|F4 SEAD Briefing
by Dave Pascoe
Falcon 4 is a high end sim unlike any other. The passage of time has demonstrated that many of the problems people are having are the result of insufficient training and practice. Many of the so-called "bugs" are not bugs at all, but a lack of knowledge of how the various systems, weapons and interfaces operate.
Part of this difficulty relates to tremendous complexity and fidelity of Falcon 4. The Catch 22 is that realism demands realistic responses, responses that require years of training in the real world.
The Campaign: the Challenge
The Falcon 4 Campaign is focused as much on the realism of the F-16 as it is on the replication of real warfare. It burdens you not only with the heavy workload of the real pilot, but all the responsibilities of an officer managing a war. Furthermore, player interface is equally complex, with insufficient help provided by the manual.
The war that F4 replicates is more like Vietnam than Desert Storm, a strategic and tactical battle that many analysts concluded was impossible to win. The Vietnamese conflict was a long, messy, and extremely ugly struggle against an adversary that was both intelligent and well-trained, an enemy that understood how to defeat modern technology with rifles and sheer determination. Add to that the fact that our leaders grossly and consistently underestimated the enemy and the calamity was inevitable.
Now consider Falcon 4. It has high fidelity to the environment of real war, including that dimension called the "fog of war." Is part of our difficulty with this simulated conflict in Korea that we are we underestimating the enemy? Are those weapons that refuse to lock up on the target really displaying issues with bugs? Or is this the way it plays out in real life?
With Falcon 4 the people who wanted a realistic simulation got one. Real war is hell, and so is this sim. In real war, equipment failures are as common as rifle jams. If you expect to win, you will have to learn to master your aircraft, as well as the skills of a War College General Officer.
This essay, which appears in three parts, examines a single SEAD mission (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) flown three times, each time with different tactics. It first illustrates for you what happens when you simply fly the Frag Orders, and why ultimately the sim burdens you with having to think like a general Officer rather merely a pilot. To succeed in Falcon 4 you must learn to think creatively and not merely follow the beaten path. Too often the next war gets lost because it was fought just like the last war.
In order to accomplish my goals we will begin by following a single SEAD mission very early in the campaign when force levels are equal. The objective here is to explore means of improving mission success by examining tactics and results more closely.
As I fly the mission I will discuss the events as they occur, followed by a summary of what went right or wrong. This discussion is keyed to the screen shots that appear with the text. Pay close attention to them, including the avionics, because they are an integral part of the story.
At the beginning of the campaign, the Intel report describes conditions as "bleak." We are flying mission number 4116 in Tiger Spirit. Note that the artificial intelligence (AI) will never repeat the same mission exactly, even though you fly the same mission more than once. Therefore this discussion can only serve as an illustration. In this case the frag order targets a couple of AAA guns on the outskirts of P'yongyang.
What! Triple A guns? P'yongyang? We take a look at the Planning Map and see that the brass wants us to fly into a meat grinder just to take out a couple of guns? That's nuts, and we're not going to do it. Insubordination be damned.
This is the original fragged mission. My God, how do they expect us to fly into the heart of enemy air defenses and come out alive? It can't be done with the early warning radars (EW) in place. Down on the peninsula south of Haeju and Ongjin, we see a nice juicy Early Warning radar site that needs to be dealt with FIRST, plus another at P'yongyang. Are the brass so brain dead that they don't know you must take out the EW radar first?
So we take matters into our own hands and reroute the mission to take it out. That's tough enough, but at least we can find a route that isn't filled with enemy interceptors and SAM's. That EW radar is going to see us coming, but fortunately, the distance is short. We can't rely on surprise but at least we've got speed on our side and hopefully we can outrun the intercepts.
[Special note: Since this writing Mr. Rosenshein confirmed that EW radars are networked to the SAM sites. Take the EW's out and the individual Fire Control Radars will have a much harder time finding you, if at all. Some of you may remember that the North Vietnamese often relayed info by telephone and land lines very effectively. The noted interview is excerpted on the following page.]
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Last Updated April 8th, 1999