Friday, March 23, 2007

Over the Owen Stanleys

My gaming urges are still presently being fully taken up with playing 'Pacific Fighters'. Since last posting I have flown an average of a mission a night, all of them involving a longish approach run from Port Morsesby over the Owen Stanley mountain range followed by a rocket attack on an airfield (either the 'New Strip' at Buna on the North coast or a newly constructed one which is just North of where the mountains descend to the coastal plain). There's minimal fighter protection usually, but the flack is pretty intense (especially over the inland target). The mountains usually have patchy cloud, and once I had to take off just after dawn, before the ground mist had cleared over the coastal plains.

The most noteable incident was my first air combat victory. Flying out of the mountains, about to begin descent to inland airfield target, observed two black dots at 12 o'clock, slightly below my altitude. Our fighter escort was busy several miles to the East, engaging four bandits. I turned my nose into the approaching enemy, slightly dived, and opened up from about 500 m (we were closing on each other at about 800kph). One long burst. Hit his engine and it flames briefly. A couple bullets hit my plane, but no real damage. His plane streaming smoke crashes into the jungle a couple minutes later, after an ultimately futile attempt to regain control. I am the only beaufighter of my flight to return to base (having opportunity to both shoot at, and be shot at by, enemy planes on return journey. I am awarded the 'Defence Medal'.

I remember thinking as I accelerated towards the closing enemy 'Oscar' - I have more guns, bigger guns, two engines to his one, if I hold my nerve the odds are my way. It worked. My comrades kept at altitude and concentrated on maintaining course. That allowed the second bandit to come in from underneath. I think that's where my flight lost its first casualty. Haven't had any similar encounters since.

The missions have so far been all ground attack types. I have destroyed something like 8 planes on the ground, 6 AA guns and 3 vehicles in around 10 missions. I have had rudder shot off once and made it back. I have had around 5 occasions of being shot down (meaning that I had to refly the mission), generally from AA on the attack run. Have accumulated 3250 points in 24 missions. Getting better.

The scary thing in a campaign sense is that each mission, the front line moves further south over the mountains, and currently lies along the last ridges before the coastal plain, port moresby and my airfield. I hope my fairly successful ground attacks are helping hinder the invader as his troops on the ground grind down against bitter aussie opposition along the Kokoda track.

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