The Airpower Assessment Chronicles, Part III.

Fate of a Nation

[the Egyptians] were very frustrated that we shot them down all of the time.

Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Giora Epstein

I think it is fairly well known that our respect of Fate of a Nation as a game is extremely high so it is with a little trepidation that I approach this particular volume of the Airpower Assessment Chronicles. 

This comes in no small part due to our lack of including air support in our armies. I know this might come as a bit of a shock to some given the theatre and the protagonists but there we have it the joy of the “Flames of War Dojo” to explore them together instead!

*Please note that I’m not going to look at these units in a competitive Blue vs. Blue setting as I believe that this is not the environment that I think that Fate of a Nation is played in.  

Israel

Dassault Ouragan Fighter

Purchased in the 1950s the Dassault Ouragan (Hurricane) was beginning to show their age by the 1967 and 1973 conflicts. Armed with 4× 20 mm Hispano-Suiza HS.404 cannons and 2 x 500lb bombs they were still capable of doing some work as close support units even when there were more modern aircraft in the air – Israel needed every still asset it could muster. 

Pros

These are cheap. Very very cheap. This is a great way of adding a flexible artillery template into your Israeli force. Skill 3+ with that tasty 2+ Firepower give you fabulous options when considering your support assets. The Ourangain is compatible in points to the M7 Priest battery but gives you a fantastic threat range across the board. Access to a single Napalm bomb barrage is also tremendously useful (Napalm means that Infantry, Gun and Unarmoured Tank Teams all re-roll successful saves) and your 20mm cannons are great utility weapons for hosing down infantry or lightly armoured targets

Cons

If your opponent has even archaic anti-air protection like the ZSU-57mm you will need to tread carefully. The 20mm cannon is only useful against the most lightly armoured opponent so I think the majority of the time you will be choosing to drop those big 500lb bombs irrespective of the armoured nature of the target. 

Red vs. Blue Games

Targets of choice for the Ouragan, for me, is infantry and gun teams. Pay the point for the Napalm strike and get those big lumpy infantry formations zeroed in and hurting before they can threaten your own infantry or armour. I like taking BM-21 Hails with my Egyptians and you can reach out with, even just a flight of two, Ouragans and remove that threat very early on. Just be careful to weigh up risk vs. reward when it comes to running the AA gauntlet. 

Verdict: B-

The Ouragan sets the standard for the Israeli air support and I think is better than a solid C; I would definitely consider these over M7 Priests and that alone makes them viable.  

Mirage Fighter

The Israeli Air Force was perhaps the most prolific operator of the fighter outside of France. Israel deployed their Mirages in both the Six-Day War, where it was used as both an air superiority and strike aircraft and the Yom Kippur War, during which it was used exclusively in air-to-air combat.

The Mirage – the Ouragan’s bigger, meaner brother – comes with the same bomb loadout but a nastier 30mm cannon and the Fast Jet. 

Pros

The Mirage is slightly more expensive than the Ouragan but it is still quite cost effective – the question that you have to ask yourself is are these extra points well spent?

The 30mm cannon is slightly better than the quad 20mm on the Ouragan with an extra pip of AT – nothing to write home about really but does guarantee a chance to kill vs. targets with a side armour of zero – like the ZSU-57! Fast Jet is the real differentiator between the two.

Fast Jet means that AA that shoots at the Mirage increases the To Hit value by +1 if they do not have the Radar or Guided AA rule themselves. This means that older AA like the ZSU-57 and vehicle defence AA will struggle to put up a genuine, consistent defence umbrella.

Cons

Aside from the Fast Jet rule and a slight bump in AT with your 30mm cannon the Mirage is basically the same as the Ouragan. You also lose the option to upgrade to Napalm munitions on you bombload which, depending on your opponents’ army, might be a bigger deal. 

Red vs. Blue Games

The Mirage has the same target priorities as the Ouragan and basically the same tools – apart from the option for hot, sticky death! Removing the opponents’ AA is slightly less of a priority if it is the older ZSU-57 due to the Fast Jet rule so you can focus on strafing softer targets like BM-21 Hails, BMP-1s, PT-76s and alike or bombing clustered T-55s or juicy infantry targets. 

Verdict: D+

For me, unfortunately, the Mirage is less bang for your buck compared to the Ouragan. Unless you really (REALLY) want to confirm that kill on very lightly armoured targets or are terrified of incoming AA fire THAT isn’t Guided AA or Radar enabled then I don’t see the need to take them. 

Skyhawk Fighter

Much like the Mirage the Israeli Airforce was the largest importer of the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk and marked the transition point where the US took over from France as the major supplier of military hardware. 

Pros

For the same points as the Mirage, you get… the… same… aircraft… BUT with added tasty seasonings! In the Yom Kippur conflict, the Skyhawk took over from the Mirage as a major player in the ground attack role for the Israeli Airforce. 

The Napalm munition is the same as we have already looked at on the Ouragan but the Cluster Bomb option is worth lingering over for a minute. Where Napalm is excellent for digging out stubborn infantry and gun teams the Cluster Bomb munitions gives you a Salvo template but with only a 5+ Firepower – perfect for eliminating assaulting infantry (my Thunderbolt Battalion really doesn’t like the look of that little addition!) 

Cons

As you’d expect this all comes at a price – a fully loaded Skyhawk Flight is 50% more than Ouragan Flight at 13pts. This is not an insignificant investment for an Israeli force that is already tight on points. For those points, you are also not getting something that can efficiently counter things that other parts of your army may struggle with – that 30mm cannon AT is just too low to be an effective tank killer and artillery is cheaper and has an on-table presence which cannot be factored out. 

Red vs. Blue Games

In the same vein as both the Mirage and Ouragan, the targets for the Skyhawk will be the same. The weapons loadout, without additional munitions, largely dictates this. However, the Cluster Bomb munitions do give you something different in the Israeli arsenal and that Salvo template could be the attack-staller that buys your forces a critical turns respite. 

You don’t have access to a big Salvo template from any other artillery or aircraft source and if your opponent is packing a decent amount of infantry you can really put the dampeners on their day with it. Even dug in formations and guns can be pinned down and neutralised temporarily with this attack and it could make all the difference. 

Verdict: C

The Skyhawks are good but they are pricey. Better than a Mirage, more expensive than the Ouragan they sit comfortably in the middle of all the Israeli options available. 

Nota Bene

If you are playing forces constrained by the assets available during the 1967 and 1973 periods (AND if not, why the devil not! ) then it should be noted that the Ouragan and Mirage options should be limited to 1967 and the Skyhawks to 1973. There may be a case that, and it is a BIG maybe, that the Ouragan was used in 1973 in a ground attack role. 

Egypt

MIG-17 Fresco Fighter Flight

The Egyptian Air Force (EAF) was severely hit by its Israeli counterpart during Operation Focus at the start of the Six-Day War in 1967 with 94 out of a fleet of around 150 MIG-15/17. The story was different in 1973 where the IAF didn’t have the total air superiority it enjoyed in the previous conflict; Egyptian MiGs were used with better efficiency than before which included the tactics and lessons learned from the 1967 war. 

Pros

Having just looked at the Ouragan you can immediately see the similarities between the two. The 37mm cannon has a lower Rate of Fire but has a better Firepower at 4+ – small things but they are important. The 4+ Firepower means that confirming hits is that little bit easier and personally I think that makes it better.  The 500lb bomb loadout is fine – but given the cheap and prevalent nature of artillery available to an Egyptian force you don’t need to include the MIG-17 for that reason.

Fast Jet is a big bonus as everything that moves in an Israeli force seems to have a .50cal AA machinegun so it helps mitigate incoming fire. Finally, a big bonus is the fact you can take a flight of 6 (SIX) MIG-17s and they are cheap. Very cheap. You can get 4 x MIG-17s for the same cost as 2 x Ouragan and 6 is only a couple of points more.

Cons

Being Hit on 3+ is an issue. Like I mentioned previously every vehicle in the Israeli forces seems to be festooned with AA machine guns. You will take casualties from the weight of fire alone – even if your opponent is not bringing dedicated AA.

The AT6 on your 37mm cannon is slightly underwhelming, as is the Rate of Fire 2 – only really mitigated by the fact that getting all 6 aircraft in a flight is not expensive at all. 

Skill 5+ for ranging in with you 500lb bombs means that most of the time you simply won’t be. Your opponent will have to factor in that on a d6 a 6 will come up, and with a full-strength flight, you can still do some damage once ranged in, the fact of the matter is that it is unlikely to be your primary weapon of choice.

Red vs. Blue Games

You will have lightly armoured targets in an opposing Israeli force – anything from M113s to M7 Priests to AMX-13 Tanks to M125 mortars are all valid targets for your 37mm cannons. Hoovering up these lightly (side) amoured targets all depletes the ability of the Israelis to support their infantry and armour. 

Verdict: B-

I’ve not yet used the MIG-17s but I definitely see the potential with them. They are cheap for the threat that they can bring to Israeli support units. I think you need to get 4 or 6 into your force if you are considering bringing them as you will take some casualties. I was genuinely surprised at how useful that the MIG-17 can be for an Egyptian force. 

Syrian

MIG-17 Fresco Fighter Flight… Part Deux

Well hello again MIG-17 “FRESCO”… 

During the Six-Day War in 1967, the Syrian Air Force played a role on the opening day attacking targets in northern Israel before being withdrawn to remote airfields. This prevented it suffering to the extent that the EAF did but in preserving its strength it denied ground forces it’s ongoing support. 

In the Yom Kippur conflict provided initial success for both Syria and Egypt, but the SyAAF suffered extensive losses in air combats, prompting the Soviets to launch an air-bridge to Aleppo and Damascus, starting on 9 October 1973 to resupply the SyAAF. 

Pros

Much like their Egyptian siblings, the Syrian MIG-17s are cheap, plentiful and versatile. Essentially all the “Pros” of the Egyptian MIG-17 apply to the Syrian version. 

Cons

All of the stats for the Syrian MIG-17 are the same as the Egyptian version apart from one critical value… their Skill is 6. If only their Skill was a 5+ there would be a defined reason to include these over Syrian artillery. 

As an example, 6 x MIG-17s are 6pts – for the same points cost you can get 3 x BM-21 and an OP or 6 x 122mm guns and an OP. The OP is the important factor here as they are Skill 5+. The MIG-17 still stacks up reasonably well in this comparison as it is a mobile platform that is not just a bombardment delivery system but it is an important factor to consider. 

Red vs. Blue Games

Even more so than the Egyptian MIG-17, you won’t be choosing the 500lb bombload on the Syrian MIG-17 very often as your primary weapon – it’s just way too unreliable unless you have nothing else to do. The majority of the time you will be strafing your opponent with your 37mm cannons and that’s fine. 

Verdict: C

The Syrian MIG-17 is still a viable support asset – mainly down to its cost and the ability to reach out anywhere on the table. I think that as a Syrian player you are going to have to carefully weigh up how you plan to support your army. The Skill 6 on your artillery assets means that you are unlikely to re-range in so where you have that initial Ranged In marker is critical but the MIG-17 offers you more than just a bombardment so I think it depends on your play style and how you see your main force operating and the support it needs. 

Jordan

The Royal Jordanian Airforce was completely destroyed in 1967 – all 28 aircraft – by the IAF and in 1973 didn’t commit forces, and even when it did it was in a limited fashion, until into the second week of the conflict. As such Jordan doesn’t have an entry for aircraft in Fate of a Nation. 

Conclusions

It’s very strange to say this considering the effect that the IAF had on both the 1967 and 1973 conflicts but I think that in the scale of the game we are playing that they are too expensive for what they offer an Israeli force.

Points are so tight for an Israeli player that sinking 10% of a “normal” sized force on something that might turn up every other turn and that can’t take or contest objectives is a big ask. Which is a shame because in my mind the IAF support was one of the standout things about the conflicts and it’d be cool to have them streaking across the tabletop. 

Conversely, I was surprised at how attractive it was to include some Egyptian or Syrian MIG-17s to harass your opponent. They are not drop-dead amazing but for the points investment, they can bring a lot of annoyance to your opponent no matter your own battle plan. 

So,  עד הפעם הבאה, حتى المرة القادمة and until next time fly straight and level.

– Dunc

Category: Arab-Israeli WarFate of a NationFlames of WarIsraelList Discussion

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Article by: Duncan Gosling