Fielding Airborne Forces with the BIG Helis
With John Lee

Like many in the hobby, I have been patiently waiting for the release of Red Dawn and it's now here, and it brings lots of goodies for us gamers!  I am very excited to finally get my hands on the big Helicopters – especially the Mi-8 Hip for my Air Afgansty.

There are four big transport helicopters that you can add to your force to either add new transport options or replace existing modes of transport.  That’s right.  We can use these in normal games – not just the new Air Assault mission (I double-checked with Battlefront first).  This is very cool and now I have visions of my Air Afgantsy mounted in Mi-8 Hips riding into battle and supported by Mi-24 Hinds – heavenly!

Let’s dive into the different helicopters and then see who can use them and how they can be used.  First off, looking at their stats, all four have door guns in the game, so can fire them (only in the turn they land – Door Guns rule) with a ROF of 4.  We need to mention transport capacity when building forces that utilise these helicopters.  Teams that cannot fit on a Transport are left out of a game.  This will be explained in more detail where it applies further below.  Let’s compare their stats, cargo capacity and survivability here:

Helicopter

Passengers

Hit On

Save

Courage

Morale

Skill

Mi-8 Hip

8

3+

5+

4+

3+

5+

CH-46 Sea Knight

6

4+

5+

4+

3+

4+

CH-47 Chinook

8

4+

5+

4+

3+

4+

CH-53 Sea Stallion

10 *

4+

5+

4+

3+

3+

Being big easy targets to shoot at, if they get hit, with their 5+ save, you need to be careful about how you move about on the table!

Mi-8 Hip

Starting off with the Mi-8 Hip first, it is used by Soviet, Warsaw Pact and Cuban forces in the game currently.  The only helicopter to be hit on 3+, in line with the rest of the forces using Soviet Doctrine.  The Soviet Army maintained the largest airborne force in the world and it shows with the formations that are eligible to take these specialist Transports.   There are five units across three formations that can take the Mi-8 Hip:

• BMD-1 or BMD-2 Air Assault Company (BMD Air Assault Battalion)
• BM-37 82mm Mortar Platoon (BMD Air Assault Battalion)
• VDV Afgansty BMD Air Assault Platoon (VDV Afgansty BMD Air Assault Company)
• VDV Afgansty BM-37 82mm Mortar Platoon (VDV Afgansty BMD Air Assault Company)
• Air Assault Company (Afgansty Air Assault Battalion)

To take the Mi-8 Hip for the above units, you add one Mi-8 Hip for +1pt per eight (or part thereof) teams in the unit.  Ignore any attachments when calculating the number of helicopters.  This means you do not include the SA-14, AGS-17, and AT-4 Spigot teams.  The formation HQ team rides for free in one of the Transport Helicopters.  For those units who have BMDs and BTR-Zs, they are either parachuted in if playing the Airbourne mission or they are called forward if playing other missions and can still play their part in the game.  So, let’s look at how to calculate capacity with attachments.  Let’s say we are going to run an Afgansty Air Assault Battalion.  If we take a small Air Assault Company with seven core teams and two attachments (SA-14 and AT-4 Spigot) then it will be one helicopter.  As we have two attachments taking it to nine teams, we must decide which team to leave out of the game.  It can be any one of the nine teams.

I have an Air Assault Battalion where I have two medium companies with attachments.  To finally create that themed force I have been wanting to run, I can now get four Mi-8 Hips to go with my twelve Mi-24 Hinds!  To make a decision about attachments, a medium company has fifteen core teams leaving one slot open for an attachment ie an SA-14 or AT-4 Spigot.  To take a second or third attachment, I would have to leave out one or two AK-74, RPG-7 or PKM team(s) of the game.  Ride of the Valkyrie anyone?

Warsaw Pact armies lacked dedicated airborne infantry but can conduct airborne operations with their regular troops.  This applies to either Wheel Motor Rifle Company or BTR-60 Mot-Schutzen Kompanie.  The same rules apply for every eight core teams (or part thereof) for +1pt per helicopter and again ignore attachments when calculating the number of helicopters.  All BTR-60s and OT-64 transports are left out of the game and the Battalion HQ rides in one of the Transport helicopters.

The Cubans can also field Mi-8 Hips in place of their BTR-60 Compania de Infanteria and have the same rules and restrictions as the Warsaw Pact above.

CH-46 Sea Knight

Next up is the CH-46 Sea Knight.  This is only operated by the US Marines in the game and replaces all a US Marine Rifle Platoon’s UH-1 Huey transport helicopters with three CH-46 Sea Knight transport helicopters for no additional cost.  I have US Marines but no Hueys yet so I would consider buying these instead for one platoon.

CH-47 Chinook
The most iconic NATO transport helicopter is next – the CH-47 Chinook!  It’s operated by the US Army and British armies in the game.  For the US Army, we may replace all UH-1 Huey Rifle Platoon’s UH-1 Huey transport helicopters with two CH-47 Chinook transport helicopters.  For the British, we replace all the Lynx transport helicopters in a Lynx Airmobile Platoon or Lynx Milan Platoon with one CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter.  Again, for both, no additional cost.  I would take Chinooks for my British Lynx Air Mobile and Lynx Milan Platoon – fewer helicopters on the field but more iconic!
CH-53G Sea Stallion
Last up is the massive CH-53 Sea Stallion!  It’s operated by the US Marines and West German Fallschirmjager forces in the game.  For the US Marines, we may replace all Marine Rifle Platoon’s UH-1 Huey transport helicopters with two CH-53 Sea Stallion transport helicopters for no additional cost.  For the West Germans, we may replace all Fallschimjager Zug’s UH-1 Huey transport helicopters with one CH-53 Sea Stallion transport helicopter.  It costs +2pts to take UH-1 Huey transport helicopters – so the same applies to the CH-53 Sea Stallion.  We may also add one CH-53 Sea Stallion transport helicopter for two (or part thereof) Wiesel Tank teams in a Wiesel TOW Panzerabwehr Zug, or Wiesel FK 20mm Flugabwehr Zug for +1pt per helicopter.  This is the only helicopter in the game that can carry vehicles as passengers and is treated as such.  This can be quite a game changer where you can land air mobile infantry with AA and AT support to take an objective on the far side of the table!
Now there are two ways to field these iconic transport helicopters – Resin models for those of us who want to represent this on the battlefield, and cardboard cut-outs for those on a budget, or who might only run these options occasionally.  The Airbourne mission pack includes a booklet about the mission as well as details on how they can be played and include unit cards for each helicopter.  The NATO resin models come with cardboard rotors and for the CH-53 Seas Stallion – optional fuel tanks.  The Mi-8 Hip comes with plastic rotors (includes a Mi-24 Hind sprue for the rotors – so you get an additional helicopter for free if you don’t mind only one with rotors!)

So that’s it.  We have four new cool options to add to existing units and formations to provide some more flavour and rule of cool on the tabletop.  I can’t wait to get my hands on some for my forces.  Mi-8 Hips first to flesh out my Air Assault Battalion (starts to hum “Ride of the Valkyrie”) …

~John Lee

 
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