USAF A-10s quite possibly the best ground attack aircraft in the world!
I have been reading a lot of comments where players are complaining about how good or bad air power is in Team Yankee. While I admit that I am no expert I would like to think that I may have some good ideas on how to get the most out of the Fly boys on the battlefield. So the big question is should you take air power and if you do take it, what should you take and how do you use them?
Air power is not all singing and all dancing, it can be very powerful but it has limitations. Despite what we have all heard since Gulf War I, Air Power will not win a battle for you. However, Air Power can still be a massive force multiplier you may just need to adjust your thinking about how you use it.
Air can be for used as a weapon
Iraqi tank hit with a precision air strike
Or as a means to transport troops all over the battlefield.
USMC Riflemen inbound!
I see air power broken into 3 distinct groups. They are Fast Air, Attack Helicopters, and Transport Helicopters.
Fast Air and Attack Helicopters can be further broken down based on the weapons they have. I consider these sub-groups to be: Suppression of Enemy Air Defence or SEAD and Close Air Support or CAS for Fast Air and SEAD and Close Combat Attack or CCA for Attack Helicopters.
EA F4 conducting SEAD with a Maverick
SEAD is done by special aircraft supported by jamming and HARM weapons which are designed to suppress the air defence by targeting the radars and launchers, however for this article SEAD will mean how you deal with the enemies air defence from a distance. CAS/CCA is how you attack the enemy from up close. I know that it is a combat team scale game but it might make an interesting addition to Team Yankee v2 to have EA aircraft as well.
The Hind is the only helicopter that can attack and transport at the same time. The Lynx can do both but not at the same time so depending on how you want to use it, read the section that applies accordingly. Stormtrooper Nick is going to do a couple of articles on how to conduct an Air Assault and how to defend against one in the coming months.
A few key points to consider when building your Army with Air Power:
- When you only have one platoon of tanks and your enemies whole army fires all their anti-tank weapons at them, they are likely going to be destroyed quickly. The same is true about your air power, if there is only a few they won't last long.
- All platoons determine if they are in good spirits in the same way, so if you only have two machines and you lose one they are no longer in good spirits and must test for morale. This has has led me to believing that bigger platoons are better.
- They are taken as part of your support (with the exception of Attack Helicopters for the US Armoured Cav who can take a flight of choppers as part of their formation). So losing them won't affect formation morale.
A few key points to consider when employing your Army's Air Power:
- Fast Air is called in on a 4+ roll each turn with Harriers coming in on a 3+ so you won't be able to count on them all the time.
- Your helicopters are on the board all the time once they have been deployed. Where you deploy them should be influenced initially by if they are SEAD or CAS/CCA.
The type of aircraft doesn't determine the role as much as the weapons it is carrying. For instance the US Cobra has TOW missiles, a chain gun, and a single shot salvo. This means it can perform SEAD and then move forward and conduct CCA as required. A simply way to think about it is any weapon that lets you shoot from a long way away (read Maverick, TOW, HOT) is meant to conduct SEAD initially.
All aircraft can support your SEAD efforts by having the platoon commander act as a spotter for your artillery which can then provide further suppression of the enemies dedicated AA.
Any weapon that you need to use up close is for CAS. It is absolutely critical that you conduct SEAD before you conduct CAS. Otherwise you will have CAS or CCA aircraft getting hammered by a still functioning air defence umbrella.
Fast Air, SEAD is performed by two Fast Air units the A-10s and the SU-25s. Like I've said before both are also equipped with weapons that allow them do conduct CAS as well.
US A-10s patrol the skies near the East German border
SU-25 Frogfoot bringing the pain!
Like the A-10's Maverick Missile the Kh-25 is perfect for engaging enemy dedicated AA initially from distant. The Frogfoot can then move up to conduct CAS or continue to use the Kh-25 against hardened armoured targets.
West German Tornadoes swoop in unopposed to conduct a CAS strike
The Tornadoes is very cheap with an AT 8, Fire Power 3+ Salvo weapon! Excellent for taking out massed enemy armour, but you will need something to conduct SEAD first.
Harriers able to get close to Leo1s once the AA umbrella has been knocked out
Harriers coming in on a 3+ is a massive advantage and with their AT 8 against top armour and 3+ firepower they are great at taking out large numbers of enemy tanks.
The USMC Harriers are almost identical to their British cousins but have one less AT and way less Fire Power. However, they are a point an aircraft cheaper to buy.
Attack Helicopters, SEAD are preformed by the West German BO-105s, and Lynx TOWs. US Cobras and the USSR Hinds can do both SEAD and CCA. All of them will need to use their long range guided missiles and be positioned in a manner to take advantage of the hunter-killer rule as they take out enemy dedicated AA when conducting SEAD. .
PAHs having conducted SEAD has started conducting CAS
HOT missile has a great range to allow the small helicopters to hide and knock out dedicated AA before calling in the Tornadoes to conduct CAS against the large armoured formations
Attack Helicopters, CCA can be done by the US Cobra and the USSR Hind when they move closer and engage the enemy with their rockets, or Gatling guns.
Filling enemy tank crews with dread the mighty Cobra (bonus points if you said it was a Super Cobra, you're right)
The TOW missile although not as good as the Maverick can still take out dedicated AA and then reposition for flank shots on heavy armour as required or advance and conduct CAS with rocket strikes. Don't forget to take advantage of the Hunter-Killer special rule.
Feared by the Afghan's for good reason are the Hind gunships!
Like the Cobra the Hind can engage from far off and conduct SEAD and then advance and conduct CCA. Unlike the Cobra it does not have the Hunter-Killer rule but it can carry 2 stands of infantry. Those stands can capture objectives, making them a triple threat.
Transport Helicopters are the US Twin Huey, the British Lynx and the USSR Hind. They can carry 4, 3, and 2 stands respectively. The real advantage these machine provide is the threat of being able to drop infantry anywhere on the battlefield in 2 turns. This forces your opponent to hold forces for rear area security that they would otherwise be able to commit to destroying your forces and taking objectives.
US transport helicopters dropping off USMC riflemen to reinforce an objective.
The Lynx literally has no guns so it is important that the transport helicopters have support from either troops already on the ground or from other air units.
Twin Huey being escorted by a Cobra
The Hind is able to provide it's own escort but does so at the cost of passenger capacity. Air Power is that it can be devastating when used with some finesse.
Should you take air power? Yes. The models are just way to awesome not too.
The key points to remember regardless of the nation you playing with, are:
- If you are going to take air power you will likely want to take more than one platoon. So plan on both air planes and helicopters.
- You will need to make sure you have something that can conduct SEAD. Make sure that you are targeting the enemies dedicated AA above the stock APCs and heavy armour.
- Position SEAD air platforms in a way to limit AA return fire and conduct the engagements from maximum range so the luck .50 cal shot can't happen.
- Have more than a platoon of 2 machines to stop the aircraft from breaking after the first plane is shot down.
If you're playing Americans either the A-10 or the Cobra can do both SEAD and CAS/CCA. If you want to take the Harriers I recommend something to support them for SEAD. The M109s that have the range to hit the whole table, use them.
The USSR is the same way with the Frogfoot and the Hind both being able to do SEAD and CAS/CCA. The USSR has Carnations, Acacias, and Hail rockets all of which are useful for SEAD.
For the West Germans and the British the Attack Helicopters are needed to conduct SEAD while the Fast Air conducts CAS. The SEAD can be supported by the M109s and their MLRS for the Germans and the Abbots for the British.
I hope this article has given you some ideas on how to incorporate Air Power into your army. Stay tuned for future tactics articles from Stormtrooper Nick on Air Assaults!