I’ve recently been having a lot of fun with the DCS: AV-8B again and I wanted to document another recent series of flights on Persian Gulf at War. I’ve been very selective with my armament setup and my re-learning process with this aircraft and I also thought I’d share my thoughts on how that’s going so far. Let’s fly!
Group strike sortie
The first mission I want to tell you about is a group sortie on Persian Gulf at War server. Three of us loaded up at Al Dhafra Air Base and made the short journey over to a series of targets about 50 nautical miles away at Al Ain. Three clusters of armored and light vehicle targets on the frontlines of the battle that was under constant assault from friendly aircraft. We were about to join the battle.
On arrival things became intense almost immediately. A SAM site fired IR missiles at my aircraft (in the lead position) and I dumped a large number of flares and spiraled down to the deck to avoid the attack. Meanwhile my number two and three pressed the attack firing Maverick missiles at a pair of targets.
I turned back into the target area switching from my original plan to use GBU-12s in favour of the APWKS. Locking one of the short range SAM sites with the targeting pod, I fired the laser and then rifled off a pair of rockets. Target destroyed!
I repeated this several more times while my wingmates reengaged with more Maverick fire.
One particularly tricky SAM launched at me again firing multiple missiles in my direction. I again dodged them while a friendly kept an eye on the launcher. In retrospect, we should have used buddy lasing to hit the target but in this instance we just spotted the targets and then destroyed them.
Another launcher got lucky hitting one of our group and sending them out of the fight. They ejected safely a short while later. While my other wingman was hit by AAA fire on a low pass.
With little ammunition left, fuel tanks low, and battle damage mounting, we headed home for a landing back at base. Multiple vehicles were left in flames and overall it was a good sortie if a bit tense.
Try, try, try again
On my next sortie out, I was flying solo on the same Hoggit Persian Gulf server. On my first flight I used a now familiar mix of GBU-12 and HE APKWS rockets paired with the GAU-12 and the Litening II gunpod. I’ve been using this configuration extensively and I find it very flexible and useful in most situations.
On my first sortie, I flew to the north and east of Dubai to attack a powerstation. My first attack run was successful with two GBU-12s hitting the station in quick succession. I turned to attack the station a second time but had made a critical error.
On 136.00 Mhz on PGAW, there is a voice activated Overlord system. Early on I had asked Overlord to give me a threat ring of 40 nautical miles. During my first attack I was warned about an IRIAF F-14 that was “hot, fast” on my position. I should have evaded then but I really wanted to get those two extra GBU-12s off the pylon.
But that was my undoing as the RWR suddenly chirped a warning but by this point the AIM-54 was too close and I died immediately.
Undeterred, I launched again in the AV-8B with a newfound sense of caution and a desire to eliminate the power station. For this sortie I brought a new mix of weapons. A single APKWS pod, a standard Hydra HE pod, and four MK83 bombs.
With the F-14 threat neutralized and a new wave of F-16s aggressively pushing enemy incursions back, I was in the clear for air threats so I pressed on to target. Flying the short distance to the power station, I was on target almost immediately and used a CCRP drop assisted by the Litening II pod, to drop two MK83s on the power station and two more on the adjoining structure. Objective eliminated!
Then I swept in low over a new target with AAA guns and light vehicles. A pass with the Hydra rockets destroyed one position while a second pass with the GAU-12 eliminated another gun position. My luck was about to end as a burst of AAA fire caused critical damage to my Harrier on the third run.
Fortunately, I was within gliding distance of Sharjah International Airport and I managed to coast my way onto the runway there. Unfortunately, the airport was neutral and repairs were impossible. Time for another Harrier!
For my final sortie things would get even more exciting.
With multiple targets destroyed near Dubai, we were pushing our way up the peninsula with SEAD, CAP and CAS all doing their part. A helicopter pilot meanwhile was capturing FARPs behind us and keeping the whole operation working. On occasion I’d hear radio chatter from a F-16/F-14 pair doing their best to keep enemy aircraft from working their way south.
Further north my latest target was a radio transmitter being used by the enemy. Closing in from range, I was able to pinpoint the target early and setup for my attack. Working my way around and under some low clouds, I hit the target with a pair of GBU-16 1000lb laser guided bombs. These bunker based transmitters are tough customers but the combined power of the two bombs did the trick!
My job wasn’t quite done yet. While the CAP was mostly fighting enemy jets at high altitude, a group of five Mi-26 transport helicopters were heading south to retake our hard earned gains on the peninsula.
While an F-14 tackled one of the helicopters, I went after another firing a pair of AIM-9 Sidewinders at one. A large numbers of flares lured the missiles off. However, I had one more trick up my sleeve. Swinging around, I armed the GAU-12 once again and let loose with a hail of bullets.
I nearly hit the Mi-26 but managed to evade at the last moment. Fortunately, my guns hit their mark and the Mi-26 went spiraling down into the water. That’s a kill!
Time to go home. The rest of my sortie was uneventful and I landed back at a forward base coming in second behind an AI piloted C-130.
My approach to having fun with the AV-8B this time
I am doing something different when flying the AV-8B this time around. Although it helps that I have plenty of time with this aircraft in the past, in some ways I am learning things again for the first time both because its been a while and because thing have changed (sometimes dramatically) on this aircraft as it matures.
In the past I’ve jumped in and learned as many systems as I can and its been to my deteriment as I have a surface understanding of everything but not a more cemented understanding of specific features.
That is no more true than with weapon systems. I’ve tried to take on too much and do too many things and then forgotten about it all. This time I’m learning to stick with a few systems at a time and then perhaps gradually add on later.
I plan to stick with the laser guided GBU and APKWs series for a while backing them up with unguided options, the gun, and the Litening II targeting pod. Flexible enough to get by and capable enough to dish out major damage and that sounds like fun to me.