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Tactica Aeronauticus: The Art of Air Support on the Apocalypse Battlefield
Since I have so far seen absolutely nothing on the usage of aircraft, I think that Iíll try my hand at writing a tactica article that will cover as much as is possible. But first, a little background:
Iíve always been an aircraft junkie, since my dad took me to the air shows as a gawking five year old. I have videotapes of several Thunderbird and Blue Angel air shows. Naturally, what you can call an unhealthy obsession has followed me into the 40k gaming world. Iíve therefore seen most types of aircraft used in battle, with the exception of a select few, which are both incredibly rare and incredibly expansive. Alright, enough drivel about myself, onto what you people actually clicked on this thread for.
Keep in mind that this is a work in progress, so if you have anything you feel the urge to state, battle experience, differing viewpoints, etc, please say something. I can take it.
Allow me to state the glaringly obvious for anyone who does not own a copy of IAA or WH40k Apocalypse supplement.
1.Flyers are fragile. The max AV on a flyer is 13, but that is on the inhumanly large and ungodly expensive Tau Manta. Personally, Iíd just gawk at that thing if ever faced with one. However, most are AV 10 all around. This makes them relatively vulnerable to all of the other things that work against AV 10, most notably mid strength multi-shot weaponry, ex. scatter lasers, autocannons, multi-lasers, ion cannons, etc.
2. Flyers are FAST: The average flyer moves much faster than any land vehicle can, with the possible exception of some Eldar vehicles with star engines. While this speed is their greatest strength, allowing them to get in a out in a real hurry, it is also their greatest weakness. Youíre not going to get much more that a few shots in on a ground target before you pass it and have to chance a second run.
3. Flyers have all sorts of special rules attached to them: Look into them and remember them. Rules like interceptor or highly agile or hover can make a tremendous difference on what your flyer can accomplish.
4. Flyers tend to be heavily armed: They carry as much weaponry as your average vehicle, with many of them boasting twin linked weaponry that will allow you to get the most out of your strafing run. They can also fire a great deal of it on the move. A roving flyer or two with a anti-tank weaponry can really make a mess of a carefully laid strategy.
I think that that about covers it for the basic rules. Now Iíve grouped them into several different categories, and each one is slightly different and is suitable for different roles on the battlefield. These categories are: Interceptor/Fighter, Close Support, Transport, and Super-Heavy.
The Interceptor/Fighter Class Aircraft:
These types of aircraft are like Nightwings, Ravens, Thunderbolts, Lightnings, Barracudas, etc. They tend to be armed with mid strength multi shot weapons, and in some cases high powered and twin linked anti tank weaponry. They seem tailored to take out other enemy flyers, and generally do a good job of it. Some of them can also mess up the occasional tank and get away with it, but donít expect miracles from them. They are the cheapest members of your air corps, and are generally the most expendable. Should you succeed in eliminating the enemy aircraft, good targets for strafing runs are isolated formations, as far as possible from the main line and any anti-aircraft you may encounter. Small tank formations are ideal, or random groups of infantry your opponent has forgotten. Either way, pick small bites. Even if these flyers are cheap, most of them are still the cost of an MBT.
This category includes things like Phoenixes, Vultures, Tiger Sharks, etc. They are designed with ground targets in mind, with large numbers of twin linked weapons for blasting units just in front of your main formation. These are the flyers that you call on to take out that bunker that that squad holds, or to push the enemy away from certain small areas. However, remember to take out any anti-aircraft, and donít fly too close to the enemy. They all still have AV-10, and are very vulnerable to massed fire. Keep them moving with your front line and use them to take out those linchpin units that just wonít go down, last tanks, unbroken squads, etc. Choose your targets carefully, youíll only get a handful of chances.
Note: The Vulture has the ability to act much more like a modern day helicopter. I have seen it used to great success in this way, slowly hovering away from and enemy tank formation while taking pot shots at it with a lascannon. As such, you can keep it hovering near your line and use it as a much more permanant fixture.
This is just kind of a general category. This included everything from the Vampire Raider to the Valkyrie, Thunderhawks to Mantas. My vote is that the Valkyrie is the best thing adapted to transport duties in that list. It is reasonably small and nonthreatening, and can quickly unload and move out, or stick around and provide close air support to the squad you dropped. The others are poorly suited to such duties, mostly because they are such large targets and such large point sinks. However, it *is* possible to use Vampires and Thunderhawks as reaction forces, dropping up to thirty people on an objective to ensure it does not fall. This is not recommended, but it is possible.
I honestly have no idea why youíd use a Manta for anything but fluff reasons.
Marauders, Vipers, Mantas, the heavy hitting bombers and massive ships that you call on when you want that titan killed, that tank formation stopped, or that mob of infantry broken. They work as area denial weapons, because wherever they prowl, stuff tends to die fast and die spectacularly, especially in the case of dedicated bombers like the Marauder or the Chaos Helltalon. These are high priority targets for enemy anti-air and aircraft. The good news is that you actually have some armor in these things. The bad news is, they will attract a lot more fire than an interceptor. Possibly the best use when applicable is to keep them as far back as is possible on the board and use their heavy weaponry to kill high priority targets from afar while being better protected by flyer rules.
However, this cannot be done with direct bombers. Marauders and Helltalons tend to take it on the chin in this case. Both need to be near point blank to start meeting their real damage potential. In this case, keep them far away from your units, and donít commit them until you see a prime target. Clustered formations, lonely titans, something that will maximise the potential of the bombs you drop. If you can find your enemyís center or their axis of advance, that is an even better target. But keep these away from your own forces. A bad scatter has the potential to end in tears.
Thatís all for now, Iím tired, and Iíll accpet and suggestions/criticisms.
Sorry that this has taken several weeks to get back to, I was sort of hoping for some comments and advice from certain people that never really showed up...
General Thoughts: Anything worth saying once is worth repeating:
Aircraft are fragile against large amounts of mid strength high shot firepower. Scatter lasers, multi-lasers, heavy bolters, etc, you all know what these are. Avoid then at all costs. That goes triple for anything with an AA mount. I'm not saying completely restrict your movement, just remember that your flyers are fragile, few, and expensive. Use your speed to your advantage.
Part 2: Land Attack Vectors, and how to Choose Them:
Here's the parts most people have been waiting for. Strafing runs, due to aircraft rules, will be long, strait, and very fast. At most, barring the "impossible maneuvers" special rule, you'll probably have two rounds of firing. This means that most of the time you'll want to go across the board, lengthwise, blasting at two separate targets. Not the best idea. It will put you in line for multiple rounds of return fire, and probably succeed in damaging your flyer. Therefore, come in at roughly a 30 degree angle, just out of range of your opponents heavy weaponry. Make sure that you remember to subtract 12" from their range. That should give you one round of relatively free fire. A few random shots won't accomplish much. As for targets, pick and choose carefully. Hit side armor, or flanks if at all possible. Close support aircraft are much more useful going against infantry squads and super heavies than they are against single tanks. Knocking off hardpoints or void shields is an acceptable goal.
If you can, choose targets in a strait line. It makes things easier to calculate, and if you're turning in the middle of a strafing run, you've probably done something wrong, unless you're turing in a way that puts you in line with more targets while minimizing return fire, as in away from enemy lines.
Part 3: Air Attack, Flank, Close, Intercept, Defense:
This is the role that small fighters were meant for, and what close support aircraft can do. The trick here is to be the second fighter on the board. Since fighters are allowed to move however far they want, you can clear tremendous amounts of distances with them. This translates to massive moves at the enemy aircraft, followed by a single frantic round of shooting. The ideal here is to kill your opponent, or barring that, get to a place where you're behind them. That forces them to react to your move, and gives you the opportunity to establish the initiative.
Of course, those canny chaps amongst the readers will realize that from almost any point, an enemy aircraft can do one of two things:
1. Continue off the board. This allows them to escape any ensuing fire. Either follow them off, or use a round of free movement and fire to your advantage.
2. Close the distance with you. This means that you've lost the initiative to your opponent, once you move in the ensuing turn, he can some up behind you. If this is the case, then simply go off the board and come back again.
That's all for now again, anyone think I missed anything?