The road to v1.10: Waypoints for cruise missiles

December 12, 2015 · Posted in Command, Uncategorized 

CruiseMissile1Command Build 757.12, which had been made available unofficially at the start of December, has now officially been released through MatrixGames and Steam. Barring any emergencies, this is probably the last update released as part of the post-v1.09/NI release support process (Command is still 50% off at MatrixGames until early January!). The development team’s focus is now the next major public update, designated v1.10. Let us take a look at the some of the major improvements that the new version will feature.

Complex missile courses for fun and profit

Arguably one of the most visible changes in v1.10 is the new ability to plot complex routes with multiple waypoints for cruise missile attacks. While this was already possible for weapons under positive datalink control (e.g. heavy Russian “carrier killer” missiles like the SS-N-19), this is now possible also for completely autonomous weapons. Let’s see how this works.

(click for full size)

In this completely hypothetical example, the USS Ohio, loaded with Tactical Tomahawk (TACTOM) land-attack cruise missiles, is tasked to attack the air facilities at Latakia airbase in order to hamper Russian air operations from this important base. The airfield is protected by a battery of Pantsir-S1 short-range air-defence vehicles and, most importantly, a full S-400 long-range air-defence missile battery.

From the position that the Ohio is currently located, a direct missile attack would appear the most obvious course of action. However, we have already tried this on a previous test run and observed that the airfield’s location (placed on a ~40m elevated plateau overlooking the Syrian coast) offers a near-perfect field of view for the air-defence radars located at the base. The results against an attack coming directly from the sea were thus predictable:

Even with a large-scale missile strike, the majority of the TACTOMs were detected, engaged and destroyed by the S-400 battery well before crossing the coast. Leakers were then engaged successfully by the Pantsir-S1 systems. While some of the missiles did manage to impact their targets, this was more a result of simply overwhelming the airfield’s defences by sheer numbers (the S-400 battery ewas completely drained of weapons, and the Pantsir-S1 vehicles nearly so) rather than outwitting them.

So let’s see if we can execute a smarter, more efficient attack. We observe that the airbase, while having an excellent view to the west, is somewhat lodged between the coast and the so-called “Syrian Coastal Mountain Range“. This ridge could make an excellent radar mask for our TACTOMs if we can get them to attack the base from this direction rather than from the sea.

So let’s do exactly that:

Using the manual weapon allocation window, we assign a salvo of 4 TACTOMs to one of the airfield facilities. We select the salvo (blue outline) and click on the “Plot course” button under it. This temporarily hides the allocation window and allows us to plot the desired course:

In this case we set the missiles to cross the coast at Lebanon, skirt behind the mountain ridges on their way up north and pop up to attack the base at the last possible moment. Note that we do not have absolute freedom in plotting such courses: We are constrained both by the maximum range of the weapon and also the number of available waypoints to use. This is not a problem for TACTOM, but numerous anti-ship missiles have only a handful of waypoints available.

This is the result of the revised attack, from the Russian point of view:

The difference is quite dramatic. The 96L6 (Cheese Board) radar that supports the base defences detected the first TACTOMs at just 12.8nm, as they popped over the mountain ridge. Combined with the inevitable OODA delay, this gives the Russian SAMs very little time to react. If the TACTOM strike is as massive as before, the Russian repair crews at Latakia are going to have a very busy day…

Units under AI control are also able to utilize missile waypoints to their benefit. Although not currently able to “think” about radar/SAM coverage as in the above example, they nevertheless attempt to make off-axis attacks whenever possible (this obviously depends on how much weapon range they can spare) in order to hide their true bearing from their target. No longer does the bearing to a detected incoming missile provide an immediate clue to the attacker’s location:

The inclusion of missile waypoints in v1.10 introduces a whole new range of tactical options based on RL operations, and we are certain the players will find even more uses for them (complex TALD/MALD flight paths anyone?).


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