I played another game of Instant Thunder this evening, trying out another of the Falklands scenarios. This was an encounter between two Sea harriers and a group of six Mirage IIIs. The Mirage appear in groups of two over the first three turns, giving the harriers a change to inflict some hits before numbers stack up against them. In addition two of the Mirage pilots are novices.
It started well; a Harrier downed a Mirage with a missile on the first turn. The next pair arrived and, before the bemused novice pilot knew what was happening the other Harrier was behind him and he was shot down by cannon fire.
From then on it went downhill for the British. They have two advantages in this fight. The first is that their heat-seeking missiles are a lot better. The Mirages have the possibility of some half-decent radar-homing missiles, but none of them came up. If the Harriers could keep at a distance they could use missiles to even the odds. They also have their VTOL capability, which can be very useful indeed. But using it puts them at risk from heat-seeking missiles, and with so many enemy planes in play you have to be careful because one of them will get a lock. Without those two advantages the sad fact is that the Harrier's performance statistics aren't that great compared to those of the Mirage. With four Mirages on the board the Harriers found themselves under pressure; there always seemed to be a Mirage in a superior position and/or within missile range.
Four turns in one of the Harriers was hit by a missile, and badly damaged. Both Harriers put up a brave fight, but a couple of turns later, the other Harrier was damaged by gunfire.
On the penultimate turn, a Harrier had a clear shot at the surviving novice pilot. He missed. The novice had a clear shot at the other Harrier. He didn't miss. The Harrier went down.
The surviving Harrier held on for the last turn, even attempting a missile lock (which failed), but the points at the end told the story - the Argentinians won, since kills against them were worth far less points than bringing down a Harrier.
Probably the best way to play this for the British is to down one or two Argentinians early on, then dodge and hide for the rest of the fight, rather than showing any further aggression. The risk of conceding points by losing a plane outweighs that of trying to gain a few points for a further kill.
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