09-04-2010, 03:21 PM
I’ve reached the final Campaign in SH5 and I will attempt to document it as I have most of the others. If the briefing is accurate, the AI should behave much more aggressively – much as SH3 did. If that is true, it is certainly possible that I won’t finish this Campaign. SH3 introduced the hedgehog at some point in 1943 and it was a very nasty weapon, as it was historically. I seriously doubt the game models the US Mark 24 homing torpedo (FIDO) but we shall see.
At the conclusion of The Black Pit I was offered a new sub, which I, of course, accepted. Unlike the last time I was offered the VIIC/41, this time I outfitted it with a deck gun. I doubt the sim uses a sophisticated model of a u-boat’s submerged hydrodynamics so there is no reason to turn it down. I expect I’ll need it to dispatch cripples.
I also took a torpedo loadout of 5 “Wren” homing torpedoes: 3 in the stern, 1 loaded in bow tube 2 and 1 in external reserve. For the remaining 9 I took electric FaT’s. I had the latest sensors installed as well as the decoy dispenser.
There was only one mission to select: to sink tonnage in a circular zone in the middle of the Atlantic. Confident that I could handle anything the (AI directed) Tommies could throw at me, I left Brest on 1 March.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Other than having to elude a couple of task forces, the transit to the patrol zone was without incident.
In the early morning hours of 6 March, I received a convoy sighted message: position 32° 16’ W, 48° 04’ N; speed 9 knots; course East. I computed an intercept time of 16 hours. In the event the time estimate was fairly close and I was only off 17 km on the location. I sent a convoy/task force message to BdU at 2009 (Note: all times GMT).
I figured my priority target should be tankers, which are always located in the center of the convoy. Hence, for my attack I planned on sneaking through the pickets and attacking from within the convoy’s heart.
I got as close as I could to the convoy by traveling decks awash.
I submerged and began watching the escorts looking for a gap. If necessary, I’d dive to 40-50 meters, let the escorts pass, and then return to p-depth in time to attack. This proved unnecessary as I had gotten good position, so long as the convoy didn’t change course.
From the periscope, I watched the lead escort pass by at between 600 and 700 meters. Now I could focus my attentions on the merchants.
I had gotten an excellent position. The column that would be in bow shot had two tankers in positions 2 and 3 – the column to my stern also had a tanker in position 2. I’d fire a spread from tubes 1 and 4 at the lead tanker, a single from tube 3 at the trailing tanker. The tanker in the other column would get a Wren.
The attack went flawlessly.
After attacking I dove the boat. The tanker I attacked with the single blew up and sank but the other two tankers sailed on…for a while. First the tanker hit by the Wren sank. After 15 minutes, I saw that I’d gotten credit for the other tanker but the sunken ship symbol didn’t show up on the map.
What DID show up was that sinking 3 tankers had gotten me ¾ of the way to my tonnage goal! It should have been less than half. The only explanation I can come up with is that tankers must count double. Makes sense - tankers would have been a priority target.
On 8 March I reached my objective area. Early on the 9th, I received a task force message and decided to investigate. If I sank an escort, I’d meet the objective of sinking at least one enemy ship. When I made contact, I saw it was a TF of 6 Black Swans. I submerged and hit the lead ship with a Wren from the stern tube. I easily eluded the remaining ships.
Now that I was able to search freely in the patrol zone, I moved closer to the center. At 1559 on 10 March, I got a convoy report: position 37° 35’ W, 47° 47’ N; speed 10 knots; course West. Once again, I had excellent position – I plotted an intercept course.
Although this convoy was more heavily defended than the previous one, I was able to infiltrate easily. This convoy was positively gravid with tankers. I hit two of them – one sank.
Although the other was damaged and slowed, sinking the 4th tanker satisfied the mission requirement! With 5 torpedoes left, I set course for home.
Four days out from Brest, I encountered a lone tanker at night. Visibility was excellent and seas were calm. I decided to give the gun crew some exercise, netting the mission’s 5th tanker.
I docked on 18 March.
END OF PART 1
09-06-2010, 07:17 PM
Left Brest on 1 April. As I surmised, the April tonnage mission opens on the 1st so I was unable to select it but, as we know, this doesn’t preclude one from achieving it.
Upon reaching the patrol zone on 6 April, I encountered two unescorted enemy ships in rapid succession and sank both. The first was a large transport. I was able to shell it, thus expending no torpedoes.
The other ship, an amphibious transport, steamed into range less than an hour later. I took it on at long range. After I sank it, I checked the April tonnage mission. It showed that I was about 1/3 of the way to the goal, which was about right since the two ships I had sunk were a bit over 20K tons. This validated my hunch that tankers counted double.
As I left the scene at full speed, two aircraft showed up. At this distance from land, the planes could only be carrier borne. My engagement with the amphib had been rather protracted – it must have gotten off a distress call. I ordered crash dive, level off at 100 meters.
I waited 15 minutes and then returned to p-depth and did a couple of 360’s with the observation scope. Nothing. I surfaced and ordered flank speed, commence recharging batteries.
Ten minutes later an aircraft appeared out of a cloud and went into a dive right toward the boat. I ordered crash dive but there was no way it would be executed in time. Fortunately the bomb missed astern.
This time I stayed submerged longer. I had planned on an hour but 45 minutes in the hydrophone detected warships closing at long range. It might be the hunter-killer group from which the planes originated. The bearing was about right. I decided to risk surfacing and trying to exit the danger zone. There were no planes to harass me this time. After running for an hour at full speed and recharging batteries, I returned to cruising speed.
Given the fact that I had first been set upon by carrier-based air and then pursued by a hunter-killer group, the more lethal AI was definitely in evidence. I’d have to be much more careful in the future.
The next couple of days produced no actionable information from BdU, nor did the lookouts spot any targets. By way of compensation, there were no enemy aircraft or hunter-killer groups spotted either.
At 0147, 9 April, there was an incomplete report from BdU – position and course but no speed. I plotted an intercept course with a contact ETA of approximately 14 ½ hours. Upon reaching the contact point at 1530, I went to 50 meters to listen. At 1545, the hydrophone picked up the first faint sounds of a merchant at long range.
By 1621 I was moving into position for the attack. All I had to do was find a gap in the screen and a couple of minutes to launch the attack.
I found the gap and I found a target: a Cimarron tanker leading one of the interior rows. My plan was to hit it with a spread from tubes 1 and 4. The lead ship in the nearer adjacent column was a Liberty – I’d hit it with the Wren in tube 2. My thinking was that 2 torpedoes would almost certainly kill the tanker while the Wren would probably home on the props of the Liberty. If it didn’t sink it, the prop or steering would be knocked out, putting it dead in the water. I could finish it off with the deck gun at my leisure. Because there was a DD approaching close on my stern, I targeted it with the Wren in tube 5. I wanted to make sure I could make a clean getaway.
The attack went off largely as planned: the spread hit the tanker and the Wren hit the Liberty. However, the Wren didn’t seem to home on the propulsion section of the Liberty so it was slowed but not stopped. Worse, the Wren from the stern failed to home on the DD. I’m still not sure how I screwed that shot up.
I had no difficultly escaping from the escorts. I deployed a decoy at 50 meters and continued down to 195. During my descent, the tanker sank. After an hour submerged, the convoy had moved on far enough that I was able to come to p-depth and so found a lone merchant listing to port at long range. I surfaced and finished it with the deck gun.
One thing I discovered was that the tanker DID NOT count double. I don’t know if the March tonnage mission had a glitch or there was some arcane rule for tallying the tonnage score that I had somehow violated - in any case, I was not going to get a boost from sinking tankers.
My task now was to catch up with the convoy and inflict some more damage. The chase lasted through the night. I was finally able to get into position a little after 0800 on the 10th. Complicating things was that the convoy was zigzagging. Thus I had to position myself in such a way that I would be able to adjust, if necessary, at the last possible moment. The convoy made a final zig at 0900 and was traveling in an echelon formation. This time I targeted two adjacent Liberties with singles. Experience showed that even if I didn’t sink them, they would be damaged enough to fall out of the convoy. (There is one caveat with this strategy. On at least one occasion, I observed escorts and parts of the convoy staying with cripples. This was new behavior observed for the first time in Black May. I only saw it once and that was in the Campaign I had to restart because all of my saves except the in port autosave were bad.)
I conducted my attack as planned and each single hit. Here’s a screen shot after the first hit but before the second. If you look closely at the bottom middle, you can see a faint image of the torpedo a few seconds before impact.
I dove to 195, dropping off a decoy at 75. I went under the convoy and then turned toward the rear. Between the decoy and my going under the large, congested convoy, the escorts lost all semblance of purposive behavior – including self-preservation. At least one was apparently rammed by a merchant. I discovered it when I went to p-depth after the convoy had passed.
Three hours later I had recharged batteries, reloaded torpedoes, and reacquired the convoy. The haze present for the last attack on the convoy had persisted. There were no alarms from the radar detector so I closed in.
I found the two damaged ships trailing the convoy. At around 4000 meters I could barely see them through the haze but they couldn’t see me. The convoy made another zig and the ships receded into the haze. I made another sound check at 1539. You’ll notice the line indicating the old course.
At this point I decided I was far enough away and I closed on the lead ship. Just as soon as became visible, I opened fire with the deck gun. In only took a few hits to leave it burning from stem to stern. I moved on to the next ship in line. Once again, I opened fire just as soon as it came in range – distance was around 3950 meters. I was now only 1 or 2 ships away from completing the mission.
I set course 180 degrees away from the last position of the convoy at ahead full. A few minutes later, the radar detector sounded. If the escorts had radar, why had they not used it while I made a surface run to catch up? They could have made it nearly impossible for me finish off the cripples when I did - there would have had to have been a much greater separation between the cripples and the convoy. Dumb AI? Short range radar? I’d incline toward the first since US search radar at that point should have been effective out to 20,000+ meters. Against a low silhouette u-boat, maybe a little less – wave action would probably reduce it more. Still, my recollection is that Allied radar in SH3 was quite effective and escorts would react very quickly and at fairly long ranges. Then they pursue contacts VERY aggressively.
I ordered crash dive, deployed decoys at 70 meters and made a 45 degree turn to starboard. I leveled off at 195. The DD’s initially seemed confused by the decoy but then came right for me dropping depth charges.
Fortunately, the depth charges were way too shallow and no closer than 100 meters surface offset. After about 45 minutes of circling near my position, they left at high speed to rejoin the convoy. I set depth at 100 and cruised along another 45 minutes or so. At 1730 I ordered p-depth. After several 360’s, I surfaced at 1736.
I was still one ship shy of the April mission so I returned to the center of the patrol zone to wait for contacts. At 0002 on 12 April, a lone merchant was reported that was in range. This would be a piece of cake.
Though it would be a little early to make contact, I did a sound check and discovered a convoy headed my way. I lost all thought of the lone merchant - these targets were delivering themselves to me at no effort on my part. I decided to help myself. Since any ship would do, I’d set up to attack from within the convoy and use the Wren in the stern tube.
By this point, I’d gotten the attack down to a science: find a gap in the picket line, submerge to 30 meters, let the escorts pass, return to periscope depth, and attack. Like I say, piece of cake.
The widest gap proved to be on the starboard side of the convoy. I targeted the lead ship and fired from 800 meters.
The Wren took out the propulsion and put the target dead in the water. I sailed under the convoy, turned and headed in the opposite direction at 190 meters. An hour and 13 minutes later, the convoy and escorts were far enough away for me to finish the target off with a single from the bow tubes.
It was now time to return to base and I had a decision to make. Should I get back as quickly as possible and dock or should make a somewhat more leisurely return voyage and refit? Docking would up crew morale but would burn two weeks. Refitting would allow me to be on station by 1 May, thus losing no time. In retrospect, it’s possible I made the wrong decision: to refit.
Choosing to refit effectively saved me about 5 days – had I docked and returned at cruising speed, I would have reached the center of the patrol zone around 5 May. As it was, I made a slow trip to Brest and a slow trip back to the patrol zone, reaching the edge of the zone on 27 April.
On the 28th I spotted a slow moving convoy. Initially I thought I would track it, sending periodic reports and then attack it just after the clock turned to 1 May.
This strategy would take me out of the patrol zone, however, and the more I thought about it, the less I wanted to risk some quirk of the game depriving me of my score because I conducted the attack outsize the zone. I broke off the pursuit.
I was able to make my first attack for score on 2 May on an American convoy full of large tankers. I hit three of them: two with spreads and one with a Wren from the stern tube.
The spreads should have sunk or severely damaged two of the tankers but only one of them was put dead in the water – the other could almost keep up with the convoy. The latter one had been hit in the rear port side with a Wren, which knocked out one of the props. After a sufficient interval to allow the convoy and escorts to move on, I sank the stationary tanker with the deck gun and then went after the tail ender. I finished it off with gunfire and then raced ahead to tag the last tanker.
It was on still on fire, which made it easy to find within the convoy. I finished it off with a single dove and eluded the escorts. As this screen shot shows, I was led on a merry chase.
I had now burned 8 torpedoes to sink 4 ships and I was not quite half way to my goal. It was 3 May and I would almost certainly have to refit one more time in order to have sufficient armament to complete the mission. Best case, I could probably refit and be back in the patrol zone between 13 and 14 May. Morale would be in the tank but there was nothing for it. I began working my way in the general direction of home, with hopes of bagging 2 or 3 more ships along the way.
At 1506 on 4 May, I got a convoy message from BdU. It was well within range at cruising speed so I diverted to meet it. En route, at 0002, 5 May, I got a report of a merchant traveling a 18 knots. If it stayed on course, it would pass close to my ambush point for the convoy.
I detected the first ships of the convoy at 0844. For this attack, I would go after only 1 ship and maximize my chances of stopping it. I’d use the Wren in the stern tube but I’d make sure that the torpedo was coming from the stern. This way the torpedo would be guaranteed to hit the propulsion system.
I approached the convoy head on.
The front was lightly defended but the lead escort was wandering around conducting periodic searches. I submerged and went to 50 meters. Once the escort had passed I went to periscope depth and positioned myself between columns that included tankers. This time I set gyro angle zero and led the target by eye. Range was about 500 meters.
I turned toward the rear of the convoy and released a decoy at 70 meters. I continued on to 195. A couple of escorts were drawn to the decoy and pummeled it mercilessly with depth charges.
After an hour and a half submerged, the convoy had drawn far enough away that I was ready to surface and survey my handiwork. I stopped at p-depth and started my 360 from the 180 bearing. I spotted a DD bearing 158. It was in my baffles so the hydrophone never picked it up.
I continued my sweep and found the tanker I’d hit burning and stopped dead ahead.
I wanted to finish the tanker off with the deck gun so I kept watch as the DD left the area.
I waited another hour and a half. Then I surfaced and lobbed a few shells into the cripple until it sank.
Now down to 5 torpedoes, I set course to intercept the fast moving merchant. A little less than 5 hours later, I had a Middleton transport in my sights. I submerged in order to make the same kind of shot I had against the tanker – a Wren from the stern that would home on the target’s propulsion.
I made the shot from point blank range and the stern chase was on. I watched it from the external camera. The Wren followed a sinuous path toward the Middleton’s propeller.
The impact was immediately fatal.
I was more than halfway to my goal and I had 4 torpedoes in the bow tubes. It was time for the high speed run to Brest to replenish weapons and stores. There was no time for anything else.
Let me amend that previous statement. Running into another convoy while on the way home and with 4 torpedoes on board meant tarrying long enough to make one more attack. I got excellent position and selected a fat merchant in an outer column.
I fired two torpedoes. One missed – I probably misjudged the speed – but the one hit proved fatal. The ship sank at 0522.
After allowing the area to clear, I resumed my high speed run to Brest, arriving on 10 May. I turned around and set course back to the patrol zone.
On 13 May, I got a message about a single, unescorted ship. I made for it at full speed. I intercepted and submerged, going for the Wren shot to the propulsion system, which was successful. I then retired to a safe range dead astern and shelled it until it sank.
With the sinking of this ship, I was a whisker away from victory.
The following day, around mid-afternoon, lookouts spotted an enemy convoy. I closed at full speed, while anticipating the radar detector to sound an alarm. But, there was no alarm – there were no escorts at all!
I targeted the lead ship in the near column with a spread from tubes 1 and 4. I also fired singles from tubes 2 and 3 at two other targets. The spread hit the merchant.
I got a message that I’d been awarded 40 ubi-points or whatever they’re called and then the victory screen – or maybe I should say, screens. On this career I finally won every campaign so those screens may pop up only when one is successful in all of them.
Thus ends SH5. The only significant campaign I’ve missed is the Murmansk convoys. I don’t know whether or not I want to try that – I extensively gamed the Murmansk convoys in SH3. I assume that, like SH3, at high latitudes, there will be days without a sunrise during Winter and days without a sunset during Summer. Artic weather posed some interesting tactical challenges.
For now, I think I’ll take a rest.
Good hunting, everyone.
END OF PART 2
END OF BLACK MAY
END OF SH5 CAMPAIGN