Wednesday 7 February 2024


A straight knife fight between missile armed USN F-4s with 4 Mig-17s in early 1965. (VP 4 vs 4). Can the USN get its first MiG kill ? Pilot quality isn't a feature in the game so your USAF pilots have the same ability as their more tactically aware USN counterparts so you can play this out with either.

The real engagement is based on:

"On 17 June 1965, Navy F-4Bs were flying "barrier combat air patrol (BARCAP)", protecting a strike package that was attacked by four North Vietnamese MiG-17s. Once the Phantom pilots visually identified the MiGs, they took them on, firing Sparrows at them. Two Phantoms, one piloted by Commander Louis Page and the other by Lieutenant Jack Batson, each scored a kill. These were the first "People's Army of Vietnam North Air Force (PAVNAF)" MiGs shot down in the war."

I chose the VF-21 "Freelancers" as I liked the tail art so made up some decals for a pair which you can see here Downtown and Thud Ridge Images. Not the best reason but a reason none the less. The MiG-17 is the workhorse of the DRV until later on and I wanted to see how much mismatch there is.

As there is no air to ground, no targets and no SAMs I played this one out on a 4x4 table with opponents entering from opposite corners.

Mission Analysis

DRV first (for a change). With no missile we have to get in close. We are exceedingly manouvreable and have numbers on our side. Entering at Level 1 means little to fear from the RG missiles and the US have to get in our homing zone with the HS which we should be able to avoid. Possibly a defensive wheel formation ? never tried it and a bit early in the period but we might have a look. The US will stay up high where we can't get them and then get in behind us using the extra power available.

US. The opposite really. We need to use the RG to the best of its ability but we can only realistically engage 1 target apiece so have to be careful (could fire two a turn but that puts us in a known attitude and we still need to manouvre to bring the target into the envelope). Working in pairs is probably the best option covering the leader with the wingman. Trying to be top gun will probably see both F-4s getting shot down if we go off on our own. With no SAMs to worry us we can use the height to our advantage and pick who and where we attack. The extra energy is also benefit to get that extra distance as well as get up out of trouble if the indians get to close. And we have afterburner to dissipate all that excess energy. Remember no gun so we need to get behind with the HS. The RG is all aspect but poor performance and uses up AP and flies us in a straight line.

Turn 1
  • Showtime 101 and 103 enter first at H4:E5 and close the distance to the MiGs (25cm). MOVE - MOVE - MOVE - MOVE - MOVE . Showtime is 103 is 5cm behind 101.
  • Red 07 and Red 11 (DRV Right hand pair) enter at H2:E4; Blue 08 and Blue 09 (DRV Left hand pair) enter at H3:E4. Aircraft bases are touching with 10cm between pairs. MOVE - MOVE - MOVE - MOVE
Turn 2
  • Showtime 101 and 103 continue to close at H4:E5 and close the distance to the MiGs (25cm). MOVE - MOVE - MOVE - MOVE - MOVE .
  • Red 07/11 turn to the right H2:E4 (MOVE (RT) - MOVE (RT) - MOVE (LT) - MOVE (LT)
  • Blue 08/09 turn to the left H3:E4 MOVE (LT) - MOVE (LT) - MOVE (RT) MOVE (RT) opening the lateral separation.
Turn 3
  • Range is still too great for a RG shot so Showtime 101 and 103 go after Blue 08/09. H4:E5 MOVE (RT) - DIVE (+2) - BRAKE (-1) - BRAKE (-1) - MOVE. Ending H3:E5
  • Cat and Mouse time for Blue 08/09 the US can start to go for FOX-1 so the DRV elect to drop towards the deck and bring Red 07/11 around behind the F-4s. 
  • Blue 08/09 H3:E4 POWER (+1) - DIVE (+2) - BRAKE (-1) - BRAKE (-1); Ending H2:E5 BINGO ROLLS no effect.
  • Red 07/11 H2:E4 POWER (+1) - MOVE (LT) - MOVE (LT) - MOVE (LT); Ending H2:E5 BINGO ROLLS no effect
Turn 4
  • The worst thing that the US could do in this position is to drop to H2 in a cloud of MiGs. Both Showtime 101/103 need to be more than 25cm from the enemy to get a RG shot off at a front aspect target from this altitude (they need to dive as well). They are inside minimum range and the HS needs rear aspect. Time to get some afterburn action, clear the area and reengage. They haven't used any afterburner or power yet so are safe from BINGO they can do 3 afterburn moves safely and then dive which would place them 40cm from where they are now any excess power can be removed because of the afterburn marker.
  • 101 elects to DIVE (+2) - REVERSE (D3/-1) - AFTERBURN ending H2:E6. 
  • 103 DIVE (+2) - REVERSE (D2/-1) - AFTERBURN - AFTERBURN; Ending H2:E6
  • Red 07/11 and Blue 08/09 are bemused by the US behaviour but decide not to make it easy and climb to H3 preventing the US turning and shooting next turn.
  • Red 07/11 MOVE (RT) - MOVE (RT) - CLIMB (-2); Ending H3:E3
  • Blue 08/09 MOVE (LT) - POWER - CLIMB (-2); Ending H3:E4
Turn 5
  • Afterburner back on the US still need to open the range so elect to use the massive power in the F-4 .
  • Showtime 101/103 AFTERBURN - AFTERBURN - MOVE - CLIMB; Ending H3:E6
  • Red 07/11 DIVE (+2) - MOVE (RT)- MOVE(LT); Ending H2:E5
  • Blue 08/09 know they are in trouble or will be (they US will probably reverse and come looking next turn) so DIVE (+2) - BRAKE (-1) - MOVE (LT) - MOVE (RT); Ending H2:E5
Turn 6
  • Red 07/11 are still too close to get a dive and a RG shot so the US is after Blue 08/09.
  • Showtime 101 REVERSE (D2) - DIVE (+2) - AFTERBURN (+2) - RG; rolling a 5 Blue 09 now has a radar lock marker.
  • Red 07/11 find themselves behind and on the same level as Showtime 101.
  • Red 11 TIGHT (LT/2AP/-1) MOVE (LT) SHOOT (Rear aspect) rolling a 5 and Showtime 101 begins trailing smoke before slowly turning over, two parachutes ae seen. MOVE (LT) - MOVE (LT); Ending H2:E4
  • Red 07 breaks right to keep out of the way of the shooting MOVE - MOVE - MOVE (LT) - MOVE (LT); Ending H2:E5
  • Blue 08 TIGHT (RT/2AP/-1) - MOVE (RT) - MOVE (RT) - MOVE (RT); Ending H2:E4.
  • Blue 09 TIGHT (LT/2AP/-1) - TIGHT (LT/2AP/-1) - MOVE (RT); Ending H2:E2 with 4 break lock points rolls a 2 and watches the Sparrow go ballistic.
Victory for the DRV - I still managed to get shot down (again). I still have trouble with the combinations of afterburn, dive, reverse etc with the need to balance AP expenditure with energy. There was probably an opportunity way back in turn 3 where I could have gone afterburner to close the range rather than dive and break. Bleeding energy into the afterburner is useful and you only need to use one a turn to keep you stable. The lack of gun is a nightmare and I probably was too fixated with getting a sparrow shot off, but the homing zone restriction on the early HS missiles is a killer. But it shows you how hard it is to get a shot off and also imagine protecting an inbound striker as well. Add a couple of SAMs and you will probably have the same results as the US pilots until they put a gun under the F-4. Better luck next time.

Oh look! pumpkin soup, I like that.

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