The Units of Naval War, part 1
When we first started pitching Naval War: Arctic Circle we used the slogan, “Play with the great machines of war.”
Cool, said the strategy fans, which machines exactly?
A modern naval war game putting the navies and air forces of the major, and minor, powers of the North Atlantic region against each other will have to deliver a significant arsenal of warships, aircraft and submarines, equipped with state of the art weapons and sensors.
There is, naturally, a huge contingent of people around the world who are very passionate about everything naval, old and modern, and knows a lot more about the subject matter than we do.
Understandably then, a lot of the questions and discussions on this forum have been about which units will be available in the game, and exactly what players will be able to do with them.
Naval War: Arctic Circle has from the start been designed to walk the fine line between realism and playability. You have to work and study hard for years before anyone allows you to pilot an aircraft or captain a ship in the real world, not to mention putting you in charge of an entire combined arms operation. We don’t want to reduce our potential market to the faculty staff of the naval war academy, so, like with any game, you should take the word “realism” with a grain of salt.
Still, the units that make up your navy and air force in NWAC are those that exist in the real world, created by thousands of clever professionals and enormous budget overruns. Their capabilities, their strengths and weaknesses, should all come through the vast simplification necessary to cram hundreds of them into a game running on your computer, and feel genuinely real to us gamers.
While Naval War: Arctic Circle is presenting a lot of hardware from smaller European countries, like our native Norway, you can’t expect to have a good war without the United States. It is natural to start with the US Navy and Air Force.
The backbone in the US Navy is, in our game, not going to be modernized substantially from the present. The Nimitz class supercarrier, the Ticonderoga class cruiser and the Arleigh Burke class destroyer will do the heavy surface-based lifting. Alas, the new Ford class carrier, the Zumwalt destroyer, the CG(X) next-gen cruiser and the littoral combat ship are unlikely to make it into the game at initial launch. Call it the gamers’ share of the finance crisis dividend.
An F-35C taking off from a Nimitz carrier.
We are, on the other hand, likely to include the Wasp class amphibious assault ship.
The US carriers will have the F-35C fighter, supported by its land based A cousin and the super-stealthy F-22 Raptor. Their numbers are unlikely to satisfy the aerial meat grind, so we still keep the ever improving F/A-18E Super Hornet and its electronic warfare brother the EA-18G Growler.
We are of course including the E-3 Sentry and the based E-2 Hawkeye for AWACS. For bringing anti-ship and anti-sub weapons to the front line, the P-8 Poseidon will do the heavy lifting, aided by its older predecessor the P-3 Orion (also used by many smaller countries). When you really need to get a lot of high explosives delivered in a hurry, you can launch your Rockwell B-1B Lancer strategic bombers.
Trying to keep them all in the air longer than their fuel tanks allows, we call on the Boeing KC-767 tanker plane (or whatever it’s called these days).
For rotary wing duties, especially anti-submarine warfare, then as now the US Navy relies on the SH-60B Seahawk, carried by all surface warships.
A Virginia class submarine ambushing an enemy surface group.
Under the ocean, NWAC is not including the ballistic missile submarines that would never be put in harm’s way, but you will deploy the terrifying Virginia class submarine and the SSGN converted versions of the Ohio class, the latter carrying a mind-blowing 154 Tomahawk missiles in its converted missile silos.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, you find the other cold war superpower, whose military suffered a major degradation after the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, Russia’s navy and air force are rebuilding and modernizing, giving NWAC players an exciting set of units to play around with.
Russia lacks anything that compares to the US supercarriers. In fact, it doesn’t have carriers at all. If it did, this carrier would possibly be prohibited from entering the Black sea, since the 1936 Montreux Convention limits what ships can enter through the strait. Thus Russia has the Admiral Kuznetsov, which looks suspiciously like a carrier, but is really a heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser.
Russia has an exciting array of surface ships, and as always we start with the formidable, and beautiful, Kirov class battle cruiser. Along with the ageing Slava cruiser and the Udaloy (II) class destroyer, the modern Admiral Gorshkov class frigate makes for a well-rounded blue water fleet.
The Mistral class amphibious assault ship, built in France, extends the Russian navy’s reach well beyond its borders.
Closer to land, the Steregushchy class corvette can be a formidable threat, and we also include a less known patrol hydrofoil boat, the Matka class (Project 206MR Vikhr), for varied littoral missions.
The new Project 21956 class destroyer, alas, is probably not going to make the cut.
The surface ships will still be carrying the good old Kamov Ka-27 helicopter for anti-submarine duties.
Russia's Shchuka-B (“Akula”) class attack submarine.
Russia has scary submarines. We are going to include the Shchuka-B (“Akula”) class attack submarine and its successor the Yasen. Unless our sources deceive us, these subs can actually outrun most torpedoes. The diesel powered Lada class makes up Russia’s littoral submarine compliment.
Russia has long been aware of its lack of super-carriers, and has to rely on mostly land based aircraft for protection and offense. On its carrier, the Su-33 has been replaced by the MiG-29K fighter aircraft, and we’re assuming the new Russian stealth fighter, the Sukhoi PAK-FA, will exist in both carrier and conventional versions, to rival the famous US stealth counterparts.
We are also including the powerful land-based Sukhoi Su-27 air superiority fighter to have a varied arsenal of fighter aircraft.
To put the scare into every enemy sailor, Russia still relies on its large force of Tupolev Tu-22 "Backfire" long-range strategic and maritime strike aircraft. They can as easily launch supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles as rain down destruction on enemy airfields.
If you need to pack even more onto a single aircraft, you simply can’t beat the Tupolev Tu-160 "Blackjack" strategic bomber. Russia’s next-gen and stealthy strategic bomber, the PAK DA, is unfortunately too much of an unknown entity (and apparently in budget limbo) to include.
For long-range maritime surveillance and ASW, an old favourite remains on duty, the classic cold war icon Tupolev Tu-95 "Bear". AWACS duties are handled by the Beriev A-50U Shmel aircraft, and the Ilyushin Il-78 is performing in-air refuelling.
In our next developer diary, we’ll look at units from the other countries that will fight for oil and glory in the game’s campaigns.
Note that the unit list described in this article is still provisional and subject to change.