DCS World Mission Editor: Mobile Air Defense Convoys
An unexpected use of purpose built assets
Working with our primary Digital Combat Simulator World mission editor, Caio D. "Hueman" Barreto, this article is the beginning of a new series here on Skyward Flight Media. Our goal is to provide suggestions for DCS mission features that are not often seen in multiplayer servers. Using our experience and experimentation, we hope to introduce new concepts to diversify the missions people create and play. Let us start with today's subject.
Mobile Air Defense Convoys
Attacking and capturing air bases are the most common way players have interacted with most surface-to-air missile (SAM) threats. In multiplayer servers, these threats need to be deadly enough to engage multiple players at once while protecting a wide area. Because of this, S-300 SAM sites, Hawk batteries, and Patriot missile batteries are plentiful. Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD) systems are often placed very close to the larger SAM threats. Parked in static positions, never moving. Making them predictable and easier to destroy.
One of my go-to mission additions is mobile air defense convoys. Similar to regular convoys of vehicles driving the roads, these convoys act like mobile aircraft hunter-killer teams. Editors wanting to add hard to track, pop up threats to a mission can route these air defense convoys through areas they think players may use.
This adds a degree of randomization to the mission. The constant movement of these convoys also changes their engagement ranges. While the first encounter may have been advantageous to the convoy, the second engagement may be better for the players. The terrain the convoy is driving through may be worse for them the second time around. This gives players the option to either bypass the pop-up threat or plan a new mission to search and destroy the convoy.
Mission Editor Setup
For basic setup, little is needed to add these groups to a mission. They do not require specific trigger zones or custom .lua scripts. They can be tasked to drive along roads or across fields with standard waypoint placement, AI tasking does not have to be edited, and they can constantly drive the desired path by adding task "Switch Waypoint" to the first waypoint of its route to create a constant patrol route. Here is a list of what a basic route repeating patrol route looks like in the mission editor:
Waypoint 0: On Road
Waypoint 1: On Road
Waypoint 2: On Road, Switch Waypoint 0
An optional AI tasking to Disperse Under Fire can be added to the group on Waypoint 0. This lets players use various types of weapons to force the group to disperse and come to a stop. This opens small windows of opportunities for other aircraft in the flight to identify their location and use unguided weapons on them, with a higher chance of success.
Advanced setup of these convoys is mostly focused on AI tasking orders. To increase how hard to detect these groups are while making them even more realistic, there are specific tasking orders that can be applied. For example, while in transit these groups may be set to "ALARM State GREEN" setting their radar and anti-aircraft weapons off. This makes it easier for them to drive to unexpected areas undetected. Along their route, the groups can be made to park in fields and turn on their radars for certain amounts of time to search for and engage aircraft. This is done by combining an Off Road waypoint, AI task "Hold" for 15 minutes and ALARM State RED or AUTO to activate the convoy. Once the Hold time expires, the group's next waypoint can bring them back to the nearest road set back to ALARM State GREEN as they leave the area undetected.
Waypoint 0: On Road, Disperse Under Fire=180s (seconds), ALARM STATE=GREEN
Waypoint 1: On Road
Waypoint 2: Off Road, Hold (Stop Condition DUR (Duration) 15 Minutes), ALARM STATE=RED
Waypoint 3: On Road, ALARM STATE=GREEN
Waypoint 4: On Road
Waypoint 5: Off Road, Hold (Stop Condition DUR (Duration) 15 Minutes), ALARM STATE=RED
Waypoint 6: On Road, ALARM STATE=GREEN, Switch Waypoint 0
This is the basic version of the groups I use. With a Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Artillery (SPAAA) as the lead vehicle (Gepard, ZSU-23-4 Shilka, Vulcan M163, etc), a self-propelled surface-to-air missile unit (SA-8, HQ-7, Roland, etc) and two transport trucks which supply all units in the convoy with ammo and fuel as needed. The Mobile Attack convoy format is best used to patrol areas near other ground forces or in hard to reach areas far outside the expected areas of air defense.
one Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Artillery (SPAAA) (lead vehicle)
one Self Propelled Surface to Air Missile Unit
two Transport/Supply Truck (tail vehicle)
Mobile Point Defense
This type of convoy can patrol areas near large SAM sites and important facilities like air bases or supply bases. But rather than remain static and easy to identify, they are mobile and still able to intercept missiles. It is important that units capable of intercepting missiles are within this group (SA-15 Tor, HQ-7 Red Banner, etc.) It is important that their ALARM STATE is set to AUTO or RED. This will allow them to can scan the skies for incoming missiles and enemy aircraft while they drive. For players this means targeting missile interceptor units becomes harder, but by monitoring their movements, it is possible the facilities they are defending may fall on the far edge of their coverage. Smart players can monitor their potential route, and increase the likelihood of a successful strike.
one missile interception capable SAM unit (lead vehicle)
two transport/supply Truck (tail vehicle)
Mobile Area Denial
A specialized version of the convoy concept that combines the previously discussed topics with an SA-6 Gainful SAM site. The SA-6 was purpose built to follow ground forces and provide air defense for their area of operations. In DCS, the SA-6 will stop to deploy its launchers if it detects enemy aircraft while in transit. This process takes 10 to 15 minutes, however. The SA-6 may also attempt to deploy in an area that is very poor for its abilities.
Instead, a mobile area denial group made up of an SA-6, SPAAA units, short range SAM units and supply trucks transport themselves to a designated area while ALARM State is set to GREEN. This gives the group a chance to drive itself to an ideal area and deploy undetected. For players, this is also a chance to potentially spot this highly dangerous convoy and knock it out before deployment. Mission editors can use this type of convoy to suddenly deploy a respectably dangerous SAM battery well beyond the expected threat area.
one ZSU-23-4 Shilka (lead vehicle)
one SA-6 Straight Flush STR
two SA-6 TEL
two Transport/Supply Truck
one SA-15 Tor
one ZSU-23-4 Shilka (tail vehicle)
I hope this concept for Digital Combat Simulator World mission editing will be helpful for improving the quality, randomization and replayability for your missions. We will have more interesting ideas to share in the near future, so look out for it.
About the Writer
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. [Profile]