After climbing to alititude Flight Lieutenant Crump, Katipo Blue Leader, spotted the Japanese formation emerging from a bank of clouds below the flight, heading for the large RN Naval Base on the northern side of the island. Two vics of sleek twin engined Betty bombers and an escort of three nimble Zeros. Another section of Zeroes could have, but fortunately for the Kiwi's, did not appear.
"Tally Ho Katipos....remember its the bombers we're after, and try not to tangle with the fighter escort" ordered Crump as he watched Green Section dive down, lining up for a pass on the leading bombers.
However the Zeros soon spot the Britsh fighters and rapidly close with them before they can reach the lumbering Bettys. Kapito Green One, Flying Officer Brooker, soon got well ahead of the other fighters. Much to Brooker's surprise the Zero leader attempts a head on pass. Both pilots fire furiously but at a closing speed of over 600mph Brooker flashes by unscathed (I rolled 1's for both aircraft....).
By the time he lines up on the first vic of Bettys Brooker realises he will overshoot, so he flies onto the second formation and opens fire on the leading bomber, which explodes spectacularly as his tracers hit home. Meanwhile, far behind, his two inexperinced wingmen, Pilot Officer Napier and Sgt Tucker try to manuver to avoid the approaching Zeros. At the front of the formation Green Section attempts to intercept the leading Vic, with F/L Crump well ahead of the others.
The Zeros do their best to run interference against the British fighters using their superior speed and agility to attack Blue 2 and 3 as they continue on towards Green Section who are now finally approaching the leading bombers. Sgt Tucker's aircraft takes damage and he turns for home, streaming smoke.
F/L Crump cuts down the leading Betty of the first Japanese bomber vic, but as he dives away the gunners from the other bombers open up with everything they have and Crump's Buffalo takes damage. However his two wingmen, Sgt's Kent and Tutahi, are now faced with two angry Zero's....
One slips onto Sgt Tutahi's tail and opens fire, damaging the Buffalo. The other tries a high deflection shot at Sgt Kent but somehow misses. Meanwhile the third Zero senses an easy kill as he lines up for a shot on the fleeing Sgt Tucker but only manages to damage him again (Aircraft damaged for a third time are destroyed automatically). With lots of energy left (rolled a 6) Zero B manages to get into an attacking position on Brooker at the rear of the fight but misses.
As the remaining Bettys drone onwards their target the three Zeros do all they can to hold off the British fighters. Sgt Tutahi throws his Buffalo into a dive as he tries to get Zero C off his tail but he can't shake him, and more rounds impact the wounded Buffalo, damaging it further (top), however Sgt Kent, attempting to assist Sgt Tutahi, fires a quick defection burst at Zero A as it crosses his path and is somewhat surprised to see the Japanese fighter explode as his 50-cal rounds impact on target.
Meanwhile at the back of the fight Zero B manages to get on F/L Crump's tail, but the veteran pilot is able to break away without further damage.
At that stage I decided that the remaining Katipo aircraft would break off as the Japanese bombers could exit without any real danger of further interception. I played a couple more turns till all three damaged Buffalos had managed to exit the board but nothing further happened of any significance.
The Bettys went in and bombed the Naval Base target, causing 13 points of damage (a target requires 30 points to be considered to be destroyed so no doubt they will be back). The raid cost the IJN two Bettys and a Zero destroyed while Katipo Squadron lost no pilots but had three aircraft damaged:
F/L Crump - Landed without incident, aircraft repaired overnight
Sgt Tutahi - Landed heavily, aircraft under repair for 4 days
Sgt Tucker - Landed heavily, aircraft sustained Cat 4 damage and is written off.
The Squadron will fly again today, so look out for the next replay soon....