Review By: Al Giovetti
Puzzle Solutions:
Making the Game:

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Fast Attack Hints (FAQ)

    Q1. What is difference between the TB-16 and the TB-23 towed array sonar?
    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 message?
    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 A20 line.

    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 interrupts him!!!
    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 faster access?
    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
    the guesstimate.

    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 Sonar?
    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. What's wrong?
    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 launch?
    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 to go.

    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<enter>). 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 delay.

    Q21. During Battle Sets, when are the replenishments scheduled? A21. Replenishment occurs PRIOR to the start of the indicated mission in the following table:
    Campaign --- Missions
    Persian Gulf --- 4, 7
    Sea of Japan --- 4, 7, 10, 14, 18
    Adriatic --- 4
    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 torpedoes.

    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 better information?
    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 sonarman's guess of range will only erroneously bias and slowdown the plotting team's effort to get an analytical solution.

    Q30. Why can't I always get an active range from sonar? My solution looks good and the range is under 20,000 yards, but I can't get a return on active sonar.
    A30. There are several possibilities. First, your solution may not be as accurate as you think. If you haven't confirmed your solution with radical course changes (see Q/A #8), this is probably the most likely reason. Second, the contact may be "cross-layer" and the combined cross layer loss to the outbound ping and then to the return echo might be reducing the sound level below what can be heard. Third, the contact may have a low reflectivity, either because of its aspect (bow or stern gives less surface area than broad on the beam), or because of an anachoic coating which absorbs the sound rather than reflecting it. Of course, you could have a combination of these reasons.

    Q31. Immediately after starting the game, I get a report that the ship is cavitating and that I'm about to run aground. What's going on?
    A31. We can't say for sure, but we were able to duplicate this symptom on a computer that did not have a math coprocessor. Fast Attack! requires the math coprocessor that is part of all Intel 486DX and Pentium chips. Some "486" chips do not have the coprocessor, such as the Intel 486SX series, and some from AMD or Cyrix. The MSD utility that is part of DOS can tell you if you have a Math Coprocessor installed.


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