Eve of Invasion - Tactics


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Eve of Invasion - Tactics

The 609th Fighter Wing entered the Third War for Armageddon with two distinct air-to-air tactics. The first, favoured by Commander Steffi Wilkans of the 187th Fighter Squadron, was known as the ‘Flat Stack’ and was designed to counter the massed wave attacks typical of Ork aircraft. Squadrons aligned themselves in line abreast by flight, each flight stacked slightly above and behind the previous one.  Each Imperial flight was assigned primary and secondary targets by the formation commander as they maneuvered to engage.

A Squadron would attack head on if possible in the first instance in order to break up enemy formations before reforming by Flight after the attack pass. At this stage the enemy was assumed to be so disoriented and demoralised by the attack that  a commander would be able to order flights to peel off and attack specified targets at his discretion. If the enemy formation had not been broken up the Squadron would maneuver for another squadron strength head on attack and then attack stragglers and survivors at its commanders instructions. All this was designed to ensure, theoretically, that a Squadron destroyed, rather just than damaged or drove off the highest possible number of enemy aircraft.

To succeed this dictum assumed a level of control and predictability, of both Imperial and enemy aircraft, simply not possible on the aerial battlefield. In practice this cumbersome tactic proved a disaster, the xenos aerial armada rarely allowed the Imperials the luxury of dictating the when and where of dogfights took place, let alone the manner in which they unfolded and throughout the war showed a remarkable tactical nous for their kind which rendered the ‘Flat Stack’ not only ineffective but also costly to any Imperial unit that used it.

The second tactic, the ‘Fluid Four’, was a more traditional tactic that has been used by Imperial Navy pilots since time immemorial. By adopting a flexible formation the pilots of the 266th Fighter Squadron enjoyed much higher levels of situational awareness than their counterparts of the 187th. Whilst their collective firepower was diminished their chance of survival was greatly increased and the squadron maintained much higher levels of morale in the early months of the war than their sister squadron.

During the first month of the war the two squadrons earned roughly the same number of kills, 266 were credited with 34 kills and 187 with 32. Casualties however were a different matter as the following data shows:

266th Fighter Squadron

  • Aircraft Lost - 17
  • Aircraft Damaged - 11
  • Pilots Killed - 14
  • Pilots Wounded - 4

187th Fighter Squadron

  • Aircraft Lost - 28
  • Aircraft Damaged - 9
  • Pilots Killed - 21
  • Pilots Wounded - 7

Similar results were seen across Armageddon, squadrons relying on the Fluid Four returned significantly better Kill : Loss ratios throughout the early period of the war, morale was also markedly higher in Fluid Four squadrons during this period.

With the death of Commander Wilkans in the third week of the war Captain Neymeyer of the 266th was promoted to Major and took command of the 187th. The change of leadership brought a change of tactics and the performance of the 187th improved markedly under the auspices of the Fluid Four. Though hardly remarked upon at the time Neymeyer’s attainment of Squadron command at the young age of 24 is nonetheless notable and the youthful Major would make a major impact on the air war over Armageddon in the coming months.

3 Responses to “Eve of Invasion - Tactics”

  1. SCC says:

    Flat Stack tactic description revised & updated.

  2. Marc says:

    Interesting read SCC. Do you have any details of the Fluid four tactics to come or is it available from another source?

  3. SCC says:

    Hi Marc,

    There will be some more on aerial tactics, I’m just polishing my last Uni assignment for the next few weeks and I’ll be back to regular updates shortly.

    The Fluid Four is very obviously based on the ‘Finger Four’ of the Second World War and that’s where the tactics will lean. The North Vietnamese People’s Air Force had some very interesting tactics for dealing with enemies in superior numbers I’m also looking at closely, so expect some movement in that direction too…