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Areal support and spotting


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Will areal support always need assistance from a FO (even in the event of a TRP) or spot units themselves before attacking? I have tried now a few times with area targets rather than units. The attacks where cancelled or they spotted my units (some 300 m away) and strafed the living daylights out of them :(

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Will areal support always need assistance from a FO (even in the event of a TRP) or spot units themselves before attacking? I have tried now a few times with area targets rather than units. The attacks where cancelled or they spotted my units (some 300 m away) and strafed the living daylights out of them :(

A CAS pilot on an "Area Target" order can spot enemy units on his own. In fact, on an Area Target order the pilot must spot an enemy unit in order to open fire; he will not "just guess" and drop bombs or shoot rockets/missiles into somewhere in the target area where he thinks the enemy might be.

And therein lies the rub. Spotting things on the ground from a fighter-bomber racing round at 500+ kph is really frickin' hard. If there's something obvious in the target area like a vehicle in the open, the pilot will likely spot it on his own and take it under fire. But any enemy with decent concealment, such as under overhead tree cover, is going to be very difficult for the pilot to spot.

Pilot experience level matters a lot -- experienced pilots spot enemy targets much better than inexperienced pilots, and are also much less likely to accidentally attack friendly units. I assume visibility conditions matter a lot as well, though I've never specifically tested this.

Note all of the above is for Area Target. Point Target is totally different -- a plane on point target will simply attempt to attack the point on the ground specified, whether there's an enemy unit there or not. Pilots will sometimes "wave off" point targets if they have difficulty spotting the point on the ground specified. Usually, this is due to overhead tree cover or smoke/dust.

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In CM it always needs an FO to call it in.

I would greatly prefer if the game could create an option for air cover to be present or not, but not to always make air assets have to be controlled by an FO or require in-battle requests for fire like artillery.

Because in many cases in real life in WWII, air units that were present on the tactical battlefield were usually *not* in direct real-time communication with the actual platoon/company friendlies on the ground. More often, the air units would have been in a more general tactical support role, hunting on their own for enemy ground targets. The friendly ground units could, at most, deploy recognition panels on the ground or set off colored smoke or flares to show the aircraft where *not* to attack -- but even then this was a haphazard affair and history is replete with instances of friendly fire from above.

Here's how I think CM should do air assets --

Make them available for purchase as they are now. Have a toggle option in the editor for an air asset to be "controlled" or "automatic"

Allow the controlled or automatic air assets to be set up in the editor as reinforcements, as we do currently, so there can be windows of possible arrival times, etc.

But: If the air asset was set up as "automatic" then once it arrives the artillery tab would show the air asset's status only -- no ability of the friendly player to designate targets or affect it in any way. The status would just say "in area" or "target spotting" or "firing" or "departing" or "unavailable," etc.

The advantage of the "automatic" option would be that the air asset would hunt over the map on its own for enemy targets. It would have a TAC AI logic that would assign priorities based on the enemy unit's point value -- say, tanks first, then artillery units, heavy weapons, and then infantry. The air unit would also have a realistic ability to spot AFVs more readily than infantry on foot, and concentrations of enemy more readily than a single dispersed vehicle or team, hiding enemy harder to spot than not hiding, etc.

The upside of the "automatic" air option is you don't need an FO or a radio, and you don't have to see an enemy target for the jabos to have a chance of spotting and attacking it. The downside of it is that you have a greater chance of taking friendly fire than you would with "controlled" air assets.

To make it even cooler (although I doubt we'd ever see this), give the friendly player a chance to lower the friendly fire risk by giving certain battalion or company HQ teams an "air panel" instead of a smoke grenade or demo charge. The team could throw it, and the brightly colored little symbol would sit on the map as a decal. Friendly air units would fly away from any friendly air recognition panels on the ground. You'd get highly realistic situations, where your HQ has to weigh the risk of breaking cover to deploy an air panel and getting shot by a sniper vs. staying hidden and risking friendly fire from the air.

Better yet: Let the enemy pick up air panels from your dead HQ units -- now the enemy can deploy your air panels in front of their own lines, and fool your own planes into attacking you! (This actually happened a lot - I was just reading about how the Australians did this to the Germans in Crete).

PS:

I just discovered this excellent Defense Department white paper about the air-ground control doctrines and practices of Germans and Allies in WWII:

http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/cgsc/carl/download/csipubs/comparat.pdf

I haven't read it in detail yet, but it seems that controllers were at division (or in the case of Germans) regimental level, way above the level of the typical CMx2 battle. In the US forces, the "Rover Joes" with the radios would travel around to battalions and give them access to the radio net needed to comminucate to the aircraft. But battalion was about as low as the control got, and even then it was not an all-the-time thing.

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A CAS pilot on an "Area Target" order can spot enemy units on his own. In fact, on an Area Target order the pilot must spot an enemy unit in order to open fire; he will not "just guess" and drop bombs or shoot rockets/missiles into somewhere in the target area where he thinks the enemy might be.

Note all of the above is for Area Target. Point Target is totally different -- a plane on point target will simply attempt to attack the point on the ground specified, whether there's an enemy unit there or not. Pilots will sometimes "wave off" point targets if they have difficulty spotting the point on the ground specified. Usually, this is due to overhead tree cover or smoke/dust.

If the pilot spots a unit, will that icon appear or is it hidden for the ground units?

So, at the start of a mission, if I want to strike at suspected enemy positions I should use point target, but if it, for example is along a tree line, there might be no attack because the pilot can't see the ground. Right?

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If the pilot spots a unit, will that icon appear or is it hidden for the ground units?

Neither you nor your ground units will see an enemy unit that only the pilot spots; his spotting information is hidden. You can, of course, draw the conclusion that the pilot has spotted something (and make a rough guess as to the location of the enemy unit), if he pilot actually executes an attack.

So, at the start of a mission, if I want to strike at suspected enemy positions I should use point target, but if it, for example is along a tree line, there might be no attack because the pilot can't see the ground. Right?
Pretty much. You can sometimes get away with using "Area Target" in pre-planned (setup phase) if you think there are enemy units in a certain area will that will be easy to spot from the air. For example, if the briefing leads to you suspect there's a group of enemy tanks in an open field that is out of your ground units' view but probably easily spotted from the air, you could call in a pre-planned Area Target on them, and hope you get lucky.
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You can sometimes get away with using "Area Target" in pre-planned (setup phase) if you think there are enemy units in a certain area will that will be easy to spot from the air. For example, if the briefing leads to you suspect there's a group of enemy tanks in an open field that is out of your ground units' view but probably easily spotted from the air, you could call in a pre-planned Area Target on them, and hope you get lucky.

This is a good capability and would be somewhat similar to the "automatic" air option that I outlined above. But...

Preplanned only applies before the battle begins. What I'm advocating is some way for air assets to play this type of hunting role later in a battle when they show up as reinforcements.

Actually, the simplest way to do it would be to allow a longer "delay" to the preplanned area attack by the air units -- up to almost the 2-hour limit of a battle. If you make the area too small, you risk that the enemy units will have moved out of the zone. But if you make the area target the entire map or put it too close to your own lines, you also run greater risks of friendly fire. Those delayed preplanned strikes should not be controllable by the player, though, once they have been set. That would simulate air units in general support, loitering over an area and hunting without necessarily being vectored onto a ground-spotted target in real time.

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T

Preplanned only applies before the battle begins. What I'm advocating is some way for air assets to play this type of hunting role later in a battle when they show up as reinforcements.

You can do this now. Just give them an "Area Target" order when they show up and they'll hunt for enemy units within that area (and a little bit beyond, IME -- the limits of a CAS "Area Target" order are a bit "fuzzy").

I think what you really want is the ability to designate a larger area for Tac Air Area Targets than is currently allowed. Right now, it's limited to a 200m radius circle.

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but if it, for example is along a tree line, there might be no attack because the pilot can't see the ground. Right?

Correct. Never plot CAS missions into a dense forest, and there is a very low chance the mission will actually come in.

In scattered trees or at the edge of a forest, the mission will sometimes come in, sometimes not. So you have to do a risk vs. reward calculation here.

I do often plot CAS missions close to, but not actually in a treeline, in the hopes that some of the bombs/rockets/bullets will "spill over" into the trees.

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I do often plot CAS missions close to, but not actually in a treeline, in the hopes that some of the bombs/rockets/bullets will "spill over" into the trees.

Also be aware that pilots will sometimes attack outside their area. If they spot something really juicy to shoot at just outside their area they might attack it. Be extra careful about friendlies near CAS area target ring.

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Actually, the simplest way to do it would be to allow a longer "delay" to the preplanned area attack by the air units -- up to almost the 2-hour limit of a battle. If you make the area too small, you risk that the enemy units will have moved out of the zone. But if you make the area target the entire map or put it too close to your own lines, you also run greater risks of friendly fire.

Actually that would be really nice. To make that work you would need a larger area target radius than currently. 200m is pretty tight for "hunt for the enemy" type setups.

Those delayed preplanned strikes should not be controllable by the player, though, once they have been set. That would simulate air units in general support, loitering over an area and hunting without necessarily being vectored onto a ground-spotted target in real time.

Excellent.

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