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Another After Action Report from the game Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations

“Tanker Wars 2017”
USA vs. Iran
Date/Time: 20 April, 2017
Location: Persian Gulf

In response to diplomatic tension regarding possible violations of a nuclear proliferation agreement, Iran has declared a quarantine on military traffic in the region. Our partner nations in the region have scaled back their operations and civilian traffic has been complying with instructions from the Iranian Navy.
Your mission is to is to contest this state of affairs and demonstrate the United States Navy's commitment to freedom of navigation in international waters.

Recent Chinese overtures in the region have emboldened Iran to abandon its attempted reconciliation with the US. Their continued grievances involving economic and military sanctions and China's willingness to skirt the letter of the law on them has resulted in a significant reduction in the amount of soft-power the US can bring to bear, making it more and more inevitable that hard-power solutions would be required to bring the situation to an acceptable resolution.
You have been tasked with dealing with Iran's "military quarantine". Make no mistake though, it is a blockade in all but name and the United States Navy is not in the business of being blockaded.

Available Forces:
A Littoral Action Group (LAG) consisting of:
LCS 2 USS Independence
LCS 3 USS Fort Worth
LCS 6 USS Jackson
LCS 7 USS Detroit

Rules Of Engagement:
You are authorized to take any offensive action you deem necessary against Iranian naval assets in order to accomplish your mission, however avoiding damage to civilian shipping is of the
utmost importance. The Iranians won't be attacking the shipping either, but it's your responsibility to keep them out of the line of fire. DO NOT hide in the merchant traffic.
Ensure you have positive ID before you engage.

Wow, it's been a while. Got to shake the rust off.

I Livestreamed my playthrough, though I'm guessing an early Sunday morning for most of you didn't draw much of a crowd.

Getting down to business, the Arabian Gulf is a narrow, shallow piece of water that makes it hard to hide and hard to fight. I’ve been tasked to take my four ships out into the open ocean.

Fort Worth and Detroit are loaded with Hellfires. Independence has 12 Joint Strike Missiles onboard. They all have RAM for defense and a mix of .50cal, 30mm, and 57mm guns. In their hangars are 11 total aircraft, a mixture of Fire Scouts and Seahawks. Some Seahawks have torpedos, some have Hellfire. One Fire Scout has radar and the rest have laser-guided 70mm rockets.

I plot the course, headed for the exit of the Gulf. Immediately, I launch the radar Fire Scout to take a look at things. As narrow as the Gulf is, anti-ship missiles could cause serious problems and I don’t want the ships to reveal themselves if I can help it.

The radar Fire Scout apparently doesn’t have a camera, so I also launch one of the torpedo Seahawks. Ships are already appearing on the display, and I send the Seahawk to ID them after the Fire Scout finds them.

There’s a whole crowd of commercial tankers around, nothing that looks dangerous in the first fifteen minutes. Since I launched a Seahawk, I drop a couple of sonobouys in the path of the ships.

Half an hour has now passed. There is one unknown contact to the northeast. I notice the LAG is only moving at 18 knots. They're capable of almost triple that, so I kick up the throttles. They’ll be harder to hit, maybe even able to outrun torpedoes.

For some reason, the Fire Scout is only at 2,000 feet, limiting the radar horizon. I take it up to 20,000.

The Seahawk picks up a contact that is displaying surface search radar. It’s dead center on the LAG’s intended course but 112 miles away, so we’re safe for now. I take the Seahawk up to its max altitude of 18,000 feet and try to get a closer look at the mysterious contact.

A few minutes pass, and suddenly contacts are popping up all over, though still over 100 miles away. There’s probably two dozen of them, all with surface search radar. Three are identified, Iranian Peykaap III missile boats. Their missiles have a range of 20 miles.

A few more minutes pass and the Fire Scout and Seahawk narrow down the ranges. A cluster of Boghammar speedboats with rocket launchers have also been ID’d. The other two dozen or so contacts are still unknown.

China-Cat boats with short range missiles are ID’d. There’s also a Hendijan boat. More time passes and many of the unknown contacts are ID’d as Peykaap I torpedo boats.

The most threatening thing that any of these guys probably have would be a shoulder-fired missile to shoot down a helo. Those only have a range of three or four miles, though, so the Seahawk should be able to fly close enough to ID them.

The Seahawk picks up an ELINT hit on an SA-6 missile site ashore. Not a big deal, since it’s so far away and short range, but it’s an indication that the Iranians have stepped up their game.

The huge crowd of boats has been identified as either Boghammars, or some version of Peykaap. Also, dead center in the Strait of Hormuz is a Jamaran frigate. It’s probably the biggest threat Iran can throw at me. As I watch, it launches a helo of its own. The ship is 182 miles from the LAG. I check the range on the Joint Strike Missiles: 150 miles. Soon.

The Seahawk is near the end of his range and has dropped all the sonobouys he can without directly overflying an Iranian vessel, so I send him home. The Fire Scout still has more than ¾ of a tank, so I put it in a hover to keep an eye on things with radar.

I launch another Fire Scout, this one armed.

With the Seahawk off station, I loose precision targeting on some of the smallest boats.

The Peykaap III closest to my ships has gone south, perhaps trying to hide himself right at the limit of the UAE’s territorial waters. The Fire Scout arrives and sinks him with one rocket. Just under three hours have passed since the start of the scenario.

The Fire Scout has seven rockets left and I turn it north towards the crowd of boats. It sinks four and damages one before running out of rockets and going home. The remaining boats flee to the north at nearly forty knots. I launch another rocket Fire Scout.

Now that they know I’m not messing around, and the LAG is within range of the Jamaran, it’s time to strike. The JSM have a pretty small warhead, so I shoot two. With guidance from the radar Fire Scout, the missiles wreck the Jamaran.

The LAG is now sixty miles from the crowd of boats. Thinking about it for a moment, I launch another rocket Fire Scout. I’ve got plenty. We’re also reaching the end of our sonobouy chain that the ships have been sailing on for protection, so I also launch a helo.

Arriving back at the ship, I discover there are no weapons to reequip the empty Fire Scout. Guess I’d better be careful with ammo.

The damaged Boghammar from earlier sinks.

Using three more JSM, I kill the Hendijans near the Strait. On the way, one missile flies directly over a Peykaap I at an altitude of 30 feet. I’m sure it gave him a thrill. The same missile subsequently flies within a mile of a China-Cat.

The new rocket Fire Scout kills seven boats with eight rockets. Another one is on the way, but there are still seven boats remaining in the group and a whole lot more to the north. I launch a Hellfire-armed Seahawk.

To the east, an SA-6 lights up, covering the Strait. I hope everything is killed by then, otherwise I won’t be able to use my aircraft.

The next Fire Scout in line kills a further seven boats. However, the northern group is still two dozen strong and has begun to shift south. The Hellfire Seahawk arrives, taking its first shot at a Zafar patrol boat. It’s bigger than a speedboat and requires two missiles to kill. I launch another fire scout.

Another SA-6 lights up. Some of the boats are protected inside its range ring. But that also means they’re too far away to spot my ships with their radar.

The Seahawk uses the rest of its missiles to kill three boats. There are still so many out there. I launch another rocket Fire Scout and slow the LAG back down to 18 knots to keep them out of the Iranian radar. A few minutes pass, and when the pair of Fire Scouts begin to engage, I send the LAG back to full speed.

A Zafar patrol boat requires three rockets to sink. The first Fire Scout goes on to sink a few more boats. The second sneaks in at minimum altitude to just inside the SA-6 ring to kill a couple of Zafars.

There are still more boats out there, even as both Fire Scouts go home empty. But I’ve bought myself some breathing room and I decide to conserve ammo. There’s still 19 hours to go in the scenario.

Fort Worth is lagging behind for some reason, so I set the formation to slow down to 35 knots to regroup.

My torpedo Seahawk has been sprinkling sonobouys all around. It flies within three miles of a merchant container ship and suddenly a MANPAD is launched.

The distance is pretty far, but to be safe, the helo drops some flares. The missile doesn’t come within a quarter of a mile.

I launch a JSM at the ship. It’s only a small merchant, but bigger than most of the things I’ve been dealing with so far today. It doesn’t sink.

The helo is almost out of sonobouys, plus they got shot at, so I bring them home. However, within minute the bouys detect a Ghadir submarine.

I launch the other torpedo Seahawk and also a Hellfire Seahawk. The first misses both his torpedos on the submarine, but ID’s a possible second sub. The second kills two China-Cats and then pumps five missiles into the damaged cargo ship.

After landing, the other torpedo Seahawk is down for four hours of maintenance. I hustle the airborne one back to reload. As he’s departing, the other sub is confirmed hostile.

I launch my last Hellfire Seahawk. It goes and finishes off that cargo ship with two Hellfires.
I get a message that a damaged Zafar from earlier has sunk.

I take the LAG back down to 18 knots. We’re less than thirty miles from the submarines and I don’t have anything that can kill them. Within ten minutes, however, the reloaded Seahawk takes off.

The radar Fire Scout runs low on fuel and comes back. The Hellfire Seahawk is rearmed within minutes and I send it up, turning on its radar.

The torpedo Seahawk kills one of the subs. As it moves to hunt the second, a cargo ship fires MANPADs. The helo is less than a mile away. He drops flares and manages to evade the first two missiles, but eats the third.

I target two JSM and sink the cargo ship.

Some time goes by. I bring my ships down to five knots. The other submarine has slipped away and I wouldn’t want them to run into it. I wait. It’s two hours until the other torpedo helo will be ready.

There is some good news. All the way back when the first Fire Scout expended its rockets and I found out there weren’t reloads, I decided to equip it for maritime surveillance. It’s now ready. I send it up, replacing the Seahawk for recon.

I detour the LAG a little to the south to avoid the possible location of a submarine and to stay out of the way of merchant ships. At this point, I’m giving the stink eye to every contact out there. I really don’t want to get stabbed in the back.

I transfer Detroit’s helo to Independence so it can load up with torpedoes. Shortly thereafter, the LAG gets an ELINT hit on a submarine’s radar. It’s no more than six miles away. I send the ships to flank speed.

If these were destroyers, I would have already fired an ASROC at the sub. Instead, I’ll have to do what LCS’s do best – run.

A few minutes pass, and suddenly missiles are inbound. Twelve of them. They’re sea skimming, so I figure anti-ship.

My ships flip on their radars and launch 24 RAM, although they probably could have gotten away with just 18 or so. All incoming are destroyed.

I apologize for not getting a screenshot of the action – I was kind of busy at the time.

Now that the Iranians have found me, this is going to be more difficult. I put the ships back to EMCON and keep pouring on the coals. Fort Worth again lags behind.

Half an hour passes and I finally have a torp helo ready to go. I launch it immediately and go kill that sub. In doing so, the ships have outrun the sonobouy coverage, and I hustle the helo after them.

No more drama takes place and I make it out of the Gulf with 13 ½ hours remaining.

1x MH-60R Seahawk

40x HYDRA APKWS II 70mm Rocket [WGU-59/B]
8x Joint Strike Missile (JSM)
20x AGM-114M Hellfire II
4x Generic Flare Salvo [3x Cartridges, Dual Spectral]
5x Mk54 LHT Mod 0
14x RIM-116B RAM Blk I
10x RIM-116B RAM Blk IA

SIDE: Neutral
1x Bell 214A Huey Plus
2x Commercial Container Vessel - Small Feeder [100 TEU, 5,750t DWT]

4x QW-1 Vanguard

SIDE: Iran
1x IPS-16 Peykaap III [Zolfaghar, C-704]
23x Toragh [Boghammar Mod]
3x IPS-16 Peykaap I [Torpedo]
1x F 76 Jamaran [Moudge Class]
2x IPS-16 Peykaap II [Bavar, C-701]
3x MIG-S-4700-SC Bakhtaran [Hendijan Class]
5x MIG-S-2600-PB Zafar [Chaho Mod]
2x C-14 China-Cat [SSM]
1x 942 Ghadir [IS-120]
1x 901 Tareq [PL-877EKM Kilo]

12x C-802 [YJ-82, CSS-N-8 Saccade]
2x Generic Acoustic Decoy

The QW-1 missiles used by the “neutrals” is a Chinese design. Iran has them, and so do a bunch of other countries, so I guess that doesn’t prove anything.
I should have been more on the ball. After the first cargo ship shooting at me, I shouldn’t have let the next helo get too close, but I was focused on the sub and didn’t notice. I should have changed the colors of all the neutral cargo ship contacts to possible hostile to remind myself.
The Iranians lost more than thirty boats, a frigate, two submarines, and eight patrol boats. Despite that, I had four JSM left and maybe sixteen Seahawk and Fire Scout-carried missiles left, not to mention the Hellfires and guns on the ships. I probably could have killed another dozen boats and done strikes on shore sites. If I could have located the anti-ship missile launchers, that would have been great. But it probably would have meant taking out the SA-6’s first and then sending a helo to visually ID them.
Top scores come from the Fire Scouts Doughboy 2 and Slugger 1, which both killed seven boats.
Independence did the heaviest lifting, firing eight JSM, resulting in five large vessels killed and a partial on another.
Fire Scout High Eye 1’s radar kept the picture for most of the engagement, keeping my ships on the down low.
Seahawk Rounder 1 expended the most, dropping 25 sonobouys. Rounder 1 is also memorialized as the only friendly casualty.

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