Umar sat in the cockpit of his F5E Tiger II, waiting to begin the war. He felt excitement, and fear, not fear of death, but of failure. He wondered if other pilots felt this. He knew that none would admit to it. He wouldn't. But still, did they share his secret.
The border between Uwanda (left) and Mugabian (right).
This battle takes place in the skies near Objective B21 (center right).
As the hour of the attack approached, Uwanda maintained its normal air patrols. At the appointed time, additional aircraft would lift off, join up, and begin the attack. Over the last hour, Mugabian air activity had increased. Clearly, they had been alerted, but it would change nothing. the instruments of war were already in play, and soon a chorus of death and victory would join in.
Uwanda's air force needed to gain air superiority so that their significant close air assets could support the ground invasion. It was necessary if their numerically smaller ground forces were to achieve victory. As H-hour arrived, the first major battle of the war began to take shape.
The map above shows the relative positions of air assets as the start
of the game. The F5Es and Mig21s where about 2 minutes out
from where the dogfight would occur (green dot).
Umar's radar found the enemy first, two aircraft, moving fast and directly toward him and his wingman. The Migs were 10,000 feet below and climbing, about eight miles out. As he closed within his missile's seeker range, Umar pressed the button, and thought, "Now we will see what sort of pilot I am."
The Two Mugabian Air Force Mig21s climb to meet the Uwanda F5Es.
The two F5E's closed with two Mugabian Mig21s, both F5s followed an advanced Sidewinder missile, each plane had been equipped with four of these new missiles. Both missiles closed with their targets, but were evaded. To the disbelief of the Uwandan pilots, four of these missiles would be evaded before the aircraft got into gun range.
The F5Es fire Sidewinders at the Migs.
A turning, twisting dogfight ensued, fought by similar machines flown by well trained pilots. Uwanda's pilots were trained in the United States, but Mugabia's pilots were thought to be trained in Mugabia.
The Mig21s evade the missiles.
As Umar struggled to line up a shot on the lead Mig21, the Mig's wingman disappeared from his view, then reappeared on Umar's tail. The GSh-23 shrieked, and 23mm projectiles were the last thing to go through Umar's mind.
Two Uwanda Air Force F5As desparately climbed, and arrived just in time to see the second Mig21 destroy the second of the F5Es. It appeared that fate would balance the battle, as the new F5s were to the rear and below the Mig21s. Both F5As tried to fire their older AIM9B missiles, but neither could get a lock-on, both missiles malfunctioning.
Already in gun range, the lead F5A happened into a terrific gun shot, which completely missed. A few seconds later, the third F5 of the day would blow up without a pilot bailing out. Within a minute, the Mig pilot would join his Uwandan counter-parts, as the second F5A would get his first gun kill.
A lengthy dogfight would ensue between the remaining F5 and Mig 21, with neither pilot able to get an advantage on the other.
Two more F5As would join the fight, both attempting and failing to get missile lock-ons as the Mig continued to dogfight the remaining F5A of the first pair. Eventually the Mig21 managed to get a shot, but range was not favorable, and the shot missed.
Out of ammo, and out-matched by three aircraft, while having only rear aspect K-13 missiles, the Mig pilot broke off the dogfight, accelerating and diving away from the inbound F5s. The pair would each fire a Sidewinder of their own, but the Mig was to far and too fast to be caught. The remaining F5 of the first pair managed to get two long ranged gun shots, that had no effect on the Mig before it was finally clear of the battle.
Three F5As and two Sidewinders give futile chase to the fleeing Mig21.
Uwanda had control of the sky over objective B21, at least for a little while, but the loss of three more F5s, two being the more capable "E" model, for a single Mig 21 was not part of the plan.
In total contrast to the last battle, this one started at missile range, with four missiles being fired long before guns came into play. Despite six missiles being fired, all kills were gun kills, and Uwanda missed out on five high probability hits early in this battle.
Umar's plane took six critical hits, three of which ended up as "pilot dead". Just wasn't his day.
The game represented about four minutes of combat, and took 2.5 hours to play with 2 to 8 elements to control at any given time. A little of that time was spent on noting position of other air-born aircraft not involved in this battle.
Regarding the rules (the second run of my homegrown system), the mechanics of climbing and diving maneuvers came more easily this time, but for the time that it lasted, running six planes and two missiles was challenging. There are 22 other aircraft in the air as this battle is taking place. I'm not sure if these rules are going to be manageable if a bigger furball than the one above occurs.
I think there will only be one more dogfight before the first ground battle takes place, but I have to look at the maps and timeline to make sure.
Since the ground war had died down, there had been numerous encounters in the air, with both sides poking and prodding, but no serious engagements as both sides were trying to minimize losses. Mugabia had become quite curious about Uwandan movements along the border, and had been kept somewhat up to date by the Soviet intelligence sources. But Mugabia's president was not content to rely only on his friends for information.
Mugabian spies had crossed the border at various times, and other informants within Uwanda materialized as well. Since Uwanda's failed advance to the south, Mugabia had managed to sneak several cells into Uwanda with various objectives in mind, including spying. Additionally and by chance, in the hours prior to Uwanda's H-hour, Mugabian aircraft had become more active in their prodding.
Uwanda's air patrols were constant, but resources limited. The ability to respond to intrusions was often left to ill-suited ground attack aircraft, and there were often holes in patrol coverage due to the limited number of aircraft available. As fate would have it, Mugabia's curiosity would peak only hours prior to the Uwanda's H-hour, and thus started the new war prematurely.
Map of the border between Uwanda (west) and Mugabia (east).
The area inside the black dashed line is occupied by Mugabia and the ULF.
First Shots The two UAF (Uwanda Air Force) F5s patrolling near objective A37 dropped down to get visual contact with a Mugabian Mi4 flying along the border. Once they located the Mi4, they were surprisingly denied permission to shoot it down. So they watched it bumble about the border for a bit and then began to climb again. As they made their assent, they were jumped by three Mig17s, which had penetrated Uwanda airspace looking to track Uwanda's ground movements. The Mig17s managed to get a couple of shots off on the surprised F5s, before fleeing back across the border. The F5 pilots would return home with only their pride hurt. Unknowingly, the Mig pilots had fired the first shots of a new war.
Near objective A60, two G91s moved to intercept two Mig17s. In the next two minutes, the Migs out-maneuvered their Uwandan counterparts, successfully shooting one down and badly damaging the other. There were no other airborn Uwandan aircraft able to intercept, so two F5s were scrambled from the base at objective A46. By the time the F5s could close with the Mugabians, the Mig 17s had penetrated near the Uwandan army build-up just west of objective A60.
The F5s climbed and closed with the Migs, trying to intercept before the Migs could site the troop build-up. In a short time the F5s had an advantage in altitude and speed. In addition to their 20mm cannons, the F5s each carried a pair of AIM9B sidewinders missiles. As they closed, the Migs started to turn away, and then back towards the the F5s, while slowly climbing. The F5s streaked ahead, believing their speed would keep them safe, and planned to wingover into a position for missile shots.
A pair of Uwanda's F5Es.
Misjudging both the advantage of their own speed, and the turn rate of the Mig17s, the lead F5 quickly found himself in a desperate situation. The F5 pilot stared through the top of his canopy, as the Mig17 lined up for a shot. He felt a warm sensation in his flight suite as the massive burst of the Mig 17s guns passed both above and beneath his plane.
The Mig17 pilot couldn't believe his luck when the F5 delivered himself as a choice target, and then couldn't believe his luck again, when he missed the shot. Realizing that he had fired the last of his ammunition, having expended most of it on the G91s earlier, he broke off the fight, and dove away from the F5s and toward the Mugabian border.
The Mig17's wingman did not break off the engagement and seconds later, was able to line up a shot on the lead F5. He did not miss, watching as his tracers blew out the bottom of the F5's cockpit. The F5 pilot dead, the smoking jet quickly dove to its final destination.
The second F5 could have turned away and ended the engagement, but filled with rage over witnessing the death of his wingman, the pilot turned into the second Mig for a face to face encounter. The Mig had no way out and lined up on the F5, pulling his trigger as he saw the enemy's 20mm guns blaze. An instant later, he saw the tail of the F5 disintegrate and the an ejection seat blow clear of the aircraft. He had felt the shudder of the 20mm rounds going through his left wing without considering the cause, but it took only an instant, before he realized that his aircraft was no longer responding to his control.
The Mig17 fires on his second victim of the day, his first victim can be seen
diving to the ground in the background
He watched the F5 pilot's parachute collapse into the tree tops, as he gently descended, suspended below his own. ___
The second encounter above was my first game with my new air combat rules. For the most part it worked out well, though I still need to work out some details a little better. Managing the four aircraft wasn't as hard as I had expected, and the game ended up far more lethal than I had anticipated.
The Russian aircraft cannons are beasts, putting out a ton of lead. At fairly close range, they were just wickedly lethal. A good die roll offset the odds from the bad deflection shot on the first kill. Plus a half dozen critical hits resulted in two pilot kills in a plane with one pilot. Hopefully, I will learn a little about air combat before Uwanda runs out of F5s.
I am bummed that the F5s didn't get to fire a missile, but I still have that to look forward to in the next game.
The result of the air combat is that Uwanda has lost four aircraft, three permanently, to Mugabia's one. The tricky p[art is that two of the F5s provided top cover to the impending ground attack are now part of the past. The Migs penetrated deep enough into Uwanda to discover the troop buildups near the border, and have confirmed the Russian intelligence. But, it comes so close to H-hour, that Mugabia can do little with the information.
Hopefully I'll have a better table cover next time. I had to use my ocean water sheets as I don't have anything appropriate for the air war. It was so dark that it caused my camera fits with the light colored aircraft.
Last week, I managed to finally finish (kind of) painting a few 15mm tanks for Africa, a platoon of Vickers Mk3 from QRF and one of my Mugabian T34 conversions with the ZU23/2 mounted in place of the turret. I love the Vickers Mk3s, they are just such nice sculpts.
The Vickers Mk3 is the newest tank in Uwanda's (African imagi-nation) inventory, with only a very small number serving in a few units. It will eventually replace the aging Fireflys and Centurion IIIs.
And here is my T34/23 conversion (totally fictional by the way ,for my African imagi-nation, Mugabia)
And the unit pictured together with ammo supply vehicle.
There are just a few of these in the Mugabian inventory to try to provide mobile rapid air defense for the President's armored forces.