Sunday, August 05, 2007

Coastline at Mignight (long post)

I have just flown three online torpedo missions over Norwegian Sea. It is mid afternoon local time, midnight on the server. Thus all three flights took place in the dark of night. The moon rose over the period of the three sorties.

Thanks to Wandalen's Dynamic Campaign Generator (DCG), the flights I make on Norwegian server form part of a larger picture, with the results of any particular mission having an effect on what is there for the remainder of the time for which that particular 'map' is up on the server. I haven't yet found the DCG on any other server. The best one can usually hope for on a well managed server are well designed time limited scenarios (which are enjoyable for their own sake, but which also foreshorten , to my mind, the strategic dimension of game playing). Anyone who knows me well knows I like a good campaign!

My slow campaign against german shipping is reducing the number of available targets in future missions, as well as disabling the irritating naval AA screen of fire of german warships (which both poses a direct threat, as well as providing a visual early warning beacon (when they fire tracer, it can be seen for miles) against incoming raiders for any german fighter looking for some action).

What I'm actually trying to do (besides sink shipping for the sake of it) is clear a passage through to the coastal and esturine facilities for the daylight bombers which will no doubt be flying later in the day on the server. Hopefully they'll be better able to make successful raids against Herdla airfield and the associated harbour facility.

Anyay, back to my sorties...

Before Midnight: I took off from Peterhead airbase at about 11:30 pm, intending to sweep the southern seaward side of the Norwegian Island chain. I cruise in at around 2000 feet, dropping down to 1500 feet as I take a long curving turn to end up flying North, parallel to the island chain several miles off my right wing. I can see the glow of moonrise to the East over my right wing, the reflection on the sea beneath lighting up my view consdierably in that direction. As that's where I expect to see any shipping, that's where the majority of my attention is focused.

I quickly realised however that I was taking AA fire from the North, in front of me and fairly close. I drop my nose straight into a power dive, scanning the sealine above my gunsights for the source of fire. I only see the waves rushing towards me, so level out of my dive at about 500 feet. With a burst of orange lights, the enemy vessel opens up again. I can get a clear fix on his location now. Straight ahead. I drop to wave top and steady my sights on him, using my rudder to make increasingly fine adjustments to my course. Once I have him steady in my sights, I release the fish and pull up and away to port. Rapidly gaining height, I kick the rudder to slew my plane around along its course, making me a harder target for the AA which is still following me.

Satisfied with my distance, I bank to the vertical on my left wing and swing around to the south. This allows me to watch over my left shoulder the track of torpedo and the subsequent explosion as it strikes the enemy patrol boat. Satisfied, I head home. I eventually land safely, but only after having to abort three faulty landing approaches. Not sure what was wrong but I was always too fast or too high until my fourth attempt, and even then I crunched my undercarriage and ruined my propellors as I slid across the verge of the runway (thank heavens this occurred away from the dispersal areas of the numerous stationary planes based at the field).

Midnight: I return to the site of my most recent sinking, and take up the hunt to the hunt to the North. This time I scour the oceans to the immediate East of the coastal islands at an altitude of only about 1000 feet, trusting to my undivided attention and methodical manner to ensure I don't provide an unwitting target at point blank range for Kriegsmarine mariners.

I am rewarded after several minutes of anxious peering into the night when I see a freighter dead ahead. I descend steadily to torpedo altitude, and release the fish only about a half mile from the target. It has blown up by the time I am able to bank around for a look. With only a spreading oil slick to mark my passage, I return home and make a reasonably regulation landing.

Moonrise: My final midnight sortie is a bit more cunning than the previous two. The fact that I flew so far before sighting the tanker on the previous flight indicated to me that other pilots have recently been busy in the area. Therefore, probably not worth my while returning there. That's when I decided to instead look at the seaward opening of the complex of fjords that lead to Herdla and Bergen as they exit the island chain into the North Sea proper.

So I fly on a direct bearing for this target area, sweeping north before I arrive at it so that I can circle in and make my approach run through the bay in a southerly direction (allowing potential targets to be lit up by the moon, low on the horizon). I have just commenced this maneuver when I observe AA guns being fired from a ship at about 10 o'clock. Too far to be too effective, I am flying fast enough that I immediatly have to decide whether or not to attack.

I take a punt, and convert my navigational turn into a diving attack run. I kick the rudders several times (metaphorically speaking) slewing my plane back and forth along its flight path to put off the enemy's aim. Tracer flies past to left and right, seemingly missing me by inches each time. My luck holds, and I am now close enough to identify the target as a Type VIII U-boat. Nasty.

I release my deadly load at close range, swooping up and over the boat. It continues to fire at me throughout, shooting a hole in my right fuel tank. My plane is shuddering a bit at the explosions around and things don't seem that good when my torp strikes home behind me, sinking my opponent as I fly away. I don't have time to breathe a sigh of relief however, as my path is taking me over the mouth of the bay. Where there's one u-boat, there's often more.

If there was another u-boat, I saw nor felt nothing of it, and was able to bring my plane onto course for home without further incident. My right wing is leaking a stream of fuel into the night. I hope the engine keeps turning until I land.

It does. I navigate across 70 miles of ocean to within a kilometre of where I want to be, and am able to put my wounded plane onto the ground in one gently sweeping landing approach.

A good night's hunt.

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