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Red Sun Rising - IJN in CFS2

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A stock CFS2 campaign mission in the Imperial Japanese Navy's famous Zero fighter!

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Figuring that - if I was going to be spending more time in CFS2 - I should get myself better re-acquainted with its ways and workings, I decided to kick off a stock campaign in the fighter which defined the Pacific War, Jiro Horikoshi's A6M Navy Type Zero Carrier fighter. I'd always had a soft spot for this plane, having built many a model back in the day, including in 1/72 those by Matchbox (A6M2), FROG (A6M3, later re-released by Matchbox Germany), Airfix (A6M2) and Revell (A6M5) and the excellent 1/32 A6M5 by the latter maker. The little Matchbox kit was always a favourite. Even though its Pearl Harbour version had the short wing of the later A6M5, it looked well left in the white plastic in which it was mostly moulded, with canopy frames picked out, motor cowling painted black and prop in silver. Nice box art too:




And of course there were the movies - specifically, the Zeros in 'Tora, Tora, Tora!' That was a flim made in a day - long gone, if the silly, rather sad comic-book aerial scenes in 'Pearl Harbour', 'Red Tails' and the like are anything to go by - when some film producers could contrive to show just a little bit of respect for their material. Nowadays it's just spectactular but contrived car chases on wings, often hiding behind the claim that they are 'Inspired by true events'.  Ouch!


Anyhow a Zero it would be for me, in CFS2. I could have started at Pearl Harbour as I have the Just Flight add-on of that name but I'd never fully played a stock campaign before so started there, even though I knew this begins after 'the Hawaian Operation'.


While IL-2 Pacific Fighters has a better stock planeset and isn't restricted to fighters, CFS2 has a more representative set of ships, decent graphics and even now, is still a great choice for anyone wishing to fly in the PTO, not to mention the many add-ons, freeware and payware, still available.


I quite like the distinctive comic book style CFS2 campaign interface - which again, seems to hail from a mostly-lost era, when sim-makers added such little touches, which brought their campaigns to life . So I sat thru the Japanese pilot's subtitled soliloquy which nicely set the scene for my campaign. Then I got my briefing for our first mission. It was March 13th, 1942, and we were flying land-based Zeros based at Malaguna in New Guinea, supporting our offensive operations in the western Solomon Islands. On our first mission, my flight of thee Zeros was to escort some D3A 'Val' dive-bombers and B5N 'Kate' torpedo/level bombers to raid the enemy airfield at Buka. Serious air opposition was not expected and were were briefed to strafe the airfield, on arrival. A gentle start to our campaign...or a death trap? I would soon find out!


IJN briefing.jpg

IJN briefing 2.jpg


Having consulted the map. I took a quick look at the reconnaisance photograph of the objective. This is actually a very good feature. As it showed the location of the airfield flak, I should have used it to make a plan, allocating my wingmen to attack these positions first, once I'd eyeballed them on arrival. 


IJN briefing 3.jpg


But I was I a hurry, and instead, headed off to the flight line, where my mount awaited!


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...to be continued!

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'...a light sports plane with a 1,300hp engine'

(one US verdict on the Zero, neat but overstating her engine power somewhat!)


The stock CFS2 A6M2 Pearl Harbour-era Zero is still a neat and pretty accurate representation of the 'Zeke', to give her the US reporting name. Recent research suggests that her 'ame iro' overall colour was a slightly green or brown-tinted shade rather than the pure, very light grey featured on CFS2's machine, but that's probably still fair enough for a service-weathered example. I'm pretty rusty on my Zero carrier group markings but believe the stock CFS2 A6M2's 'A-111' may not represent any real-life unit. I remember that 'AI' was the code for the carrier Akagi's air group, AI-154 being Takeshi Hirano's Zero, which was one of the first obtained relatively intact, after the pilot crashed at Fort Kamehameha on 7 December; there's an interesting account of this here:




Back at the mission, and hoping for better luck on my own briefed strafing of our target, I checked my Zero's controls. started up, and opened my canopy, as seemed to be a common Japanese practice for takeoff and landing. Behind me, were the two other Zeros in my flight. Apparently, emphasising an individualistic, warlike and aggressive samurai spirit, Japanese tactics did not follow the Western practice of flying and fighting in pairs and fours, so a three-aircraft 'vic' was fine. Off to my left, across the lagoon, was another airfield and I could see some other planes wheeling over it, evidently from the unit I was to escort on the raid to Buka in the Solomons.


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Without further ado, I opened the throttle and forgetting about flaps, sped down the sandy runway, past some large wooden hangars of mixed design. The ground rose sharply not far beyond the end of the runway but I managed to unstick in good time, as did my two wingmen.


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Gear up, I swept past a little landing stage at the water's edge and gained height, before turning onto course for the target.


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...to be continued!

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Outward bound

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At this point, I turned on the CFS2 'radar'/Tactical Display/TAC, to pick up my course to the next waypoint, which was our rendezvous with the bombers. In the screenie below, you can just about make out the latter, another little vic of three green arrowheads on the TAC display at roughly 11 o'clock to me (the yellow plane icon at the centre). The aircraft themselves are just right of the tip of the volcanic-looking peak, on the left.


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My wingmen weren't long in closing up and we sped after the bombers, which seemed to be in no mood to wait around for us and carried right on. I've never flown over (or been to) the Pacific Ocean but I have seen the CFS2 visuals described as being a good likeness. There are alternative textures available but I like the stock ones; to me, they convey very well the impression of lush green vegetation, barren hilltops and blue lagoons.


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Flying in the external view - as I generally do, pre- and post-combat - I was able to spend a little time admiring my nicely-textured mount. The subtly-weathered CFS2 textures were pretty well top of the heap when the sim was released and to my eye, they are still first class.


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I made another check of my TAC display. A further course correction turned my heading line green and showed I was on course for the next waypoint, slowly gaining ground on the nearest vic of bombers, now at about 1 o'clock. Gradually, the land slipped behind us and we settled onto the long leg across open ocean to the western Solomons, where lay the airfield we were to attack.


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...to be continued!

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Into action!


I 'warped' across the intervening distance to our objective, and came out at several thousand feet with our target, Buka airfield, directly ahead. At this point, I suddenly regretted not having made a plan, while I was able to study the recce photo at my leisure. There was no sign of enemy aircraft, but ahead and below, the first flak was bursting in the sky near our bombers. Clearly, there was no time to hang around trying to think of something clever. We were briefed to strafe Buka and it was high time to make a start.


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I switched the TAC to display ground targets and selecting one, tapped the 'A'/attack key once, then after a pause, again for good measure.  I rolled over and dived in to make a pass of my own but could not pick out the source of the ground fire. Rather than waste my firing pass, I put some MG and cannon rounds into one of the two ships moored offshore. I must have hit something vital - or perhaps one of the bombers hit her just after - for she seemed to start settling in the water. I made a mental note to check afterwards if CFS2 weapons are innately overpowered against shipping and re-check that my game and campaign settings were not over-modelling anything.


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I banked around and dived in for another pass, this time attacking the second vessel from nearly head on. This time I left her smoking but still on the surface. As I pulled up and around for another pass, I could see that the skies were criss-crossed with tracers and that the 'Val' dive bombers were apparently exiting the target area, still intact and in good formation.


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This time I was determined to do something about that AA fire, so I began making runs at the little polygonal emplacements dotted around the runway. Most seemed empty, but one looked like it was occupied by some troops manning a pom-pom type weapon or a heavy MG. Other, more rectangular emplacements protected some aircraft, though I didn't notice at the time!


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I ended up making a pass at what turned out to be an empty emplacement. To make matters worse, after my second run, the luck I was pushing - in making repeated passes over an alert target - finally ran out. There was a bang as an AA round burst close by and I noticed that my Zero now had some holes in the wings, tail and fuselage which had definitely not been there previously.


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Enough was enough, I decided; the bombers had cleared off so it was time we, too, gave up providing those nasty people on the ground with live target practice. Time to go home. I turned away and ordered my flight to form up, which they acknowledged; at least I think that's what they did - I had subtitles turned off and my Japanese doesn't extend beyond what little I remember from watching 'Shogun' on TV many moons ago. Off we went, over the jungle and out to sea again.


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I vaguely remembered that 'warping' in a damaged state might or might not have a tendency to end badly, so I flew on for a bit, testing my controls and checking my instruments. Nothing nasty seemed to be happening...except that my roll rate had fallen sharply. I made a mental note to install Nibbio's 'rollfix', which I now recalled was designed to stop a tendency for CFS2 flak to clobber your rate of roll every time. Then I warped home.


Coming out quite near our home base without mishap, my wingmen broke off to make their approaches without needing any bidding for me. I carried on with the airfield on my right and then turned right onto a base leg, before turning right again onto final approach. I should have joined a more conventional left-hand circuit because this one brought me uncomfortably close to a b***dy great hill which some clot had put rather close to the seaward end of our runway. It was a bit like that infamous approach to the old Kai Tak airport at Hong Kong, from what I can tell...interesting.


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I somehow managed to avoid ramming the scenery and settled down onto a fairly straightforward final approach. I was quite glad to get back on terra firma; landings - in one piece, anyway - are not really my strong point.


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Unfortunately, at the debriefing, I got the cartoon graphic which shows you being bawled out by a very unhappy CO. We were credited with doing some damage, but one of the results screens showed that although we had met the 'Survive' goal - usually a good starting point - we had not also met the second goal - concerned with giving the target 'a good shoeing' - through not scoring sufficient hits on our objective. 'Must try harder', basically.


Overall, this was an enjoyable and visually attractive reprise of a stock CFS2 campaign. My Zero looked rather good outside and the virtual cockpit was also pretty decent, as were the terain visuals and effects. I'm now looking forward to re-installing some more of the Pacific Theatre add-ons and mods (which I fortuately still have on CD; though many are likely still available online) and getting down to some serious CFS2 action. She's still a great little sim.


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Nice pics Comrad!  Love the IJN carrier group and the D3A1! What mods are you using? I have the Aerosim Val campaign but that's not it.

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Hey, those are great warships! Love Ise, Hyuga, Kongo and the heavy cruisers - downloading the ships and missions now, thanks for the link!


PS this is the Aerosim Val, it comes with skins for most of the carriers in the 'Hawaiian Operation':


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