New Command scenario: US Naval Air Power Debate: Baseline

April 25, 2014 · Posted in Command 

Database – DB3000
Author – Tom Yochum ‘Yokes’

The US effort to replace cold-war era fighters with a new “low end” lightweight fighter has resulted in the F-35A, B, and C for the US Air Force, Marines, and Navy, respectively. It has also resulted in the largest and most expensive military procurement project in history.

Over-budget, past-schedule, and under-performing: the F-35 project has become a lightning rod for debate on the future of western air power.

Under the current plan it is likely that the US Navy will be forced to operate fewer air wings spread over fewer aircraft carriers, using a mix of legacy Super Hornets and F-35Cs. Many critics claim this is an unacceptable loss of capability.

One argument to cut costs while maintaining capability has been to eliminate the “supercarrier” from the US Navy and instead rely upon smaller, non-catapult carriers (like the upcoming Queen Elizabeth class from the UK) and utilize the STOVL (short take off vertical landing) F-35B exclusively. The smaller carriers are cheaper to procure and operate, so more than one would replace a single current carrier. This smaller individual “footprint” would provide greater flexibility by being scalable to the level of force required to accomplish the mission.

On the other hand, others have argued that the greater cost of the F-35C relative to the current generation of aircraft (F-18E/F/G Super Hornets) means fewer aircraft and therefore less capability. They argue that the Navy should forgo the F-35C entirely and continue to purchase Super Hornets until a new design can be devoloped without the burdens of commonality with the Air Force and Marine versions.

This scenario is part of a three-part series that attempts to test these three options (baseline F-35C/Super Hornet mix, F-35B only, and Super Hornet only) against a real-world crisis situation. The player is invited to try all three senarios and evaluate for themselves which option is superior.

This version presents the baseline: an estimated near-future carrier air wing reduced in number to represent an overall reduced number of aircraft (due to the greater cost of the F-35).

The crisis involves a military coup in the fictitious nation of OpForia. The US embassy is in danger of being overrun and an evacuation has been ordered. US Marine special forces, supported by air power from a nearby carrier task force, are tasked with extracting the embassy personel.

Editor’s note: I have attempted to make a fair balance of forces between the three scenarios. The baseline scenario has a mix of Super Hornets and F-35Cs that are purposely reduced in numbers to emulate a reduced total number of air wings and carriers. For the F-35B scenario I chose to replace the single Ford-class carrier with three Wasp-class “mini-carriers”. Each Wasp carries a squadron (12) of F-35Bs. Since the F-35B is (very) approximately twice as expensive as a Super Hornet, I gave the Ford carrier five squadrons (60) of Super Hornets along with supporting aircraft (Growlers and Hawkeyes). This is just for the sake of creating an equal comparison and is not meant to represent an actual carrier deployment.


Military hardliners have staged a coup in the nation of OpForia. OpForia ground forces are currently busy capturing government buildings and rounding up all opposition. Intelligence indicates that these operations will be completed in 2-3 hours. Once completed, however, these forces are expected to storm the US Embassy to collect hostages for use as human shields or as bargaining chips against foreign intervention.

As a result, the President has ordered you to extract all US personel from the embassy within the next 2 hours.


A rescue force of five MV-22B Osprey tiltrotors are scheduled to lift off at 21:00 GMT (in one hour). They will require 30 minutes on ground to load up all the personel.You are to eliminate any opposition to their trasit to and from the Embassy.


Weapons free against all OpForian forces.


OpForian military commanders have already declared their intention to attack any foreign forces that violate their borders.

OpForian air forces consist of a mix of a few higher end fighters (mostly Flankers) and a larger number of low-end aircraft. There are a small number of bombers capable of naval strikes based at OpFor Airbases 1 and 3. Expect a mix of Russian and Chinese equipment.

The OpForian capitol is defended by a mix of SAM systems of Russian and Chinese origin and all of them mobile. HUMINT has spotted at least one S-300 system. Expect short-ranged systems to be emplaced near the Embassy.

The three Airbases currently have a large number of civilians holding “rallies” in favor of the new goverment in key areas of the airfields. Any attacks on the airfields would result in a large number of civilian deaths and therefore the President has declared them off-limits.

The OpForian navy has placed a DDG and two FFGs right along your ingress/egress route.

Good luck Commander.


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