Operation Mole Cricket 19, 09/06/1982
Last 23 of November at the "De Bello Ludico" game convention in Bracciano near Rome I hosted an Air Strike scenario to introducing new players to the Air Power System.
The scenario was representing a small portion of the Israeli attack on the Syrian SAM network in the Bekaa Valley.
The attackers had 15 game turns (about 3 to 4 minutes of simulated time) to eliminate the two SA-6 SAM battery on the map; the Syrian Air Defense Network had also one Early Warning Radar, four ZSU-23-4 radar guided AAA and three ZPU-4 light AAA stacked with the SA-6 and the EWR.
The two players will command a mixed force with two attack planes:
- a F-4 E Phantom armed with two AGM-45 Shrike ARM (AntiRadarMissile), a ECM jammer pod and six 500lb bombs
- an A-4 Skyhawk carrying nine 750lb cluster bomb and two large rocket pods.
Before going "in" I advised the players (new to the Air to ground arena but not to the delicate art of planning) to study the terrain.
To represent the terrain of the Bekaa Valley, apart elevation levels and the ridges (the green lines), the other terrain feature were ignored.
The elevation were 1000 feet each and the ridge lines were lower than 1000 feet but an obstacle for a Terrain-Following-Flight (TFF) aircraft, flying at about 100 feet .
Easy to see that both Sam sites had a ridge between them and the attacker side of entry...a TFF aircraft on one side of a ridge is invisible to the ground units on the other side (and vice versa)
the second plane of every Strike force (the Skyhawks) were scheduled to arrive after 3 game turns (about 45 seconds of simulated time), plenty of time for the F-4 to disrupt the SAM network... Strike force 1 ( Alessandro) was tasked to attack the northern SA-6...
The ARMs-carrying Phantom went in at 1000' straight on the line of approach as its RWR was lighted up by the Target Tracking Radar (TTR) of the SA-6 battery. As a salvo of two SAMs was in the air streaking head-on the F-4 launched a AGM-45 Shrike and descended at TFF altitude. Because of the succesful terrain-masking the SA-6 mssile lost the tracking and went ballistic.
The Shrike continued to fly to the SA-6 radar (that failed to identify an ARM launch and remained turned on) and hit the target putting one step of damage (of three needed to destroy the target) but failing to damage the radar dish.
The second Shrike malfunctioned, didn't guide and was removed from the map.
The Phantom opted to strafe the target with its 20mm Vulcan cannon and obtained a "Kill" result. The AAA batteries around the target didn't even come close to hit the attacker. The follow-up Skyhawk turned to the southern target to lend a hand if needed.
Strike force 2 (Matteo) attacked the southern SAM site...
Following the same tactics of his collegue, the Phantom launched its first Shrike missile when the SA-6 launched its SAMs; this SA-6 crew recognized the ARM launch and turned off its radar and stay off the air for the rest of the scenario. The Shrike, having lost its designated target, self-destructed.
Without targets for its second ARM, the Phantom pressed on the SAM site selecting bombs and trusting its ECM pod for protection against the radar-guided ZSU-23-4 Shilka.
As the perfect plan never survive enemy contact, it was the short range, visual aimed, ZPU-4 AAA standing close the SA-6 the one hitting the Phantom in the final part of its bombing run, inflicting a Light damage.
Barring the hot welcome party the Phantom dropped it bombs and the target got a "D".
While the F-4 was egressing the target area a Shilka exploited the gap in the side of the ECM pod's protected area and put another Light damage on the plane. Luckily the crew controlled the damage and exited the area.
in the meanwhile the second attacker, the A-4, took carefully aim and blasted to smithereens the SA-6 with a full rockets volley. The AAA didn't hit the Skyhawk thanks to the small target die roll modifier.
The final attack was delivered in the 14 game turn, a near call to the 15 turns limit of the scenario...there are no turn to waste!