So, continuing on:
The S-3B in the game is positively ancient, along with the F-14A. I believe the models can traced back to Flanker 2.0. Given what I’ve seen, I believe that both aircraft likely have incorrect fuel burn rates or incorrect fuel capacity. I’m no whiz on burn rates or how far the S-3B should realistically go, but 200nmi from the carrier shouldn’t burn up 13,000lbs of gas – or at least, I’d hope not! By this point, the bugs have burned about ~3,000lbs, depending on throttle management. For a two ship, logically there should be enough to allow them to hit the tanker once to the target area, though I’ve no idea how much the F-14s would need – I would figure about the same as the bugs. In that instance, offloading 12,000lbs should allow for the tanker to return to the carrier, gas up, and launch again to fuel the returning package. I’m basing this off the calculation of JP-8 weight @ 6.7lb per gallon, multiplied by the S-3B’s internal cap of ~1900gal with a single 300gal external tank and buddy pod, which yields a max fuel weight of 14740lbs.
I don’t know if the buddy pod can carry additional gas, but I do know the S-3B didn’t have a real high fuel consumption (figures I’ve seen estimate about ~1500lbs per hour), so 2,700lbs of fuel should be enough for it to fly out, pass gas, and get home with enough in reserve and for emergencies – especially considering that the midpoint is ~200nmi from the boat. Yeah, it’s not ideal; as an alternative, I could throw in two S-3Bs to handle the tanking duties rather than rely on one… But I’ve no idea if such would be available, especially considering the risks of potentially leaving the wing without tactical refueling in event of problems with two limited, high-use assets. The alternative is either the KC-130 (make-believe it’s an H or T, circa '00s) or IL-78, since the KC-135BDA is currently bugged (in theory, I could use the 135, but it’s tricky with the drogue contact point being separate from the visual model). The only issue I have with these is they’re not organic assets, which I’m trying to roll with in this scenario. Hence, my preferred solution is the IL-78, as the flight route is closer to Crimea than Turkey (as this is '00, not '14, Crimea is still part of Ukraine for this scenario). This isn’t an entirely realistic solution either, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do. Call it CIA passing some bits of equipment and money under the table for a clandestine solution due to strategic implications keeping the USAF from employing their own refuelers.
I wish that the S-3B had a proper in-flight refueling capability because my first solution would be to have the S-3B hit a Turkish KC-135BDA (since the AI doesn’t have issues using the invisi-drogue), then passing that gas to the package as required, but since the S-3B doesn’t have that capability I’m out of options. I could also simply spawn a S-3B at the midpoint when the package gets there, but it’s not my favored solution to the problem, nor does it defeat the existing issue of either capacity or fuel burn on the part of the asset. Plus, having an alternate tanker on standby adds an option that is really needed given the number of fuel-hungry assets in operation.
The tanker issues aside, I ran into another rather annoying problem, that of spawning additional carrier assets. I had previously set the AWACS/tanker escorts to spawn after the player leaves the boat, but you apparently can’t spawn assets on the carrier like that, even if all the assets are not on the boat. They never spawn, even after trigger conditions are met. In the interim, I simply started them off as flying, but once again I don’t really like having to do things that way. It would seem that once you fill the catapults and have two in the parking area, no more can be added or spawned to the carrier – period! I don’t know if this is anything that will be modified in the future, but I certainly hope we’ll be able to spawn late arrival assets as needed on the carrier like this, otherwise we’re really, really, really artificially capped for trying to simulate a lot of scenarios.
In closing, we really need a lot more carrier assets for time periods from 1980-2005. KA-6D, EA-6B, A-6E for 1980-1994, improved F-14A/B/D for the entire 25 year span, C-2 (double on that one, C-2s are important, though in the interim E-2Ds can fudge it), improved S-3Bs and possibly the inclusion of S-3As (not essential), HH-60H for the late-80s SAR, SH-3 for early SAR, and probably a few others that I’m not thinking of right now. We are extremely deficient when it comes to naval assets on this part, both in BLUFOR and OPFOR, but that’s kinda outside the scope of this scenario.
It’s pretty obvious that DCS has been made outside of the scope of this (especially if we consider that Russian thinking is on the tactical situation far more than the strategic stuff), but with the bug, Harrier, and F-14 in the pipe, it starts to become an essential piece of the puzzle. Otherwise, we pretty much end up with a USN carrier in the Black Sea (which already stretches the limits of reality), set to give a few isolated Navy fanboys a place to fly from that is simply slightly different from an airfield. I’ve read that assets are in the pipe for this, but I’ve no idea which ones.
In regards to this scenario, I’ve been debating on throwing away the “Black Sea” and instead calling it something fictional to dispel any questions about treaties or some such. Thoughts?