The ongoing DB2000 database project was started in late 1996 and has produced an alternative to the original Harpoon II and Harpoon 3 databases. All known bugs, errors and shortcomings have been fixed, and the database now contains more than 4000 platforms (i.e. ships, submarines, aircraft and land facilities, most are available in various versions and subversions). In other words, the complete 1980-2015 OoB (Order of Battle) for more than 60 countries. For example, the F/A-18CN has a separate database entry for use after 1990, 1993, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2010. The F-16 is represented by more than 120 database entries to cover all operators, main versions, subversions and progressive weapon upgrades, and the Ticonderoga-class Aegis cruiser has 70-plus entries that cover all major batches, mods and weapon/sensor configurations from 1983 to 2010.
Custom Ready Times for aircraft
On request from the Harpoon community, Jesse Spears implemented a revolutionary new feature in Harpoon3 (from version 3.5.9 onwards) called Custom Ready Times, and the DB2000 database (version 6.4 onwards) has of course been updated to support this boost in realism. Custom Ready Times means no more generic 30-minute ready times for all aircraft, from an A-4 to a B-52. Each loadout has its own preparation time, so you'd better allow six hours preparing your F-15Es for a deep strike, but if you arm them for light air-to-air, they can fly in 15-30 minutes! A common Blue-side trick in earlier versions of Harpoon is to simply shuttle your carrier-borne strikers back and forth until the Red CVBG/SAG runs out of defensive missiles and countermeasures. No real strategy, no real effort, just a pre-determined exercise in attrition. Same if the Red side has lots of Backfires and some good fighter escorts - they can simply do the "take off - launch stand-off ASMs - land" dance all night long. Essentially the side with stronger air assets will win every time.
Harpoon II (and by extension, past versions of Harpoon 3) improved this situation by enabling limits on the ordnance available to air assets, but unfortunately the air-hyperactivity remained as result of very short ready times. The same dances as before, with the difference that now they eventually stop. If aircraft in real life were so omnipotent as they were in Harpoonland, the world's armed forces wouldn't bother buying anything else other than aircraft. (that the budget priorities of some branches do indeed come close to that philosophy is another matter altogether...). In Harpoon it used to be almost impossible for your surface assets to avoid being monitored by aircraft almost continuously - in real life, it is perfectly feasible to avoid both aircraft and satellite surveillance, simply exploiting the gaps in their availability.
Not doing the Midway dance every half-hour means having time to plan better, maneuver your non-air assets, check your forces for casualties from the last clash (a tricky thing in large scenarios), prepare your forces better (reload specific weapons of your choice, form custom groups etc.), replenish and re-supply your forces etc. In short, it means having an overall better and more realistic war gaming experience - and isn't that what we all aim for?
In real life, modern strike aircraft fly two to three strike missions per day. This goes for both carrier-based air power as well as for land-based tactical aircraft, including F-14, F-15, F-16, F/A-18, A-6E, Mirage 2000, Rafale, Su-24M and Su-34. Older jets like the F-4E Phantom was normally able to produce 2.5 sorties per day, while the super-complex F-111D was not able to do more than 1.5. Many countries are known to not being capable of maintaining high sortie generation rates and this has also been taken into account. The F-117A only flies at night, which results in one sortie per 24h, while early models of the B-2A could only manage one sortie per 48h due to difficulties with their RAM coatings. Bombers like B-52 and B-1B as well as later versions of the B-2As normally only fly one mission per day, while in-theatre bombers like the Tu-22M Backfire can do 1 to 1-1.5. CAS aircraft can often produce up to five sorties per day.
The ready times in DB2000 database are based on real-life figures. Typically, modern strike aircraft will be able to fly three sorties per day (ready time is six hours), older aircraft two sorties (10 hours ready time), long range bombers can fly one or one-and-a-half sorties (12-18h ready time), while CAS aircraft have a 2h-ready time. Air-to-air missile loadouts and most other configurations (incl guns, torpedo, simpler A/G loadouts) will have 30 to 120 minute ready times.
Nuclear weapons have been activated in Harpoon 3, and the database has been updated to support them. To be granted nuclear release you must put the UseNukes.opt nuclear release option file in the \Harpoon3\Options folder. We strongly recommend to only use nukes in scenarios that were designed for their use.
New Sonar, radar, ECM, ESM, IR and visual sensor model
All sensors in the original database were flawed, especially sonar, ECM and IR. Much time and energy has been put into developing and implementing new sensor models. Most of these improvements are the result of extensive database modifications, but some also required changes to the Harpoon3 source code.
Aircraft and missiles have corrected Radar Cross Sections (RCSs) and all radar sets have been updated to produce realistic detection ranges against different kinds of contacts. A MiG-21 now has a RCS of 5m2, while a B-52 has a 100m2 RCS. Cruise missiles have a RCS of 0.1m2 or less. Radar comes in several dozen different generations and types, and the more advanced a radar is the more likely it is to detect smaller aircraft and cruise missiles at long range. For example, the AN/AWG-9 radar on the F-14A/B Tomcat will detect a B-52 at 200nm, a MiG-21 at 115nm, and cruise missiles at 65nm. The database is also unique when it comes to simulation of stealth. Aircraft like the F/A-22 Raptor can be detected at ranges of 5-20nm by airborne radar, but at 35-45nm by advanced ground- or ship-based air search radar. The B-2 on the other hand is almost impossible to detect even by the most modern radar systems.
Harpoon3 version 3.6.2 introduced functional Active ECM (i.e. noise jamming) and the DB2000 database (v6.5.18 onwards) has been upgraded to work with the new model. Radar detection range in an ECM environment now depends on a number of variables; the jammer's power output, range to jammer, range to target, target size, plus the radar's own power output, sensitivity, and ECCM capabilities. Typically, an F-14A/B Tomcat will burn though heavy jamming, e.g. from a Tu-16 'Badger J', at one-third of the max practical range. Medium jamming may produce a 50% range loss and less sophisticated sets may generate a 30% range loss. Since the jammer signal operates on the inverse square power basis while radar operates on an inverse-fourth power basis (also in Harpoon3 of course), the closer the jammer gets to the victim radar the greater effect it has. However, at some range, the radar will become effective again, at a point called burn-through. Many electronic warfare systems do not have a practical noise-jamming capability in real life, and those are implemented as pure DECM sets in the database. DECM sets do nothing to reduce detection range, rather, they help the planes evade radar homing missiles.
The new ESM model is based on groundbreaking research by Gregg Smith. With the original Harpoon II and Harpoon 3 ESM model, even the weakest navigation radars could be picked up by any ESM / RWR at ranges of several hundred nautical miles. However with the new model, if you have a radar set and an equally sensitive ESM set, the ESM can detect the radar at twice the radar's maximum range. The ESM / RWR sets in the database have been divided into ten different categories (air and surface versions of RWRs, ESM sets, ELINT sets, SIGINT sets, and LWRs), nine different countries of origin (US, British, NATO, NATO export, Soviet, Soviet Export, China/India, China Export, and Third World) and five generations (1960, 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000+).
The sonar model is probably the most complex part of Harpoon II and Harpoon 3. It is a good implementation of the real world and is probably the most advanced sonar model found in any commercially available game / simulator. An in-depth description of how sonar works in Harpoon 3 can be found here.
The original Harpoon II / 3 database was flawed and detection ranges were much too great. Submarine duels turned into long-range torpedo shootouts instead of 'knife fights in a booth' as in real life. Submarines were also on the defensive in the ASuW battle, and were often little more than sitting ducks for ASW helicopters. Not so with the DB2000 database. The revised detection ranges are based on Larry Bond's excellent Harpoon4 boardgame ruleset as well as valuable input from ex-US Navy and German Navy ASW officers and u-boat drivers. Submarines are now the hunters and ships are prey. Detection ranges closely mirror those in real life, and anti-submarine warfare has become as realistic as it possibly can get in a commercially available simulator. Engagements between submarines usually take place at less than 2nm for diesel subs, and about 1-4nm for the latest high-tech nuclear attack submarines. As the commander of a modern US destroyer you'll be real lucky if your AN/SQR-19 towed array sonar detects a Victor III 5nm out, or an advanced Kilo SS or Akula SSN at 2nm. For most systems, detection occurs is in the 0.5-3nm range, and often the first thing your ships' sonar systems pick up is enemy torpedo launches.
Torpedoes use real-life operational / practical firing ranges instead of theoretical ranges. For older Soviet 533mm torpedoes that means a maximum launch range of up to 8000 yards, while for more modern Russian torpedoes the launch range is 10000-14000 yards. According to Russian doctrine, no torpedoes are ever fired at targets beyond 14000 yards. Western 533mm torpedo firing ranges vary from 8000 to 12000 yards depending on type and model. The fuel load in the database will, however, allow the torpedo to travel out to the officially stated range once it is out of the tube. So while you are only allowed to launch your torpedoes at ranges of four to six nautical miles, the weapons have enough fuel to travel 12-16-20-25nm (or whatever) to catch up with a speeding target. The Harpoon 3 game engine uses the weapon's fuel load and speed plus the target's speed and heading to calculate the 'true' firing parameters. The max-range figure in the database is just there to cap the game-engine's calculated range in order to stay true to real life tactical doctrine, but once launched, the torpedo can travel out to its max official range.
This change has had a tremendous impact on gameplay. AI-controlled subs will wait with firing torpedoes until they get closer to their targets, increasing the chances for multiple quick kills. Earlier, the AI would often fire tops at 12-16nm based on a very weak contact, a tactic that rarely produced a kill. However with the revised torpedo ranges AI-controlled subs will not give away their position until they have a very good chance of success. Surface-launched wake-homing torps (aka anti-ship torpedoes) retain their max range (8-12nm) since these weapons would have been fired from maximum range in real life.
Warplanes never fly at their theoretic maximum speeds operationally. Over a fighter aircraft's 6000-8000hrs life span, less than 10% will be spent at supersonic speeds, and most likely the aircraft will never even go beyond Mach 2. The DB2000 uses practical operational speeds for all aircraft which means very few planes can fly faster than Mach 1.5-1.6. The fuel burn rates have also been adjusted, and for example the F-14D Tomcat can fly 230nm Deck Launched Intercept (DLI) missions at Mach 1.6 dash.
The following table converts from Mach to TAS (True Air Speed):
Mach 1, TAS
Mach 1, IAS
Tropopause; speed of sound constant above 35000ft
For a high-end 4th generation fighter like the F-14D Tomcat the DB2000 database uses the following speed settings:
Most aircraft in the database have a maximum altitude of 12,000m (40,000ft). This is because modern tactical aircraft rarely exceed this altitude operationally.
All aircraft cruise speeds have been adjusted compared to the original Harpoon II / Harpoon 3 database, and it is no longer possible for the human player to make a positive ID of enemy aircraft by looking their cruise speed alone. The speeds for strike and escorting aircraft have also been matched to make it easier to plan strike and escort missions. Lastly, some super-cruising aircraft like the MiG-25/31, Tu-22M, and F/A-22A have only two speed settings: cruise and loiter. This has been done to overcome problems with the AI.
The combat ranges for all aircraft, ships and submarines have been corrected. The original aircraft ranges were way off and calculated based on the ferry range while the DB2000 uses real-life combat ranges. Ships now carry correct fuel loads, and diesel submarines have proper cruise speed and battery capacity.
Missile Speeds and Weapon Release Altitudes
All air-to-air (AAM) and surface-to-air (SAM) missiles in the database have more realistic performance figures than those in the original database. Missiles fired at low level will have reduced speed and range due to thicker air, i.e. a missile with a range of 40nm at 12,000m (40,000ft) will have a range of 15nm at 610m (2,000ft) against a 500kt target.
The minimum release altitude for LGBs and glide weapons has been increased to 6010m (20,000ft). Aircraft under AI control will now deliver their bombs out of range of all low-altitude and some medium-altitude SAMs, including SA-7, SA-8, SA-9, Stinger, Rapier Mk1 / 2 and RBS 70 / 90.
The database uses TRUE aircraft logistics. All aircraft ordnance is in limited supply, not just missiles and sensor pods. The 'General Munitions' ammo dump in the database supports more than 550 different types of ordnance. Carrier magazines usually hold 40-50 different types depending on timeframe.