Planes and Choppers in Team Yankee – more than just hot air?

Today Lee Long takes a look at the case for investing in the ‘Air’ part of the  AirLand Battle  doctrine!

Anyone playing plenty of Team Yankee games will probably have noticed a lack of air units being used in the game, particularly strike aircraft.  I’ve heard a variety of reasons for this, such as:

  • Anti-Aircraft (AA) fire completely dominates Air assets
  • the 4+ arrival roll is too risky to spend points on (for Strike assets)
  • They are too easy to kill / too many things can fire AA (especially at Choppers)

Right about now, there’s going to be a really annoying beeping noise in the cockpit – mostly coming from the back seat!

The above points are all very valid, and I find myself rarely taking Air for my own reasons (I run US, and find the points cost of A-10s far too high to fit in my usual lists).  However, I did run a list using AH-1 Cobras and A-10 Warthogs instead of my Abrams platoon in a recent tournament and it gave me pause for thought.

Roll full Air Power or not at all

The first thing right off the bat.  If you’re going air, you need to go both feet in.  Copters and Strike Aircraft are needed.  In addition, where possible you’ll be wanting some artillery capable of destroying light tank AA units.

So…

US

4 x AH-1 Cobras, 4 x A-10, Transport Hueys for spotting (see our Stripes product preview for the new units!)

Brits 

4 x Lynx TOW, 4 x Harriers, Transport Lynx for spotting

West Germans 

4 x PAH, 4 x Tornados

Russian

4-6 x SU-25, 4-12 x Mil-24 Hinds

East German

4-6 x SU-25, 4 x Mil-24 Hinds

So why take Air?

To answer that question, we need to look at what makes Air units unique and critique their Pros and Cons.  To do so we’ll break them down into 4 groups.

Long Range Choppers (Cobra, Lynx, PAH)

Dan Ibekwe’s Cobras provide overwatch against Roger Whittams East Germans

Pros

+ Hunter Killer & Scout – as long as you have cover, the AA reaction fire will need 6s to hit you before you fire for the first time.  Make that initial Alpha strike count.

+ Range – 48″ range means you can sit beyond a lot of non-dedicated AA fire (such as AA machine guns and shorter range AA systems such as the Shilka)

+ Altitude – your targets can only benefit from tall terrain within 4″ of them and on the line of sight, greatly increasing hit rates or forcing your opponent to hug certain terrain pieces.  If their AA hides in tall terrain, they are on +1 to hit any Air targets, not just your Hunter-Killer units…

+ Spotting for Artillery – your platoon leader can spot for artillery if it doesn’t move.  As aircraft can see everything on the battlefield, this means you can target ANYTHING at all with your artillery, including AA assets hiding in the middle of woods / behind buildings.  Also, the targets won’t get the +1 to hit from being out of sight of the spotter.  It should be noted that Transport choppers are brilliant for this role also as it means you’re not losing an AT shot even if you don’t gain cover or concealement)

+ Can be placed in ambush if defending – very useful for ensuring survivability and forcing your opponent to think a little more about deployment and first moves.

Cons

– Very poor save – a 5+ save isn’t going to protect from any kind of sustained fire.  If you get caught in the open or under dedicated AA fire after you have fired, you are going to lose your assets quickly.

– Can be shot by everything and their dog – Infantry can gun you down, and in the enemies turn they can bring you down with Missiles.  BMP hordes have a lot of missiles…  Thankfully the anti-air capability of the humble 2″ mortar have at least been FAQ’d out of existence!

– Move or Fire – Moving your assets to get away from AA ranges or place for side armour shots etc. is going to cost you a round of firing.  On the plus side, it will allow you to benefit from your HK / Scout rules again.

Long Range Strike Aircraft – (A-10 Warthog / SU-25 Frogfoot)

Definitely going to be some noise complaints from that village

Pros

+ Placed and removed in your turn – this is simply massive.  you have the run of the field with full access to your weapons.  You can place every time to maximise your kill potential whilst limiting AA fire.

+ invulnerability to units – Infantry cannot shoot Strike Aircraft.  Also, a lot of light vehicles have Anti-Helicopter but not AA.  The BMP-1 and BMP-2 both fall into this category.

+ Range and AT of missiles – You will generally be targeting the enemy’s MBTs, which will be spearheading their army.  With this in mind, you can usually place your planes beyond the range of all AA – dedicated or otherwise – apart from Guided AA missile systems.  Moreover, the angle of attack makes no difference to your kill chances barring tall terrain as your AT auto-penetrates all armour in the game currently.

+ Good / excellent saving throw – The A10 in particular can weather a lot of AA fire with it’s 3+ save and allow you to take risks you wouldn’t take with any other unit.  The Frogfoot’s 4+ offers some survivability.

Cons

– 4+ availability roll – This one can really sting.  In truth, if your strike assets come on the board twice in the game they will usually make their points and/or massively affect the game in your favour.  However, you have to be prepared for some pain if they don’t turn up when needed.

 – Worthwhile targets – Although both units pack a nice cannon option, you really need to be killing MBTs to make these worth the points.  In the current Meta you won’t be facing MBTs as much as you might want.

Short Range Choppers (the Mil-24 Hind)

In a 60pt game, two Leopard 2 for 2 Hinds is more than a fair exchange (I think my Gepards missed anyway…)!

Pros

+ Strong AT23 missile – meaning attacks on MBTs have good chance to penetrate at any angle.

+ Reasonable save – meaning your 4-6 chopper unit can take a modicum of fire and still cause damage.

+ Cost – relatively cheap for their potential impact on the game

Cons

– Vulnerability – their short range weapon systems, coupled with the lack of Hunter-Killer mean that Hinds are very vulnerable once in play.  In my experience most of them die to my .50 cals rather than my AA.

Short Range Strike Aircraft (Tornado / Harrier)

Tim’s magnificent GR3 Harrier

Pros

+ Cheap points cost – given the potential for their salvo attack to remove a full MBT unit from the board in one volley, the points are very good value.

+ Placed and removed in your turn – this is simply massive.  You have the run of the field with full access to your weapons.  You can place every time to maximise your kill potential whilst limiting AA fire.

+ invulnerability to units – Infantry cannot shoot Strike Aircraft.  Also, a lot of light vehicles have Anti-Helicopter but not AA.  The BMP-1 and BMP-2 both fall into this category.

+ High AT bombs – Even MBTs are needing to roll a 6 to reduce to a bail chance hit rather than penetrating; all light vehicles simply don’t get a save and meet their end on a 3+.  The potential for devastation is probably the highest for any unit in the game.

Cons 

– Vulnerability – if you are in range of dedicated AA, you are probably dead.  If you are dropping bombs on MBTs, the likelihood of their AA MGs killing half or more of your teams before you fire is a very realistic possibility.  This can be mitigated, but is the biggest issue for these units – the dice will ruin you.

– 4+ / 3+ availability roll – This one can really sting.  In truth, if your strike assets come on the board twice in the game they will usually make their points and/or massively affect the game in your favour. The Harrier, with it’s 3+ roll, does offer some mitigation.

Tactics – NATO

So presuming you have taken choppers, planes and artillery, how do you best put them to work?

Removing dedicated AA

Your biggest headache is going to be to remove your enemy’s primary AA asset.  This will usually be a missile based vehicle unit sat in tall terrain or behind a hill / buildings out of line of sight from everything and anything.  So there’s 3 methods in order of risk..

  1. Use your ground assets to find a line of sight and directly destroy the teams.  Very rarely possible if your opponent brought his brains.
  2. Utilise you chopper flight leader as a spotter and bring down Artillery fire on the AA unit.
  3. ‘Rush’ the AA units, using both your choppers and strike aircraft.  Give the aircraft a direct, unobstructed shot on the AA with their machine guns, whilst also having a ‘prime’ target such as an MBT company in missile range.  Fire the hunter-killer choppers first at the AA, thus forcing your opponent to either  fire off the AA or accept casualties.  Then use the strike aircarft to clean up the AA and/or take down prime targets.  Remember you can split fire!

Once you have removed dedicated missile AA, your fixed wing aircraft will find it extremely easy to pick targets without being in range of any AA at all.  Your choppers can stay at long range and pick off targets whilst receiving minimal incoming fire.  The main threat will be from BMP missiles, but note that if you have cover these will need 6’s to hit you (cover plus the +1 for guided single shot missiles against Helos).

Tactics – Soviet / DDR

The same tactics as NATO can be used, with the understanding that your Hinds are much more susceptible to missile fire than the hunter-killer choppers that NATO utilise.  Keeping TOW infantry pinned and pressured to fire at ground units, and placing your Hinds on extreme flanks can help but be aware that they are very easy to lose.  If you end up with 1-2 Hinds left in a unit and are playing for points, consider loitering for the rest of the game unless you’ve already lost 3 units.

Tactics – General

One thing to bear in mind is choice of units to deploy.  If you and your opponent both have limits, declaring an air unit will probably force them to deploy an AA asset.  This may stop them dropping a large infantry unit or similar instead…

Summary

Although tricky to use effectively, and definitely reliant on a little bit of luck with the dice, Air can prove extremely effective and force your opponent to change their tactics.  The point that matters the most though, is don’t add air units as an afterthought – they will almost always disappoint in that case.  Build your force around them, however, and they will give an effective and exciting edge to your games.

Category: BritishIron MaidenList DiscussionRed ThunderSovietsStripesTacticsTeam YankeeUSVolksarmeeWest Germans

5 comments

  1. An important tactical element in the employment of air, for the Attacking player, is to choose whether to attack at Night or roll on the random Night table.

    Night can dramatically alter the balance of power between AA assets and air, particularly for strike aircraft since none of them can be hit beyond 24″ by AA!

    Sure, Warthogs and Frogfoot Strike aircraft will be largely limited to choosing targets that have fired and will have a +1 to hit penalty, but being invulnerable is likely to be an acceptable trade-off.

  2. One thing that was misleading is the statement about getting back your hunter killer by moving. In my understanding you receive hunter killer (if near terrain) until you shoot. So their responsive anti-aircraft fire will typically need 6s. After your hunter-killer aircraft shoot they become easier to hit throughout your opponents round as well (so Soviets saving some AA shots until their own turn can be effective against Hunter Killers), then at the beginning of the Hunter Killers turn they regain hunter-killer until they fire again.

  3. Hunter Killers only regain their gone to ground status if they choose not to fire. If you fire two turns in a row, you are not gone to ground during your second shot.

  4. Ahhh, I see. Hunter Killers are addressed separately by GTG rule.

    “GTG: Hunter Killers are gone to ground unless they shot in their previous turn.”

    This is an exception to how Gone to Ground works for everything else.

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Article by: Mark Goddard