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Mosquito night intruder: IL-2 '46

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Beating up the enemy after dark, in Prangster's Mosquito campaign for IL-2!19.02.2014 23-22-40.jpg


To adapt the 'Redneck's' line in the movie 'Outpost', you can say what you like about Hermann Goering, but he had style...and a perhaps characteristically brutal but effective way with words. Of all the pithy statements attributed to 'der Dicke', as the rotund Reichsmarschall was unceremoniously nicknamed, one I like best concerns his opinion of the 'Wooden Wonder' - the justly-famous DeHavilland DH98 Mosquito. Of this superlative aeroplane, Goering is said to have remarked:


'In 1940 I could at least fly as far as Glasgow in most of my aircraft, but not now! It makes me furious when I see the Mosquito. I turn green and yellow with envy. The British, who can afford aluminium better than we can, knock together a beautiful wooden aircraft that every piano factory over there is building, and they give it a speed which they have now increased yet again. What do you make of that? There is nothing the British do not have. They have the geniuses and we have the nincompoops. After the war is over I'm going to buy a British radio set - then at least I'll own something that has always worked.'


It's said (eg in Crowood's Me262 history) that - far from having been forced into development as a bomber by Hitlerian ineptitude - the famous German jet fighter was heavily marketed by Willy Messerschmitt as a multi-role plane from the outset. And that this was partly in an effort to cash in on widespread German recognition of the Mosquito's success as a very fast warplane which excelled at many roles: fighter, night bomber, precision day bomber, fighter bomber, night fighter, anti-shipping, reconnaisance. Whatever Messerschmitt's motivation, the Mosquito is one of those aircraft which, as the saying goes, looked right and was right. It also sounds pretty good:



A little while back, my plan to feature comparative Mosquito mission reports in a few different sims didn't get beyond CFS2 add-on 'Mosquito Squadron' when my graphics card failed. Restored by heating it to re-flow possible failed soldered connections, I can pick that up now. So it's time for 'Mosquito Squadron' again; this time not the CFS2 add-on but Prangster's mini-campaign of that name, available for IL-2 over at that peerless resource for all things Sturmovik, Mission4Today:




I was especially interested in flying the included Amiens Prison raid in IL-2, by way of comparison with the CFS2 equivalent. But that will come later. This report is on the first mission in Prangster's campaign. Intriguingly, this is for a night intruder mission, which I knew Mossies flew in 1944 around the time of the Normandy landings. Some of these operations are described by participants, in Osprey/del Prado's 'Mosquitos of World War 2', a good basic source. One of the units flying these missions in 1944 was the Royal New Zealand Air Force's 487 Squadron, squadron code 'EG', assigned to the RAF's 140 Wing, No. 2 Group, in the famous Second Tactical Air Force (2nd TAF). And this is the very squadron featured in this campaign! Go, Kiwis!


Night intruder missions were a new departure for me. I knew they had earlier been flown by black-painted Hurricanes and Bostons, stooging around in the dark, low over enemy-occupied France and basically shooting up anything that looked like it needed shooting up. Now, I was going to attempt this in a Mosquito...a virtual one of course but the darkness would be real enough. So with the room light turned off and illumination provided from a light outside filtering through a partly-open door - the better to be able to make out detail on a dark screen yet see a little of my keyboard - I braced myself for a new simualtion experience.


Here's the mission brief. I have to say that it is short but exceptionally good. Mission objectives and important parameters are clearly stated and appended to this is some immersive, realistic extra, military-looking stuff, starting with a met report from the meterolo...meteriolo...you know, those weathermen chappies.


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From what I remember, this is the original IL-2 Normandy 'map', which I think came with the Aces Expansion Pack or thereabouts. No South of England provided. So I'm taking off from a small island where no land should be, out in the English Channel and quite close to the French coast. But I for one much prefer this to an air start. And the island is a reasonable substitute for Thorney Island on the southern coast of England further north, at which Mossies were really based at this time.


Though it's February 1944 and D-Day is still four months away, knowing what's coming I can read off from the map and savour all those names about to become famous on The Longest Day...Pointe du Hoc, Ouistreham, Courselles-sur-Mer and all the rest.


In short, on this sortie I must fly west at low level and orbit at the enemy airfield near Valognes, knocking down any Gerries silly or unfortunate enough to be caught in the circuit there. Then I fly south for a bit, clobbering all and sundry ground transport as I go. If I can see any. It being dark, this doesn't seem very likely. How on earth will I manage? I have no idea. But there's one way to find out...


I started the mission. Here I am in the cockpit...and in the dark. At least it's a moonlit night. When you're out and about in the countryside, away from the city lights and relying on just the Mark 1 Eyeball suitably dark-adapted, you appreciate the massive difference between visibility on a moonlit night, compared to a truly dark, overcast one. This was bad, but it wasn't impossible. At least I could see my immediate surroundings and most important of all, a horizon. So I had at least a sporting chance of getting airborne...and maybe even staying there. So far, so good.


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Switching to the external view, I had a look around. Against the lighter sky to the west, I could at least see my own aircraft, on its own as this is a solo mission. Our little island base seemed quite well-appointed and the flarepath was nicely illuminated for my takeoff. Feeling a little less uncomfortable, I called up the 'mini-map' and oriented myself.


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Sad to say, I completely forgot about using my own cockpit, navigation or landing lights. Not enough training in night flying, was my excuse. What are they thinking, throwing people like me to the lions, on operations like this, that we're completely untrained for? Feeling still slightly peeved, I started humming to myself that old airman's refrain...all together, now:


'I didn't want to join the Air Force

I didn't want my b*****ks shot away

I'd rather hang around

Piccadilly Underground

Living off the earnings of a high-born lady.'


Not much hope of that now...maybe later, if I make it back and that transfer to a training unit comes through. Oh well, nothing else for it, but back to the night's business. I started up, checked my controls, set flaps two notches down and opened the throttle. Very slowly. This seemed to have the desired effect in minimising swing. Keeping well between the rows of lights either side of the long runway, I lifted off and climbed away. Early days yet but so far, still so good. Maybe I'd do alright at this night intruder lark, after all.


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...to be continued!

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'Ki te Mutunga!'

'Through to the end!' - the Maori motto of no. 487 Squadron, Royal New Zealand Air Force

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The flight to the first target area - the German airfield at Maupertus, north of Valognes - was uneventful...and dark. I flew much of the way in the external view at a fast cruise, about three-quarters throttle, calling up the mini-map or the red 'speedbar' on-screen text display at intervals, to maintain course. Taking no chances, I stayed up at about 2,500 feet. No dangerous messing about at a mere thousand feet for me, thank you very much! I could see the French coast, off to my left, a continuous stretch of sandy beach with the dark countryside receeding to a barely-visible horizon, beyond.


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I lost a bit of height as I crossed inland near the base of the Cotentin Peninsula, where the coast runs more or less north-south. Back in the cockpit and switching to the gunsight view, I was a bit put off by the brightness of the reflector sight's illuminated reticle. If there was a keystroke to dim this, I hadn't set it. So on I went, watching out anxiously for anything that looked remotely hostile, but most especially for the ground, which flashed past beneath me with a vague, dark menace.


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About half-way to Valognes I flew over something which took exception to my passage. Blue tracers fanned out from an automatic weapon below. The rounds seemed to pass quite close but the firing seemed fairly wild and I took no evasive action, relying on my speed to carry me past in the dark and out of their field of fire.


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Emboldened by my surviving this first hostile action, I soon arrived south of the enemy airfield and began to circle, careful as ordered not to overfly it and thereby hopefully avoid being shot down by its defences. The airfield's grey runway, apron and taxiways were visible, but it was in darkeness. Then the runway lighting came on. A few to start with. Then the whole runway was lit up. Evidently, they were expecting a visitor, other than myself. Someone whose visit it was now my job to interupt. Violently.


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I banked around, looking for any sign of another aircraft. In the campaign 'difficulty' setup, I had retained on the mini-map the display of my own plane and my route, but had turned off other aircraft icons. So I kept fairly low, looking around and hoping to see something silhouetted against the sky, which at night is still generally lighter than the ground.


Nothing. Round and round I went. At one point I found myself chasing a light in the sky which seemed to be moving, but it was just a star. But the Germans down there on the ground were not just teasing me, I was sure. Somewhere out there, an enemy aircraft must be approaching, if not already in my immediate vicinity. The excitement was palpable. Where was he?


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...to be continued!

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Ill met by moonlight...

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Though disheartened with so far finding only a star to chase, I contined to stooge around in the darkness over the illuminated enemy airfield. Should I fly lower, to silhouette an enemy against the sky? Would I be more likely to catch an aircraft in the circuit if I was north or south, east or west? As I pondered, I kept an eye on the airfield itself. The runway lights could signify a take-off as well as a landing! But I'd seen neither and suspected that the length of time the lights had stayed on most likely signified an incoming aircraft. But the minutes ticked by and still, I had seen nothing in the air or on the ground. Oh, for a radar set! But I was a fighter-bomber on a night intruder mission, not a night fighter, proper.


Perhaps the Germans, hearing me, had thought me to be their visitor and were puzzled at me neither landing nor making radio contact!


Continuing my solitary vigil, I turned south, to where the skies were the darkest. While this looked to be the hardest sector in which to spot another aircraft, it was, I felt, also the most likely direction from which a German aircraft would come.


As I watched, with mounting excitement I spotted a faint but distinctive pattern of lights, low in the sky. This was not a single, bright point of light, like the many stars higher in the cloud-speckled sky. Rather, it seemed to be a short, horizontal cluster of faint lights, whitish in the middle, duller and tinged with colour at the outside.


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I immediately switched to the cockpit view and continued to observe this phenomenon, while lining it up in my sights.


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Things now happened with dizzying rapidity. In a split second I realised that I was indeed seeing the navigation lights of another aircraft. And that it was headed right for me, just slightly lower! In the little time I had to react, I pushed down the nose to bring my point of aim ahead of the light cluster as it rushed in below me, and quickly pressed the tit. Four Browning 303s and the same number of Hispano 20mm cannon roared into life. It was the briefest of snap shots, a split-second burst. But with all that firepower, it had taken effect.


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The Ju-88 - for that's what it was - swept past inches below me and staggered off into the darkness, trailing fuel or glycol and leaving a cloud of aluminium fragments in his wake.


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I banked around hard after him, not so hard so as to bring on a stall or lose the horizon and risk a 'controlled flight into terrain'. I was not sure how hard I'd hit the enemy aircraft and having found him at last, was determined there would be no escape. I need not have worried. The big Junkers went straight in, his end marked by a plume of orange flame which seemed narrowly to have missed some local Frenchman's property.


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I had not positively identified the aircraft I had just shot down. A moment's doubt crept into the back of my mind...but replaying the circumstances, I remained clear that it was as near a certainty as made no difference that this had been an enemy. Leaving the fragments which burned on the ground, I resumed my vigil around the airfield. The lights remained on, and I hung around for a while in the hope of repeating my success. Perhaps I would have done so, had I waited longer. But the second half of my mission - patrolling the roads and railway line to the south - also required my attention. So I pulled away and left the Lufwaffe base behind.


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...to be continued!

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Planes, trains and automobiles...

Heading south after knocking down the Ju88 near Valognes, I was soon back in the dark, metaphorically and literally. I tried to pick up roads or railway lines heading down towards Carentan, which lines of communication I was now to interdict. I managed to pick out the occasional bridge which evidently marked out the presence of one or the other of these features, but between them, I could see nothing but open fields and the occasional small town. Wandering over one of these got me fired at from the ground, so I promptly wandered off again, still without having seen anything that looked worth having a crack at.


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I ended up rather to the east and swung back, getting fired at again in the process, this time by an automatic weapon in open country. What I failed to notice at the time was that this came from a group of dark objects sitting in a field, possibly parked motor transport or armoured vehicles. You can just about see these in the screenie below, two little rows of dark objects to the left and lower left of the muzzle flashes. I had not yet made the connection that something defended by flak might well signify the presence of something worth attacking, perhaps even the transport I was specifically briefed to clobber.


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I wandered on for a bit, trying harder to stay close to the line Valognes-Carentan. Soon I was fired on again, this time more vigorously and from nearly directly below.


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I turned away and came in for another look. The flak seemed to be coming from two separate points not too far apart, and sitting on a long, dark line. This looked like it! My first thought was that it was a line of MT on a road, with mobile AA weapons towards the front and rear of the column; I wasn't expecting a train to have such protection, at this stage in the war. But that's excactly what it turned out to be - a train. Either way, this was just the ticket.


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Back in the cockpit view I set myself up for a firing pass in a shallow dive. In the dark, even with the intermittent muzzle flashes, it was hard to align my aircraft for a run along the length of the target so I settled for an attack from an oblique angle, coming under steady fire as I did so but escaping damage in the process. As soon as my sights were on, I cut loose.


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Sweeping over the target with the flak blazing away at me, I could just about make out that this was indeed a train, and that it seemed to consist of a row of flat cars carrying tanks, Mark 4's possibly. Clouds of black smoke sprang from the cars I'd attacked. I wasn't carrying any bombs on this run - they weren't an option in mission setup, though my FBVI Mossie had a small bomb-bay behind the cannon in her belly and pylons under the outer wings - but my MGs and cannon were evidently doing some damage.


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I banked around and came in again. And again. Making a second pass on an alert and defended target is of course a bad idea but I was emboldened by my continued survival. Having realised that the train carried armoured vehicles and unsure how much harm I'd be able to cause this cargo, I tried to target the locomotive which I expected to be outside one of the two flak wagons. But it was impossible in the dark; or at least, I found it so.


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On the last of about four firing passes my cannon ammo gave out and I decided to call it a day rather than risk my aircraft and my virtual neck trying to cause further harm with my remaining .303 ammunition. I banked away and was soon over the coast and back out to sea.


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Finding my way back onto terra firma was the night's last little adventure. Using the mini-map I picked up my track and was careful to hit the last waypoint on my return route, thinking this might be the trigger that brought my airfield's lights back on. Things stayed dark for a bit and I was beginning to get worried but then the lights came on and without bothering with a circuit, I landed straight away.


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Flying in the external view and lacking a shadow, I found it hard to judge my flare accurately and bounced a couple of times, but was soon down, all in one piece. Perhaps I was cut out to be a night intruder, after all!


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The debriefing seemed to suggest so, at any rate. One enemy aircraft confirmed destroyed, plus four railway vehicles. Not a bad night's work!


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I've always had a mind to try a night intruder mission in a sim; ever since having read an account of one, long ago. It was in the aviation volume of a trilogy called 'Freedom's Battle', a highly-recommended compilation of short personal accounts from those who served in British & Commonweath forces, laced with airmen's, seaman's or soldier's songs (like the one I quoted earlier) and humorous material from the RAF's 'house magazine', called Tee Emm. The night intruder story was from a gunner in a Mitchell whose gung-ho pilot was trying to impress a war reporter onboard for the trip, in so doing hugely un-impressing his more war-weary crew, who were more interested in surviving the mission. Back in the 1970s, I never thought for a moment that one day, I would myself be 'flying' similar missions, courtesy of the wonderful world that's been brought to we simmers by such great products as IL-2 '46. And by the work of modders like Prangster, who produced the clever, hugely immersive and well-presented mission reported here. It comes with other 'goodies' including a movie intro and recce photos and fully lives up to its exceptionally-accurately-presented briefing. Highly recommended.

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Goering was so stunned by the Mosquito performance that by 1944  Kurt Tank was pressed to come up with a solution to counter  it  - as a night  fighter. The  Foke Wulf Ta 154 also made of wood. But structural problems and an  air raid that would demolish the plane´s factory was  the final blow. But the plane did have the required  performance. Although the British one being more suited for the pathfinder  role - this  was were the british plane excelled.

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      At the moment, I have two installs of Il-2 1946 - one for Dark Blue World (DBW), the other for the new Community User Patch (CUP). Due to different files, units and other factors, it seems likely to take a while, before many campaigns that work in DBW or other versions of Il-2, also work in CUP, though some already do and the list is growing steadily.
      Both to check out the compatibility of some stock Il-2 campaigns with CUP and to indulge my new-found interest in the Eastern Front variety, over the last month or two I've been running, on and off, a standard Soviet fighter campaign, flying one of the aircraft available in BoS - the rather sleek but not especially high-performing LaGG-3. Like other aircraft before and after, this seems to have been a basically decent design which needed a more powerful engine to turn it into a competitive fighter - which it got, when its inline engine was replaced by a radial, creating the Lavochkin La-5.
      From this campaign's timeframe, though, the La-5 is about a year away. It's July 1941, just weeks into Operation Barbarossa, and I'm flying a LaGG-3, defending our dearly-beloved Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics against the fascist hordes of Nazi Germany. And an interesting challenge it's been, keeping my virtual neck intact, up against superior numbers of superior planes and - historically, anyway - superior aircrew.

      So far, courtesy it seems of some Soviet Socialistic miracle, I have not only survived, but knocked down some enemy aircraft. I'm on my fifth mission, no less...but wondering how much longer my good fortune can possibly continue.
      Here's the latest briefing. As you can see, it's a fairly straightforward escort job, with a hint that we might want to shoot up some stuff on the ground at some point, too. Maybe it's a difficulty setting I applied when I created the campaign, but the usual Il-2 red and blue front lines aren't shown on the map. But I'll be able to gauge the whereabouts of the enemy from the front-line target the bombers we're to escort will hit. Happily, the target's not too far off, so I can fly the mission in real time with no need to use 'warp'...which as just as well, as Il-2's never had that, relying on autopilot and time acceleration.

      The briefing doesn't tell me how many are in our flight, or the type and strength of the bombers. Nor do we get their or our altitudes. I put this down to a level of uncertainty, even confusion, in an air force with its back against the wall...or perhaps, against a Commisar with a small-calibre pistol and a willingness to employ it, in stiffening our resolve, should that become necessary.
      At the flight line, I find that there are in fact three of us on this hop. Having chosen a high enough rank to avoid the (to me) hateful chore of formation-flying - and to enjoy the extra challenge of flight leadership - I'm at the head of the queue. This being a stock mission, there's none of the newer formation takeoffs. Happily, the default Il-2 conga line is a short one, today.

      The current LaGG-3 I find is a nicely-rendered bird. More rounded contours in some places, inside and out, would be nice but I'm not complaining. Her authentic, subtly-weathered camouflage and national markings are convincingly-applied. There's no sign of the original opaque Il-2 markings, which looked like the over-thick waterslide transfers you used to get on plastic kits, guaranteed to blot out all but the crudest surface detail. And the cockpit, though clearly well behind the latest self-shadowed, finely-curved marvels, is still quite serviceable.


      One new feature the LaGG does enjoy are more rounded wheels, and very welcome they are, too. Soon, I was aloft and retracting the gear. After the crazily finnicky ground handling of BoS, takeoffs in '46 are...well, whether more realistic or not, more what I'm used to.

      Another, older improvement to Il-2 that the modders have wrought is the engine sounds. I absolutely loathed the dreadful external engine drone of the original sim. That's a distant memory now, so I can admire my bird in the external view without feeling that I need to turn down the sound.

      In fact, so much was I enjoying the external aspect of my LaGG sweeping over the Steppes, that I decided to let the autopilot fly, for a bit. There was now sign of the bombers and I thought, rightly as it turned out, that my alter ego would have a better idea than I, were they were and at what height we should be.
      My number three lagged (sic!) for a bit but my number two wasn't long in catching up. We perhaps tend to take for granted these days such Il-2 wonders as different planes having different individual numbers but even now, not all sims have this and it's still a fine thing to behold.

      Three of us had left our airfield. How many would return, and would I be amongst them? The answers would not be long in coming.
      ...to be continued!

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