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Total Air War - AWACS Briefing

by Len "Viking1" Hjalmarson

Article Type: Strategy Guide
Article Date: June 07, 2001

Total Air War (TAW) is three games in one: a combat flight simulation of the F22 and its supporting systems, a strategic simulation allowing the player to act as Theatre Commander of the battlefield, or a combination of the above. In the latter case the player fights the war and selectively chooses which fights to fly, including the ability to frag the flights, even assigning and arming the support aircraft.

TAW can be found for as little as $14.95 in bargain bins, and requires a minimum of computer horsepower. If you have been wondering what combat simulation to recommend to that friend who has a Pentium 233 with 32MB, this is it!

This strategic briefing focuses on the AWACS module, where the player chooses the third option. This approach is one heck of a lot of fun, since it allows a god's eye view of the battlefield and provides a fantastic level of immersion. The real time war rages on whether the player flies or not, but the player is not merely an observer of the action. Rather, the player directs the war, only choosing to fly the missions that are of greatest interest or highest strategic concern.

TAW: The Strategic War

Before we begin looking at the war from the perspective of the AWACS commander, let's get a sense of the bigger picture. The real time dynamic campaign system was the first campaign to be explicitly built on the theories of Col. John Warden, III, and the five ring model of strategic warfare. The TAW manual states that . . .

The artificial intelligence (AI) portion of the campaign engine uses a strategic assessment process and methodology first adopted by U.S. and coalition forces in the Gulf War. Known as the "Five Rings" strategic assessment and building process, each adversary is examined, targeted, and struck using a campaign template that identifies "centers of gravity," and the most cost effective way to yield to your will.

Your adversary will be doing the same thing to you. He will react to your moves and send forces to destroy you and your ability to fight. From the war room you can use your intelligence assets to try and get an idea of what it is the enemy is after . . . if the enemy is able to sustain high sortie rates against you in offensive operations, you may have to shift your effort to more defensive sorties . . .

The Five Rings process is derived from the 1990-1991 work of USAF Colonel John A. Warden, III, and his followers during the build up and execution of the Gulf War. Colonel Warden convinced Gulf War commander, Gen. Norman A. Schwarzkopf, of the need to adopt a radically different strategy and warfighting template for his battle with Iraq. Warden's basic premise was that all nation states consist of five concentric rings - or centers of gravity - the innermost ring being leadership, then key production, infrastructure, population, and finally, fielded military forces.

AWACS Interface

Prior to the ascendancy of air power, the only way to subdue a nation state was first to engage and then destroy the opponent's fielded military forces. Until that was accomplished, the other centers of gravity (i.e., all other areas vital to the survival, continued functioning, and will of the nation state) would be impossible to reach. With air power, this is no longer the case. All aspects of a nation state are vulnerable to attack and destruction by air power from the onset of hostilities.

Having said that, Warden and others believe that leadership is the real key to success or failure in war. When an enemy's leaders decide they had enough, they sue for peace - or someone takes power away from them. For that reason, every action in war should be geared to affecting the enemy's leadership directly or indirectly.

Campaign Selection

The campaign in TAW consists of ten different tactical scenarios, though you won't be able to access the most difficult ones until you've played the easier ones. Don't worry, there is plenty of challenge for the beginning commander in the earlier levels. Let's start by looking at the War Room interface and then the AWACS commander's interface. We'll use these two interfaces and four main screens to scope out the progress of a strike force inbound to Kassala Air Base. I'll show you how to both monitor and support the progress of a particular flight.

In this briefing we'll focus on a flight properly tasked to a high priority target. We are primarily interested in monitoring and supporting the existing flight. Along the way we'll find opportunity to vector other flights to inbound targets, and we'll even look at changing the role of an existing flight.

War Room

The AWACS Commander and War Room

If you haven't already chosen a campaign, select HIGHLAND and click BEGIN. You'll find yourself in the War Room, and you'll see a screen like that above, but with far fewer aircraft icons.

On the left side of the interface are buttons that give you access to a great deal of important information regarding the campaign. On the right side are buttons that will provide filters for the information that appears on the real time theatre map. Along the bottom of the interface are three function buttons: FLY, SKIP, and EXIT. The FLY button takes you to the mission selection interface. The SKIP button accelerates time. The EXIT button takes you back to the campaign selection screen.

There is one other function button at the bottom of the list on the left side of the interface. The SCRAMBLE function tells the program that you want to be given the option to fly any F22 scramble missions that are tasked. When the action is hot this method of getting into the action can keep you very busy.

If you allow the campaign to progress for a few minutes you will notice that the Mission Roster box at top right begins to fill up with various allied flights. As soon as you see the AWACS Command mission appear, you have the option of clicking the FLY button and then selecting the AWACS Command chair.

In the meantime, play with the filters on the right. I generally keep the LABELS and BORDERS buttons active, and then use the other filters as needed. In the image above I have the C4 button active, revealing the location of Early Warning Radar systems.

The initial task is to find a flight that needs additional support. If you must choose between a number of inbound Strike flights, then you will want to weigh the strategic value of the target against the urgency of the need for support. In order to find the flights destined to targets with high strategic value we click on TARGET LIST in the War Room.

Target List

Accessing the list allows you to see the current priorities of the WARGEN AI system. Scrolling down the list gives you the Type and Name of the target, and across the top you will see the Strategic value assigned, current damage level (if any), and whether or not there is currently a flight assigned to that target. In this case I have chosen the Airfield at Kassala, whose strategic value is very high. There is a strike package inbound, so let's take a look!

Target Map and Route

Click on the list item and hold the button down to bring up the flight map and route. In this case I zoomed the map in prior to clicking the list to better show the flight location and route. You can zoom the map by simply clicking with your left mouse button and then dragging the cursor to form a box around the area you want to include. When you release the button the map will resize to fit the area you selected.

You can see that an Allied Mirage Strike flight is nearing a waypoint within friendly territory. But this screen does not show the relative location of other known flights, so from here I click on THEATER to check out the overall tactical picture.

Theater Map

Back at the Theater Map I can see the relative location of other flights. I can see that there is another allied flight in my path and that there are also incoming bandits near the border area. It's time to move to the AWACS interface and see what kind of coverage I can provide and also check the loadout and tasks of individual flights assigned to the strike package.

Click on FLY at the bottom of the interface screen to move to the Mission Selection interface. Click on the AWACS Command selection at top left and then click on PATROL at the bottom of the screen.

Now I can add a huge amount of information to the tactical picture, and also use my Theater Command chair to command individual flights. First, there are some map filters we should activate so that we can make the most of the information given.

AWACS Control Panel

I click on FEBA, DTINS, Air Force, Nation and Infobox. Now on the map screen I hold the left Shift button on my keyboard while clicking and drawing a box around an area that covers the target area as well as the inbound strike flight. When I release the mouse button the map will resize to fit the box I drew.

FEBA will place the Forward Edge of Battle line on your map. DTINS is the DiD Target Interaction Symbology. NTIDS will give you standard NATO symbology, and Stylized is useful for instant aircraft recognition. The Targets button will overlay the current targets from the Target priority list. Routes will overlay all the current mission routes. It’s generally more useful to simply pass your cursor over an aircraft to view its route.

AWACS Interface

Now I move my cursor over ARBAA72 and discover that it is a single HAWK CAP flight. That is important information, since I may use this independent CAP to intercept the bandits to the North.

Next I use my AWACS coverage to select the three bandit flights and discover there are two groups of four Su-25s carrying AG weapons, and an escort of four MiG 27s. I will probably vector the HAWK North but not command an Intercept immediately. When I do command the Intercept I will intercept the escort and not the strike aircraft.

I can also check the loadout of the individual flights in my strike group. I find, for example, that the Su 27s assigned to Wild Weasel are carrying A2G and A2A missiles (from the INFO box on the left side of the AWACS screen), while the escort is composed of four Mirage aircraft. Coca203 out in front is also a flight of Mirage aircraft assigned to Airfield Denial, carrying both A2G and A2A stores.

AWACS Interface

The shot above also shows that with the MAP detail slider most of the way to the right the label will also confirm that you are indeed viewing Kassala EW site and Kassala Airfield.

In this next shot I have zoomed in and selected the EW site, which then comes up in the INFO window at left.


As you can see from the recon image, the EW site has already taken heavy damage, and so the target for this strike group is the Airfield.

With all this information I am now in a position to make a decision about vectoring ARBAA72 and possibly other aircraft in the area for further support. In reality, the flight seems quite strong and so I will vector the HAWK CAP north but will not worry about vectoring other resources. I will also vector AMBER159, a single F15 that is escorting an AWACS about 120 miles NE of the strike group, south west to help take care of the incoming strike force.

In this next shot you can see the Intercepts I have ordered. About 90 seconds has passed since the shots taken above. Ordering a change of CAP location or an intercept is as easy as clicking and dragging the flight to the location or target of your choosing. You then hear the command called, as well as the response of the chosen flight.

AWACS Intercept


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