System: Iron Cow
Publisher: Wessex Games
More Air Ops
by Toby R Barrett
The article on air operations in Iron Cow by David Manley, in Ragnarok #20, was of particular interest to me, being full of good ideas to produce a simple and workable addition to the rules. However I would query one element of his article.
David suggests that all ground attack aircraft, together with any escorts, run the gauntlet of the air superiority pool before facing the further perils of air defence units. This ruling means that a large number of strike aircraft and escorting tightens must be sent on any mission to ensure that even a fraction of the attacking aircraft survive to carryout their mission. The United States use this very tactic, incorporating into these formations, specialist, ECM 'Wild Weasel' aircraft but the Royal Air Force, for one, have a very different approach.
Some modern attack aircraft, such as the GR1 Tornado, are capable of very low level flight at high speed, this is due to either Terrain Following Radar (TFR) or Terrain Referenced Navigation (TRN). Both work in different way ways but suffice it to say that TRN is the more advanced of the two systems and is likely to he the standard low level radar package for years to come (unless you know different?). TRN should allow a strike force to approach their target undetected by radar or enemy fighters. This allows for a much smaller force, typically of about four aircraft, without the need for them to be encumbered with escorts. This is how the RAF operate their GR1's.
Similarly 'Stealth' aircraft, like the F117 and B2, by virtue of their design, are capable of evading radar and therefore fighter interception and again require no escort, typically operating as a single unit.
With both of these technologies, in my opinion, likely to see more frequent use there would seem to be an argument for allowing aircraft using them at least a chance of evading the Air Superiority Pool. Perhaps a percentage system based on the type of aircraft, the number in the formation and whether the operation is flown at day or night (even a stealthy aircraft can be seen in broad daylight).
Aircraft using some form of terrain following system are of course still vulnerable to Air Defence Units and I would suggest that these encounters be resolved as in David's article.
Stealth aircraft, however, require a little more thought. Even during the day, when they can be seen, stealth aircraft are going to be difficult to hit. They have a very small radar signature and most Air Defence Units are radar guided. I would suggest resolving these attack as normal but with negative modifiers being applied to the AA batteries . At night stealth aircraft are going to be virtually undetectable and may well be able to approach their targets unmolested. Again a percentage system could be used giving the defender only a small chance of detecting the incoming aircraft. This may not seem fair but that's life. Stealth planes are very good at what they do.
How is this going to effect the game? Well obviously things could get a little bit out of hand. Before a game begins both sides must agree what level of technology is available and in what numbers. Both sides may well have terrain following aircraft but do both sides have stealthy ones? None of this technology comes cheap and only a limited number of any type are likely to be available. Commanders are unlikely to risk their only stealth aircraft on a daylight attack in support of the grunts.
Finally remember air strikes are very powerful indeed and could seriously unbalance a game, but they will not always be available on demand. Your game probably only represents a small portion of a major conflict and the planes may well be needed elsewhere. The weather also plays an important role, no one is going to risk low level air strikes in poor visibility.
Ed Note: Iron Cow is a 6mm (Epic) SF Armour rules system produced by Wessex Games and was reviewed in Ragnarok 19. A revised edition, Iron Cow 2103AD, was reviewed in Ragnaraok 39. For further details regarding price and availability, send an SSAE to Wessex Games, 4 Old Acre Road, Whitchurch, Bristol, BS14 0HN.
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