Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Downtown - D12 CSAR

D12 – Combat Search and Rescue

I wanted to look at a smaller pick up game to use with our conversion project and picked the Combat Search and Rescue mission to rescue Roger Locher who had been shot down on 10 May 72 and had been evading the DRV ground forces. Roger Locher is on the ground adjacent to Yen Bai airfield and the 40 ARRS has been sent in to make the pick up after he has been on the run for 3 weeks.

The reason this scenario appealed is that I had already made up the HH-53 jolly Green CSAR birds and the A-1 Skyraiders. As all the USAF aircraft are either Rescue Support or CAP they don’t need to plot and follow flights paths which speeds up game set up. But as the HH-53 has a movement of 1 this can seem to take a while. But as you only have 6 turns before the DRV start rolling for crew capture you need to get a move on to effect the rescue.


The USAF aircraft for this mission, straight from the scenario book, will need to be represented by the following models:

  • 1 F-4E Combat Air Patrol
  • 2 A-1 Skyraider Rescue Support
  • 2 HH-53 Jolly Green Rescue Support

The DRV don’t need a great deal either. Apart from the fixed AAA concentrations they receive a solitary SAM which is meant to be hidden and 1 AAA Point. The AAA will be placed on table (probably in the target hex!). A pair of DRV flights completes the defenders forces.

The normal solo rules for AAA placement put the AAA concentration in the target hex. You wish to consider a chance that the AAA must be placed differently as the concentration from Yen Bai covers the pick up zone already.

The solo rules for placement and activation of SAMs don’t quite match the scenario as we don’t have any bombers. For this, I suggest ignoring the SAM placement rules for this reason as well as the 1972 hexes don’t give you many options for coverage over Yen Bai.

 Place two unlocated SAM markers on table in a valid placement hex. Which ever one is activated first become the on table battalion and remove the other from play. (Not elegant but we haven’t play tested this one yet to improve on the idea).

The DRV also receive a DRV ground unit (-1) which is placed in the same hex as the pilot.

The solo rules for this mission allow some interesting mixes which don’t quite follow the MAP costs if you were playing this against an opponent. But as we ARE using the Solo rules you only need to have the following models.

  • 2 MiG-17
  • 1 MiG-19
  • 1 MiG-21 PFM
The MiGs can come from either Phuc Yen or Yen Bai airfield; depending on how much room you have you could choose to place a marker for the entry point for Phuc Yen and use a countdown markert for entry turn. But, this fits on a 4 x 4 board (if you include Phuc Yen and the outskirst of Hanoi) but action is a bit localised in one corner. From a miniatures perspective we are not constrained by the map and can move Yen Bai to a more central location allowing for different routes and flights. Or, as with all games move the pick up point to fit your available table.

The MiGs start ready and we don’t need to use the early warning “house rule”. This means that the USAF have a chance of getting in pretty quick. The F-4E doesn’t have IFF so the chances of detecting the DRV is still pretty similar to 1967. You COULD allow the CAP to use the MiG Screen rule as there are no bombing task flights but up to you.


It was just past 1130hrs, June 1st when Capt Stovall brought the HH-53C of the 40th ARRS into the area near the DRV MiG Base at Yen Bai. It had been confirmed that Oyster Zero One Bravo had survived the shoot down of his F-4 on 10 May and had, so far, managed to evade capture for 22 Days. Since taking off from Nakhon Phanom the SARTF had formed up and was now close to making the pick up. Capt Stovall led the SAR section escorted by 2 sections of A-1 Sandy’s with CAP provided by USAF F-4E Phantoms. Capt Shipman commanded the high HH-53C which would go in if anything happened to Stovall. This was the deepest penetration into North Vietnam by Search and Rescue in the whole of the Vietnam conflict to date.

The CAP went to afterburner and headed towards Yen Bai and the closest threat hoping to gain a visual ID on reported Red Bandits readying for take off. The rest of the SARTF hugged the Karst at 140 knots. The F-4E RWR starts to indicate a SAM Search radar just off the nose at 030 degrees. The rest of the SARTF gets the warning but none of the other aircraft are fitted and the SAM needs to be neutralised, quickly. Yen Bai is now in sight but there appears to be no activity on the runway or dispersal – A false alarm but other MiGs are reported heading south from Phuc Yen. The CAP drops down into the Karst and heads North to intercept. 

With no RWR Stovall’s HH-53C picked its way through the forested valleys hopefully preventing the DRV SAMs active in the area from achieving a radar lock. The escorting A-1 Sandys began to line up to suppress the AAA concentrations at Yen Bai and in the target area to allow the HH-53C a run it to make the pick up. Timing would be critical. DISCO had already reported Red and Blue Bandits being made ready from Phuc Yen and at Yen Bai itself. Oyster Zero One Bravo had also confirmed a large number of enemy foot patrols in the area which would also have to be dealt with.

 As they clear the Karst Sandy 03 is struck by AAA and begins to stream smoke. The AAA at Yen Bai receives a delivery of CBU from the undamaged Skyraider, Sandy 04; The CAP climbs to Low Altitude and begins to swing towards the reported Threat. Sandy 01 visually identifies a SAM Battalion which sat adjacent to the main rail line.

DISCO reports that the bandits heading down from Phuc Yen are in fact two flights. The CAP is now faced with a decision on which is the most immediate threat. Sandy 01 doesn’t know it yet but the SAM Battalion has a partial lock on but will be unable to shoot as the Skyraider will be inside the minimum launch range when it moves.

DISCO issues new information that the two MiG flights have now joined together and appear to one element again.

Sandy 01 and 02 reach the IP for a bomb run on the SAM battalion as the AAA starts to rise from the site. The AA, while close, leaves the Skyraiders undamaged and they release half their CBU ordnance on the SAM Battalion which erupts in a spectacular series of secondary explosions.

The Skyraiders swing around to head towards Oyster Zero One Bravo’s position and line up on a new AAA battery and the DRV ground units, while the CAP and DISCO have lost the MiG contact for the time being.

All the Skyraiders have now expended all ordnance and are now limited to 20mm against the remaining AAA Sites which isn't going to do a great deal even if permitted. The DRV units surrounding Oyster Zero One Bravo have dispersed under the CBU strikes however. Captain Stovall has no option but to call off the attempt. With extensive AAA in the area and no way of suppressing it during the run in it is too risky to attempt the pick up today. They will be back in force tomorrow.

Not quite how I imagined the game running from the 1st on table playtest. With two AAA concentrations bracketing the pick up location the Sandy’s are struggling, they are low and slow in order to avoid the SAM Battalion which means they are easy pickings for the AAA gunners. If the AAA isn’t suppressed the HH-53C aren’t going to survive. The Skyraiders did take down the SAM battalion but that means expending ordnance which then can’t be used to suppress the AAA. Hard Choices. The US were also lucky in that the MiG flights all turned out to be dummy flights as the Single CAP can’t cover two threats at once.

We played this out on a 2 x 2 table and the Sandy and Skyraider’s only went in the bottom corner of the table. Speed 1 and 2 means a lot of turns are expended but the bonus is that there are no more SAMs or AAA to activate so you only have the MiG generation to run. We used a count down system for the Phuc Yen MiGs turn of entry. Even so it can be a plod to get through. In the real event the same thing happened Capt Stovall couldn’t get in to make the pick up and the next day over 110 aircraft were involved in the mission to effect the rescue. A Wild Weasel flight would make the job easier but you are pretty confined in terms of where the scenario edges are and I don’t know if extending the table makes much difference due to the speed.

Time to look at CSAR Tactics in Downtown generally then.

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