Q: At the player's option, air assets should be able to be committed operationally instead of tactically to interdict and attrit reinforcements.
A: Put this to music --- tactical game, tactical game, tactical game. As with artillery, the air concept is that the interdiction and attrition effort has already been done by higher headquarters and either it wasn't working today or else this bunch just got through it. What is reaching the TacOps battlefield has already survived that sort of attention and is now in, or almost in, the nose-to-nose arena. The TacOps player is an amalgamation of all the company and battalion commanders involved in a defined local action (and maybe one regimental/brigade commander). The division and corps commanders are playing a different game.
Q: Air strikes have generally been very useless. The plane arrives right on time and on target and then gets promptly shot down.
A: Having a surface-to-air missile (SAM) in every OPFOR infantry platoon certainly makes it tough, but I don't think most folks have consciously tried to properly blind and suppress OPFOR in the turns before the air arrives. Air in TacOps is currently limited to medium to low level delivery. Such approaches can't be recklessly used until OPFOR has been very heavily attrited. If you really want to get air in earlier, you will have to dedicate all your arty to suppressing and or smoking as many enemy units near the target as possible. First, put arty smoke on the bigger nearby OPFOR units (leaving a hole over the target) and then suppress the heck out of the area around it with artillery for a few turns. I generally don't try to use air unless there is a heck of a lot of other general fighting going on to distract the OPFOR SAM gunners.
Q: Do the types of aircraft used in air support orders really make a difference? Does one perform better than the other?
A: TacOps air strikes are generic. The names differ only for cosmetic effect. Data for responsiveness, survivability, accuracy, bomb effects, etc. vary a little bit between U.S. and OPFOR - the U.S. aircraft are more capable.
This brings up a hint for playing Task Force Degoey and many other Marine Corps scenarios. In real life, the Marine Corps because of its fast response mission substitues fixed wing aircraft (which it has a lot of) for arty (which it does not have much of). To simulate this, the Marine Corps scenarios often feature a much higher probability of getting new, unplanned air missions during game play than the Army scenarios do. However, TacOps only tracks six air missions at a time. If all six slots are filled, you are not eligible to get any new unplanned missions - in other words, the TAOC figures you obviously don't need any more since you are not using the six sorties already "stacked" up.
The hint is "never keep all six air mission slots filled - always leave at least one empty". If you have six sorties stacked up then send one or more of them out to look for a target of opportunity.
The A-10 attack plane is VERY different from any other type of air support aircraft. Its loiter time is longer than any other kind of combat support aircraft. I had asked him about including it later and he told me about the coding changes that would be necessary to include the A-10. He'd also have to think up a manor in which to accurately show the A-10 as an AIR SUPPORT platform and not as a typical unit which we use in the normal play of TacOps. I, myself, have given this issue MUCH thought and I think I've come up with a way to portray the A-10 as accurately as possible without a HUGE coding (thus allowing bugs to crop up) change. My idea is this: Instead of including the A-10 as a AIR SUPPORT option. I'd like to see it included as a dedicated support aircraft which would be included in the OPTIONAL unit listings for each scenario.
The A-10 would be flown in at a set time (set by the player or computer..which will be decided by Major). It would REMAIN on the map as a unit which can then receive orders (exactly in the manner that helos receive orders). Since the A- 10 has eleven weapons pylons as well as the 30mm cannon, it would hang around the area until 1)It ran out of ammo, 2) It was shot down, or 3) It was forced to abort its mission due to heavy ground to air fire. I think the actual flight path of th plane itself could be shown by requiring (at the AI level) a certain amount of forward movement by the unit. A player would basically give the unit a flight path and the A-10 would fire at any unit along its path. The actually choice of which weapon to use (Maverick missile, the 30mm cannon, or a CBU bomb) would be decided by computer. Mavericks, of course, would tend to be used at a much longer range and then the cannon would be used much closer in. If anything survived up to the point where the A-10 crosses over the target, then the bomb(s) would be released. I COULD go on and on about this, but for some reason, I've had a keyboard problem today and I get a constant beeping sound whenever I type (quite and annoyance). I'm also brain storming the Multi-player option and I should be getting with Major on it very soon. If any of you more experienced players have any ideas or wishes concerning a multi-player ability, let me know about them ASAP.
Pending the development of antigravity pods, having the A10 stay on the map seems a bit visually and mechanically odd <grin>. My thinking so far is for the A10 to be off map until it makes an attack run. To make an A10 attack, a player would designate a map edge entry point, a map edge exit point, and click a path on the map that reflected reasonable turn radius limits. The A10 would then either engage random units all along its path or such specific priority targets as specified by the user with the normal "Priority Target", "Target Type", and or "Target Reference Point" buttons in the Unit Orders Window. The A10 would likely be subject to anti air fire as it advanced along its flight path. If the A10 entered or exited the map across an "enemy" map edge, the mission would be subjected to a stiff off map anti air die roll before entry or after exit as appropriate.
Later on someone else said
A-10 airstrikes would be different than other TacOps airstrikes in that three options would be presented to the player upon clicking the "air support button":
1. GAU-8 30mm Gatling gun strafing mission: Rather than designating an impact point on the board like most airstrikes, a strafing air mission would involve clicking and dragging a 400 meter long (or however long A10s can strafe) colored line on the map, much like drawing a straight line in paint programs. The A10 would then fly in and strafe along that line, or targets parallel to that line. This would be represent the ACC Tactical Air Control Party giving instructions to the pilot, "start your run 300 meters west of the tree line, and strafe a line due south", or however it's phrased.
2. Conventional bombing mission: Just like a regular bombing mission. Dumb bombs.
3. AGM-65 Maverick missile attack: Mavericks would be used to take out ZSU- 23-4s ("Zoos"), SP Artillery, and other special battlefield targets. ESPECIALLY "Zoos". This all hedges on a guess--I THINK that A10s can engage with Mavericks outside the ranges of SA16s or "Zoos". In that case, the player would plot an air support mission like any other air mission, except that the aircraft does not appear on-map, and there is no AA fire. There are also no big explosions, only a straight line appearing from off-map, a "missle launch" pop and whiz and a burning tank...
Concievably, a single A10 could perform each mission over the battlefield before running out of ordnance. Concievably an A10 could perform both a strafing mission and a Maverick strike on the same run, provided the two targets were relatively close. The A10 would be avaliable every two turns, as in order to maximize its chance of survival and suprise it would disappear over the horizon and converge on the battlefield from a different direction. Armored or not, the point is not to get hit in the first place.