Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Hornet Leader F/A-18 actual combat use

Most of the campaign cards in Hornet Leader represent what-ifs, and there's nothing wrong with that, as part of the game;s interest is seeing how F/A-18 might fare in future conflicts. The F/A-18 has a few more years service in it, especially with the continuing delays in fielding the Joint Strike Fighter, so any contingency fighting involving the Navy or Marine Corps will see Hornets in action.

But at least some of the campaigns in the game have actually happened, most them after the game was published in 1991, so the game's predictive power was tested and it passed with flying colors.

The main historical scenario included in the Desert Storm module included in the game. Given the game's publication date and the usual lead time needed for a design, it seems likely the game was already being designed before the first Gulf War started. Besides Navy and Marine Corps Hornets, by the way, the Canadians also flew combat missions in Desert Storm with their CF-18 Hornets, which don't differ in game terms from the US versions except perhaps in some of the ordnance available. Two Hornets were shot down and they shot down two Iraqi MiG-21s in the course of 4,551 sorties.

There's also a regular Iraq campaign card, which could be used to depict the use of Navy and Marine Hornets in Operation Iraqi freedom. To be more historically accurate, the Iraqis should have no planes at all, but the player may want to leave them in for the challenge. One Hornet was lost to friendly fire and two were lost in a mid-air crash, but none were shot down by the Iraqis.

The Libya campaign card was meant to represent future action against that country, although there had already been an actual combat use of the Hornet against Libya before the game's publication date. Hornets from the USS Coral Sea (VFA-131) flew some Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses missions in support of Operation El Dorado Canyon in 1986. The Coral Sea and USS Midway operated F/A-18s only because they couldn't handle the larger F-14 Tomcats.

GMT games Insider No. 2 (Oct. 1991) included four new campaign "cards" (actually just black & white copies on the back cover) including one for "Yugoslavia." These could be used to represent missions flown over Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s. Again, for maximum historical accuracy the enemy aircraft should never appear, but a player could leave them in to increase the challenge. Besides U.S. aircraft, some Spanish and Canadian Hornets flew some missions during this contingency as well.

Of the remaining campaign cards, some of the most likely to actually occur are the China campaign that appeared in Insider No. 2 and the original game's Iran card. There's always, of course a chance for a new Korean war, but each passing year seems to make that less likely.

The World War III scenarios, Central America and Defense of Israel campaigns in the original game and the Southern Africa and Cuba campaigns from Insider No. 2 range from highly unlikely to impossible in likelihood.

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