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Author Topic: Dogfights Over the Coral Sea  (Read 5364 times)
bigjackmac
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Posts: 1856


« on: 05 September 2019, 01:54:24 AM »

All,

1040
7 May 1942

Greetings, and welcome to my return to the Pacific!  Both the US Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy are on the prowl in the southwestern Pacific; the Japanese have their eyes on Australia, or at least cutting off the lines of communication between the US and Australia, and the Americans are looking to not allow that to happen.  On 3-4 May 1942, while fighting raged on New Guinea, the Japanese attempted secure their flank, sending an invasion fleet into the Solomon Islands to put troops ashore on Tulagi (across the channel from Guadalcanal), in order to conduct an amphibious assault on Port Moresby on 10 May.

But the Americans noted the Japanese invasion force in the Solomons, and the USS Yorktown launched strike aircraft that sunk or damaged several Japanese warships, though now the Japanese were aware the US carriers were in the vicinity, made doubly worse by the fact the Americans were shorthanded: they had only the Yorktown and the Lexington in the area because the Hornet and Enterprise had just returned to Pearl Harbor following the Doolittle Raid.  These were faced by the Japanese fleet carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku, and the light carrier Shoho.  The two opposing forces marshalled their troops, refueled, consolidated, and began searching in earnest for each other.

 Both sides made various, confused sightings of the other sides' forces, mostly believing they'd found each other's carriers when they hadn't.  At 0915 on 7 May, Japanese aircraft found the US fleet oiler Neosho and the destroyer Sims (earlier reported by scout aircraft as the US carriers), sinking the latter and badly damaging the former, leaving it dead in the water, later to be scuttled.  At 1040 that same morning, the US strike aircraft from Lexington and Yorktown spotted a Japanese task force.  Believing they'd found the Japanese carriers, they assumed attack formation and descended on the enemy ships, only then realizing they'd found a Japanese surface force with the light carrier, Shoho, attached.

The VF-63 "Killer Pelicans," led by Lieutenant Case, an Ace after the squadron's combat debut in the Dutch East Indies, were now embarked upon the USS Lexington.  Lt Case had broken the squadron up, one six plane division devoted to strike escort, the other two divisions dedicated to Combat Air Patrol, protecting their floating home base.  The six strike escorts, led by Lt Case, lifted off, aiming to protect the SBD Dauntlesses of VB-2 and VS-2 (the two dive bomber squadrons, "Bombing 2" and "Scouting 2"), and the TBD Devastators of VT-2 (the torpedo squadron, or "Torpedo 2"), but the strike package was jumbled, the Americans not yet having ironed out all the kinks of carrier operations.  This resulted in the Devastators forming up first and immediately departing without escort, then the SBDs, and lastly Lt Case's six Wildcats, making for a very difficult escort mission!


This is my arena for aerial combat; simple, yet durable and, to me, beautiful (in a simple, durable way).  I'm using tiny aircraft designed by my buddy Thomaston; not sure what size they are, just that they are much smaller than 1/600.  They're 3D printed models that I mounted on cut-down bases from Litko, and I'm using a very simple rules system called "Battle of Britain," which I found for free over on The Miniatures Page (I've already played a good 20 or so fights with them).  North is left, where the Japanese carrier Shoho is present, as is her six-plane CAP, while at right, approaching from the south, is the Lexington's strike group, minus the Devastator torpedo planes, which have been unable to locate the target.


The US strike formation, from top:
Ensign Riggins, a rookie pilot on his first hop
Lt(jg) Casey, a regular with two kills in two sorties, and Riggins' section leader.
The six SBD Dauntless dive bombers, which are referred to as Bomber 1 through 6
Ensign Warren, another rookie on his first hop
Ensign Didier, one more rookie on his first hop

Of course, missing from this fight are Lt Case, the Ace squadron leader, and Ensign Dahlgren, a regular with one kill.  They missed this fight as they were searching for the Devastators, then tallied on a Japanese aircraft a few miles back that ducked into some clouds.  By the time Lt Case and Ens Dahgren gave up the search, this fight was over.*

*Strike missions only get four fighter escorts, so this is the back story to explain why Lt Case and Ens Dahlgren are not in the fight.  And if you're wondering why I played three rookies and left out these two, it's because I rolled dice to see which US pilots would be in the fight, and this is how it turned out.  Not optimal, by any means, but it does mean Lt Case and Ens Dahlgren will definitely be in the escort fight(s) on Day 2.


The Japanese Combat Air Patrol, looking to protect their home base from those pesky Yank fliers.  I made a big mistake by listening to Thomaston, which will soon become apparent, and rolled up pilot experience for the Japanese.  To refresh your memory, pilot experience goes: Rookie, Regular, Veteran, Ace, and Natural Born Killer.  Based on the fact that some of these Japanese pilots have been flying, and fighting, for years, I rolled it so that a pilot had about an 8% chance of being a Rookie, and it went up from there, all the way to Natural Born Killer.  So, here we go, from the top:
Zero 3: Regular
Zero 1: Natural Born Killer
Zero 2: Regular

Zero 6: Ace
Zero 4: Ace
Zero 5: Regular

Perfect, right?  The Japanese Zeros are already getting a +1 for being superior (in terms of maneuverability and climb) to the F4F Wildcats, and now the pilots are markedly better in terms of quality.


The Zeros showed up hungry and are chowing down...


The Yorktown Dauntlesses plant three 500 pounders on the flight deck of the Shoho.

To see how the dogfight went, please check the blog at:
https://oldleadbreed.blogspot.com/2019/09/coral-sea-day-1-fight-1.html

The Lexington and Yorktown still had scouting patrols out to locate new enemy targets.  The scouts had identified a surface warfare task force and a transport task force (carrying the Japanese 'South Seas Detachment,' the Port Moresby invasion force), but with the enemy carriers still not located, Admiral Fletcher decided to hold off on launching another strike.

The US had sent a surface warfare task force north, which was promptly located by the Japanese.  The Japanese carriers were still waiting on their strike force (which hit the Sims and Neosho) to return, so Admiral Inoue ordered two groups of bombers from Rabaul to attack.  At 1435 they did, without effect, as did an errant flight of US Army B-17s...  The US surface force then promptly withdrew.

Admiral Inoue very aggressively continued to scout for the US carriers, and at 1515, when the strike force that hit the Sims and Neosho returned, he even quickly rearmed them and sent them south, certain his scouts would locate the US carriers, and then he could vector the strike force to them.  But it was not to be; the Japanese scouts were unable to locate the US carriers, but the strike force, flying bling in bad weather, stumbled close enough to them that the Lexington and Yorktown were able to vector their CAP over to intercept.  At 1747 the US Wildcats tore the Japanese strike force a new one, sending the survivors back north, scrambling to safety without ever having seen the US carriers!

And that is the next fight!

V/R,
Jack
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paulr
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« Reply #1 on: 05 September 2019, 07:51:14 AM »

 Thumbs up Applause Thumbs up
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2018 Painting Competition - Runner-Up!
mad lemmey
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Posts: 21847



« Reply #2 on: 05 September 2019, 08:06:28 AM »

Nice ship!
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Off to the Shed of Decency.

Chekov's Gun, Occam's Razor, and Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle walk into a bar. You won't believe what happens next!

2016 Pendraken Painting Competion Participation Prize  (Lucky Dip Catagory) Winner 😎
sunjester
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Posts: 1738



« Reply #3 on: 05 September 2019, 08:13:24 AM »

Excellent  Applause Applause Applause
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pierre the shy
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Posts: 1166


WWW
« Reply #4 on: 05 September 2019, 09:36:05 AM »

Great report as always Jack....that was an epic fight...looks like the USN learnt the lesson of not getting into a turning fight with more nimble Japanese fighters the hard way.....zoom and boom is the way to go for the Wildcat boys  Wink

FWIW I haven't forgotten about the 1/600th air stuff......just got some other projects to finish before they see the tabletop (My ECW stuff is taking up most of the tabletop at the moment).
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"welcome back to the fight....this time I know our side will win"
ianrs54
Playtester
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« Reply #5 on: 05 September 2019, 09:54:52 AM »

Good stuff
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FOG IN CHANNEL - EUROPE CUT OFF HURRAY

Muppet of the year 2019, and 2020
bigjackmac
Brigadier
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Posts: 1856


« Reply #6 on: 05 September 2019, 03:11:09 PM »

Thanks everyone, I appreciate ya!

Lemmey- itís an Axis and Allies War at Sea pre-painted ship, perfect for lazy bastards like me!

Pierre - youíre absolutely correct about tactics, but these rules are super simple dogfighting rules, and zoom and boom actually doesnít work because the Wildcats canít zoom far enough away after boom to escape the Zeros (there are no altitude rules, so no power dive to escape).

Canít wait to see your new toys on the table, hurry up! Wink

V/R,
Jack
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Raider4
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Posts: 1177



« Reply #7 on: 05 September 2019, 04:47:44 PM »

Most excellent stuff!

. . . and I'm using a very simple rules system called "Battle of Britain," which I found for free over on The Miniatures Page . . .

These ones: https://lonewarriorswa.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Battle-of-Britain.pdf?
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Norm
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WWW
« Reply #8 on: 05 September 2019, 05:31:11 PM »

Superbly done.
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bigjackmac
Brigadier
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Posts: 1856


« Reply #9 on: 05 September 2019, 06:35:59 PM »

Thank you gentlemen, and yes Sir, themís the ones.  Iíve added a little chrome, but trying to be cared not to make them cumbersome.

V/R,
Jack
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mmcv
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« Reply #10 on: 06 September 2019, 07:54:09 AM »

Great game
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Techno
Guest
« Reply #11 on: 06 September 2019, 08:16:42 AM »

Great stuff, Jack !

Cheers - Phil
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bigjackmac
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Posts: 1856


« Reply #12 on: 06 September 2019, 01:12:42 PM »

Thanks mmcv and Phil!

V/R,
Jack
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bigjackmac
Brigadier
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Posts: 1856


« Reply #13 on: 11 September 2019, 02:17:15 PM »

All,

1747
7 May 1942

Greetings, and welcome to my return to the Pacific!  Both the US Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy are on the prowl in the southwestern Pacific; the Japanese have their eyes on Australia, or at least cutting off the lines of communication between the US and Australia, and the Americans are looking to not allow that to happen.  On 3-4 May 1942, while fighting raged on New Guinea, the Japanese attempted secure their flank, sending an invasion fleet into the Solomon Islands to put troops ashore on Tulagi (across the channel from Guadalcanal), in order to conduct an amphibious assault on Port Moresby on 10 May.

But the Americans noted the Japanese invasion force in the Solomons, and the USS Yorktown launched strike aircraft that sunk or damaged several Japanese warships, though now the Japanese were aware the US carriers were in the vicinity, made doubly worse by the fact the Americans were shorthanded: they had only the Yorktown and the Lexington in the area because the Hornet and Enterprise had just returned to Pearl Harbor following the Doolittle Raid.  These were faced by the Japanese fleet carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku, and the light carrier Shoho.  The two opposing forces marshalled their troops, refueled, consolidated, and began searching in earnest for each other.

This morning, Lt(jg) Casey led the fighter escort for the Lexington strike force which, combined with the Yorktown's strike force, managed to sink the Japanese light carrier Shoho.  But the Killer Pelicans' escorts had a rough go: they downed three Zeros and damaged another, but they lost one Wildcat, had the other three damaged, and five of their six assigned dive bombers were shot down, the sixth returning to the Lexington, damaged.  Lt Casey scored two more kills to become a Veteran (total of four kills), but he was shot down and badly wounded, which will cause him to miss the Battle of Midway.

Admiral Inoue very aggressively continued to scout for the US carriers, and at 1515, when the strike force that hit the Sims and Neosho returned, he even quickly rearmed them and sent them south, certain his scouts would locate the US carriers, and then he could vector the strike force to them.  But it was not to be; the Japanese scouts were unable to locate the US carriers, but the strike force, flying bling in bad weather, stumbled close enough to them that the Lexington and Yorktown were able to vector their CAP over to intercept.  At 1747, Lt(jg) Fitzsimmons led aloft the Lexington's Wildcats to intercept the Japanese, which still (and never would) had not spotted the US carriers!


This is my arena for aerial combat; simple, yet durable and, to me, beautiful (in a simple, durable way).  I'm using tiny aircraft designed by my buddy Thomaston; not sure what size they are, just that they are much smaller than 1/600.  They're 3D printed models that I mounted on cut-down bases from Litko, and I'm using a very simple rules system called "Battle of Britain," which I found for free over on The Miniatures Page (I've already played a good 20 or so fights with them).  South is left, where the Japanese strike group is present, while at right, approaching from the north, is the Lexington's CAP, the Lexington herself present to the west.


And that is a lot of bogeys!  Sporting some real teeth, too: a Natural Born Kiler, an Ace, and two Regulars are escorting the Vals and Kates.


The Wildcats are working together to get it done, and for the first time I find myself awarding a 1/2 kill.


But still tough to deal with those nimble Zeros and their very experienced pilots.


The remaining Japanese pilots made it home safely (even though, after dark, some got confused and tried to land on the Lexington!) and are rearing to go for the engagements sure to happen tomorrow.

Both sides carried out preparation for battle throughout the night, then launched scouts shortly after 0600 the next morning, to find the other side's carriers.  The Americans got lucky first, sighting the Japanese carriers at 0820, though the Japanese were only two minutes behind.  Both sides hurried to turn into the wind and launch their strike groups!  The Japanese launched 18 fighters, 33 dive bombers, and 18 torpedo bombers, while the Yorktown and Lexington launched a combined 15 Wildcats, 39 Dauntlesses, and 21 Devastators, though the Lexington's contingent was about 10 minutes behind the Yorktown's.

At 1055 the Lexington's air search radar acquired the inbound Japanese strike group at a range of 68 nautical miles and vectored nine Wildcats to intercept, while the Lexington strike group arrived over the Shokaku and Zuikaku at 1130, facing a Japanese CAP of 13 Zeros, and went into the attack.

Coming right up!

V/R,
Jack
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Raider4
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Posts: 1177



« Reply #14 on: 11 September 2019, 02:52:51 PM »

Ahh, more good stuff! Keep it coming.

Just bought some 1/600 planes for the BoB using the same rules as you - blimey, they're small! And yours are even smaller! Don't know how you can even see these, let alone paint them so well.
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