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    • By 33LIMA
      Western Approaches, 6th June 1940

      After failing to locate the first convoy reported, we have at last located another. We're waiting, submerged at 80 metres, ahead of its track, for the leading escort(s) to pass over...

      ... before coming up to periscope depth and attacking the merchantmen, who range from whale factory ships...

      ...to more conventional freighters, large...

      ...and small.

      In the event, the convoy approaches quite quickly and by the time I’m at periscope depth, there are merchantmen all around me, in several columns.
      My immediate priority is establishing that none of the ships is a collision risk. That done, I start picking out targets, fore and aft. There are so many that I’m a bit overwhelmed. On top of that, some are a bit closer than I’d like...

      ...while others are within range, but still too far off for a high probability of a hit.

      Above all else, experience tells me the heavy seas are going to mean that even shots that are accurate for line will have problems with the wildly undulating sea surface and the ships pitching up and down, on it.
      But I'm here, and they're there, right in front of my torpedo tubes! I can't resist the urge to do something about it, here and now, while I can!
      ...to be continued!
    • By 33LIMA
      Aufweidersehen Bergen!

      While continuing my primary Silent Hunter 3 single player career as Richard Schepke in U-105 with the Doenitz Elite Flotilla (DEF), I'm also dipping back into my parallel career as Kommandant of U-33, Erich Pohl. This was started primarily as a try-out of the GWX OneAlex Edition mod before risking U-105, but that being done, it gives me an opportunity to try out shorter patrols earlier in the war, and with a smaller but handier Type VII boat. This career lacks the additional immersive features of a DEF patrol, not least a human role-played HQ to interact with, but is still fun.
      It's 25 April 1940 and we're starting from the recently-occupied port of Bergen, in Norway. Bergen's U-boat bunkers weren't built at this time but neither SH3 nor my mod represents such developments. Even so, it's a nice experience as the mod I'm using starts some patrols from inside bunkers, whether or not they should really be there. Ahead of us as we slip our virtual lines is out minesweeper escort.

      So, where are we going@ Oor patrol area is marine quadrat BE34, which is in the Western Aproaches. For now, though, the task is to follow our escort out to the open sea, no sinecure as Bergen lies inland of several channels between high ground.

      As usual, the bridge watch are initially relaxed, but become fully alert as we get beyond about 400m from out berth.

      It would be easy to ignore the escort, plot a course and jump into time acceleration, but for me, with a mod which simulates escorts out of port, I relish navigating my boat manually,  in real time.

      About half-way down the channel out to the North sea, our escort turns back...

      ...at which point, I plot my course out to our patrol area.

      The Western Approaches is a choke point for merchant shipping to and from the British Isles by the southern route. So I'm hopeful of a more productive patrol than was obtained by stooging about the North Sea chasing warships. Tine to start what BdU called the Tonnage War!
      ...to be continued!
    • By 33LIMA
      A new standalone mega-mod that brings all that's best to Silent Hunter 3

      SH3 got justifiably rave reviews when first released in 2005. Arguably (and I'd be one of those arguing it) it's still far the best U-boat simulation. And can be much improved by the huge number of user-made mods available for it (many of which you can find in the Doentiz Elite Flotilla mediafire SH3 archive http://www.donitzeliteflotilla.com/forum/index.php?topic=1.0 ) .
      Notably, as every SH3 aficionado will know, there's a number of mega-mods available which provide a single major overhaul, often with optional submods included. One such, and possibly the most popular, is the Grey Wolves Expansion 3 (aka GWX) whose Gold edition is what I've been playing until very recently.
      Now available is a comprehensive further development of GWX - the OneAlex Edition. You can see the mod's intro video here - the download link is in its description: Silent Hunter 3 - GWX Onealex Edition - YouTube 
      This comes as a compressed file of just over three meg and unzips to under nine. While nominally a mod, it's self-contained and fully functional when unzipped - it doesn't need enabled or installed onto an existing installation. You may need to use a utility called Multi SH3 to create the dedicated subfolder it needs in 'My Documents' for career files but that can also be easily created manually eg 'My documents/SH3' if you unzip the mod to its default folder. Could hardly be simpler.
      GWX OneAlex Edition comes with:
            - the features of the GWX mod, including harbour traffic;
            - the German U-Boat Compilation mod (GUC) which greatly improves the boats themselves, including enabling off-duty crew to be assembled on deck in harbour, the battle flag flown or taken down, and victory pennants to be flown from your periscope on return;
            - many other improvements, including better crew and uniform textures;
            - an already-inbuilt widescreen mod so it's 1920x1080 compatible out of the box;
           - Jonesoft Generic Mod Enabler (JSGME), plus a set of submods including a range of skins for Type VII and IX U-boats;
           - Silent Hunter 3 Commander (SH3C), optional but regarded by many as a must-have utility for the sim.
      As an indication, this is a typical stock boat, a Type VII in this case -

      Nice, but the skin is relatively low-resolution and some details are simplified, like the insulators and tensioners on the jumping wire
      This is one of the OneAlex, GUC-based Type VIIs...

      ...and this shows the conning tower detail, albeit it's a larger Type IX...

      Skins are higher resolution and detail is much better.
      The next pics show the 'crew on deck' feature and harbour traffic, either moored like the destroyer...

      ...or moving like our minesweeper escort...

      ...which we will follow until we get into open water.

      Another nice feature, shared with some other recent mods, is the addition of animated water streams from the holes in the boats' free-flooding casings.

      The seas are often much less calm in SH3 and OneAlex Edition does a particularly good job of bringing them to life.

      Bridge detail is excellent. A nice touch is that unlike in stock SH3, the UZO binocular sight is not permanently fixed to its mount (lower right in the pic below), and when you do fit it, the UZO is animated, and rotates.

      Internal detail is also up to a high standard. In this control room view, you can just about see the open circular hatch (closed in stock SH3) into the commander's compartment...

      ...opposite which is the radio room.

      I'm not sure but I think OneAlex deliberately left out the extended interiors made for the Type VII boats, which in the base GUC mod include engine rooms, crew accommodation and bow/stern torpedo rooms.
      Torpedo impacts are also very well done, with debris flying and splashing into the sea.

      Amongst the many included optional skins is this one for a late Type IX, which has the two-tier flak platform (but kept its deck gun as many Type IXs did) and GEMA 'rigid radar' on the upper front of the conning tower. Apparently it is likely that U-boats, unlike surface ships, always had dark grey, not red, anti-fouling paint below the waterline. But red certainly looks good!

      GWX Onealex Edition also includes a fully-updated sound mod, which fans of the great movie 'Das Boot' will recognise!
      What's not to like? So far my biggest gripe is that in the 'follow your boat' external ('Ship') camera (key <), mousewheel or tab zoom doesn't work, and can't be made to, it seems. You can move the camera closer but your perspective becomes exaggerated and less attractive the closer you get, unlike 'true' zoom'.
      in action, the mod looks and feels great!

      The author is still releasing updated versions (I'm at 1.46 at time of typing) in the light of experience and is obviously very committed. There are other good mega-mods out there, but this new effort really has a lot going for it already! Highly recommended, but somebody, please fix the Ship Camera mousewheel zoom!

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