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Operation El Dorado Canyon, 1986. Historical Scenario.

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Operation El Dorado Canyon, Libya early April 1986. Historical Scenario.


A Harpoon Commander's Edition scenario for the EC2003 Battle for the Mediterranean Battleset and the HCDB-130603 1980-2015 Platform Database.


Image: a low-altitude aerial view of an EF-111A Raven (foreground) and an F-111F flying from right to left. The aircraft belong to the 27th Fighter Wing, which transitioned from the F-111Ds to F-111Fs and added EF-111As. Location: CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, NEW MEXICO (NM) UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (USA) Camera Operator: MSGT. MICHAEL HAGGERTY, 1992. From Wikipedia Commons.


This scenario is designed to be played mainly from the Blue/US side. You should play many times first the Blue side to avoid spoilers, and only later play the Red/Libyan side. It's a complex scenario with the most historical accurate possible OOBs, including the Libyan SAM placements, probably never showed in another place.


Attain Document I, IIA and III were a series of operations executed by the US Navy during the first months of 1986 sailing the Gulf of Sidra, which Kadaffi's Libya claims as internal waters from 1973. Those operations were in support of his Freedom of Navigation (FON) program, challenging territorial claims on the world's oceans and airspace that are considered excessive by the United States (as also in the Black Sea or some Far East cases). As a precaution against possible asymmetric or dissimilar Libyan retaliations, it was planned the contingency plan Prairie Fire (nickname after changed to El Dorado Canyon), consisting of air strikes to chosen Libyan targets from which terrorist operations could be planned or executed.

After probing the Libyan response with the phases Attain Document I and IIA in January and February 1986 remaining the USN warships just north of the so-called line of death, came the ultimate execution of the plan. Composed by three Carrier Battle Groups (CVBG of the USS America (CV-66), USS Coral Sea (CV-43, with the first operative F/A-18A in the USN and USMC, Attain Document III was also the first operational use of AGM-88 HARM, the Tomahawks not were yet operative) and USS Saratoga (CV-60)) TF-60 under command of Rear Admiral Frank D. Kelso II executed Attain Document III penetrating the waters of the Gulf of Sidra with a Surface Action Group (SAG) composed by USS Ticonderoga (CG-47), USS Scott (DDG-945) and USS Caron (DD-970), crossing below 32-30 North at 241100Z March 1986 (1200 Libyan time) and exiting the area at 271432Z March 1986, remaining for more than 75 hours sailing in station.

From that very moment the Libyan forces showed an aggressive behaviour towards the US Forces, ratifying the spirit and outcome of certain previous historical skirmishes. The Libyans launched long range SAM against USN planes, realized some offensive CAP and tried to approach his PTM near anti-ship missile launch range.

But this was not the end of the events, the guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and as Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution, more known as Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi (When the 1 September 1969, the bloodless coup d'etat against King Idris was successful, Gaddafi was captain, later accepted a ceremonial promotion from captain to colonel and has remained at this rank since then, as admiration sample to Gamal Abdel Nasser, which never had major grade in his military career) had not said his last word, and he gives orders of retaliation by terrorist actions.

Some days later the end of the Operation Attain Document III about March 27, 1986, contesting the unilaterally proclaimed Libyan rights on the Gulf of Sirta, on April 5, 1986, the La Belle discotheque in West Berlin is bombed by a bomb placed under a table near the disc jockey booth, killing a Turkish woman and two U.S. sergeants and injuring 230 people, including more than 50 American servicemen. Libya was blamed for the bombing after telex messages had been intercepted from Libya to the Libyan East Berlin embassy congratulating them on a job well done (No individual was accused of the bombing until the 1990 reunification of Germany and the subsequent opening up of the Stasi (Communist Germany Secret Police) archives. Stasi files led German prosecutors to an Libyan agent who had worked at the Libyan embassy in East Berlin).

But in provision against a such Libyan terrorist response, had been staged a contingency plan for bombing with only a 48 hours delay selected targets in Libya under the code-name Prairie Fire, and executed as El Dorado Canyon, employing mainly as strike force F-111F of the 48th TFW with the support of EF-111A of the 20th TFW based on United Kingdom, and A-6E from the aircrafts carriers USS America and USS Coral Sea.

This scenario represents the historically present forces, and speculates about the possibility of an higher readiness grade on the Libyan forces, probable use of Pakistani, Cuban, East German and other nationalities loaned or mercenary pilots, a greater fighting will of the Libyan dictator Gaddafi, and less fear to sustain losses by the Libyan side, to later keep supporting his Saharan and Sub-Saharan campaigns.


Enrique Mas, October 2013.



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