"What the . . . . ?" A MiG 29 pulls one of his Paris air show stunts right in front of my nose, setting himself up for the fall. Never mind, push those damn buttons fast! Gulp, no need for buttons; guns, guns, gun!
"Break high," comes the call, and I do. Now I see several Charlies closing on me from on high. "Energy, energy!" and thank God I've got it. They're coming down and I'm going up. Looks like I've got the advantage. Short version of the Immelman, roll inverted and I might get on his six.
Now I'm overshooting badly. Jam on the brakes and roll once, down to 280 knots, darn near corner speed at the right time. I almost collide with that MiG coming nearly head-on, as big as a poster of Kim Il in P'yong Square (or whatever they call it.) Another MiG is head-on 500 yards on my 11 o'clock but he's not even close to a line up on me. Fortunately, Python 83 is on his tail, soon to relieve him of his overconfidence.
Hallelujah! My gun shot on the stuntman couldn't have lined up any better. He's flying straight into my sights; the first short burst scores. The only thing I have to worry about now are airplane parts coming through my canopy. I strafe him up the length of his starboard side and I've time to turn away before he blows very nicely, thank you. Bye-bye, MiG. Here are the shots:
Mash the throttle forward, get the speed up, look around to see where my buddies are. Tighter than a miniskirt on Cher, they're on the six of the three other MiG's. The sky is thick with aircraft, missiles, smoke and explosions from my 3 to 12 o'clock. But there, just as nice as can be, is my little 45 degree escape window from 12 to 3 o'clock.
Four of four MiG's get splashed. I smell a big victory here, so frantically I call my guys home. No answer, so I keep commanding, "Rejoin, RTB, formation," whatever. Just get the heck out of this mess! NOW!
They never did answer those calls, but slowly they begin forming up when I'm 20 miles out.
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Counting heads . . . one, two, three . . . all safe and accounted for. It's hard to say what the odds were, even with labels on. It's impossible to count all those noses and measure those distances, but my guys sure did a bang-up job.
Not until we RTB and hear the briefing do I know how good. An incredible dleven kills including my own two, meaning that the three of them got three apiece, plus my lucky gun shot. That would rate a medal in any man's air force. But since we didn't complete the assigned mission, we got a "horrible" rating anyway. Never mind, the dreaded EW radar is rubble, along with a few other assets.
In the real world a pilot has only one life to lose, and a lead would have aborted this mission based on highly unfavorable odds. It's a little different in a sim. To take out a vital target may be worth an aircraft or two.
Again, it's impossible to ignore the huge role luck plays in battle, as true in real war as it is in this sim. We were plagued in this mission with nearly as many attacks as the prior missions, yet this time around it played out just right. I can't say I did a wonderful job directing my package, but the nature of the AI dictates that I give my element directions, not merely order them to unloose their weapons.
After designating, I sent them off to do their job while I did mine. All elements accomplished their tasks with flying colors. Maybe a year from now I'll understand how the AI plays this game. Perhaps it does such a good job producing random circumstances that it really does create the fog and luck of war. Yes, good planning played a big role in this mission, but so did good flying.
Understanding the Enemy
There is no mystery about why veterans are so rude to "greenies." Experience equates to survival. Our success is relative to the amount of effort we make in understanding how the enemy operates. In all strategy games, it's you against the AI.
Learning how the AI works is the same thing as analyzing the enemy in a real war. Our real enemy here is a computer program and our job is to defeat it. You shouldn't let this reality affect your believability quotient. It is no different in real war in which great efforts are made to understand how the enemy thinks, his tactics, and how he employs his assets.
Why my package flew so well still remains something of a mystery. Is it keyed to how well I fly? Or does the AI randomly have them perform differently on every mission? Did the downing of the EW radar give us the edge in that battle on egress? Under attack, of course, the radar would shut down. Did the inability of radar operators to vector interceptors on us play a role? No doubt it did.
It is also clear that how well a lead manages his flight plays an enormous role. If a lead can find time to designate targets for each of his wings, success will increase proportionately.
Know your weapons and their limits. Choosing the right weapon for the job can make a huge difference. The ability to launch five Mavericks quickly at individual targets was critical. Note that the Mav's did the job because the field of fire was completely open. Cluster bombs could have done the job, but bombing while we are under attack poses the risk of failure. In such a case, stand off weapons are the right choice.
Go to Page3, Part II