American Air Defense: Guns vs Missiles: "First To Fire"

American Air Defense: Guns Vs Missiles

American Air Defense: Guns Vs Missiles: "First to Fire"
with Gavin van Rossum

With the forces released two years ago in the Team Yankee release, the US & USSR forces got their core units and the game system kicked off with a selection of equipment. US got their heavy Armor, while the Soviets got more middle of the road gear, with a few surprises. With Red Thunder released, the USSR upgraded to a heavier and more advanced Tank, the T-64, while also bringing in heavier AT & AA missile systems, Storm & Gecko. Stripes is now filling out the US forces with a wider range of Formation and Unit types, filling out your Force with Formations for angry Heavy Infantry, medium Tanks, Air-mobile Infantry and heaps of great new 80's gear to load up and roll out with. 

A lot of US & NATO research projects matured into active weapon systems that were ahead of the Soviet game, often as the colder side of the War had provided sensitive intel back to the designers, sometimes attached to a warm body, sometimes not. Lets leave the politics alone and focus on the wargaming. 

The Team Yankee community had been commenting that in the historical timeline the US had good systems in Europe to provide Air Defence for their land forces and their NATO allies can already field top-notch AA Units such as Gepard, Roland & Rapier. The Air Defence Gap has now been filled with the US forces in Stripes being able to field multiple Units of Air Defence focused teams, with options for Guns, Missiles and even a Gun + Missile combo! 

The Land forces of the U.S. of A. started their campaign in Battlefront's Team Yankee with the excellent 20mm Gatling armed M163 VADS system, mounted on a lightweight tracked chassis of the M113. This sufficed to provide close range anti-air cover to US forces and keep up with the advance. If the cover is sufficient, a VADS unit can reinforce your Mech Inf line (you do have ground pounders right?) with some very rapid Defensive Fire. If the situation is right and they havent been firing AA,  they can zip forward to shred marauding Pact Infantry & BMP formations, while retaining their ability to fire AA during the next enemy's turn.  

American Air Defense: Guns Vs Missiles

Also never forget that almost every vehicle in the US land forces is required to have a M2 .50cal AA MG slapped on the top, so these all get a 10% chance or so at swatting a Frogfoot or Hind out of their attack run per vehicle within their 20"/50cm range.

So enough of the cheery review of the VADS, no matter if it happened to give something a VADSectomy (tm), it still was a single Support Unit in your Force and was easy enough to reduce with ground fire or overwhelm with air attacks. It could only cover your centre or one of the flanks, especially vs Missile fire, the most dangerous and destructive Soviet air attack versus your heavier forces, which may have been holding you on the table. Where are the options? Where is the defence in depth? Layers of AAA and SAM fire? Would you like multiple AA threats to make your opponent's aerial troops choose only bad options, never easy ones. 

American Air Defense: Guns Vs Missiles

The biggest new addition in Stripes to a Team Yankee US Force is the M48 Chaparral, mounting 4 Sidewinder missiles on the M548 utility chassis. This provides full board SAM coverage on a highly mobile tracked unit, the Sidewinder is a big missile so it very hard hitting. The only downside is a medium rate of fire, which when combined with a survivable 4+ to hit has also managed to keep the Unit points cost down.

American Air Defense: Guns Vs Missiles

This vehicle is great for holding back in a safe area behind your main line of defence, providing full coverage AA against all the enemies airborne assets that try to punch holes in your forward forces. This unit works best with secondary AA units from Inf-SAM or SPAA options. As this SAM unit is based on a tracked cargo chassis and needs a lot of personal space between it and potential conflict, best to shove this Unit out of LOS and if you are ok with Concealed shots, in a Wood or other dead zone. Interestingly enough, despite each single hit being far better, overall the Chaparral is less deadly than the VADS. The benefit of the Chaparral is that it can hang way back and provide dedicated AA cover across the entire table, without getting tempted to dual-role. 

On the topic of the VADS, the VADS gets an upgrade in Stripes to include the option of replacing one M163 per Unit with a M113 Stinger at the same price. This extends their AA threat radius while reducing their overall threat & ground fire option. To me the option is very force dependent, so if it appeals to you then try it out. 

The excellent Stinger, seen in such movies as Rambo 2 where it takes out some nasty Hinds (Pumas with a lot of mascara) is also available for lighter Infantry forces in the form of the Stinger HMMWV, which is a trooper sticking out the top of the excellent new Hummer mini. If you prefer basing your vehicles this is the most accurate way to showcase the team, as usually the launcher would be dismounted next to the vehicle. These light vehicles serve best hiding out behind your main line, providing a bubble of forward anti-air cover from outside line of sight. Although they are able to resist lighter MG fire, they will have trouble vs anything .50 cal and up. They are very mobile, so if you can try to hide on a road, so you have the option to Road Dash 40"/100cm to safety or to cover a different area of the battlefield. 

American Air Defense: Guns Vs Missiles

One of the busiest places during the Cold War was the military industrial complex, especially in the nations expecting to fight out World War Three in their near future. Through a lot of effort and some luck, that apocalyptic war did not need to occur to break out of the political gridlock. The companies planning & designing systems to fight the war had many decades to work through the many theories of modern warfare and try to jump ahead of foreign and local competitors. The fight for funding was intense and often ranged globally through overt & covert methods to gain opportunities to promote their proofs of concept, run field trials and then hopefully be pick up vendor contracts as suppliers to the US military. 

A product of this environment was the mobile AAA vehicle, the M247 Sergeant York. In our reality, this project did not get fully integrated into the US Air Defence units, as it had some technical issues with the usually air-mounted radar which resulted in the design not being chosen to fund further.

American Air Defense: Guns Vs Missiles

In the Team Yankee timeline, with the Cold War going Hot, these were urgently worked through and the vehicle was available to be fielded into the fighting. Armed with 2 proven Bofors 40mm cannon mounted in a large turret on the M48 hull, this vehicle provides US players with a heavier AA system with a larger threat envelope, which can keep up with your heavy forces and with Front Armour 4 it requires at least medium anti-tank weaponry to be defeated. The Unit is cheaper than the VADS, while filling a similar shaped role.

It is almost as individually threatening, being lower ROF yet harder hitting plus Infra Red capability and better defensively in a more robust chassis. Overall they are a great option depending on your force choices, if you need to squeeze 2 points out of your SPAA, you could choose the Sergeant York and not be disappointed.

Stripes is a great addition to the Team Yankee environment and gives excellent new capacities to the US Forces, as well as bolstering options for their NATO allies. The US is provided with several distinct Anti-Air solutions that cater for the vagaries of wargamer preference, the most whimsical of beast.