July 2021: Why not Marianas Map?

When the Channel Map was released for DCS, the team at Storm of War did a detailed assessment of the map for possible use on a 24/7 multiplayer server. In the last week, Eagle Dynamics (ED) have released the Marianas Map. The map is FREE as a downloadable module/DLC. It is set in a modern era, with modern assets, airbases and urban areas. However, ED have stated that they plan to develop an historical version of map and assets. In a statement made by NineLine on the ED forums on 06-Jul-2021, he wrote:

“ WWII PTO assets will be worked on later, the map will be released in a WWII version down the road as well, thanks. ”

NineLine, 06-Jul-2021, ED Forums

This then begs an analysis of the map, the current aircraft and assets, and is it feasible as a potential scenario for Storm of War?

The missions

Storm of War has always been about historical scenarios. In order to assess whether there are any suitable options, research was done on the following historical events.

There was a 1st Battle of Guam: 8-10 December 1941, but that’s not suitable for a PvP server, given the unpreparedness of the USA, and the fact it is so early in the war (which means a lack of any flyable aircraft).

The significant action on this map begins in the far west. This is the Battle of the Philippine Sea, which was on the 19-20 June 1944. It was a single battle which was very much one-sided and is also not suitable for a PvP server. It is exacerbated by the requirement for carrier operations (which we’ll discuss later). This was the precursor to the Marianas campaign which ran from June to August 1944. It seems like the Marianas campaign would be a good set of missions for DCS.

The problem is that by the time the main action on the islands had commenced, the raids against the Japanese airfields had annihilated any aircraft or infrastructure. The only major attempt by the Japanese to fend off the Americans was during this carrier offensive, in February 1944, as they raided the islands and neutralised the Japanese air power in the area.

American aircraft raid Rota, Tinian and Saipan. The US forces are from Task Group 58.3 (Sherman) and Task Group 58.2 (Montgomery). The attack sinks 20,000 tons of Japanese shipping, destroys the airfields and damages the harbour infrastructure. These few days in February 1944 is when the air war occurred over the Marianas. Unlike Operation Hailstone, it was not well contested. And it limits the US aircraft strictly to carrier-based aircraft.

The Aircraft

Currently, we have the P-47, which took part in the invasion of Saipan as part of the 7th Air Force, flying onto the island in June 1944. It saw action in the ground attack role. However, its arrival was after the Japanese air force was decimated.

Magnitude 3 (a 3rd party developer) is producing the F4U1-D Corsair. It earned itself the nickname: “Sweetheart of the Marianas”. But, like the P-47, arrived after the Japanese airforce was gone.

We all know that Nick Grey (Co-founder of ED) Really Loves The Hellcat, and that this aircraft is on the way to DCS. The Grumman F6F Hellcat, was deployed in mid-1943, with first actions in Sep 1943. It is faster than the Zero at all altitudes and would make for a powerful carrier aircraft, appropriate to this area.

Other Allied aircraft are not so relevant for the Marianas, let alone the air war there. The P-51 was deployed late in the Pacific, for example, from Iwo Jima in 1945. It was assigned to B-29 escort duty and saw some large air battles, but these were over Japan itself (e.g. 29-May-1945). It is not so relevant for the Marianas, but could be squeezed in a a pinch. Other DCS WW2 aircraft, even less so.

But what about the Japanese?

A6M5 “Zero” was the naval fighter produced throughout the war. Magnitude 3 has hinted at producing an AI version of this aircraft, but nothing has been confirmed. That said, the A6M was already obsolete by this stage of the war, and will not fare well against the Hellcat or the Corsair.

If it is not flyable, then we’d need to use substitutes.

One option is the “Japanitfire” which uses the Spitfire Mk.IX also attired in Japanese colours representing any of the inline-engined Japanese aircraft (like the Ki-60).

The other option is the “Japanton”… this is the FW 190 A-8, re-skinned in IJN colours and used as a stand-in for the some generic radial-engined Japanese aircraft (say the A6M). This was even used by ED in their promotional video for the new map.

We already grieve needing to use the Bf 109 K-4 in Normandy as a substitute for the Bf 109 G-6. These substitutes are simply not acceptable.

The “other” aircraft

An ongoing problem with DCS WW2 is the obsessive focus on fighter aircraft. Any war is fought at multiple levels and, in order to support the PvP fighter-v-fighter combats, bombers, attack aircraft, transports, are also needed. This is what makes the air war ecosystem come alive and transforms it from a dogfight server to an historic server.

Thus, aircraft like Grumman TBF Avengers and Nakajima B5N2 “Kate” bombers are important. (As an example of a more contested air war, look at Operation Hailstone.)

Then there are the bomber raids against the Marianas (B-24 Liberators), the Japanese maritime aircraft stationed there (H8K2 Emily) and the long-range American aircraft that moved there post-invasion (B-29 Superfortress) to carry out the raids against the Japanese mainland.

Ground Units

From infantry, trucks and Sherman tanks, the Allies have enough ground units to supplement an amphibious landing. Additionally, there some anti-aircraft guns. The Bofors gun in DCS has a British crew, but could be pressed into service if needed. However, a better heavy US anti-aircraft gun is needed. There is a jeep too (albeit with a British driver).

On the Japanese side, there is nothing. Any WW2 scenario (whether PvP or PvE) in the Marianas is simply not feasible without infantry, mortar and crew, anti-aircraft guns and coastal defence artillery. (Japanese tanks are not relevant here.)

The Ships

There is a US Essex-class carrier being developed… we’ll get to that later, but it needs to be supplemented. Destroyers (e.g. Fletcher class or Benson class) are needed for this carrier escort work, but also for shore bombardment (an important part of the campaigns).

The Japanese carrier is sometimes mentioned. These operated on the far-western edge of the Marianas map (Philipines Sea). And the blue-water expanse of the map could be used for any carrier-v-carrier operations. However, for the plane-set that we anticipate F6F Hellcat, the carrier war was very lop-sided by this stage of the war and does not make for a compelling PvP scenario.

For the raids on the Japanese-held Marianas, destroyers and cargo ships will be needed.

The Map

The map has dimensions 1500\,km east-west, but 1300\,km north south. It is nearly all water. However, in the south east, there is Marianas Island chain. This comprises the islands of Guam, Rota, Aguijan, Tinian and Saipan. It also contains a number of very minor islands, such as Cocos Island and Farallon de Medinilla. We’ll assume that there are appropriate airfields added, and that it would be possible to fly from Guam, Rota, Tinian and Saipan. Historically, these islands also had significant seaplane bases.

Superficially, the Marianas looks comparable scale to Normandy. However, the Marianas island chain is linear. There is no “off-axis” fields, like we have Lessay or Evreux. This makes for linear gameplay as there is merely a stream of players taking off from nearest opposing fields.

The answer on the Marianas is the introduction of carriers to provide off-axis vectors. These can be randomised to add variety. But they have an additional set of complications.

The Carriers

It is known from the modern jet servers the challenges of carrier operations. WW2 aircraft will have serious problems here. Firstly, the launches are flown, not catapulted. The landings are precarious, at best… and the Corsair has a particularly nasty reputation in this regard (assuming it is used). Finally, the carriers themselves are small. This affects the amount of room for aircraft, but also the ship itself.

We already have manoeuvring problems on airfields due to the challenges of tail-dragger aircraft. The pitching decks of confined WW2 carriers will be particularly challenging, especially as they are straight-deck carriers, and not angled deck carriers like in modern times.

Naval operations also require working radio communications and equipment. At the moment, at least half of the WW2 aircraft in DCS have non-functioning radio navigation equipment. This would need to be fixed. Additionally, provision needs to be made for both sides to allow either Japanese or American aircraft to operate.

One of the biggest problems we see with the 24/7 server concept is the sustainability. Currently, SoW has 25 Normandy Campaign missions. These are massive missions with multiple objectives for both sides. The map spans a large area, but there are multiple deployment points and a large variety of mission-specific targets and static defences (e.g. ports and airfields).

This is not readily available in the Marianas scenario.

There is no real air war here. Like Unternehmen Bodenplatte in Europe, the defenders made some last assaults of significant numbers, but in total futility. The Allies flinch for a moment, and then continue their relentless advance with their assailants crippled and reeling from their last-gasp attack.

You can make a single mission of these such events, but it is not possible to make a 24/7 server from them.

Conclusion

We could continue to delve into the details. There are a lot of material here and we have written a detailed report on the topic.

However, our summary is that the Marianas will not be suitable for Storm of War. We anticipate that it will be good developed as a single-player environment, and that it would work nicely for a PvE co-op environment or one-off event. However, we do not anticipate being able to constructively utilise the map for an immersive, PvP 24/7 historical multiplayer environment.

2 Comments on “July 2021: Why not Marianas Map?

  1. I do not understand the interest of this card.

    In my opinion it will not be of any interest for a very long time yet.

    For me, the most “beautiful” period of air warfare was the Battle of Britain in 1940.

  2. Pingback: July 2021: DCS Map Comparison | Storm of War

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