” mixed with a military story. Like mixing some of the Assassin’s Creed plots together with The War That Never Was.

 

The book is still very bad, but I had fun with the reread.