Fast Attack Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q1. What is difference between the TB-16 and the TB-23 towed array
A1. In all probability, a submarine would not have both of
these installed, but we chose to give the player a choice. The
TB-23 is modeled to have a larger diameter and thus more sensitive
hydrophones than the TB-16. The TB-23 also has more hydrophones
and is therefore longer than the TB-16. Because of its increased
diameter and more sensitive hydrophones, it is more sensitive to
flow noise when dragged through the water than the thinner TB-16.
This causes the array to become noise saturated above about 12
knots. The TB-16, on the other hand, is usable at a higher speed.
The increased length of the TB-23 also means it takes longer to
deploy and retrieve than the TB-16. Most modern submarines leave
the towed array deployed when on patrol, retrieving it only for
high speed transits.
Q2. Is there any way to estimate the depth of a submarine contact?
A2. Probably the best you will be able to do is determine if the
submarine is above or below the layer. You can do this my making
note of the width of the noise trace on the passive sonar display
for the submarine contact. Then change depth across the layer and
see if the trace gets brighter and wider indicating a stronger
signal, or dimmer and narrower indicating a weaker signal. When
you and submarine are on the same side of the layer the signal will
be the strongest. This will be easier to do when the cross layer
attenuation is a larger number. When the attenuation is small,
there may not be a discernible difference in signal strength.
Q3. What causes the 'Can't allocate memory for SMACKER code' error
A3. It means the machine ran out of memory trying to get
room to load the .smk (smack) file from the CD-ROM. You will need
use the boot disk method, or somehow make more memory available.
The amount of low, or conventional, DOS memory is not important, as
long as there is some for the sound card buffers. Total memory
free is important, so removing memory managers such as QEMM or
EMM386, disk caches such as SMARTDRV, and RAM disks such as
RAMDRIVE can free up memory. Fast Attack has its own protected
mode interface, so all you really need is HIMEM.SYS to control the
Q4. How do you get the TASM's to work? What's the use of
having them if you have 15 minute old solutions?
A4. We probably made a mistake even loading the anti-ship variant
of the Tomahawk in Fast Attack. In fact, TASM's haven't been
carried by submarines for quite some time because of the difficulty
in getting real time targeting. The submarines grew to hate the
TASM because they would have to spend hours at periscope depth
communicating with either aircraft or getting into a data link with
a battle group in order to get targeting data. This means that
they have lost their stealth and might as well be surface ships or
aircraft! So, the submarines don't do it, although they can. The
Harpoon is just as capable a missile at the ranges a submarine can
manage with its onboard sensors and a whole lot cheaper! You can
use the TASM, however, provided that you get 1) either two
satellite position reports; OR, 2) a MASTER number on the AO map.
The later means that you have satellite data AND local sensor
contact. The course and speed from those two observations will be
used to generate an "estimated position" (hopefully, the target
didn't change course or speed) so the TASM has a better, but not
good, chance. We have actually been able to hit bad guys with
TASMs, but it is not worth the work. I think we'll take them out if
we do an upgrade on this game.
Q5. Why does the crew talk all over each other? One second the
sonar guy will be telling me of a new contact, then the helmsmen
A5. This was done on purpose! The control room of a submarine has
many different communications circuits which are just like
intercoms and are called "announcing systems" and given an "MC"
designation. In general, the lower numbered MC overrides, or has
priority over, a bigger numbered MC circuit. The exception is the
4MC, or emergency reporting system, which has the highest priority
of all. The 4MC is like the "911" for a submarine crew member.
All stations on a particular MC can hear the other stations on the
same MC, but not those on another. Except the control room, which
can hear them all! For example, the Maneuvering room (7MC) has no
way of knowing that the torpedo room (21 MC) or the sonar
supervisor (27MC) is using that circuit, so he just talks. In the
control room, the Officer of the Deck and Captain hear them all!
Its the same as trying to listen to two or three radio channels at
the same time. This, in our opinion, adds to the authenticity and
to the "tension" that builds has you get closer to the attack.
Q6. Is it possible to load portions of the game onto the HD for
A6. Yes, See the readme.wri file for details (not the readme.txt -
it doesn't have the same information).
Q7. Why do all tracks start out at 10,000 yards and 10 knots?
A7. The default solution is ALWAYS 10,000 yards, speed 10 knots,
with a course that points directly at you (i.e. reciprocal of the
bearing). This was built into the real-world Fire Control to
support the "snapshot" procedure, a situation where you suddenly
gain contact and want to get a torpedo in the water like NOW! In
the "REAL" mode of Fast Attack we try to emulate all the systems as
accurately as possible.
Q8. Are there some tips you can give for getting a solution using
the Fire Control System?
A8. Yes, here are some that might help. Let's start with some
basics: If you are playing in EASY mode, the solution should
already be very close - within 5-10% and you should really not need
to tweak it. In STD mode the error increases to about 25%, and is
enough to cause a miss if you don't "polish it" a bit. In REAL
mode, the solution is just the default solution (see
Question/Answer #7). It is not likely to be anywhere close to the
real answer. Here are some more tips:
1) Unless the contact is very WIDE on the sonar screen, it is
not likely to be 10,000 yards away. It is probably
considerably further away. You will learn that older ships are
noisy and can be heard at quite a distance, newer or better
maintained ships are quieter. If the ship is on the surface,
check to see if you are on the same side of the layer. If not,
and you still have him, he might be close. Look at the cross
layer attenuation value. 6.0 db halves the range of detection.
Since you seldom know anything about the contact initially,
move the range out to 20,000 or so. Use the RIGHT mouse button
to make the change faster.
2) The default 10 knots is a good first guess. After you get a
classification, you can make a better guess. Merchants, for
example, don't get paid by the hour, so they will be moving
faster. Tankers, and BIG merchants can do 18-20 knots. Older
ones 12-14. Patrol craft usually "sprint and drift"; speeding
up to 30+ knots to reposition for another sonar search, than
slowing to 5-10 knots to listen. While you're waiting for sonar
to classify the contact, use the COURSE knob (again use the
RIGHT mouse button) to get the line as straight as possible.
What we want to do is get as much curvature out as possible,
even if the dots move at an angle from the center.
3) After using CSE to get the line straight, adjust RANGE to
get it vertical. You will have to iterate this process. As
soon as you get it reasonably vertical, press ENTER. I'll
explain why in a minute. Now speed up and turn across the line
of sight. (i.e. If the contact was on your starboard side,
turn right to get him on the port side; or vice versa) Turn at
least 60 degrees. As you get close to the end of the turn,
slow down again. You want to speed up during the turn to get
the ship to turn faster. You want to slow back down to be sure
the bearing dots are as accurate as possible. If your original
solution was good, the dots will continue to be vertical. But
this is not likely. The range is probably the bad value now.
Adjust to get back vertical. If the dotted line shows a sharp
"break" rather than a curve, it is likely the contact has
"zigged" (i.e. either changed course or speed). If you suspect
that a zig has occurred, press CLR to erase all the points
prior to the zig; those are worthless. If you make a habit of
pressing ENTER frequently, you can easily delete only the bad
points. If you are remiss, you will end up having to delete
several "good" dots in order to get all the dots straight. It
is more important to have the LAST (newest) 10 or so dots
straight and vertical, than the oldest ones.
4) Watch for target zigs. If the target changes course, all old
dots are worthless. The CLEAR button allows you to delete all
the dots collected above the horizontal time line which moves
to the last dot when the ENTER key is pressed. This is why it
is important to press ENTER each time you get a dot stack that
is straight. Then if you leave the screen and return and the
dots are streaming to the left or right, you can press CLEAR
and start the whole process again.
5) The key to getting a solution "good enough" to shoot on
really depends on getting the range. You *CAN'T* get the range
unless you are either very lucky or you change course about
every ten to twelve minutes.
6) Keep Own ship speed under 15 knots except when turning.
High ship speeds cause the bearings to be less accurate. When
it comes time to change course, go to the helm, increase speed
to STANDARD, click in the new course. Go back and resume
stacking. When the helmsmen reports STEADY, go back to the
helm and SLOW DOWN to 5-7 knots. (The speed boost gets the
ship turned quickly; you can use FULL for even better response,
but you better get the speed off or you may cavitate and give
away your presence.)
7) You can use the periscope without using the ACTIVE BSY
screen by "guesstimating" the range. Assume the ship is 100
feet tall. Then 1 division in 6x yields a guesstimate of 8000
yds. If the target is a small escort, he might be only 60
feet, so the same 1 division is .6 (60/100) times the 8000 or
4800 yards. Return to the BSY Passive and adjust the range to
8) After a while, you can use the width of the sonar trace to
guess the range. The width of the display is directly
proportional to the SNR (Signal to Noise Ratio) of the contact.
9) Don't use active sonar. Don't go fast. Or, you'll find
yourself under attack!
10) Time acceleration works against you when you're learning.
The dots show up faster, but you don't have enough time to think
about what to do. Try to picture the target. The dot offset
from the center line is the ERROR between truth and what you
think he's doing. So if the dots are moving left, then your
solution must change the motion across the line of sight.
Q9. Why can we only save the game between missions?
A9. The decision to not allow saving and restoring the game at any
instant was made solely on technical reasons. The shear complexity
of saving the state of all the screens, sub-systems, and engines
was daunting and would have required major design changes. In
retrospect, because of all the comments received, this might seem
to be a poor decision, but the decision process for all features in
this game was always biased toward realism, accuracy, and
authenticity. This means we made it behave as close to the way it
really works rather than the way Hollywood or fictional novels have
depicted it. Making the player stand by his decision on a mission
and play it through to completion and evaluation seemed like the
more accurate way.
Q10. Why can't I clear a contact from a Tracker in Passive
A10. This situation only occurs in EASY mode. Targets with a
primary or secondary "sink" objective are automatically assigned to
available ATF trackers. These should be the first targets to be
fired upon. As these targets are sunk and removed from the game,
ATF trackers become available and are then automatically refilled
with other targets having a primary or secondary "sink" objective.
So as long as there are more "sink" objectives than trackers, you
will not be able to clear a tracker. This also provides a nice hint
to the player: Sonar contacts that are NOT auto-assigned when there
is a tracker available are therefore not an objective, and need not
be attacked (and probably should NOT be attacked).
Q11. How can I change ordered course, speed, or depth faster
than one increment at a time?
A11. By using the RIGHT mouse button on the arrows in the helm
screen or WLR9 screen, depth and course can be changed by 10
feet/degrees, and speed by 5 knots.
Q12. How can I use the information of the WLR9 Acoustic Intercept
Receiver to advantage?
A12. Active sonar normally searches on a selected range scale of
typically 4000 yards, 10000 yards, or 20000 yards. This means the
sonar will send out another sound pulse after sufficient time has
elapsed for the previous pulse to go out to the end of the search
range and return. The speed of sound in water is about 4800
feet/sec (1600 yards/sec). Therefore it takes 2 seconds for the
sound to go out to 1600 yards AND return. So for every second that
elapses between the outgoing pulse and hearing the return echo, the
range is 800 yards. When the sonar operator hears a return echo,
he probably would do two things: shift to the shortest possible
range scale to allow him to get more frequent range information on
the target, and switch his sonar to the "range gate" mode. In the
"range gate" mode, the sonar automatically send out another pulse
as soon as the echo is heard. These characteristics can be useful.
If the contact stays in a long range scale, it is likely that he
does not have contact on you. On the other hand, if the contact
should start to range gate, you can be 95% sure he has contact and
is moving in for an attack. The WLR9 interval can tell you the
range ONLY IF THE CONTACT IS RANGE GATING. Multiply the displayed
interval by 800 to get the range in yards. You can then enter that
range into Fire Control to initiate a preemptive attack.
Q13. What is the difference between the satellite broadcast and the
satellite recon? Aren't they both from the same satellite?
A13. In the game, a new submarine broadcast begins at 5, 20, 35,
and 50 minutes past every hour. On VLF, the broadcast repeats over
and over for the entire 15 minutes. So if your floating wire is
exposed for long enough during a broadcast period, you will be able
to receive any traffic for your sub. The periscope has a built in
antenna that can receive the broadcast via UHF satellite. This
broadcast emanates from a communications satellite in
geo-synchronous orbit about 22,000 miles in space. This broadcast
method is NOT repeated: it is sent only once EXACTLY at the time
specified. If your antenna is not exposed, you will miss it. The
reconnaissance satellite is a "spy" satellite that will pass over
your area of operations at the times specified in the mission
orders. This satellite is in a low polar orbit about 150 miles in
space. This satellite will photograph all vessels that it can see.
Cloud cover or smoke may prevent a vessel from being seen, and, of
course, submarines and submerged or very small objects will also
not be detected. This imagery will be radioed to an intelligence
processing center as soon as the satellite is within range of the
station. Analysts will interpret the data and prepare a message
with identification and estimates of course and speed. In the
game, this processing takes fifteen minutes to complete before the
message is available for placing on the next submarine broadcast.
EXAMPLES: Satellite photos are taken at 7:05. The processing takes
until 7:20, and since a broadcast starts at 20 after it will just
make it onto the 7:20 broadcast. This is the quickest this series
of steps could execute. A picture taken at 7:25 wouldn't finish
processing until 7:40, and would not be transmitted until the next
broadcast at 7:50.
Q14. My game will occasionally "lock up": The mouse will move,
but I can't click on any icons or buttons to perform any action.
A14. In our experience, this is almost always caused by a sound
card not being set up quite right. When running soundset to
configure the sound card for Fast Attack, do not bypass the tests.
The digital device test consists of the diving alarm, which is two
"AooGa" sounds played in succession. If you only hear one, or if
either gets clipped, then your sound card is not set correctly. The
auto detection actually looks at the environment variable BLASTER
that most cards set to be "Soundblaster compatible", so if this is
wrong or not present, then the detection may not work correctly.
Probably the biggest draw back of autodetection under WIN95 is that
the parameters that WIN95 is using, are not accessible to the
soundset program. Another factor that may help alleviate the
problem is the amount of time the sound system gets to play and
refill its buffers. The command line switch /SOSINTRATExxx can be
used to adjust this value. The default is 125, but
ProAudioSpectrum boards will operate with this value as low as 50,
while the AWE32 may require a value as large as 250 or more.
Q15. What is the purpose of the blue line that extends outward
from the torpedo on the BSY screen in the Torpedo Mode?
A15. There are two lines drawn from the torpedo's position dot.
The blue line represents the best course for the torpedo based on
the current solution. The yellow line is the steer cursor. If the
target zigs (changes course or speed radically), you may have to
update your solution using either the Plot screen of the BSY
Passive Mode. After updating the solution, return to the Torpedo
Mode and notice the blue line has probably moved away from the
yellow steer cursor. This means the torpedo's course should be
adjusted. Using the center knob, click either right or left as
appropriate to move the yellow steer cursor on top of the blue
ideal course line and then press the SEND button. The torpedo will
turn to the new course.
Q16. After I launch a torpedo, the yellow search cone passes
right by the target without acquiring. What's wrong?
A16. The problem is that your solution was not perfectly accurate.
But don't worry; it doesn't have to be perfect to get a hit. The
Mark48 is a fairly smart weapon with good detection capabilities
and will overcome often large errors in your solution. About the
only error it can't overcome is in the case where your solution is
too long in range. In this case, the torpedo will not enable
(start searching) until it is past the target, and thus miss. It
is always better to under estimate the range. You should also pay
attention to the range to the torpedo when it does acquire the
target since this can be used to update your solution in case you
need to shoot another weapon. As long as the wire is good, the
upper left display of the Torpedo Mode display will show the range
from ownship to the torpedo. Note this value when the weapon
acquires and update the range using the Passive Mode to this new
value. Correct the course of the other torpedo if necessary.
Q17. Why do some torpedoes appear to shutdown within 1 minute of
A17. The Mark48 torpedo uses a fuel that contains its own oxidizer
so it can burn underwater. This fuel is hard to ignite and needs a
high heat source to get it started. So, in order for the torpedo
to get up to speed, it has a small solid fuel booster that burns
for about 60 seconds which is usually enough to get the liquid fuel
burning. However, sometimes it is not enough, and the solid fuel
runs out without achieving "crossover" and the torpedo will
shutdown. This happens about 5% of the time and is done to add
realism. This is why you should always have a backup weapon ready
Q18. Sometimes I notice that the Mission Log reports a Harpoon
or Tomahawk missile as having shutdown. What happened?
A18. Missiles are not 100% perfect in real life, nor are they in the
game. All missiles are given a 88% chance of overall success.
This means they may shutdown on a fuel system failure, or maybe the
homer won't work 12% of the time. And remember, just because the
odds of a heads or tails is 50%, doesn't mean you can't flip heads
5 times in a row.
Q19. Are there any "cheats" in the game?
A19. Yes, there are three cheats that can be enabled separately
with command line switches. Command line switches can be entered
in several ways. You can edit fast.bat to make them permanent, or,
if you are running from WIN95, you can add them to the COMMAND LINE
field of the PIF. Of course, in DOS you can just add them to the
"fast" line when you start the game (i.e. type FAST
/Switch). The first cheat allows you to get a perfect
solution on a track in the Plot screen. Here's how it works:
First enable the cheat with /PLOTSOLN command line switch. Then,
when you are in the PLOT screen, select a track and press ALT-F5.
The exact solution will be displayed. To use it, press SEND. The
second cheat allows you to look at the "big picture" and see all
the ships, aircraft, mines, weapons, etc. and their motion. To
enable this you use the /TEDISPLAY switch. Then, while playing any
scenario, press ALT-~ (Alt key and tilde key) to activate the
display. Use the ICON bar buttons to exit the display. It is not
a good idea to have time accelerated when in this screen, as this
will cause some missiles to miss. The third cheat isn't all that
useful, but it allows you to play a sequence of missions without
being penalized for failure to complete primary objectives. This
switch allowed testing the medals and promotions aspects of the
game without having to plod through every single mission. To use
this, simply enter /SWSGOD as the switch. At the end of a mission,
you will still be rebuked for not accomplishing the primary
objectives, but as soon as the next mission begins, all will be
forgiven. It will then proceed as though you had been perfect.
Q20. Why do missions have time limits?
A20. Each mission was given a time limit as part of the overall
scoring plan, and to add impetus and excitement. This is part of
modeling life in the military. You just aren't allowed to take
forever to get that report done, or, in this case, sink the bad
guys or find the mines. In reality, if you took too long to find
the mines, as an a example, ships could be sunk because of the
Q21. During Battle Sets, when are the replenishments scheduled?
A21. Replenishment occurs PRIOR to the start of the indicated
mission in the following table:
Persian Gulf 4, 7
Sea of Japan 4, 7, 10, 14, 18
Mediterranean 4, 6, 9, 11, 14
GIUK 5, 7, 9
Q22. What has to be done in order to complete a Secondary
objective of "plotting" a target?
A22. In order to successfully get credit for a PLOT objective, the
following must be done:
1) Classify the target on sonar. To do this you must of course
have sonar contact and then press CLASSIFY and wait until the
target is classified. How long this takes is a function of
signal strength and time (i.e. strong signals classify
quickly, weak signals take longer); AND
2) Obtain a solution that is within 20% in range, course, and
Q23. When attempting to launch Tomahawk missiles, I get stuck in
the VLS screen with "1 Away" displaying over and over at the bottom
of the screen. What's going on here?
A23. Unfortunately, this is a bug that got by our QA testing. This
only occurs when you have SPEECH set to OFF in the PREFERENCES
screen, so the work around is to be sure that SPEECH is set to ON
when launching Tomahawks.
Q24. Why can't I get more information from Sonar, such as Turn
Count, Blade Rate, and speed or aspect changes on targets?
A24. The modern sonar is designed using advanced signal processing
that allows detection of ships at very long ranges. Detections
display visually as a brightening on the CRT display. This allows
the display of many contacts. While there is ONE audio channel
available to actually listen to a contact, turn counts, blade rates
and such are usually measured using a frequency domain display
which, because of its complexity, was not included in the game.
Q25. Why can't we control the settings on the Mark48 Torpedoes
to take advantage of the thermal layers, and such?
A25. We decided that allowing the player to chose settings for his
torpedoes did not add much to the game. For any given situation,
there is an optimum choice for running depth, etc. that the player
would have to learn, and once learned, would be used consistently.
So what we did, was to automatically make the optimum selections:
the Mark48 always transits to the enable point on the opposite side
of the layer from the contact, and goes to the best search depth
for the type of target.
Q26. Why does the animation show the 688 with fairwater planes,
when the 688I class doesn't have them?
A26. Seven 688 class submarines were built that had the vertical
launch system and fairwater planes, so there is no inaccuracy here.
The latest 688 class, however, do have the planes moved to the bow
for better under ice capability.
Q27. Are there helicopters or other aircraft in the scenarios?
What is there capability?
A27. Yes, several missions have helicopters or aircraft. In some
cases, these are hostile, while in other situations, they are
friendly. Regardless of their alliance, the aircraft are usually
equipped with active and passive sonobuoys and a very effective
search radar that is optimized to spot a periscope. The patrol
aircraft (BEAR, P-3C, etc.) will carry air dropped torpedoes, and
harpoon missiles, while the helicopters will carry no more than two
Q28. After I've been sunk, the mission log says that I was hit
by an SS-N-14 SSM. If I'm submerged, how can a surface-to-surface
missile hit me?
A28. The SSM (surface-to-surface missile)
designation is generic to any missile launched from a ship at or
under the surface at another ship at or under the surface. An
SS-N-14 is a long range Anti-Submarine Weapon carried by some
Destroyers, Cruisers and Frigates.
Q29. Why is the range to a contact that is displayed in the
sonar screen always so far off? Can't the sonar operators get
A29. The range to a contact, no matter where it is displayed, is
always the current Fire Control solution's range. This means that
depending on the Difficulty Level (see Q/A #7), it is no better
than what you, the player, have entered. If you haven't changed it
using either the PLOT or the BSY PASSIVE, then it will just
"generate" from the initial solution. One of the basic principles
that must be learned early in the life of both a submarine officer
and sonarman, is that you cannot get a range with any accuracy by
listening. A guess would be just that: a guess. About the only
thing you can say is that a contact with a high bearing rate is
"near", and the concept of "near" depends on what maximum speed
capability you want to give it. On board the submarines, a