War Game: Sink the Admiral (Nagato Battleship)

Premise & Rules

The premise behind the “sink the admiral” war game is that there’s a high-ranking officer of an enemy force that’s attempting to reach a certain area of safety. The objective is to find a particular enemy unit and destroy it using aircraft with air-to-ground weapons. The inspiration for this series of war games comes from the “Hunt the General” series done by the Grim Reapers. The difference is that they use DCS, whereas I’m using CMO.

For the purposes of adapting the concept to CMO, my basic rules are as follows:

  1. Must be an air-to-ground/surface/subsurface engagement. (no dogfights)
  2. Friendly aircraft must use unguided munitions to destroy the target. (no guided missiles/bombs/homing torpedoes)
  3. Air-to-ground strafing runs with guns may only be used against heavily armored/hardened targets.
  4. Enemy forces may use any surface-to-air weapons.

The point here is not to do a one-to-one recreation of the Grim Reapers videos. Their version, using DCS, is more of a test of individual pilot skill at destroying moving ground vehicles with Mk82 500lb bombs. In contrast, combat in CMO is based on a probabilistic model, so it ultimately comes down to a 100-sided dice roll after calculating the final probability of hit. A.I. skill settings and the number of assets on target (among other factors) arguably have stronger effects on mission success. Accuracy with unguided munitions is one of the things affected by A.I. skill level, so I’ve set both sides to “regular” proficiency.

Parameters

  • Area of Operations: Japan’s Inland Sea and the Bungo Strait
  • Local Time: 0534 hrs
  • Weather: Clear, no rain, wind/sea state 0
  • Skill Level: Regular (both sides)

Situation:

Admiral Yamamoto is aboard the Nagato battleship and is putting out from Hashirajima anchorage in Hiroshima. The USS Enterprise (CV-6) and her air group are on-station off the Pacific coast of Shikoku Island.

Mission:

Locate and sink the Nagato with Admiral Yamamoto aboard before they reach the open sea.

Execution:

  1. Launch scouts to patrol the Inland Sea around Hiroshima City and the Bungo Strait.
  2. Upon having located the Nagato battleship, launch a strike to sink her.

Opposing Forces

U.S. Navy [player]Imperial Japanese Navy [A.I.]
– USS Enterprise (CV-6)
Air group:
18x F4F-4 Wildcat
36x SBD-5 Dauntless
18x TBD-1 Devastator
– Nagato BB
– Nagara CL
– Shiratsuyu DD
(various Japanese civilian vessels are also in the area)

Note that the Japanese don’t possess any air support for this simulation. This was an intentional design choice for this scenario since it’s meant to test how efficiently the air units can sink surface vessels.

Video

Statistics

U.S. NavyImperial Japanese Navy
Losses:
11x SDB-5 Dauntless
2x TBD-1 Devastator
Losses:
1x Nagara CL
1x Nagato BB
1x Shiratsuyu DD
Expenditures:
70x M64 500lb GPB
50x 12.7mm/50 M2 MG burst
146x .303in Browning MG
160x ZUNI 127mm HVAR Rocket
17x Mk13B Pattern Runner
Expenditures:
552x 127mm/50 3rd Year Twin HiCap Burst [2 rnds]
37x 25mm/60 2M-3 Twin Burst [20 rnds]
746x 25mm Type 96 [20 rnds]
331x 127mm/50 3rd Year Twin AA-VT Burst [2 rnds]

Weapon Hits & Misses on the Nagato Battleship

M64 500lb bombs5″ ZUNI HVARsMk13 torpedoes
45 missed53 missed (+1 malfunctioned)9 missed
2 hit (4.3%)66 hit (55%)3 hit (25%)
.50 caliber & .30 caliber hits/misses are excluded since they did negligible amounts of damage.

Timeline of notable events:

  • 0910: The Nagato was positively identified by an SBD Dauntless flight and they began attacking. The strike aircraft began launching at roughly 0912. Meanwhile, other scouting flights vector onto the target.
  • 0945: The first rocket attacks were made on the Nagato.
  • 0957: Nagato suffered her first torpedo hit.
  • 1050: The first strike wave was completed and I sent the planes back to the carrier.
  • 1344: The second strike wave began launching.
  • 1359: The second wave reached the target and began attacking.
  • 1426: The last wave of Devastator torpedo bombers reached the Nagato.
  • 1430: Nagato is hit by one last torpedo and sinks.

Outcomes & Evaluation

For the sake of this war game, we’re only focused on how much work it took to sink the admiral (Nagato battleship). Therefore, in the statistics, I ignored all expenditures related to sinking her escorts (the Nagara cruiser and Shiratsuyu destroyer). Overall, from the time the first dive-bomb attacks began on the Nagato at 0920, it took about 5 hours and 10 minutes to sink her. That being said, there was a roughly three-hour window from the time the first wave returned to the carrier to when the second wave launched.

What’s surprising is that the vast majority of the bombs dropped on the Nagato missed. However, in reality, accurately dive-bombing a moving target (even one as large as a battleship) is easier said than done. We should also remember that accuracy with unguided weapons is partially determined by side proficiency and that the combat model is ultimately based off of a dice roll. The question then becomes: Would the dive bombers have scored more hits with bombs had their proficiency been set higher? The Dauntless dive bombers suffered the heaviest casualties, but that may have been because they loitered around to do strafing runs against the ships which would’ve given the AA gunners more time to adjust their aim. It’s not surprising that rockets achieved the highest hit percentage because they’re direct fire weapons. Even so, rockets didn’t do a tremendous amount of damage to the Nagato since she’s an armored target. Based on the message log, a single rocket generally only did about ≤ 10 damage points depending on their penetration and where they hit. Thus, it would’ve taken a lot of rockets to sink the ship. Torpedoes, when they hit, obviously did the most damage (upwards of several hundred damage points). Clearly, they’re the real ship-killers.

Other factors we should bear in mind are the fact that the targets were maneuvering in fairly confined waters (the Inland Sea and Bungo Strait) and that the weather was clear. Note that “confined waters,” in this case, merely means that they were limited in the directions that they could feasibly go. There’s enough sea room for the ships to take evasive action in, but being confined to the Inland Sea and Bungo Strait meant that the U.S. planes had a far smaller area to search. Had the engagement occurred in the open ocean, the Japanese ships could’ve been anywhere and it could’ve taken longer for the U.S. forces to locate them. If the weather had been cloudy or rainy, it may have further impeded the ability to locate the Japanese and of the dive bombers and torpedo bombers to get their ordnance on target. Additionally, had this scenario included fighter support on the Japanese side, that would’ve hindered the ability for the bombers to conduct effective strikes and would’ve necessitated a fighter escort for the strikes.

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