More Training for Computer Fighter Pilots
by Richard G. Sheffield
More Missions for F-15 Strike Eagle
One of the best things about F-15 Strike Eagle is that each mission includes a tenable scenario that adds a little flavor to the action. You're flying an F-15 across the so-called "line of death" into the Gulf of Sidra. You will face Libyan pilots in their MiG-23s and SU-22s; this setup is much more exciting than flying against pilots and targets from an imaginary country labeled only as the enemy. It captures your interest right away. And if you aren't careful you just might learn something.
With that in mind I have written five more scenarios for F-15 Strike Eagle. Some are factual and some are (to use a favorite term of the intelligence community) entirely notional.
Each mission includes a preflight briefing, mission goals, and suggested flight plans. I hope you have as much fun flying them as I had writing them.
Operation Swift Kick
Use F-15 mission number 1-Libya.
Preflight Mission Briefing: After a couple of years of relative calm, Colonel Qadaffi and his band are up to their old tricks again. After the U.S. bombing raid in 1986, Qadaffi pleaded with the Kremlin for "humanitarian aid" to help clean up the significant mess F-111 and A-6 attack planes can make. Unfortunately, most of the money he received to help the sick and injured went to the purchase of a number of Chinese Silkworm missiles. The Silkworm is the Chinese equivalent of the much-feared Exocet, which was used with great effect to sink the HMS Sheffield during the Falklands War.
Qadaffi could hardly wait to try out his new weapons. Last month he started firing them at random components of the U.S. fleet operating in the Mediterranean. Fortunately, the crews were on guard and defeated the missiles by either shooting them down or fooling them with chaff. Some F-14 crews were even lucky enough to locate the MiG-23s used to launch the missiles and made short work of them.
Undaunted, Qadaffi continued the attacks. This morning, however, the colonel made a serious mistake. His pilots ventured out into the darkness again to seek out the U.S. fleet. A large ship was located where they had found the fleet several days before and two missiles were sent skimming across the wavetops. The 864 sleeping passengers and crew members of the cruise ship Dalmatia had no warning. Both missiles struck amidships at the waterline. Thick, black smoke prevented many passengers and crewmembers from making it to the lifeboats. Forty-eight minutes after being hit, the ship capsized. Rescue efforts are continuing.
Such irresponsible actions can no longer be tolerated. A swift and serious response has been called for. This mission has been designed with two objectives:
- To eliminate Qadaffi's ability to launch air strikes by destroying all airfields.
- To demonstrate our superior power by accomplishing this mission with a single aircraft.
Resistance is expected to be low due to the rapid nature of our response.
Mission Goals: Your F/A-18 will be launched from the deck of the USS Ranger. With it, you will attack all of Libya's coastal airfields and return safely to the carrier.
Suggested Flight Plan:
Figure 7-1. Suggested Flight Plan for Operation Swift Kick
Operation Wild Weasel
Use F-15 mission number 3-Haiphong.
Preflight Mission Briefing: The month is April, 1967. This is a two part mission.
Flight 1: January of 1967 went very well for the U.S. Air Force over North Vietnam. A number of MiGs had been downed with few losses. Then the rainy season set in and few missions were flown. The enemy has taken advantage of the overcast sky to move large numbers of troops and quantities of war materiel. Antiaircraft systems have been improved around most major targets. The number of MiGs in the area has increased.
When the clouds cleared in April, and the bombing raids resumed, pilots started having problems. In dogfights during the first several days of April, the Air Force shot down nine MiGs, but lost seven aircraft in the process. Due to the increased losses, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have authorized an attack on the MiG bases and they are allowing the Air Force to attack the MiGs while still on the ground. An attack on Kep MiG Base, deep into Route Pack 6, has been planned.
Due to the increased antiaircraft activity around the target, the first flight into the area will be a Wild Weasel Flight to suppress the SAM activity around the base. This is your mission: You are to fly into the target area and destroy all the enemy SAM installations.
Flight 2: Once the Wild Weasel Flight is completed, you are to return to the ship and reload for the attack on the target itself. Follow the path created by the Wild Weasel flight, attack the MiG base, and return to the ship.
Mission Goals: Your goal for Flight 1 is to clear a path to the target, eliminate all surrounding SAM locations marked on your mission map, and return to the ship.
Your goal for Flight 2 is to follow the path created by Flight 2, attack and destroy the MiG base, and return to the ship.
Suggested Flight Plan:
Figure 7-2. Suggested Flight Plan for Operation Wild Weasel
Operation Beach Blanket Bingo
Preflight Mission Briefing: As large as the U.S. Fleet's presence is in the Persian Gulf, it can't be everywhere at once. This morning, after several days of Iranian gunboat attacks on tankers passing through the Straits of Hormuz, the fleet was moved south to the mouth of the straits to protect shipping in the area. Now, with the fleet in the south, the Iranians have launched an assault across the gulf onto the beaches of Kuwait. Their apparent aim is to establish a beachhead in Kuwait and move inland into the populated areas before the U.S. fleet can react. If they can accomplish this they will force the Iraqis to split their army in order to protect their border with Kuwait.
There is also another problem. Through excellent intelligence or just dumb luck, the attack was timed perfectly so our air wing is at the end of a flying cycle. All of the aircraft are out of fuel and the tankers have landed. Nothing in the air is loaded with air-to-ground weapons anyway. We do have one F/A-18 Hornet on board being loaded and fueled.
Fly this F/A-18 up the gulf and attack the Iranian force while they're still on the beach. You will be carrying the new CBU-87/B cluster bombs. This is a three-in-one ordnance, combining antipersonnel, antiarmor, and incendiary effects in one package. A hit with a couple of these should stop the invasion in its tracks.
You'll need to conserve your fuel as this will be a long flight. A short burst of afterburner, however, can be effective against the slower heat-seeking SAMs. Tensions in the area are high, so expect to be fired upon from both sides of the Gulf; Iranian planes may also attack. Your best bet is to avoid the Iranian coast on the way up so you can't be intercepted. After your bomb run, you may drop all remaining bombs to lighten your load and reduce fuel consumption.
Mission Goal: Your goal for this mission is to drop two bombs on the assigned target in one pass and return to the carrier. If intercepted by Iranian aircraft you may defend yourself, but don't go looking for a fight on the way to the target: Time is critical.
Suggested Flight Plan:
Figure 7-3. Suggested Flight Plan for Operation Beach Blanket Bingo
Preflight Mission Briefing: The date is January 2, 1967. The bombing raids over North Vietnam have become predictable. U.S. jets fly in from the same direction and usually at the same time every day. The enemy has caught on to the process and has begun to cause real problems. Even if they don't manage to shoot down any planes, they often force the incoming bombers to drop their bombs prematurely in order to take evasive action. The logical thing to do is bomb the MiG bases and destroy the MiGs on the ground, but airbases are still on Washington's list of restricted targets. There has to be a way to force the MiGs into the air so they can be fought.
To accomplish this, an elaborate trap will be set. The enemy has capitalized on the fact that U.S. attacks have become predictable. Now the U.S. is going to turn that against them.
A normal-looking strike force is going to the North today as usual. The North Vietnamese won't be able to tell from their radar that the aircraft won't be big, heavy F-105 bombers. Instead, they will be highly maneuverable F-4 Phantoms armed with air-to-air missiles. Regular F-105 call signs and tactics will be used.
If all goes well, the North Vietnamese will think they have F-105s headed their way and send up MiGs to shoot them down. If they take the bait, it's your job to shoot down as many MiGs as possible. You'll probably be outnumbered so make your shots count. Remember that you may have to fight your way out, so reserve a missile or two for that possibility.
Mission Goal: Your goal for this mission is very straightforward: You're to fly west into North Vietnam and shoot down MiGs until you're out of weapons or fuel. With any luck you should become an Ace (five kills) during this mission. There's a good possibility that you could become a double Ace if your flying and shooting skills are topnotch.
Suggested Flight Plan:
Figure 7-4. Suggested Flight Plan for Operation Bolo