Off the North Cape

Marcus takes us through the set up, models and rules for a clash in the air 1977 style.

I rolled out my sea mat again to do duty as the waters off the North Cape. While it may not have the typical dark grey of northern waters, I am going for a game in the continuous day of mid- summer, at least that is my excuse for using the same sea mat (it is the only one I have, and I like it)
I went for a foundation of the Wings at War rules, with some tweaks of my own.
Aircraft for the game, the TU 128’s and Tu 95 were from Shapeways. The former needed a bit of work with an emery board to smooth off the wings, although one was worse than the other, which only needed a light application. I don’t think the Tu95 required any such treatment. Both aircraft are much lighter than a metal equivalent would be. I have some doubt whether a metal version would work with my ring magnet and ball bearing mounting system. I really wanted to get the Tu128. I love the brutal size and power of it, based as it was on the unsuccessful Tu98 bomber in order to provide the range to defend the vulnerable north of the Soviet Union from bomber incursions. The Saab AJ37 is from Oddzial Osmy, which are available from Magister Militum in the UK.

I understand their models are slightly smaller scaled than those from Tumbling Dice but it isn’t immediately obvious, although I would be cautious about mixing the same type of aircraft from the two manufacturers. The Viggen is an absolute favourite of mine, with the double delta wings and the splinter camo pattern characteristic of the AJ (optimized for attack) version. The later JA (Interceptor) often sported a grey colour scheme which lacks the distinctive character of the earlier scheme. The Yak 28 was sculpted and cast by my friend Stu (he has been waiting too long to see this write up, but more of that later) who has created some lovely models at this size, in particular my “Stingray” collection and some lovely Arado E555 Luft ’46 aircraft! I painted it as a Firebar interceptor. Subsequently I used it as a Brewer E ECM aircraft, and I may just repaint it with the glazed nose from this version. All the other aircraft were from Tumbling Dice.

*Surface search only. ** 2 each of IR and radar homing
I added some adaptations cribbed from the “Phantoms” system, which is based on the Avalon Hill game “Mustangs” but I also owe a debt to Avalon Hill’s “Flight Leader”, notably around the missile and gunfire templates. I also added a radar and countermeasures (C/M) column.

The North Cape 1977:
The object of the game for the FAA was get the Buccaneers off the table and inflict damage on the Soviets. The Soviets needed to stop the Buccaneers and do some damage if possible. I set up the game with the Yak-28 on the northern table edge, and rolled an ace pilot! Two F4K’s came in from the west, with another ace and an experienced pilot. Things began to fall apart for the Soviets as while their ace detected the Phantoms, he was immediately blown up by a Sparrow from the Royal Navy ace. Unfortunately that was Stu’s beautiful model out of the game already! I rolled for reinforcements and the TU 128’s appeared, one green and one experienced.
Along with the Tu128’s, who were unable to spot anything, the Buccaneers also entered on turn 2; spotting their adversaries they dive one level to get into the ground clutter. The F4’s spot the Tupolev’s, but both fail their Sparrow launch roll.
On turn 3 a pair of MiG-25’s now appear for the Soviets and this time the pair are an ace and an experienced pilot.
The green Tupolev pilot detects the F4’s but one AA5 fails to launch and the other misses. I discovered a reference that Soviet doctrine often saw missiles launched in pairs one IR and one radar homing, to increase the chances of a kill. I forgot however, that I wouldn’t be able to use the IR missiles except at very specific angles and treated them all as radar guided. Meanwhile the Tupolev lead also fires a pair and gets one hit on the FAA ace. This is unfortunate for the Soviets as the AA5 is a big missile and more likely to get a kill from a hit. Meanwhile, the ace Foxbat pilot fails to detect anything, but his wingman spots the Phantoms. Unfortunately, the AA6’s fail to launch. The experienced F4 pilot gets off a sparrow shot at the Tupolev, but it misses.
The MiG leader detects the Buccaneers powering across the table at low level but can’t get a lock. They are too low and the angle is too difficult.
The lead Tupolev finally gets a lock on an F4 and launches getting a hit and destroying the F4 wingman. The ace returns fire but misses.
Now another pair of F4’s join the fray, one ace and one green.
At the end of turn 5 the Soviets have scored two Phantoms and the FAA have destroyed a MiG 25 and a Yak 28, but the Buccaneers got off the table too.
Turn 6 and the lead Tupolev has no missiles left and dives, but his wingman detects the remaining ace from the original flight of F4’s and hits with two AA5’s, destroying the Phantom. The newly arrived Phantoms pick up the MiG-25’s; the ace fails with one launch but the second is successful and destroys the MiG. His wingman sees two sparrows miss.
On turn six the remaining MiG can’t make a detection, and the F4 ace tries to get around onto his tail, but unsuccessfully. His wingman turns south. Both Tupolev’s try to evade with the lead turning east on full power at level two.
Turn seven and the ace F4 goes for a sidewinder shot on the second Tupolev but misses, while the other F4 goes after the lead Tupolev. And in turn eight gets a hit, but this only damages the big aircraft, which flies off to the east. His wingman however gets on the tail of the trailing Tu128 and on turn nine manoeuvres with a barrel roll and a sideslip to launch a sidewinder, destroying it. Not bad for a rookie!
Finally in turn ten, the remaining MiG, the last soviet fighter on the table, launches against the F4, which has turned north-east after destroying the Tupolev, but its two AA6 miss.
The Soviets destroyed two F4’s while the FAA scored a MiG, Yak 28, and a Tu 128 with another damaged. The Buccaneers escaped to make a strike on the Northern Fleet. Now you are wondering what happened to the Saab and Tu 142? Initially some things about this game made me think that I wouldn’t write it up and I set up a second game which included these aircraft, and the Yak 28 as the ECM Brewer E.

I subsequently set up another game with a Kashin Mod. FFG covering an amphibious group in the Skagerrak area, allowing intervention by the Swedes. It became apparent to me, certainly as the latter game unfolded, was the lack of Soviet short-range missiles on these aircraft (although subsequently MiG 25PD’s were fitted with AA-8, introduced around 1979). In these games they were all fitted out as interceptors and didn’t have any. In addition, I had given the MiG a wider turning circle. The radar rules seemed a bit restrictive too, and in fact the next game saw six turns of action with only one sidewinder shot, which missed. The Buccaneers failed to get a missile lock on the Kashin Mod. FFG (which also failed to lock on them) and then…I was told it was time for dinner and I had to pack up an unsatisfying game at an unsatisfactory point, especially since this time I had taken the trouble to label each stand with pilot quality markers. I had even named each pilot ready for the report!
More thought about the system will be required before I venture out to the North Cape again. And in the meantime I need to paint some Tu22M’s, get some decals for the flight deck of the Moskva and base both it and the Kashin. But I did nevertheless get some nice pictures of the second game.
On the horizon for my next game is to try WW2 Check Your Six, but I also have some ships to paint for Guadalcanal, so alternatively you might see those appear here next.

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