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  • Writer's pictureAaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza

DCS F-14A/B Tomcat: TCS for CCRP Bombing

Extended range visual identification for air-to-surface attacks

DCS F-14A/B Tomcat: TCS for CCRP Bombing thumbnail

Diving through a few layers of radar guided flak and anti-aircraft tracer fire always gets the blood going in Digital Combat Simulator (DCS). Sometimes I take iron bombs on the venerable Heatblur F-14A/B Tomcat and intentionally roll into a target through air defenses. Just to dive bomb something while gambling it all.


Though, exposing yourself to "the lucky BB" or catching an infrared short-range missile on the way out can be a frustrating way to end a mission. Weaving through anti-aircraft fire can be avoided by choosing to stay at high altitude and drop bombs during level flight; far outside of anti-aircraft cannon range. In fact, the F-14 Tomcat has a one-of-a-kind edge using this bomb delivery method.


Overview: CCIP, CCRP

The pilots of DCS are aware that the Tomcat has a well-designed Continuously Computed Impact Point (CCIP) system; also known as Computer Pilot Attack Mode specifically in the F-14. Known for its high accuracy when diving at targets from high angles, even unguided bombs like the Mark 80 series can land close enough to targets to be effective. With the CCIP visualized with a simple bomb fall line and a semi-open bombsight to designate the impact point, the aircraft's non-cluttered HUD makes bomb deployment in CCIP simple and effective.


It is very possible to hit one target with one bomb per pass. The only real downside being that depending on the size of the target and how soon it was spotted by the aircrew before the attack began, the aircraft will need to dive deep into potential enemy air defenses to be as accurate as possible.


DCS Heatblur F-14 dropping practice bombs using CCIP.
Tomcat during CCIP practice at the Skyward Marianas Training Range.

Depending on your point of view, using the Continuously Computed Release Point (CCRP) bomb delivery method is a decidedly less sexy way to fight a battle. Known as Computer Target Attack Mode in the Tomcat, it is much safer than diving through the fireworks to get the job done. Using CCRP, a specific point on the ground can be designated by the aircrew.


This is done by having the Radar Intercept Officer select Computer Target Attack Mode. The pilot then uses Target Designate Switch Up (VSL HI) and DOWN (VSL LO) to move the designator diamond vertically along the bomb fall line. Once the designator diamond is over the desired area, pressing Target Designate PAL mode (Forward) will lock the designator diamond in place. No further adjustments are needed.


The aircraft can then immediately press the attack or reorient itself onto the target for an attack a short time later. Without having to dive into the target to maintain visual contact, the aircraft can fly straight and level at higher altitudes. The CCRP calculates the direction and timing for bombs to be dropped onto the designated area without the aircrew needing to maintain visual.


From this safe position, unguided bombs fall onto the targeted area, albeit with less accuracy than the CCIP. This inaccuracy can be made up for by deploying larger quantities of bombs or using bomb ripple settings, widening the impacted area. But with practice, this deviation can be further reduced.


DCS Heatblur F-14 example of CCRP / Computer Target Attack Mode.
Example of CCRP drop. Flying straight and level at altitude.

It should be noted that laser guided bombs can also be deployed with this method. If the laser code and location an active laser designator is communicated to the F-14, that area can be designated for more consistent laser guided bomb deployment from high altitudes.


CCRP still requires the Tomcat's nose to be pointed at the target area to visually find and designate their target. At that point, it is up to the aircrew's mission planning, skill and coordination to do so without endangering themselves too much. This is also where the Tomcat's ability to visually identify targets from longer distances makes CCRP easier.


Television Camera System Augmenting CCRP

DCS Heatlblur F-14 TCS providing a long range view of potential ground targets.
TCS providing a long range view of potential ground targets.

The AN/AXX-1 Television Camera System (TCS) mounted beneath the chin of the F-14A/B is best known for its use in the air-to-air combat arena. This early electro-optical system lets the Tomcat visually identify airborne targets at ranges many miles beyond what the human eye can see. Information sources vary on exact numbers, but identifying air targets in excess of 15 nautical miles is possible.


The same extended visual range benefits apply in ground attack. During the target detection and designation phases of CCRP, the TCS is slaved to the Target Designation Diamond. As the diamond is slewed vertically, the TCS provides a visual of everything inside the diamond. Targeting a specific building or an armored vehicle can now be done from farther away.


DCS Heatblur F-14 TCS CCRP Computer Target Attack Mode bombing.
Unguided bomb falling onto targets identified with the TCS augmented CCRP.

As genuinely helpful as this is, the Television Camera System is certainly no replacement for a purpose built system like a targeting pod. As a non-infrared electro-optical system, the TCS is only effective during the daytime. Depending on sun position, target position and time of day, it can be hard to spot smaller targets like vehicles. By the time they are visible, the Tomcat may be at a lower altitude, deeper within the envelope of air defenses than planned.


During target designation, the TCS is very sensitive as it is a zoomed in sensor now controlled by the flight stick inputs of the pilot and the motion of slewing the designator. Heavy-handed inputs can make targeting more difficult. When using unguided bombs with CCRP the seconds before bomb delivery require that the aircraft fly straight and level to ensure the bombs strike as close to the target as possible. A minor deviation of a few degrees could translate to missing by dozens or hundreds of meters.


DCS Heatblur F-14 Tomcat CCRP bombing a boat.
A supply ship being designated for CCRP. Note the TCS display in the center console.

The LANTIRN (Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night) navigation and targeting pod system is by far the best tool the F-14 can use for ground attack in DCS; no matter which type of ordinance is used. However, using CCRP with the TCS is useful when a LANTIRN is not available. It is better than not having any option at all. It can also be used without having to give up a weapon station for a targeting pod.


With the popularity of the Cold War era being a constant in Digital Combat Simulator, even in mid-1970s to mid-1980s scenarios, where targeting pods are unavailable, the F-14 Tomcat would be one of the few platforms with some kind of optical system to improve their ground attack performance.


DCS Heatblur F-14 Tomcat CCRP bomb hits a boat.
Direct hit on the supply ship with a Mk.82 bomb.

It has been fun polishing up my skills on this somewhat niche ability of the F-14A/B. I can see myself using this method from time to time against concentrations of troops or structures, but definitely not for "plinking" armored vehicles one-by-one. For more detailed information and step-by-step instructions with diagrams, refer to pages 362 through 366 of Chuck Owl's guide for the F-14A/B.

 
About the Writer

Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza

Skyward Flight Media Ribbon-Blue avatar.

Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. Read Staff Profile.

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