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DCS: Mi-24P Hind

Soviet-Afghan War, 1979-1989

The rebel mujahideen (jihadist) guerrillas ranged against Afghan Government and Soviet forces called the Hind helicopter gunship Shaitan Arba, or ‘Satan’s Chariot’. The Russians, with a nod to the Il-2 Shturmovik armoured ground attack aircraft that did great service busting Nazi tanks in WW2, knew it as ‘летающий танк’, ‘the flying tank’.





Both had a point. Even the early Hind-A variant that entered Afghan service in 1979 packed a massive punch. Twin stub wings with three hardpoints apiece meant it could mount a formidable mission-dependent loadout mix. This included four pods of 57mm (3.1 inch) S-5 rockets; four AT-2 ‘Swatter’ anti-tank missiles; and ten 100-kilogram (220 lb) or four 250-kilogram (550 lb) or two 500-kilogram (1,100 lb) iron bombs. It also had a nose-mounted 12.7mm machine gun and the ability to ferry eight fully armed combat troops.




Big, ugly and intimidating, the bug-faced Hind was super-fast for its day and extremely durable: the mujahideen were dismayed to find that rounds from their 12.7mm (.50 inch) DshK ‘Dushka’ heavy machine guns simply bounced off its titanium rotor blades and heavily armoured carapace.


A bit of background: the Hind’s creator was the world-famous aircraft designer Mikhail Mil. He was convinced that the modern battlefield would be ever more mobile, and the variety and versatility of air power would become ever more important. In the early 1960s, Mil came up with the idea of an ‘assault helicopter’, or flying infantry fighting vehicle. Its ability to carry eight troops sets the Hind apart from ‘pure’ attack helicopters or helicopter gunships such as the AH-64 ‘Apache’ or the Kamov Ka-50 ‘Black Shark.’ Operated in 48 countries and with export sales in the thousands, the Hind is the greatest all-rounder in the history of combat helicopters. And the most iconic.


A true Afghan War story:


Eyewitness account, as told by 22 SAS trooper ‘Gaz Hunter’.


‘It was quiet that day. We’d been lying around dozing in the sun, waiting for the Soviet convoy expected through at last light. Most of the mujahideen were wrapped in their blankets, fast asleep. The noise came first: a deep bass drumbeat on the thin air. Only one thing made that sound.


Something glinted in the harsh light: a Hind D, nose down and coming fast, smudge-brown against the blue sky. A second gunship reared up alongside the first. They had climbed vertically up the cliff face to our right, using it to mask their sound, catching us completely unawares. Already, they were close enough to open fire.


My brain raced while I stood like stone.




Bright flashes blossomed from the stub wings. Salvo after salvo of rockets smashed into our position. The world turned to blast and flame. To help me recognize one from the next, I’d given the mujahideen nicknames taken from The Lord Of The Rings. I saw Smeagol take a direct hit. The high-explosive fragmentation warhead blasted him high into the air. He hung there for a moment, like a rag doll a small child had tossed up for fun. Then the gunship’s 23mm cannon roared into life. Great gouts of sandy earth leapt all around us, shells and razor rock splinters scythed through our ranks, killing and maiming.


I grabbed the AK and jumped to my feet. There was no time to think, the shock and the deafening roar held me fast. Then instinct cut in. I turned and began to run, faster than I’d ever run before. The boulders and culverts at the back of the corrie, they were my only chance. I had to reach them…’


A fearsome aerial weapons platform that is even more of a force multiplier, the Mi-24P’s armament includes the Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-30-2 (ГШ-30-2) twin-barrel 30mm autocannon with a rate of fire ranging from 1,000-3,000 rounds per minute, an approximate range of 1800 metres and a muzzle velocity of 870 m/s (2,850 ft/s). This firestorm minces anything other than main battle tanks, so don’t get in its way.



F-14A Fear the Bones

Campaign by Reflected Sims


April 1989. The USS Valley Forge cruiser had an accident on the Black Sea just off the coast of the Soviet Union, and the USS Theodore Roosevelt is being sent there to support the rescue operation with VF-84 on board. Jaws, Jester, Ghost, Pyro, Caveman, Grip, Elvis and Glory, all hot shot F-14A Tomcat fighter jocks of the ’Jolly Rogers’ are itching to see some action, but they might get more than they bargained for.

Join them in fighting MIGs, intercepting Bears, defending the fleet, escorting Alpha strikes and much more in this relaxed, story-driven campaign that is an entertaining mix of realism and 1980s style fiction. Kick the tires, light the fires and make them ’Fear the Bones!’.

New WWII Missions

World War 2


Half-a-dozen new WWII missions are now available to fly. They all use the new “in-cockpit” briefing feature and have Fly-With-A-Friend variants as well as three difficulty levels.

New WWII Mission on DCS: The Channel

  • All Channel Map
  • Against the Odds
  • Bf109 K4 Schwarm intercepts low-level Allied bombing south of Dunkirk
  • Fw 190D-9 intercepts low-level Allied bombing south of Dunkirk

The series of themed missions are based on Rhubarb missions. Fly as four-ship of either Spitfire IX, P-47D Thunderbolts or P-51D Mustangs, with a pair of fighter escorts, to find and take out a hidden Freya-Wurzburg radar site just east of Cap Gris Nez.

In addition there is a mirror to these missions for the Fw 190A-8 Anton (spoiler alert) intercepting the very same raid.

Have a good end of week,

Yours sincerely,


Eagle Dynamics Team


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18 July 2021


Fly With A Friend

WWII Missions - Introduction.


So what is FWAF?

The concept is centred around one mission that can be flown in either a single or multiplayer environment. The missions have been designed for use by newcomers to the DCS WWII community as well as hardened veterans.


How does it cater for newcomers and veterans?

Each mission contains a difficulty level option, which impacts the skill level of the enemy units you encounter. Depending upon your experience level, you have the option to select "EASY", "MEDIUM" or "HARD" via the F10 communications menu. As a newcomer it provides the opportunity to return to the mission and fly it again, as your abilities improve with your chosen airframe. For the more hardened WWII simmers, selecting the medium or hardest difficulty option should provide a challenging yet rewarding experience.


Why make a mission multiplayer compatible?

For many the route to DCS online starts with friends that fly on servers regularly. Let's not forget that for many, dipping their toe into the DCS multiplayer environment can be a daunting prospect. People do not want to look foolish in public, nor have their current basic skill level exposed. The FWAF option will allow two and in some cases a maximum of four friends to fly together, in a controlled less public environment, using a difficulty option that suits the least experienced player. In time it is envisaged that after honing their skills using FWAF missions. Individuals with the experience they have gained, will comfortably migrate to the DCS online community or decide that the multiplayer option is not for them. Another benefit of this mission type would be for the WWII VFGs (Virtual Flying Groups) to use them as a training aid or check ride scenario for newcomers to their squadron.


How do I fly a FWAF mission as a single player, is it any different?

The simple answer is no, it is not any different to loading a normal single player mission in DCS apart from the slot selection screen. If you are new to DCS here is the process:


At the main splash or menu screen select "MISSION".



At the mission screen select your preferred aircraft and select a mission from the listing that is FWAF compatible. Finally click the green "OK" button in the bottom right hand corner.




The mission will start to load and on completion you will be presented with the briefing screen. When you have read through the brief, click the green "START" button in the bottom right hand corner.



Once the mission has loaded you will be presented with the following screen. Simply select "Single Player FLIGHT LEAD" and click the green "OK" button in the bottom right hand corner.



You will now see the following screen displaying your cockpit in the background. Now click the green "FLY" button in the bottom right hand corner and your mission will start.



In some FWAF missions you will receive a message as the mission starts, asking you if you wish to fly in single player mode. (In more recent versions this is not the case, it is automatic). At which point the communications menu will open automatically for you, to make your selection.

Selecting single player mode then spawns your AI wingman for the mission. Following that listen to the brief, follow the mission instructions provided and enjoy.



How do I fly a FWAF mission in multiplayer?

At the main splash or menu screen select "MULTIPLAYER".



You will find yourself in the DCS multiplayer server screen, where you need to click the "NEW SERVER" button at the bottom.



You will be presented with the following screen which is effectively the set up for your server. On the left hand side your preferences can be set for passwords etc but we are interested in how to load the mission. So select the circular "PLUS" button highlighted in the image below:



You need to select your preferred mission by selecting your aircraft of choice and double clicking the "SINGLE" mission folder or select it by a single click and press the green "START" button.



Now you will see a drop down list of all the single player missions. Prior to trying to load a mission, check which ones are FWAF compatible and select one from the drop down list. Either double click on the mission selection or select it by a single click and press the green "START" button.



Your mission choice will now appear highlighted in the mission list box. Simply press the green "START" button and your new server will begin to load the mission.



Having provided your friend/friends with your server details, they will join you and be presented with the following "MULTIPLAYER-Select role" screen. Each of you selects an aircraft to fly by clicking on the "Player" column with your mouse. When you have both selected an aircraft, press the green "BRIEFING" button to start the mission.



The mission will load and you are both free to enjoy the mission as it unfolds.


What Type of FWAF missions are available?

There are varying mission types currently available with more in the pipeline for both Allied and Axis aircraft:



Bomber Escort. (P-47 - P-51 - Spitfire).

Photographic Reconnaissance. (P-51 - Spitfire).

Historic Recreations. (Spitfire).



Jabo Raid. (Bf109 - Anton - Dora).

Jabo Raid Patrol. (P-47 - P-51 - Spitfire).

No Ball Intercept. (Bf109 - Anton - Dora). A separate MP mission will be made available.

No Ball Escort. (P-47 - P-51 - Spitfire). A separate MP mission will be made available.


Have a good end of week,

Yours sincerely,



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19 September 2021


Operation Jericho

The Raid on Amiens Prison - Feb 1944

DCS Mosquito FB VI

On the morning of 18th February, 1944, nineteen Mosquito Mk VI fighter-bombers of 140 Wing, RAF 2nd Tactical Air Force, set out on one of the most daring air-raids of the Second World War. Attacking at very low level in three flights of six, 18 of the ‘Mossies’ were to breach the outer and inner walls of Amiens prison in Northern France; bomb the canteen where the German guards were having their midday meal; and give the prisoners a chance to escape. The final, photo reconnaissance (PR) aircraft would film the entire mission, and, if it went well, broadcast it to boost Allied morale.

DCS Mosquito FB VI

RAF Hunsdon, Hertfordshire: Armourers prepare to load four 500-lb MC bombs into the bomb-bay of De Havilland Mosquito FB Mark VI, MM403 'SB-V', of No. 464 Squadron RAAF. [IWM CH 12407.jpg Public Domain]

Previous strikes on enemy factories, power stations, Gestapo headquarters and other high-value targets had already demonstrated the Mossie’s astonishing ability to deliver high-explosive ordnance with pinpoint accuracy. But ‘Operation Jericho’ was on a whole new level of difficulty. Before take-off, pilots studied a detailed plaster-of-paris model of the prison’s layout, along with maps of the surrounding area. A long, die-straight road ran south-west to Amiens from the town of Albert and bordered one side of the prison. It would serve as an excellent marker for the final approach.

DCS Mosquito FB VI

‘We heard the details of this mission with considerable emotion...After four years of war just doing everything possible to destroy life, here we were going to use our skill to save it. It was a grand feeling and every pilot left the briefing room prepared to fly into the walls rather than fail to breach them. There was nothing particularly unusual in it as an operational sortie, but because of this life-saving aspect it was to be one of the great moments in our lives.’

— Wing Commander Irving Smith, No 487 Squadron RNZAF *

DCS Mosquito FB VI

Weather conditions that morning were terrible: it was snowing hard, there was dense cloud and visibility was very poor. Flying across the English Channel at wave top height to avoid German radar, pilots strained to see anything through the sleet and snow and spray battering their windscreens.

Four Typhoons and four Mosquitos were forced to turn back. The planners could hardly have chosen a worse day to launch such a difficult and dangerous attack – but any delay was out of the question: following a recent wave of arrests by the Abwehr (Nazi counter-intelligence), many members of the French Resistance were among the more than 830 prisoners. They included at least two senior agents who knew more about plans for the coming invasion of France than the Allies could afford to reach enemy ears. There was another, no less urgent reason for the mission: according to smuggled intelligence reports, 26 male and three female prisoners were scheduled for execution by firing squad the following day.

DCS Mosquito FB VI

‘I shall never forget that road – long and straight, and covered with snow. It was lined with tall poplars, and we were flying so low that I had to keep my aircraft tilted at an angle to avoid hitting the tops of the trees with my wing …. The poplars suddenly petered out, and there, a mile ahead, was the gaol. It looked just like the model, and within a few seconds we were almost on top of it.’

— 487 Squadron pilot *

Four storeys in height, Amiens prison was built in the shape of a Latin cross, with the cells in the longer section and the guards’ canteen and quarters in the shorter arms. A 20-ft. brick perimeter wall surrounded the complex.

DCS Mosquito FB VI

The raid was a combined British Commonwealth enterprise. The first wave of six Mosquitos from 487 Squadron, Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), had the task of breaching the eastern and northern perimeter walls. The job of the next wave of six aircraft from 464 Sqn Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), was to smash open either end of the cell block and destroy the German garrison. The final RAF element would act as back-up if the initial attacks failed. Each of the three Mossie flights had a squadron of Typhoon fighter-bombers assigned to protect it from enemy fighters.

DCS Mosquito FB VI

In overall command of the attack, RAF Hunsdon’s Station Commander Group Captain Percy Pickard would act as Master Bomber, orbiting the prison and directing operations.

DCS Mosquito FB VI

487 Squadron Mosquitos over Amiens Prison as their bombs explode, showing the snow-covered buildings and landscape. [IWM Public Domain]

The aircraft attacking the outer walls carried two 500 lb semi-armour piercing (SAP) bombs apiece. Those tasked with demolishing the inner walls were armed with two Medium Capacity (MC) bombs. All of the bombs were fuzed for 11 seconds delay. With the different sections attacking in a criss-cross pattern and in very rapid succession, exact timing and precision were essential.

DCS Mosquito FB VI

At 12:01, the first section of three 487 Sqn Mosquitos attacked the eastern prison wall. A great pillar of dust and smoke and flame billowed up. As it settled, the second, 487 Squadron three-ship bombed the northern wall. At 12:06, two aircraft from 464 Squadron re-attacked the eastern wall from an altitude of about 50 feet. With both walls now breached, two 464 Squadron Mossies ran in at 100 feet and bombed the main building. At least one bomb exploded directly on the guards’ quarters. More bombs crashed into the cell block. Grabbing their chance for freedom, dozens of prisoners began running across the courtyard for the gaps blasted in the walls. The guards opened fire on them with machine guns, shooting many dead.

DCS Mosquito FB VI

Free The French

Viewed from the comfort of now, the raid was a mixed success. Of the 255 prisoners who escaped, around 180 were recaptured shortly afterwards. A further 150 died, caught either in the bombing or massacred by the guards, an estimated 50 of whom also died. Several stray bombs fell on the nearby St Victor hospital and surrounding homes, killing or injuring French civilians. One of the Fw 190 fighters that responded to the attack shot down and killed Group Captain Pickard and his navigator, Flight Lieutenant John Broadley as they headed for home. A second Mosquito navigator, Flight Lieutenant R. Sampson, RNZAF, was killed by enemy ground fire. One of the escort Typhoons disappeared into a snowstorm off Beachy Head, Sussex, and was never seen again. A further Typhoon was also brought down and its pilot lost.

DCS Mosquito FB VI

Bomb damage to Amiens prison following the raid: note the neat hole in the perimeter wall [IWM Public Domain]

On the plus side, the French Resistance members who did escape exposed more than 60 agents and informers who had been working undercover for the Abwehr. In the crucial run up to D-Day, this kneecapped Nazi counter-intelligence in the key Atlantic Wall sector.

DCS Mosquito FB VI


  1. *both quotes from Thompson, H. L. (1956). "Chapter 6 Daylight Raids by the Light Bombers". New Zealanders with the Royal Air Force. The Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–1945. II (online ed.). Wellington, New Zealand: Historical Publications Branch. pp. 143–148. OCLC 846897274. Retrieved 12 June 2020 – via New Zealand Electronic Text Collection.

Thank you for your passion and support,


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10 October 2021


Zemke’s Wolfpack

The P-47 in Action


P-47Ds mixing it with Fw-190s

"The cockpit had more room than any fighter I had flown, and it gave me quite a sense of power to look out and see the big, four-bladed prop in front and the four .50-caliber machine gun barrels sticking out of the front of each wing." (Captain “Gabby” Gabreski, 61st Fighter Squadron (FS), 56th Fighter Group USAAF).

Cave Tonitrum

Beware the Thunderbolt’ – the motto and emblem of the 56th Fighter Group

Beware the Thunderbolt

On 22 February 1944, several flights of 56th Fighter Group, U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) took off on a ‘Ramrod’ (bomber escort) mission to intercept enemy fighters. The Americans were attacking B-17 Flying Fortresses returning from a raid on Paderborn in northern Germany. Known as ‘Zemke’s Wolfpack’, after their outstanding – and guileful – leader, Colonel Hubert ‘Hub’ Zemke, the 56th FG was already one of the most successful and famous WWII fighter groups in the European Theater of Operations (ETO). The 56th comprised the 61st, 62nd and 63rd squadrons, each with 18 P-47Ds on strength.

Colonel Hubert

Colonel Hubert "Hub" Zemke

Only 12 of the 63rd Fighter Squadron’s Thunderbolts managed to reach the second, and furthermost box of bombers. As they drew near, two of the four-ship flights spotted a swarm of Messerschmitt Bf 109s slicing through the bomber formation, sending streams of 20mm cannon and 13mm machine gun fire into the lumbering B-17s.

Bf 109 K-4 Kurfüst

B-17 formation under attack by Bf 109s

Armed with 13 x .50in. M2 Browning machine guns apiece, the Flying Fortresses were returning fire with interest. But they were about to find themselves in even worse trouble: a second wave of 15, heavier Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighters was wheeling in from the nine o’clock position. Shaping to attack them from the rear. Some of these big ‘Zerstorer’ were armed with a massive, 37mm ( Bk 3,7 cm) cannon mounted in a belly tray, while others had twin 30mm Mk 108 cannon. Even a Flying Fortress would be lucky to survive hits from that weight of firepower.


In his personal combat report, Red Flight’s commander Captain Lyle A. Adrianse tells us what happened next: ‘They (the Me 110s) apparently saw us and started to scatter in steep, diving turns. I immediately attacked one that was turning to the right in a steep dive from 21,000 feet. Upon closing my range, his tail gunner opened fire and he broke sharply to the left. I gave him about three rings of lead, which put him out of sight under my cowling, and opened fire from about 500 yards, closing rapidly. I then ceased fire and rolled out of my turn to take another look at him - to find that he was smoking and going in a straight dive. I opened fire again from 300 yards, breaking off at 100 yards. I saw numerous strikes on the fuselage, left wing, engine and tail. Several large pieces fell off the left wing and I was obliged to fly through them, putting several large dents in my own cowling. I then broke up into the sun from about 4,000 feet. looking back, I saw the left engine flaming furiously and he entered the cloud at 3,000 feet going straight down…’


P-47 wingman gun camera - leader bags a Me 110

‘I climbed back up to 22,000ft, where I was bounced by a Me 109. After two turns I gained the advantage and he hit the deck. I could not follow as I was very low on fuel, and headed out. On the way back I picked up the three other men in my flight and landed at base, safely.’

A War of Attrition

A typical day at the office, then, for the pilots of Zemke’s Wolfpack in the early months of 1944. D-Day was fast approaching. While they might not yet have known it, the 56th FG’s task was to help wear the Luftwaffe’s strength down to the point where the planned Allied invasion could go in under friendlier skies. In little over a year since arriving in England to begin active service - after a faltering start – Zemke’s young pilots were doing a superb job.

P-47 strafing train

Unscheduled halt - Thunderbolt peppering an enemy train

The formidable 56th FG was the only group to fly P-47 Thunderbolts throughout the war. Turning down the P-51D Mustang replacements offered in January 1944, the 56th flew P-47C (blocks 2 and 5) from February 1943 to April 1943; P-47D (blocks 1 through 30) from June 1943 to March 1945; and P-47Ms from January 1945 to 10 October 1945.

Some Allied pilots questioned the P-47s relatively poor agility, slow rate of climb and unreliable radios. Yet Zemke knew he could exploit the Thunderbolt’s strengths – not just its extraordinary ability to soak up battle damage, but its excellent roll rate and dive speed – to the full. By August 1943, the ‘dive, fire, and recover’ tactics he devised had made the 56th the leading air superiority group of VIII Fighter Command.

The Scales Begin to Tip

In the third week of February 1944, the USAAF and the RAF launched a series of combined heavy bomber raids and fighter sweeps codenamed ‘Operation Argument.’ Better known as ‘Big Week’, the campaign was designed to force Luftwaffe fighters into dogfights with the bomber escorts – or watch their aircraft factories be bombed to rubble. The ploy succeeded: fitted with 150-gallon drop tanks that increased their endurance to more than three hours, the Fighting 56th rose to the occasion: in a four-day spree, they shot down 49 enemy aircraft, winning a Distinguished Unit Citation ‘for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy...’

P-47D diving on Fw-190 A-8

Who flies wins

A Bridge Too Far

Despite their top-level skills, won initially from intensive and persistent training, and then from near-continuous combat experience, there were times when even the pilots of the 56th FG suffered morale-testing setbacks. The ill-fated Operation Market Garden was one of these. The plan was to open up a new Allied invasion route into Northern Germany by means of a mass paratroop drop. A concurrent ground offensive would advance along the single road north to Arnhem. Air support was vital, but the weather in the Netherlands had other ideas.

On 18 September 1944, despite poor visibility, 39 Wolfpack Thunderbolts attacked German anti-aircraft positions near Oosterhout. If these defences could be suppressed, then a force of B-24 Liberators could go ahead with an urgent resupply drop in relative safety. The attack went badly: in the space of a few minutes, the German flak sites shot down five P-47s. Twelve more Thunderbolts crash-landed in France or England. Three pilots died outright, and another three were captured. By late 1944, German flak concentrations were deadly.


Caught in the flak

It was a serious reverse. But the 56th got straight back up off the canvas and went on slugging. Providing cover for the first bombing raids on Berlin on March 6, 1944, the Wolfpack destroyed 38 enemy fighters in a single day. Ten days later, the group recorded its 350th air victory. In just 12 missions, its pilots had shot down 140 enemy aircraft.


Bouncing Back

Carrying the Attack

In February 1945, as the Allies established near-total air superiority, the Wolfpack won permission to begin air-to-ground attacks. They took to this new task with their customary relish and efficiency. The P-47s eight .50 in machine guns, rockets and bombs carved trails of havoc through enemy lines. Multiplying force in support of Allied ground forces, they destroyed trains, trucks, barges, ships and other targets of opportunity. The Wolfpack also wrecked a great many enemy aircraft on the ground. In a remarkable attack on Eggebek airfield near the Danish border on 13 April 1945 – using experimental high-velocity, high-incendiary T48 ammunition – the group shot up 95 parked Luftwaffe aircraft and damaged 95 more.


Airfield Attack: the P47’s whacking force

A Pack Full of Aces

By the end of WWII, Zemke’s Wolfpack, remaining true to its big, robust and versatile Thunderbolts, had become the top-scoring Fighter Group in the USAAF. Its 39 air-to-air combat aces included Lt. Col Francis ‘Gabby Gabreski’ with 28 kills; Col. Zemke, with 17.75 (three in the P-38 Lightning); and neither last nor least, Captain Robert S. Johnson, whose 27 victories made him the first USAAF ace to break Captain Eddie Rickenbacker’s WWI record of 26 enemy aircraft destroyed.

Captain Robert S. Johnson

Captain Robert S. Johnson, DSC, DFC, Silver Star, Air Medals, Purple Heart

The Eighth Air Force credited the 56th FG with destroying almost 1,000 enemy aircraft in the ETO: 677.5 destroyed in air-to-air combat and a further 311 on the ground. The Wolfpack’s ratio of victories to losses was an amazing 8 to 1 in its own favour. This ‘Wolfpack’ knew how to bite. And it went for the throat.

In case you missed it...

The Channel Map now has full winter textures and looks amazing.

All DCS Campaigns now have a “Skip Mission” function. For those of you who would like to refly campaigns but skip certain missions, like the intro mission or a mission with a very long transit or those of you in campaigns for the first time who, for whatever reason, you don’t want to fly again but do want to progress to the next mission, we have devised a Skip Mission option. This will be developed further in coming updates.

New missions and FWAF (Fly with a friend)

You can run your own server on your PC and invite a friend to fly via multiplayer. The missions that have recently been created are as follows:

Caucasus Mosquito FB VI FWAF - Caucasus - OPERATION SNAPSHOT
Channel Mosquito FB VI FWAF - Channel - OPERATION SNAPSHOT
Channel Mosquito FB VI FWAF - Channel - OPERATION JERICHO
Channel P-47D-30 FWAF - Channel - Atlantic Wall Escort
Channel P-47D-25 FWAF - Channel - Atlantic Wall Escort
Channel P-51D-30-NA FWAF - Channel - Atlantic Wall Escort
Channel P-51D-25 FWAF - Channel - Dicer (PhotoRecon)
Channel P-51D-30-NA FWAF - Channel - Dicer (PhotoRecon)
Channel Spitfire IX FWAF - Channel - Atlantic Wall Escort
Channel Spitfire IX (CW) FWAF - Channel - Atlantic Wall Escort
Channel Spitfire IX FWAF - Channel - Dicer (PhotoRecon)
Channel Spitfire IX (CW) FWAF - Channel - Dicer (PhotoRecon)
Channel Spitfire IX FWAF - Channel - Bomber Intercept

For more information on load and fly FWAF missions, check out How to Fly With A Friend. Enjoy!

Thank you for your passion and support,


Yours sincerely,


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24 October 2021


Fall of Shot

WWII Assets Pack

Hitting the beaches - Operation Overlord begins

By mid-August 1944, the bow waves of the colossal Allied invasion force that had hit the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, 6 June 1944, were breaking against Axis forces south of Caen. These included German Army Group B; German 7th Army; and Fifth Panzer Army. An estimated 400,000 troops along with their armoured vehicles, guns, transportation and other equipment were concentrated in and around the town of Falaise under the command of Field Marshal Günther von Kluge.

WWII Assets Pack

Panzer V tanks defending Caen

While it had taken them much longer than anticipated, United States (U.S.) forces under the command of Generals Bradley and Patton had pushed south and cleared the enemy from most of the Cotentin peninsula. Following the success of Operation Cobra, the mass Allied bombing and assault on German forces around the town of Saint-Lô that began on July 24th, Patton’s army groups raced further south past Avranches, then hooked back up east and north towards Falaise.

WWII Assets Pack

Shermans repelling Panzer attack

British, Canadian, Polish and Free French forces under General Bernard Montgomery had found the going equally tough as they fought their way south from Gold, Juno and Sword beaches towards Caen. Determined to push them back into the sea and with their backs against their homeland, enemy troops had fought with demonic fury. But as the Allies kept on pouring more men and materiel into the battle for Normandy, and as Allied air superiority grew ever more decisive, German forces began to crumble.

Micro-managing as so often to adverse effect, Adolf Hitler ordered von Kluge to launch ‘an immediate counter-attack between Mortain and Avranches…to annihilate the enemy and make contact with the west coast of the Cotentin peninsula.’ Codenamed Operation Lüttich, it began on 7th August. Forewarned by ‘Ultra’, the British intelligence intercepts of Axis communications, U.S. First Army was ready and waiting. Almost before it began, Operation Lüttich failed.

As the defeated enemy units retreated back east, Allied commanders realized that the great majority of German forces in Normandy were being squeezed into what would become known as the ‘Falaise pocket’. If they could be encircled by the U.S. divisions to the south and the British, Canadians and Poles to the north, then almost all surviving Axis forces in north-western France would be caught in a giant killing zone. Not one to miss a golden tactical chance when it came begging, General Omar Bradley said: ‘This is an opportunity that comes to a commander not more than once in a century. We're about to destroy an entire hostile army and go all the way from here to the German border.’

On 8 August, Montgomery ordered the Canadian First Army and Polish First Army Division to advance south and take Falaise. Codenamed Operation Tractable, the assault began on the morning of 14th August with a massive artillery bombardment. This included a smokescreen to make things as difficult as possible for the defending Germans.

WWII Assets Pack

U.S. 90th Divn battery firing at Falaise

Patton’s divisions had meanwhile kept up the fast pace of their advance, taking Alençon and then Argentan to the south and east of Falaise on 13th August. With the Canadians and Poles pressing south, the jaws of the trap should now have been closed. But in a decision that still causes controversy among historians, Patton’s troops were ordered to halt. For four days.

The Canadians continued slogging towards Falaise, taking the town on 16th August. Hitler ordered an immediate counterattack, which von Kluge refused to initiate. He was sacked and replaced the next day by Field Marshal Model. Model ordered II Panzer Corps to hold the north face of the only available German escape route out of the pocket – to the east via Chambois and Trun, through what was quickly dubbed ‘The Falaise Gap’; XLVII Panzer Corps was told to hold the southern perimeter. Model then ordered 7th Army, Fifth Panzer Army and any remaining units to retreat immediately via this route.

Driving south, two Polish battlegroups met up with the U.S. 90th Infantry Division and French 2nd Armoured Division at Chambois, to the east of Falaise, on 17th August. That same day, a Spitfire hunting for targets nearby shot up a staff car. Caught in the attack, Field Marshal Erwin von Rommel - the architect of the ‘Atlantic Wall’ defences that had been intended to counter an Allied invasion - was seriously injured.

WWII Assets Pack

Allied air power starts to tell

Despite all the setbacks, and despite being constantly depleted by Allied artillery and air strikes, German forces were still escaping east through the Falaise Gap. To seal the Pocket, the Polish battlegroups now drove north-east and took Hill 262. Nicknamed ‘The Mace’ and properly known as Mt Ormel, this ridge lay to the east of Trun. From this vantage point the Poles had a clear view – and a clear field of fire – on the columns of retreating enemy. They began shelling them. On 19th August, Model ordered various of his remaining units to retake the heights. In a firestorm of attack and counterattack, a key battle of the Falaise engagement now erupted.

WWII Assets Pack

German firepower: Wespes join the battle

The next day, units of 10th, 12th and 116th SS Panzer managed to open a narrow corridor through the Polish lines while 9th Panzer held off the Canadians. This gave an estimated 10,000 more German troops the chance to escape. But the Poles were not about to give up the game. Holding onto parts of Hill 262 despite heavy losses, they directed repeated, accurate artillery bombardments onto the fleeing enemy.

WWII Assets Pack

Going down with a fight

The following abridged extract from the account of Captain Pierre Sévigny, a 4th Canadian Medium Regt. Forward Observation Officer (FOO) who called in artillery strikes for the besieged Poles gives a sense of the carnage: ‘Sunday, August the 20th 1944. Daylight came. A lull. The major had been hit in the chest by a shell splinter. We had exhausted our rations, there was scarcely half a bottle of water left per man; ammunition was scarce. Suddenly, over on our left, we heard numerous tanks. The Canadians. At last! We looked for the green flares. Nothing! We crashed back down to earth. They were German tanks. Advancing on us.

WWII Assets Pack

Falaise: Battle of the big guns

‘The Major decided that the best defence was still attack. We set off to meet the enemy with 12 tanks. We saw the silhouettes of 16 enormous German Tigers. Within three minutes, we had lost six tanks to one of theirs. Only the artillery could save us. I used a portable radio to relay my orders to the guns. I waited: had I studied my map thoroughly enough? Had I marked the targets well enough? Would the guns fire in time? The steel monsters were still coming, firing with all their weapons. I saw the sparkling of their machine-guns. Their 88s whistled over my head. What were our gunners doing? The leading tank was only 500 metres away…, 400, 300, 250, 200, 100. It was all over…I dived into the bottom of the foxhole, pressing my face to the earth. I was sure death would come to me in seconds. I murmured a prayer…Suddenly, a hurricane: rolls of thunder, the ground trembling! Was it possible? Our guns were firing! And there, in that foxhole, I laughed and I cried. Stupidly, I raised my head for a moment...With unparalleled accuracy and at a prodigious rate of fire, clouds of our shells were bursting over the enemy.

WWII Assets Pack

Calling the shots

‘The Boche hesitated. Five (of their) tanks were burning like haystacks. I had ordered my gunners to fire all their ammunition. The attack was broken: the Germans retired, pursued by the Poles who destroyed another three tanks…Nevertheless the attack was soon renewed. Our losses mounted constantly…and now I could not believe my eyes: the Boche were advancing towards us, singing, “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles.” We let them come within 50 yards, then we mowed down their ranks… More waves followed... When the fifth came we ran out of ammunition. The Poles charged them with bayonets! During that day, we suffered eight attacks like this. What fanaticism! One of the wounded near me looked like a child: I read the date of birth in his pay book: April, 1931 - he was thirteen years old.’ (Captain Pierre Sévigny, Polish Order of Virtuti Militari, Croix de Guerre and Bar.)

Polish casualties on Hill 262 were 351 killed and injured with the loss of 11 tanks. Estimated German losses on the ridge were 500 dead and 1,000 taken prisoner. Dozens of Tiger, Panther and Panzer IV tanks were destroyed on and around the heights, along with scores of other armoured vehicles and dozens of artillery pieces.

The battle of the Falaise Pocket ended in a crushing and overwhelming German defeat – and helped shorten the course of the war. Visiting the area in the immediate aftermath, Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower said: ‘The battlefield at Falaise was unquestionably one of the greatest "killing fields" of any of the war areas. Forty-eight hours after the closing of the gap I was conducted through it on foot, to encounter scenes that could be described only by Dante. It was literally possible to walk for hundreds of yards at a time, stepping on nothing but dead and decaying flesh.’ (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

We are pleased to announce the additions of the following units to the WW2 Asset pack

M2A1 105mm Howitzer

WWII Assets Pack

The M2A1 was the workhorse of US Army field artillery in WW2, with over 8500 produced throughout the conflict and a further 2000 after 1945. Serving in all major theatres of WW2, the M2A1 was appreciated for its accuracy and powerful punch, later going on to serve in Korea and Vietnam.

Purchased by 67 countries, including Argentia, Iran and Lebanon, the M2A1 has seen service worldwide, and is still used today by the US forestry service as an avalanche control gun at various ski resorts.

Did you know? - 1 in 5 shells fired by the US Army in WW2 was a 105mm HE round?

Pak 40 75mm AT Gun

WWII Assets Pack

Punching steel

The 75mm Pak 40 German anti-tank (AT) gun was first produced in 1942 and was the cornerstone of German AT guns during the later war years. At a range of 500 yards, the 75mm shell was able to penetrate 115mm of steel. It was not until near the end of the war that the Allies built tanks that could resist the shells of the Pak 40.

LeFH 105mm Howitzer

WWII Assets Pack

Bites chunks out of armour

Developed in 1942-43 by Rheinmetall, the LeFH 18/40 entered service in 1943, and was able to fire a HE projectile out to a range of over 12,000m. It was developed from the earlier LeFH 18, with the intention of making the weapon lighter and easier to produce, and shared many components with the Pak 40 AT gun. The LeFH became the main German field howitzer in the later war years, with over 10,000 produced.


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Apache Desert Storm

Adapted for DCS World


On the attack run

Task Force Normandy

0230Z, January 17, 1991

The AH-64s were racing in at 120 mph. Hugging the desert floor. Two flights of four U.S. Army AH-64As. Each armed with eight AGM-114 Hellfire missiles,19 x 2.75 in FFAR rockets and a 30 mm chain gun. Lights off and in strict radio silence. Their targets were twin Iraqi radar sites located just north of the border with Saudi Arabia. Linked to four enemy fighter bases, the radars were the early-warning eyes of Iraq’s quick-reaction integrated air defense system (IADS) - and of the Iraqi Intelligence Operations Center in Baghdad.


Poised to strike

Two USAF MH-53J Pave Low electronic warfare helicopters fitted with state-of-the-art GPS navigation systems and terrain-following radar were in close formation with the AH-64s. Their task was to help make sure the gunships reached the objective on time and on target. Codenamed Task Force Normandy, the 10 helicopters were at the very tip of the Allied military spear: the first thrust of Operation Desert Storm. Colonel Richard Cody, the C.O. of 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment,101st Airborne Division was in overall command of the attack.

At the Initial Point (IP) nine miles south of the targets, the Pave Lows dropped chemical lights to the desert floor. The AH-64s used the markers to update their navigational and targeting systems. The Pave Lows peeled away and fell back to the rendezvous point.

The night was moonless with little or no wind. Darkness helped: surprise was essential. The Apaches had to destroy the targets and be out before the Iraqis could scramble their MiG-29 fighters - and try to shoot them down.


In the crosshairs

Four miles south of the objective, the attackers pulled up into a low hover. The target buildings jumped into view on the FLIR screens. Gunners steered their crosshairs onto the pale, ghostly blocks. Flight leader Lt. Thomas Drew broke the silence. “Party in ten!” Ten seconds later, and as one, the gunships opened fire.


AGMs on target

Salvos of Hellfires and rockets rippled from the stub wings. The installation’s main generator exploded in a fireball of orange and red. Night became day. Chaos engulfed the target area. “Just incessant fire,” Colonel Cody recalled: “missile after missile, rocket after rocket, 30 mm after 30 mm coming from four aircraft that they couldn’t even see. From the first shot, they were just running for cover.”


Targets destroyed

Despite the success, there was still work to do: ‘If all we did was hit the generator, they could go to secondary power,’ Cody said. “We had a follow-on mission: put the whole site down for a couple of days, so the Air Force wouldn’t have to go in and retarget it…'' Closing to within 4,000 meters, the AH-64s blasted the ZPU 14.5 mm anti-aircraft artillery with rockets and guns, putting the enemy defences out of action for good.

As well as undergoing many weeks of arduous training at a remote desert base, the crews had been resourceful: on internal fuel, the AH-64 can fly fully combat-loaded (eight Hellfires, thirty-eight rockets, and 1,200 chain-gun rounds) for about two hours. To get around this limitation, the teams adopted a suggestion put forward by pilot Lt. Tim De Vito. He recommended attaching 1,700-pound, 230-gallon external fuel tanks to the AH-64s left inboard weapons station. The planners did not want to risk setting up a refuelling point like the one used in the abortive 1980 Iran Hostage rescue. The trade-off was a halving of each AH-64 rocket payload from 38 to 19.


EXFIL - Mission accomplished

Twenty-two minutes after the raid, dozens of Allied planes roared through the gaping 20-mile gap the AH-64s had blasted in Iraq’s air defense network. Arrowing north, they destroyed a succession of critical enemy targets. AH-64 team leaders transmitted the code words “California AAA” and “Nebraska AAA” to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) headquarters. It meant the primary targets had been entirely destroyed and there were no U.S. casualties. In what was only their second combat operation, (Panama 1989 was their baptism of fire) the AH-64 had proved its mettle.

Adapted for DCS World from the 1 Oct.1991 article by Richard Mackenzie.

Thank you for your passion and support,


Yours sincerely,


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MiG-15 Aces in Korea

12 April 1951


One of the most epic aerial battles of all time took place on 12 April 1951 in the skies over the town of Sinuiju, North Korea. It was the first large-scale jet-versus-jet combat in history; it pitted some of the best military pilots who have ever flown against one another; and it helped create a host of new air combat aces.

MiG-15bis firing cannons

A Cold War game changer - the MiG-15bis opens fire

On what the USAF would subsequently call ‘Black Thursday’, 48 B-29 Superfortress bombers escorted by a mixed force of 96 fighters were tasked to destroy Sinuiju’s Yalu River bridge, a key remaining supply link between North Korea and the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC). This area of north-western Korea, where many of the war’s aerial engagements took place, was to become notorious as ‘MiG Alley.’

map of MiG Alley

The area dubbed ‘MiG Alley’ during the Korean War (1950-53) on the Chinese-North Korean border

The Korean War had been raging since June 1950, when forces of the communist Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (DPRK) invaded mainly pro-Western and capitalist South Korea. In autumn 1950, when it looked as if North Korea might be on the point of defeat, its communist allies China and Russia began providing the country with both overt and covert military assistance.

In a move that would tilt the balance of air power sharply back towards the communist side, the Soviet Union brought its latest and most capable jet fighter - the MiG-15bis (NATO codename ‘Fagot’) - into the fray. It also, and in secret, provided the pilots to fly it. Many of these Soviet volunteers were already aces, having gained huge experience fighting the Luftwaffe in WWII.

To maintain secrecy, the Soviet MiGs were given Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAF) or North Korean Peoples' Army Air Force markings. Pilots were told to speak Chinese or Korean when airborne; and instructed not to enter South Korean airspace for fear of capture and exposure. Many were based initially at the Chinese airfield of Antung near the North Korean border.

MiG-15 downing F-86

A force to be reckoned with - MiG-15 downing F-86

On the opposing side, the United Nations Command was made up of mainly US, British and Australian forces. Many of the U.N. pilots had also gained combat experience in WWII, and many aces featured among their ranks. With little or no initial North Korean air threat in the early months of the war, U.S. pilots flew F-80 Shooting Stars and F-84E Thunderjets - and even the P-51D Mustang - on ground attack missions with impunity. The Brits flew Supermarine Seafires, Hawker Sea Furies and Fairey Fireflies from aircraft carriers offshore, while the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) contingent piloted similarly outdated F-8 Gloster Meteors.

The arrival in theatre of the vastly superior MiG-15bis reversed this imbalance of air power at a stroke. The MiG-15s outclassed the older, Allied aircraft in every way. The only aircraft able to meet the Fagot on its own terms was the US F-86 Sabre. Introduced to the conflict late in 1950 and armed with six Browning .50 cal (12.7 mm) machine guns, the Sabre could not match the MiG-15’s tremendous firepower of one 37 mm NR-37 autocannon and two 23 mm NR-23 cannons. The Fagot also had a higher operational ceiling, allowing it to escape to altitude if necessary; a faster basic speed and rate of climb; and a better turn rate above 10,000 m (33,000 ft).

F-86 Sabres dogfighting MiG-15s

Tipping the scales of war - the F-86 fights back

The heavier Sabre could, though, dive faster than the MiG to get out of trouble; it enjoyed the edge in horizontal turning fights below 8,000 m; it had a much better gunsight; and U.S. pilots routinely wore g-suits, which helped prevent blackouts under the extreme g loads of dogfighting. With the MiG-15bis now going head-to-head against the F-86, a long, bloody and attritional battle for air supremacy began.

Major-General of Aviation Sergei Makarovich Kramarenkoy

Major-General of Aviation Sergei Makarovich Kramarenko, (Серге́й Макарович Крамаренко), Hero of the Soviet Union, Order of Lenin and Golden Star.

One of the most accomplished Soviet pilots at Antung was Captain Sergei Kramarenko. Also a WWII veteran, Kramarenko had only one confirmed aerial victory against the Luftwaffe to his name, but had assisted in several more. During the Korean War, Kramarenko flew 104 combat sorties, engaged UN aircraft on 42 separate occasions, and was officially credited with 13 victories. These are notoriously difficult to confirm, but cross-checks suggest that he achieved at least nine of the official count. Kramarenko, then, was not the highest scoring Soviet ace of the Korean conflict. That honour goes to Major N.V. Sutyagin, with 21 victories, closely followed by Col E.G. Pepelyaev with 19. Kramarenko, who was the fourth-highest scoring ace with nine F-86s, two F-80s and two Meteor F-8s, wrote an excellent book about his experiences: The Red Air Force at War: Air Combat Over the Eastern Front & Korea, which gives us an insight into many of the tactics he employed against Allied pilots. (The combat accounts below are abridged extracts.)

F-86 firing on MiG-15

Not just rattling - the Sabre strikes

The majority of these tips and tricks remain good for us today, always allowing for dissimilarities between aircraft types. The first thing Kramarenko stresses is the vital importance of arriving in the combat zone higher and faster than your opponent. This might seem obvious, but in the heat of war...The second thing Soviet pilots did, having established height and speed advantage, was to attack enemy formations from different directions. Both these tactics worked to great effect in the 12 April engagement over Sinuiju. In the space of a few minutes, although outnumbered more than two-to-one, 44 Soviet MiG-15bis pilots claimed to have shot down 10 B-29s, three F-80s and one F-86. Soviet airmen dubbed the B-29s ‘flying barns’, because they caught fire and burned so easily.

B-29 Superfortresses in flight

In for a shock - USAF B-29 Superfortresses

The USAF admitted to the loss of three B-29s with seven more damaged - and did not claim any enemy losses. The disaster taught the USAF a sharp and salutary lesson. Following this engagement, all U.S.bomber sorties over Korea were halted for approximately three months. When it started up again, bombing was only carried out at night and by small formations, with daylight raids permanently discontinued.

Kramarenko takes us to the heart of the Sinuiju fight: ‘We were flying above the Superfortresses. Our MiGs opened fire. One of the B-29s lost a wing and started falling apart. Three or four of the others caught fire. Crews were bailing out. Dozens of parachutes hung in the air, I had the impression that an airborne landing was underway. Four more “Fortresses” fell to the earth, others turned back. Around 100 American flyers were taken prisoner. After the fight, we found shell-holes in [all our own] planes. One had a hundred holes. But there was no serious damage, and not a single bullet had hit any of our cockpits.’

Bullet-riddled MiG

Riddled with bullets but still flying - the more robust MiG-15

Even Kramarenko did not always get his tactics right:

‘...when I looked back, I saw a couple of Sabres at 500 meters. A little bit closer, and both would open fire. That was when I made a mistake. I should have increased my angle of climb and dragged the Sabres to high altitude where the MiG had the advantage. But I only realized that later. At that time, I reversed my heading, passed over the Sabres in a slight dive and hid in a small group of clouds. Once there, I turned to the right. On leaving the cloud cover, I started a ‘Boy Vo Razvojot’, a climbing turn to the left with a roll angle of 40-50°. But when I emerged, the Sabres were not below where I expected them to be. Instead, they were still high, above and behind me.

F-86 fires on fleeing MiG-15

Running for his life - Kramarenko dives for safety

‘I threw my aircraft into a dive, but instead of then pulling up sharply into a climb, I rolled into a slow, flat dive. The Sabres didn’t expect that. I dived to the right towards the hydroelectric station over the Yalu river. This huge reservoir had a 300-meter-high dam and a power station which provided energy not only to half of Korea but also to the whole of north-eastern China. We had orders to protect it at all costs. It was defended by a dozen of our anti-aircraft batteries, which had orders to shoot down any aircraft that came near.

MiG-15 amidst barrage of exploding AAA

The only way is hope - into the heart of the AAA

‘I hoped the battery gunners would get the Sabres off my tail. Dark clouds of exploding anti-aircraft shells filled the sky in front of me. I didn’t try to evade them... if I did, the Sabres would shoot me down. I preferred to die at the hands of my fellow gunners than by the bullets of the Sabres. I headed for the very center of the explosions. The aircraft punched into the barrage. Once inside and through the shell bursts, I immediately threw the MiG from side to side, up and down…’

Suddenly, I was once again out in the sunshine. Behind and below me were the dam and the reservoir. Off to the left I could see the departing Sabres - they had lost me and perhaps figured I was dead...I pinched the arteries in my neck to stop the blood leaving my head...’


Finally Safe! - Kramarenko flies to safety

Let’s give the last word on Soviet air combat tactics to Lt. Col. Bruce Hinton, 336th FIS (Fighter-Interceptor Squadron), USAF: ‘This MiG driver had been good, VERY GOOD. He had been waiting above the engagements between the MiGs and the F-86s. It was a well-known tactic that was commonly used by a single MiG pilot, that we referred to as CASEY JONES...His normal procedure was to hit fast from a high perch, diving down on any F-86 that was isolated from the on-going air battle - quite similar to a tactic used by Baron Manfred von Richthofen in The Great War.’ (Lt. Col. Bruce Hinton, USAF)

Allied pilots also adopted this ploy in Korea. But then, that’s another story.

New Missions

In the last Open Beta we added a number of missions that can be flown either as a single player, or with friends, on DCS: The Channel.

Take a look at the V1 No Ball Raid missions for the P-47, P-51 and Mosquito, or fight on the other side in the No Ball Scramble missions for the Bf 109 and FW190. There is more to come, with a number of exciting new Instant Action missions set over the Marianas currently in development.


Thank you for your passion and support,

Yours sincerely,


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Operation Praying Mantis

18 November 1988


Commander Arthur ‘Bud’ Langston pushed the Intruder’s throttles forward to military power. The A-6 squatted down onto the catapult shoe. Langston saluted and braced himself. The launch officer gave the signal. In the space of two seconds, the Intruder hurtled from zero to 150 mph. It was the morning of April 18, 1988 – and Operation Praying Mantis was underway.

F-14s and E-2 preparing to launch

Carrier Air Wing II prepares to launch

Cdr Langston was Strike Leader of Attack Squadron 95 (VA-95) ‘Black Panthers’, part of Carrier Air Wing II aboard the nuclear-power aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. Loaded with Harpoon anti-ship missiles, Skipper rocket-assisted and 500 lb Mk-82 laser-guided bombs (LGBs), VA-95’s mission was to sink the Iranian Saam-class frigate Sabalan.

A-6E Intruder

Flight of the Intruder

In March 1987, under Operation Earnest Will, U.S. Navy (USN) warships began escorting Kuwaiti tankers reflagged as U.S. vessels to protect them from Iranian attacks. In response, and convinced, in Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini’s words, that with the failure of Operation Eagle Claw the United States was a ‘paper tiger’, Iran began sowing the region’s seas with unmarked M-08 naval mines. In July, one of these struck the U.S. reflagged super-tanker SS Bridgeton off Farsi Island, ripping a 32 x 16 ft (10 x 5 m) hole in its side.

A-6E Intruder

Workhorse of the fleet - the A-6E Intruder

On 14 April 1988, the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) hit a second Iranian mine. Two-hundred and fifty pounds of TNT blew a 15-ft (4.5-m) hole in the frigate’s hull, flooded the engine room and other compartments, injured a number of crew members and started a series of fires. Only heroic efforts on the part of the crew prevented the ship from sinking outright.

At this, America lost patience with Iran. Two days later, the Enterprise Battle Group was ordered to prepare for a retaliatory ‘War at Sea Strike.’ Codenamed Operation Praying Mantis, the War at Sea Strike began at sunrise on 18th April. Its main components were three Surface Action Groups (SAGs) codenamed Bravo, Charlie and Delta, together with multiple combat aircraft from the USS Enterprise. The initial targets were the Iranian Sirri and Sassan oil and gas installations, and the IRIN frigate Sabalan. Each consisting of several drilling and extraction platforms, both oil installations were armed and known to have been used for initiating and coordinating attacks on unarmed tankers.

On board the Enterprise, Carrier Air Wing II began preparing a Combat Air Patrol/Surface Attack Combat Air Patrol (CAP/SUCAP) package of four F-14A Tomcats, two A-6Es, two EA-6s, and an E-2 for immediate action. A second attack group of two F-14As, two A-6 Intruders, six A-7 Corsairs, an EA-6 and an E-2 was also armed up and brought to operational readiness.

The air attack group’s initial objective was to help locate and sink the Iranian Saam-class frigate Sabalan, which, along with its sister ship Sahand had been targeting the bridge and crew quarters of tankers with RPG-7 rockets and 12.7 mm machine-gun fire to kill as many crew members as possible. Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command Navy (IRGCN) La Combattante II/Kaman-class fast-attack craft had also been shooting up unarmed tankers – and had laid many of the mines that were now causing so much damage.


IRGCN La Combattante II/Kaman-class fast attack craft firing Harpoon missile

SAG Bravo’s task was to attack the Sassan complex; quash resistance; and deploy a team to destroy it with explosive charges. SAG Charlie’s task was to execute a similar attack on the Sirri platforms. SAG Delta’s objective was to help hunt down and sink the IRIN frigate Sabalan.

At 0730 local time, the guided missile cruiser USS Wainwright (CG-28) together with the Frigates USS Simpson (FFG-56) and USS Bagley (FF-1069) of Surface Action Group ‘Charlie’ warned the Sirri’s occupants to abandon the complex, as all three U.S. ships were about to shell it with their main guns. While some of the Iranians began to comply, others manned the twin-barrelled ZSU-23 mm AAA guns that had been installed on the platforms and opened fire. The warships replied with their main armament. A volley of five-inch shells slammed into the platforms, starting fires that burned out of control and either destroyed or severely damaged them.

OHP frigate engaging oil platforms with naval gunfire

Up in flames - one strike and out for the Sirri oil platform

At the same time, Surface Action Group ‘Bravo’, which consisted of the guided missile destroyers USS Merrill (DD-976), USS Lynde McCormick (DDG-8) and the amphibious landing ship USS Trenton (LPD-14) approached the Sassan complex at high speed. This time, the platform crews began to abandon their positions as advised. Once they were clear, the Merill and the Lynde McCormick opened fire with their five-inch guns. A Marine AH-1 Cobra helicopter gunship also attacked the target with missiles and gunfire. At 0930, U.S. Marines from Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) 2-88 fast-roped down onto the smoking and semi-shattered installation, gathered intelligence, and then demolished what was left of it with explosives.

At first, the Iranian response to these attacks was muted. By coincidence, Iraq had launched an offensive across the Fao (Faw) Peninsula that same morning. But later, a small fleet of armed Iranian Boghammar armed speedboats shot out into the Southern Gulf area from their Abu Masa base, and began to ambush passing merchant ships with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns. These attacks damaged the unarmed U.S.-flagged supply ship Willie Tide, the Panamanian-flagged Scan Bay, and the British oil tanker York Marine.

Iranian Boghammar fast attack boat firing Exocet missile

Small, fast and deadly - a Boghammar punching above its size

Originally purchased from Sweden’s Boghammar Marin AB shipbuilders, the Iranian speedboats had been modified to carry a range of weapons including 106 mm recoilless rifles; 1 x 107 mm 12-barrelled multiple rocket launchers and a variety of surface-to-surface missiles including Harpoons and Exocets. With a top speed of 46 knots (85 km/h), the Boghammars were fast, agile, small and in theory harder to hit. Their aim was to overwhelm the defenses of conventional enemy warships by attacking them simultaneously in large numbers.

But on this day, the Boghammars’ speed, agility and size did not save them. A pair of VA-95’s SUCAP Intruders spotted and attacked them with Rockeye cluster bombs, sinking one and damaging several of the others.

U.S. Navy A-6 Intruders on the way home

U.S. Navy A-6 Intruders - mission accomplished

The battle now began to escalate. The larger Iranian La Combattante II/Kaman-class fast attack craft Joshan wheeled into an attack run on Surface Action Group Charlie. The USS Wainwright’s Captain repeatedly warned the Joshan to "stop your engines and abandon ship, I intend to sink you". Instead, the Joshan kept on coming. When it was within 13 nautical miles, U.S. Command authorized SAG Charlie to engage it weapons free. The Wainwright was lucky the enemy ship did not get its retaliation in first: the Joshan fired a Harpoon missile at the Wainwright. Diverted by the ship’s defensive chaff system, it missed.

USS Simpson firing Standard SM-1 missile

USS Simpson firing Standard SM-1 missile

The USS Simpson now fired four SM-1 Standard missiles at the Joshan, while the Wainwright fired a further one. The missiles all hit but did not immediately sink the enemy ship. The USS Bagley then fired a Harpoon missile at the stricken vessel. This also missed – but by now the crippled Joshan was an easy target for SAG Charlie’s main guns, which sank her.

The Wainwright then fired two Extended Range Standard SM-2 missiles at a pair of Iranian F-4 Phantom fighters that had been loitering about 30 miles (50 km) away. The first missile detonated near one of the F-4’s, blew off part of its wing and peppered the fuselage with shrapnel. The Phantoms made a run for it.

The Iranians were getting a pasting - but to the surprise of American commanders, they showed no signs of giving up. Commander Langston, who now launched from the Enterprise, tells us what happened next: ‘Shortly after take-off, the Battle Group air intelligence officer (E-2) alerted us that a Saam-class frigate in Bandar Abbas was getting underway…My B/N (bombardier/navigator) confirmed radar contact and forward-looking infrared imagery (FLIR) showed what was possibly the frigate Sabalan leaving port at Bandar Abbas making about 30 knots…

‘Positive identification was mandatory. I put the A-6 into a steep dive five miles astern of the target ship, levelling out below 100 feet at 500 knots. When we were about a mile astern, the ship opened up with AAA and shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles...We went by the port side at deck level. The ship had Sabalan’s number on its hull. Bright AAA muzzle flashes and tracers passed behind us as the Iranian gunners failed to lead their shots.

‘We egressed out to twenty miles, called the E-2 and told them to pass to the Enterprise: ‘launch the Strike Group.’ I then told the Sabalan that they had five minutes to abandon ship, because I was going to sink them. We didn’t see anyone abandoning ship after ten or so minutes, so we made a Harpoon attack. The missile failed to launch, so we had to go out again, reset all the ordnance switches and make another run. This time, the missile locked on and launched correctly. We watched the Harpoon skim low on the water and impact the frigate behind the bridge. Fire and billowing black smoke rose from the explosion and the ship went dead in the water.

USN A-7E Corsair dropping bombs

Lots of stick - but no carrot

‘We made another attack run with the Skipper rocket-assisted bombs and a Mk-82. By this time, I could hear the Walleye-equipped A-7s calling in hot, followed by the A-6 calling out the Harpoon attack. One Walleye hit the Sabalan’s front gun turret in a massive explosion, knocking it partially off the deck. Subsequent hits put the ship further ablaze as the remaining four A-7s rolled in with their strings of 500-lb bombs. The ship remained on fire and listed heavily but did not sink as the attack ended and the strike group egressed.’

Undeterred by – or unaware of – its sister ship’s fate, the frigate Sahand now also left Bandar Abass at speed. As it drew near the ship to identify it, a second VA-95 SUCAP A-6 came under missile and gun fire. The ship’s pennant number confirmed it as the Sahand. The Intruder climbed away, looped round and attacked with a 500 lb LGB. It struck the ship’s funnel and exploded. Flames and smoke billowed out and the Sahand stopped dead in the water. The Intruder’s aircrew asked permission to sink the frigate, but Washington called it off with the comment: ‘We’ve shed enough blood for one day.’ Even so, a Harpoon missile fired from SAG Delta’s USS Joseph Strauss had by now also hit the Sahand, starting an ammunition fire which saw it roll over and sink later in the day.

Iranian frigate Sahand on fire after being attacked.

Iranian frigate Sahand burning from stem to stern. The ship was hit by three Harpoon missiles and multiple Rockeye cluster bombs.

An example of asymmetric warfare, in which a nation employing relatively inexpensive weapons like mines and small fast-attack craft took on the high-tech might of the world’s greatest military power, Operation Praying Mantis was the largest U.S. naval surface engagement since World War II. By the end of the operation, U.S. air and surface units had either sunk or severely damaged half of Iran's naval forces. They had also ensured that, for the time being at least, safe passage for merchant shipping through the Strait of Hormuz and in the Gulf was assured.

Thank you for your passion and support,

Yours sincerely,


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