Sunday Thoughts & Musings, August 16, 2020

Photo of the man-made East Wind Lake Village, looking to the southeast from the west side of the lake. I used to live in a townhouse a few blocks away from here. Photo by the author.

Hi, there! Well, it’s late morning as I sit here at my writing desk; by the time I hit publish, though, it will be past noon. It’s a hot day, too; the temperature outside is 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) under mostly sunny skies. With humidity at a soggy 71% and a southwesterly breeze blowing at 5 MPH, the feels-like temperature is 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42 degrees Celsius). That’s steamy.

We may get some rain in the afternoon, but I think that this ungodly climate is putting a strain on our electric grid. Last night we were without power for almost an hour.

Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

Ah, well. That’s Florida for you. Summer in the Sunshine State usually means hot and rainy days, with the occasional hurricane tossed in for good measure. But, as I have said many times here and elsewhere, temperatures are rising gradually, and they have been on the upswing for the past 20 years. The petroleum industry, its lobbyists, and conservative politicians and pundits would have you believe otherwise, but I believe the climate experts who say that global warming is real and that human activity is a contributing factor. The fact that 2020 is expected to see 25 named storms form during this year’s Atlantic hurricane season and the ever-hotter temperatures we see in the US should be two big hints that climate change is here and not a hoax created by “wild and crazy leftist liberals.”

Before last night’s hour-long blackout, though, I managed to finally complete the Junks on Parade scenario in Cold WatersSingle Missions slate. It wasn’t easy; the mission takes place in the shallow waters off the coast of Taiwan, where the sea bottom lies 200 feet under the surface, and although the People’s LIberation Army Navy doesn’t have a Soviet fleet as backup – in this alternate history, the Hong Kong handover of 1997 never took place and the USSR still exists – it does have air cover for the convoy I had to intercept.

The mission description for Junks On Parade. Game graphics and elements (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

I’m not going to bore you with a play-by-play account of the mission; suffice it to say, though, that I have learned how to properly carry out attacks on amphibious groups. The first thing I had to remember was to not go to periscope depth (45 ft.) and do a radar sweep to launch missiles at the landing ships (or ‘phibs, as they are sometimes referred to in naval circles). That’s a terrible tactic to use because missile launches are extremely visible and provide the enemy with an aiming point for escorting warships’ own anti-submarine weapons.

Furthermore, the game designers have studied the various anti-submarine warfare (ASW) tactics of the three navies depicted in Cold Waters (the Chinese PLAN, the Soviet Red Navy, and the U.S. Navy), so in various Single Missions, players will encounter either ASW patrol aircraft or helicopters. Launching Harpoon or Tomahawk missiles with enemy aircraft around is like painting a bullseye on your boat (Navy terminology for submarine) and saying “Here I am, Mr. Enemy Plane. Kill me.”

In my previous attempts to play Junks on Parade, the results were always disastrous for me. I would forget that ASW aircraft were part of the Chinese ‘phib group, so I’d go for Harpoon strikes on any target within range. This would always result in a volley of angry rocket-launched torpedoes from the surface warships and unwanted attention from the Chinese and/or Russian ASW aircraft flying overhead.

And because the sea bottom is incredibly shallow in this mission, there are no layers, ducts, or deep waters to duck and take cover from the barrage of torpedoes and depth charges that fall on my Seawolf-class boat. Ergo, I almost always die.

Yesterday, though, I decided to use what I’ve learned from my “sandbox” Quick Missions. You know, the ones in which I pit my Seawolf-class boat against a mix of surface escorts – including capital ships such as Kiev and Kirov – and ‘phibs.

A screenshot from Cold Waters showing a Soviet Ropucha-class LST in a “sandbox” engagement set in the North Atlantic back in 1984. In Quick Missions such as this, I learned the essentials of sub attacks against amphibious task groups. (This mission took place in deeper waters and I commanded a less-advanced boat, so it wasn’t in the same environment as Junks on Parade. But I perfected my tactics in such scenarios, albeit without ASW aircraft added to the mix.) Game graphics and elements (C) 2017 Killerfish Games.

Based on what I’d learned in my previous attempts to beat Junks on Parade, I decided to do the following:

  • Eliminate the warships first with torpedoes
  • Use stealth and guile rather than brute force and overaggressiveness
  • Avoid the temptation to rise to periscope depth and use radar
  • Take note of airdropped sonobuoys and stay as far away from them as possible
  • Have enough UGM-84 Harpoons loaded in my tubes (I had four of eight tubes loaded with them once I destroyed the PLAN escorts to fire off as many as possible before the ASW plane could drop a torpedo or depth charges on my boat
A Russian-made PLAN ‘phib sinks after being hit by a UGM-84 Harpoon missile. Note that this screenshot is not from last night, but it is from a Quick Mission that closely resembles Junks on Parade. Game graphics and elements (C) 2017 Killerfish Games.

Honestly, I went into Junks on Parade thinking that at best I had a 60% chance of success. In almost all my sandbox game sessions of Cold Waters, I deliberately leave out the air element because I don’t think I’m so good at the game that I have little to fear from helos or aircraft. In Red Storm Rising, the classic 1988 game that is the spiritual ancestor of Cold Waters, I hated missions where the Soviets had Ka-27 Helix ASW helicopters; they only carried a few torpedoes, but they had sonobuoys to detect your sub, and they could keep you busy and away from your primary target and allow it to escape.

As it turned out, the ASW plane – I only saw a few glimpses of it when I was looking at camera views of the action on the surface, but I think it was a TU-142 Bear-F – did keep me busy evading sonobuoys, and it did damage my Seawolf with not one but two anti-submarine torpedoes.

An F-22 Raptor intercepts a Tupolev TU-142 Bear-F maritime patrol plane near the Alaskan coast. Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Defense via Military.com

However, I did destroy the Chinese surface warships, and I did sink all of the ‘phibs in the task force heading for the south coast of Taiwan. After a month and eight days of playing Cold Waters, I finally completed a difficult Single Mission which involved threats from the air and sea – and survived!

My only complaint is that unlike MicroProse’s Red Storm Rising, Killerfish Games’ Cold Waters does not have a Hall of Fame “hi-scores” screen, so I didn’t get any medals or in-game recognition. I also neglected to take any screenshots; I thought I’d get killed easily (I usually “died” 5-10 minutes into the scenario until last night), and by the time I realized I had a good chance of surviving, I was too busy evading the TU-142’s sonobuoys and air-launched ASW torpedoes to take screen grabs. Maybe next time I play Junks on Parade I will remember to do so…if I survive the battle, I mean.

A PLAN escort vessel goes KA-BOOM in another battle on the South China Sea. If I recall correctly, this screen grab is from one of the battles in which I whittled down the escort with Mk. 48 torpedoes (the green-and-black weapons you see in Tubes 1, 5, and 7 in the status display at right. Game graphics and elements (C) 2017 Killerfish Games.

As for the rest of my Sunday: I don’t think I’ll be doing much gaming today; I spend way too much time in one room during my daily routine, and I don’t think that it is good for my mental health to do that. I like having my own space, mind you, and I love writing, listening to my digital albums on Amazon Music, and gaming, but I need to have more balance in my leisure time activities, even if it just entails going to another room in the house.

(C) 2013 Bolinda Publishing Pty. Ltd. Novel (C) 1986 Jack Ryan Enterprises Ltd. and Larry Bond.

I do have good books to read or listen to – I can hear Red Storm Rising on my Amazon Fire tablet now, for instance – so maybe I’ll do that in our living room as soon as I publish this. I’m currently reading The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Path to 9/11 and Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, plus the aforementioned Red Storm Rising on both the Kindle and the Audible audiobook formats.

Or I could go to the Florida room and watch part of The First World War: The Complete Series, a British documentary from 2003 about, of course, the 1914-1918 conflict that was once called the Great War, the World War, or, in the U.S. since at least 1939, World War I.

(C) 2003, 2014 Entertainment One

I have not read Hew Strachan’s eponymous book, and I’ve only seen a few bits from the first episode, but I like what I have managed to watch so far. So if I can’t choose a book to read for a bit, I might just plop my tush down on my corner of the couch in the Florida room and watch the first of 10 parts on the TV.

Anyway, that’s it for this edition of Thoughts & Musings. I hope you are all staying safe and healthy, and that your Sunday is a peaceful and happy one. Take care, and until next time, I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things!

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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