This is a brief analysis of the mission I flew with my pilot, Mr 132nd.Evilivan, in Growling Sidewinder’s PvP server.
I received some questions about different aspects of the engagements seen in this video. I tried in this article to explain why we manoeuvred in certain ways, what I did to build our SA, why (or why not) I decided to commit.
This is the video. The Tacview track is linked in the comments. I added timestamps of the most interesting events as well.
In primis an overview of the AO. Or, the basic steps required to build your SA.
The AO and Mr SA
From the F10 map I noticed three red “strongholds”. They were easy to recognize from the air and represented the border between the Evil Capitalists territory and the friendly lines of the Democratic People’s Proletariat’s.. Something (I struggle to find a term to describe a faction that sports F-14, J-11A, Su&MiGs and Mirage all together. I am open to suggestions though! 🙂 ).
These three waypoints not only delimits the areas but also have friendly AA defences. If in trouble, we knew we could fly over those three points, prior to head towards our airport. With a bit of luck, the fire coming from the ground can disrupt the chasing hostile, hopefully forcing it to return back to its lines.
I entered the waypoints at 3’30”. This is how they looked like on my screen:
In a more simulative mission, you probably have pre-assigned waypoints already so you can use those to better understand and maintain the SA. In an airquake server such as this, maintaining the SA is even more difficult so make your life easier by setting up some waypoints. This offset partially the lack of a moving map.
Some F-14 crews used Garmin GPS on board to help navigating. I mentioned the use of the NS 430 with the F14 to fix the Aircraft Position computed by the INS here. I also used it in another recent stream for that purpose.
Although I don’t use it for nav, no one prevents you to take advantage of the NS 430 together with INS and TCN to make your life easier. We backseaters have enough to play with between antenna, radar modes, geometry, filters and so on so use it, if it helps you!
Our plan was to CAP across the waypoints, establish a decent picture and engage the enemy CAP. We had our backup plan as I mentioned already.
We wanted to be flexible, so we opted for a 4/2/2 setup. I choose the AIM-54A Mk60 in order to have a bit more range. We decided to carry 2xAIM-7 as well, to have an alternative in case of shorter range encounters, especially if somewhat near friendly aircraft.
This is the (potentially) complicated part because, even if an AWACS is present, it doesn’t see everything. Moreover, the “bad guys” that want to sneak through your lines will do everything they can to mask themselves from it. This includes low flying to benefit from the terrain masking.
Therefore once you reach a certain altitude, lower the antenna. There’s little point in scanning the sky when the targets will probably be lower than you or at your altitude. A quick trick is finding the Marking Altitude and using that altitude as an imaginary “ceiling”.
The following diagram explains the concept. The blue thick line is the Marking Altitude, whatever contact flies higher will leave very visible
This is not a reliable method of establishing a decent SA but in the confusion of an airquake server, everything helps, especially if no wingman is there to support. In fact, contrails allow us to focus the attention on the most critical part of the sky, where IRST-equipped aircraft lurks (the same concept can be applied to whatever aircraft can rely on methods alternative to their radar to find targets. For instance the F/A-18 SA page).
By taking advantage of the contrails, we can lower the antenna and spot targets that may be hidden from the AWACS.
In real life the process of defining the radar boundaries is more complex. In primis aircraft don’t fly alone. Then the area is sanitized and later divided into areas of responsibility.
In PvP airquake servers, all I just said is quite useless, especially because few players play and coordinate as a more simulating team would do. Therefore, if you are by yourself, setting the antenna elevation to a value lower then default is not a bad idea at all.
Let’s now focus on the shots taken.
FOX3 #1: 16’31”
To appreciate the whole action, start a minute earlier.
The following is the TacView and a capture of my TID before releasing the AIM54 (note that the TID shots do not reflect the Tacview, I took them in different moment to show how the situation was evolving).
The Blue circles are the two hostile contacts I had on my TID. The four Green are the friendlies, either coming from the AWG-9 or the Datalink. The Yellow instead is a friendly that hasn’t been detected by the radar or the AWACS: it was out of the AWACS line of sight and was flying in the Zero Doppler Filter. This proves how, no matter AWACS, Datalink and AWG-9, sometimes the SA is not as good as we think.
This is the Tacview of the FOX-3:
From this perspective it’s clear how the Yellow friendly was almost impossible to spot.
FOX3 #2: 18’45”
The vast majority of the fights are won by who has superior SA and knows how to capitalize the advantage. This was no exception. I suspected that the target lost SA and moved too close to our lines and he happened to be at my 12 o’clock right after the first kill.
After scoring this kill we turned cold to gain space. The F-14 is like a piece of artillery, you don’t want it in a knife fight. Especially a knife fight full of 9x and AIM-120..
FOX3 #3: 23’10”
We turned towards the hostile lines again. Through DL and AWG-9 I saw a friendly merged. The first impulse was to help him by firing an AIM-54 but I decided to avoid that, since there is always a chance to hit a friendly as the missile goes Pitbull. At closer range, the AIM-7 would have been the correct solution but we were still at approximately 30nm.
Note: You may have noticed that a tactic often used by blue players involves firing big salvos of AIM-120 and then turn cold. The F-15 I later engaged and killed fired 3x AIM-120 at the friendly MiG-29. If you watch the first FOX-3 engagement again, you clearly see 2x AIM-120 fired maddog. If you are flying as a Red F-14, do your best to spot them and capitalize the speed and range advantage by maintaining yourself at a safe distance.
Here I lost my target: it was defending from a friendly R-73 and it went vertical, out of my radar cone. TWS Auto is not implemented yet so the antenna elevation does not compensate for the cranking manoeuvre I asked to the pilot. I found the target again only after having reactivated the DL on the TID. The hostile was flying above 35,000ft.
A message popped-up at 23’47” stating that we killed the target. This is due to the current implementation of the AIM-54: due to a number of reasons, some of them mentioned in my study about the AIM-54 Probability of Kill, at the moment the Phoenix behaves like an AIM-120 hence it turns active automatically at a certain range. In reality, the WCS should command the missile activation. This is the main reason why people consider the missile OP: it has longer range than a 120 and can be fired maddog up to 15nm-20nm. On the other hand, the missile wastes a lot of energy pulling 10G-11G for no reason in multiple points of its envelope and it should be turned active way before the 7-10nm from the target we have now. This means that, probably, the AIM-54 may have hit the target anyway.
FOX3 #4: 23’40”
The last AIM-54 left our rail only seconds after having hit the previous hostile. The reason for all this urgency was a new target, it was rushing towards our friendlies: firing an AIM-54 into merged friendlies is a terrible idea, moreover, I planned to intercept the hostile before giving him the chance to fire a salvo of AIM-120s.
The second hostile (light blue) was out of the boundaries of my radar cone, hence invisible. The DL may have picked it up but I didn’t turn it on for three reasons:
- Declutter: as you have seen in the video, the TID can become hard to read when too many targets are displayed. By turning the DL off temporarily, I have a better view of the target I’m engaging.
- AWG-9: in order to fire, a target must be “seen” by the AWG-9. The DL helps to slew the antenna to the correct elevation and azimuth but then can make the view more confusing (especially in case of degraded INS).
- Avoid overextending: we knew we push too forward and we were almost out of Phoenixes so we committed for the engagement with the clear intention of immediately turn cold post launch. I didn’t need the DL to plan a new course to another hostile. I knew there were none posing a concrete threat, so I kept the DL off in this phase.
After the AIM-54 hit its target, we were left with Sparrows and Sidewinders. We decided to RTB, too many AIM-120 around and, despite being a great aircraft, a merge with an F/A-18 is simply a bad idea: HMS and AIM-9X push the balance decisively towards them.
Since we had quite a lot of fuel, we decided to bug off by going “Gate” (full throttle) and land back at Homebase.
This was just a simple example or a short engagement on a PvP server.
I added some tips and tricks and I hope you enjoyed the reading!