Building your own gorilla package in Falcon 4.0 is an answer to some of the problems we've all encountered flying the canned campaigns. The questions a lot of pilots ask are 1: how does the real U.S. Air Force assemble a package and 2: how can it be done in Falcon?
Air-to-air and air-to-ground combat in most combat flight simulations to date have concentrated on putting the PC pilot in a flight of four planes or a two man wing. In past sims we've gotten a little help from our wingmen, but the idea that a modern day "real" pilot is going to put on his jet and take on the world by himself is rare if not fantasy. (Yes, there were some instances where Marine Corp F/A-18s went out in twos at the end of Desert Storm, but we're interested in coordinated packages, here.)
The way real wars are waged are with Air Tasking Orders (ATO). Basically, the ATO is a list of targets that is generated by intelligence and it determines how available assets are scheduled to deal with those targets.
A great example that is no longer classified can be found in two excellent volumes, "Air War in the Persian Gulf" by Williamson Murray and "Revolution in Warfare: Air Power in the Persian Gulf" by Cohen and Keaney. Both books closely examine the ATO for the first four days of the air campaign in Desert Storm. What they reveal is a complicated ballet that is choreographed with split second accuracy.
It's a team effort
A close examination of the Desert Storm ATO for day one will explain why a lot of us have had problems dodging SAMs and AAMs in Falcon's campaign. By the time real F-16s entered the air campaign, a lot of damage had already been done my many other types of aircraft.
The day one campaign can be broken down into five tactical stages. They are: 1. Degrading command and control by surprise attack, 2. Creating confusion with electronic warfare, 3. Degrading SAM and AAA threats, 4. OCA and eliminating A2A threats and finally, 5. ground attack at the various levels of the enemy's center of mass.
When Falcon's campaign sends out a schedule that has you attacking ground troops before SEAD and sweep assets have been put to work, it should be no surprise your flight is cancelled or you find yourself flying a smoking coffin. That's the way it works in the real world, too.
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To date, the F-16 has found itself as one of the most prolific ground pounders in the Air Force inventory. Missions you'd normally find yourself flying include stages 3, 4 and 5. Stage 1 is going to be handled by F-117s, TLAMS (cruise missles) and low flying AH-64s. Stage 2 is flown by Air Force EF-111s or Navy EA-6Bs.
Even stage three (the A2A) component is usually handled only by F-15s or F-14s. (Although you'll find few real Falcon pilots who would turn down an opportunity to fly an F-16 in the A2A role in an ATO.) OCA is generally handled by F-111s or F-15Es but this is a mission that can be flown by the Falcon.
The bottom line here is that we've got to coordinate these types of airplanes if we're to avoid getting people shot down.
Timing is everything
Distance to target, time on target, weather conditions and time of day have a huge impact on how the ATO is put together. Timing is everything.
The USAF's ability to fight at night is a product of the cruise missile and STEALTH age. The idea behind the opening round in Desert Storm was to cutoff Iraq's command and control structure. F-117s effectively blew up telecommunications facilites before Iraqi radar sites could report the appearance of visitors on their horizon. TLAMS targeted decision making facilities and other elements of the air defense network, cutting off commanders' orders to Iraqi pilots sleeping through the first round of bombing.
We wish TLAMS were part of the campaign modeling in Falcon (hint MP), but we do have F-117s and can control low altitude ingress with AH-64s to break holes through enemy border listening and radar posts.
Go to Part Two