Combat Lancer

A Campaign Game for ROLLING THUNDER

By James E. Meldrum

Battleplan magazine issue number 9

Operation Combat Lancer was the operational debut of the USAF’s F-111 fighter-bomber which took place in March, 1968. This operation may be simulated as a short campaign game using Group Three Games’ ROLLING THUNDER as an experimental vehicle. Unless otherwise noted, all rules from ROLLING THUNDER are in effect. (In any situation where the variant material presented in this article conflicts with the game rules, the game rules will take priority in resolving any dispute.) This scenario is conducted in the same manner as the campaign scenario included in the original game.

Campaign Game:

Operation Combat Lancer


In March, 1968 detachment 1 of the 428th TFS, 464th TFW flew six F-111 fighter-bombers to Takhli RTAFB in Thailand. These aircraft were the units participating in Operation Combat Lancer, whose objective was to demonstrate and evaluate the F-111’s performance in combat.

According to the United States media, this operation turned out to be a military disaster since three of the six participating aircraft were lost. Investigations later revealed that the F-111 had been rushed into production and combat before it had been fully tested. Examination of the F-111 wreckage revealed that the crashes were caused by the failure of a weld in the tailplane.

Unfair criticism from the media drew plenty of unfavourable attention to the F-111 which obscured the fact that this aircraft was, once manufacturing defects were corrected, an outstanding combat aircraft.

Potential Targets:

Die Roll

Victory Points




Yen Bai airfield/ammo depot



Tien Cuong RR yard



Phu Tho bridge



Viet Tri power plant



Ho Lac airfield



Xuan Mai army base



Don Suong airfield



Bai Thuong airfield


  1. No USAF aircraft may enter op hexes adjacent to the Chinese border.
  2. USAF aircraft may not attack guns, missiles, launchers, or radars located in populated tac hexes.

Note: The weather option must be used.

USAF Forces:

Six F-111 aircraft.

Note: Only four F-111 counters are provided in the game, so players will be forced to use two F-4 counters. When the USAF player loses an aircraft, remove on of the F-4 counters until the only US aircraft counters being used in the game are F-111s.

USAF Aircraft Armament:

F-111: 6 cannon burst; 4 Sidewinder AAMs; 4 Sparrow AAMs; 12 x 750-lb bombs; or 2 LGBs or 4 Bullpup ASMs.

Note: F-111s may always be armed with a cannon.

NVAF Defense: As in the 1967/68 scenario.

NVAF Discretionary Forces: As in the 1967/68 scenario.

NVAF Aircraft Armament: As in the 1967/68 scenario.

Victory Conditions:

  1. The US player receives a number of victory points equal to the number given for each target listed in the section on potential USAF targets. In addition, the USAF player receives half of the VPs listed for a target if it suffers 50% or more damage.
  2. The USAF player receives 4 VPs for each NVAF aircraft destroyed either in the air or on the ground, and 3 VPs for every radar, AA gun, or SA-2 launcher destroyed.
  3. The NVAF player receives 9 VPs for each F-111 destroyed.
  4. Victory is judged on the basis of victory points. The player having the largest total of victory points at the end of the game is the winner.

Special Rules:

  1. The campaign scenario in this article consists of five night missions played consecutively.
  2. The weather option must be used.
  3. Keep a tally of all USAF losses; the USAF player has only six F-111 aircraft. If all six aircraft are lost before the end of the fifth mission the game ends immediately.
  4. Since there are only four F-111 aircraft units in the countermix, two aircraft (only) may be returned to play after being destroyed. Their loss still counts for victory determination purposes.
  5. The amount of damage suffered by each target is cumulative and must be recorded.
  6. At night, only MiG-21s may intercept and only 57mm and 85mm AA guns may fire – deduct 2 accuracy points when resolving AA gunfire combat.
  7. All F-111a are based at Takhli RTAFB.
  8. Only the designated targets may be attacked.


  1. Try playing this campaign scenario under daylight conditions.
  2. Allow the USAF player to use one EB-66.
  3. Allow the NVAF player to substitute MiG-19 aircraft for MiG-17s.
  4. Allow the USAF player to strike targets located only in the Hanoi and Haiphong areas.
  5. When any USAF aircraft is shot down, players may elect to play scenario five (search and rescue) in an effort to rescue the two-man crew. After completing this scenario, the next strike is played followed by another search and rescue operation if an F-111 is shot down.