With a few more missions under my belt, and with requests coming in from all levels of command for more INTEL, here is another briefing for newcomers to Fleet Command.
The Sky is the Limit
Aircraft Ops are not a matter of point and shoot. While the patch has made operations somewhat easier, there are still some finicky aspects to effective use of air power.
Rule 1: Use Groups. The first few times I played FC I was going crazy trying to coordinate single aircraft. Easy answer: create groups.
If you need more than one aircraft to accomplish a task, you need to strategize when you are at Flight Deck level. First, how many do you need? Second, what will your force composition be? Third, what armament will they require?
For example, in the Bay of Bengal you will be required to take out an airbase way up North. You could send a simple strike force with HARMs and Mavericks and an EW aircraft like the Prowler. But you might also need air cover.
Let's say you take four aircraft plus the E6-B. A good force composition would be two Tomcats and three Hornets plus the EW unit. Arm the Tomcats for air to air and the Hornets for the strike. Launch all at the same time.
The next step is simple. Just right click on the screen when the aircraft are airborne and then drag a box around the group. Now hit CTL 1 and you have created a group! Issue an order vector and they will all comply (you will only hear a single response, but you'll see all turn to the north.) When the group reaches their rally point you will have to issue individual orders to the various aircraft with respect to their targets.
Issuing orders to aircraft still involves more management than it should given the scope of the game. For example, if you issue an order to go high (SHF 9) and then command a new heading, you will find that your aircraft goes back to standard altitude (10K feet). You must re-issue the altitude order if you desire a high transit.
Dodging missiles is similarly complicated. If you order an aircraft to transit near an enemy platform and he is fired on, it's wise to do some micro management. If you order him to break high (SHF 9) then increase speed (SHF 3) his chances of survival will increase.
Click to continue
Strike Group with designated CAP
Using helicopters is also a bit complex. Once a search task is completed these guys will just hover around and drink coffee. Likewise if they run out of the sensor you chose, they may just sit around doing nothing. You'll have to designate a new search area, or when they run out of sonabouys, send them back to the ship.
Coordinated Attack and Sub Comms
Some attacks in FC must be coordinated. For example, a Strike mission alone won't take care of the airport mentioned previously. But neither will launching long range missiles; they will simply be knocked off by the airport defenses. It's wise to send in the strike aircraft first, and then as they are finishing up the defensive systems launch your TLAMs from the fleet.
It's a good idea to set up sub comms for at least hourly communication. You can do this in the Preferences screen. The first time a sub surfaces for contact you can order them to stay on the surface until you give another order if you wish. Don't worry.. if they run into trouble they will dive to safety.
If you order them to stay in contact (CTL C) and then issue a transit command to a new location, they will dive and break contact. So be aware that you will lose comms until they reach their new location.
Finally, you will soon be aware that weapon distances vary greatly. The Harpoon is powerful and has a fantastic range and isn't dependent on a radar signal from the source like the HARM. However, it is not terrificly fast and is subject to jamming or being shot down. You will sometimes want to provide backup in the form of an E6-B Prowler.
Similarly, don't waste your long range air to ground missiles against important targets. Usually these targets are well defended and you will need to send in a wild weasel mission prior to engaging from your sea based platforms.
Finally, SAVE frequently. Random crashes are not unusual and if you lose an hours work it's frustrating.
The following page shows some engagement distances with a few different air to air and ship to ground based weapons. You can also download a slightly modified Bay of Bengal campaign. The campaign has increased slightly in difficulty and now begins a bit later in the day so you can enjoy the 3d views more. Click Bay of Bengal II to download. Unzip the file to your /scenario directory and you will find it under Single Missions.
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