Posts Tagged "609th FW"

Death Notice



This death notice was sent to the parents of Wing-Pilot T.M. Ponder of the 187th Fighter Squadron following the destruction of his aircraft. Ponder was killed on just his third operational flight by Ork Deff Skwadron Kaptin Brog Noteef, an ace who would go amass a score of at least 18 kills against the Imperial flyers on Armageddon before being knocked down by Hydra flak batteries of the Armageddon 17th Steel Legion.


As we’ve said before here on BfA one of our aims is to expand upon the history of the battles on Armageddon and, ultimately perhaps, to create a cohesive account of at least parts of the battles. For me that means not just words, but images, artefacts and all the other elements of ‘proper’ history writing. The image above is part of that process, being ‘evidence’ of the effects of war even in as monolithic a society as the Imperium.

As an added bonus I’m slowly learning a few tricks in Photoshop, it took me 90 minutes to make that image and I doubt I could recreate it but a few things seem to have stuck which is a start…

Thunderbolt vs Fighta-Bommer

The air war over Armageddon was dominated by two types of aircraft - the Imperial Navy Thunderbolt and the Ork Fighta-Bommer. Between them these two aircraft would account for more than 40% of the air forces of the two combatants and more than 50% of the air to air kills during the war. As such it is worthwhile to compare the strengths and weaknesses of the two aircraft.

The Thunderbolt has been in Imperial service for centuries and has proven a versatile and robust aircraft, able to carry out air to air, air to ground and even limited orbital duties equally well. Manufactured on numerous Forge Worlds across the Imperium it can be found in almost every one of Mankind’s theatres of war. In addition to versatility and toughness the Thunderbolt also packs tremendous endurance and range as well as considerable firepower and maneuverability. The Thunderbolt’s key weaknesses are a relatively low cruising speed and poor top speed, indeed several types of Xenos bombers cruise at close to the Thunderbolt’s top speed, one reason that it is being supplemented in many areas by the Lightning interceptor.

Like the Thunderbolt the Ork Fighta-Bommer can be found across the galaxy, indeed it is nearly as widespread as the Orks themselves. Crewed by two, an Ork pilot and Gretchin gunner for the twin ‘big shootas’ mounted in the dorsal turret, the Fighta-Bommer excels in the air to ground role. With its high cruising speed and limited thrust vectoring capabilities the Fighta-Bommer is more than capable in the air to air role as well. Considerably faster than the Thunderbolt at cruising speeds, the Fighta-Bommer is hampered by poor acceleration, a lower operational ceiling and shorter range. These factors are offset by tremendous short range firepower and the toughness of crew and airframe which allows the Fighta-Bommer to pull off maneuvers other aircraft couldn’t even attempt for fear of structural failure or the pilot being incapacitated by G-forces.

Imperial Air-to-Air Tactics

Thunderbolt pilots rely on their superior training, sensors and ground control systems to ambush Ork aircraft where possible. Their greater acceleration and ceiling also lend themselves to hit and run attacks and most experienced Imperial pilots will maneuver to place themselves above a Fighta-Bommer formation before diving to attack and zooming back up to safety, repeating this attack until the enemy is destroyed or driven off. Given the natural inclination of Orks towards fighting and the tremendous endurance of the Thunderbolt it is not uncommon that Imperial forces are able to harass much larger Ork forces in this way for a considerable length of time, often forcing the Orks to turn for home before their mission is done as a result.

Experienced pilots avoid turning fights with almost all Ork aircraft but particularly with Fighta-Bommers. Not only is the Ork aircraft able to turn more tightly, thanks to both its thrust vectoring and the ability of its Xenos crew to withstand more G-forces than their human counterparts but even when an Imperial pilot out-turns his enemy he is often subjected to defensive fire from the dorsal turret before he is able to bring his weapons to bear. When caught in a turning fight Imperial pilots can resort to the use of the Thunderbolt’s rocket booster to disengage from the battle. Many Imperial commanders frown on such behaviour as cowardice, others simply object to the tremendous stresses use of the rocket engine under non-ideal circumstances places on the airframe and engine and such action is considered a last resort by Navy aircrew.

Perhaps the largest advantages Imperial aircrew have in Thunderbolt vs. Fighta-Bommer engagements are their much greater tactical and communications capabilities. Ork pilots are the most extreme members of the Ork Kult of Speed and rarely operate in a unified manner, this allows Imperial units to use ambushes, decoys and myriad other tricks to gain an advantage over their Xenos counterparts. Greater radio communication and better sensors as well as the many skilled ground/orbital fighter controllers in Imperial service also offer an advantage to Thunderbolt units. Finally the traditional Imperial tactic of flying as a pair affords human pilots greater situational awareness and offers a degree of protection not experienced by most Orks in air-to-air combat.

Also of note when facing Ork aircraft is the range advantage offered by Imperial weaponry. This allows Navy pilots to attack at medium or long range with a reasonable chance of a kill and then disengage using the Thunderbolt’s higher rate of climb and top speed before an Ork opponent can get into the effective range of their heavy but short-ranged weaponry.

Ork Air-to-Air Tactics

Ork Flyboyz, as the Xenos who fly these aircraft are known, are less inclined to the elegant aerial tactics of the Imperial Navy foes and prefer combat to be fast, loud, noisy and brutal. Their aircraft are designed for speed and close range firepower and it is in close ranged dogfights that Fighta-Bommers excel. Flyboyz are drawn from the Ork Kult of Speed and share the fellow Kultist’s almost physical obsession with speed, an obsession which often affects their decision making. For example it can cause them to attack at uncontrollable speeds where they have little chance of hitting an enemy or to waste the element of surprise in uncoordinated individual attacks where Imperial units would strike as a whole to cause much more damage.

They also generally lack the co-ordination shown by Imperial units, though a number of Ork Skwadrons did display considerable tactical skill and knowledge during the Third War. It is believed these elite ‘Deff Skwadrons’ were specifically created and trained by Ghazghkull to seize control of the air, an objective they managed in the opening days with the support of by their less skilled but much more numerous brethren.

Although considered mad by their ground bound relations Ork Flyboyz share many of their traits, including a certain base cunning and an uncanny sense for the weakest member or unit of a formation. They often exploit this skill by attacking the least experienced or least numerous enemies they face first before turning their on the remaining enemy and swamping them in typical Ork fashion. Experienced Imperial units have been known to use this tendency to lay traps for Flyboyz, a tactic that Captain Neymeyer of the 609th Fighter Wing would perfect in the opening months of the Third Armageddon War.

Where possible Flyboyz will mass in large numbers and attempt to overwhelm enemies with sheer firepower, Imperial pilots on Armageddon during both the Second and Third Wars often reported being outnumbered four or five to one and in the early stages of the war suffered heavy casualties when opposing the Xenos directly. In actual combat Orks will attempt to use the maneuverability of their aircraft and their tolerance for G-forces to out-maneuver their enemy before using the tremendous short range firepower of their aircraft to knock them down.

Final Assessment

In a one versus one fight between two pilots of equal ability the Thunderbolt has the edge over the Fighta-Bommer. The real life skies of Armageddon were seldom so simple however and myriad other factors played a role in the outcome of any dogfight. During the early stages of the war the Ork Flyboyz held the edge over their Imperial Navy foes. This was particularly so when they were led by the elite Deff Skwadrons whose tactics and actions, particularly their strikes against Imperial air bases and supply lines, would prove decisive early on.

However by the middle period of the war the the Navy’s Thunderbolt squadrons had once more, despite their dire supply situation, exhausted pilots and battered aircraft, had evolved a series of effective counters to both Ork numbers and the Deff Skwadrons and although unable to maintain planetwide air superiority could maintain local air superiority for moderate periods of time in selected areas. This in turn would play a large part in turning the tide against the Beast and his hordes and would ultimately be a key factor in Ghazghkull’s retreat.

A Minor Dilemma



So I was working on some 609th Fighter Wing history over the weekend, writing in a sort of modern day military history manner, trying to present a balanced, fact-led view and so forth and it occurred to me: the Imperium just doesn’t produce this kind of thing. Even the more factual Black Library books, like ‘The Battle for Armageddon’ guide book aren’t super balanced and tend to contain a fair slice of Imperial propaganda and assumptions of superiority etc.

The dilemma then, is whether I should continue in the ‘Osprey-lite’ vein I’d originally envisaged or whether I need to cater for that Imperial bias a little more in these history posts. Perhaps the solution is to put together all the Osprey lite material and then leaven it with Imperial propaganda posters, catechisms and the like as the BL sometimes do…

History reveals that the ground invasion of Armageddon was preceded by three distinct phases. Phase one saw the arrival of the Orks and the overwhelming of Admiral Parol’s Imperial Navy fleet above Armageddon. Massively outnumbered Parol was forced to withdraw after suffering heavy casualties and has taken up a defensive posture, launching hit and run strikes against the Orks whilst trying to conserve as much of his fleet as possible.

Phase two saw the Ork fleet batter the orbital defences of Armageddon, a line of space stations and orbital platforms encircling the planet. Six weeks after arrival the Orks launched their attack and destroyed most of the defences. The first Orks began to arrive on the planet itself at this stage though only in relatively small numbers. It was also at this time that Ghazghkull destroyed Hive Hades, scene of Armageddon’s finest hour in the Second Armageddon War.

The third phase saw Commissar Yarrick, who by this stage was in control of all Imperial defences, order the Navy’s remaining aircraft into the sky to destroy as much of the Ork horde as possible as they transited to the surface. The fighting peaked after five days of vicious dogfights and hideous losses amongst Imperial ground attack aircraft. The fall of Acheron Hive to the traitor von-Strab and the seizure by Ork forces of a number of spaceports and airbases allowed them to establish aerial dominance over Armageddon over the next few days.

For the Imperial aircrews this was a terrible time, outnumbered in the sky and hammered from the ground they took crushing casualties as they attempted to follow Yarrick’s orders to destroy as many Orks as possible before they could consolidate their toehold. Like their brethren the men and women of the 609th were thrown into this desperate defence, the story of those five days of defiance, destruction and death are recorded herein.

(Hover mouse over picture for caption)

My next few posts will detail those five days and the 609th’s role in them over the coming week or so (real life permitting).

Eve of Invasion - Tactics



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.

A Brief History of the 609th Fighter Wing

Eve of Invasion


One of the things we’re trying to do here on the BfA blog is combine modelling, painting, gaming and history. To that end I’ve begun to catalogue the history of the 609th Fighter Wing and hope to eventually produce a potted history in PDF form of the unit, it’s aircraft, notable figures, prominent battles and so forth. If you’ve ever seen the Osprey series of military history books you’ll have an idea of what I’m trying to do, just think Aviation Elite lite and that’s the aim. So, to begin with I’m creating a framework to hang this history on and I thought I’d do it graphically just to make it a little different and hopefully a little more interesting.

Brother Argos worked wonders in moments to come up with the silhouettes, I think they look pretty snazzy and the aquila background is the work of Madscuzzy from the Bolter & Chainsword forum, thanks guys!.

Below is the FOC for the 609th at the beginning of the Third Armageddon War along with some notes you might find interesting on famous (and infamous) members of the Wing.

(Please click for a larger, more legible version of the FOC)

For those wondering what the Thunderbolt (R) is, it’s an unofficial variant I was thinking of making, it’s simply a Thunderbolt with the weapons removed and a series of recon pods in their place, these pods would also be replaceable with ECM and ECCM pods to allow the (R) to accompany its brethren on strike missions and provide electronic jamming support.

I’ve been making slow but steady progress throughout the week. As I’m working on all three projects simultaneously it’ll be a while before any single model is finished but in the meantime there’ll be lots of WIP pictures and some examination of how the test models are going.

First up are some images of my AI Thunderbolt, which I’m mostly happy with, a few ideas haven’t quite worked out but as it’s still a WIP there’s time to correct some of those yet:

The base colour here is Charadon Granite, one of the Citadel Foundation line and I must admit it’s a colour I rather like. It’s dull and drab sure, but it’s a very military colour and the hints of green, brown and grey through it mean you can use it as a base for lots of different colours. The wing stripes, which still need work, are Dheneb Stone (again, Foundation) and the metals are an old mix of mine that’s mostly Boltgun Metal with some blue ink thrown in to give it a slight gunmetal edge. The wing stripes will denote which flight of the squadron an aircraft belongs to, this group will be White flight (though they’ll have a dirtier, bone coloured stripe) and the next two will likely be Blue and Red flights.

So, the basics out of the way it’s time for some philosophising!

Wait, don’t stop reading just yet! Hey, come back here! Right, that’s better, now all I mean by this is that when I paint I don’t paint to create armies or masterpieces (though if the end result was either or both, that’d be great) I paint to tell little stories. Each miniature I paint has it’s own story, it’s own little background that helps me to establish what I’m going to do to the mini. Often the only one who knows the story is me, sometimes, just sometimes, I get the process right and others can figure out the story. Usually though I have to explain why I’ve done what I’ve done.

So what’s this fella’s story? Well, it’s pretty simple. The intro piece to this mini tells the story of the Imperial Navy, battered and exhausted, running low on supplies, parts and pilots and this mini will, eventually, hopefully, tell this story. If you look closely you can see some mismatched panels on there, some that are greener, others that are metallic. In my little background those are panels that have been replaced with new parts (the metallic ones) that haven’t been painted yet and parts scavenged from other aircraft no longer able to fly (the mismatched green panels). The aircraft also has lots of little chips and stains across it and I think the next one I do I’ll create little bullet hole patches for to show previous battle damage.

So, the weathering is a combination of Badab Black, Devlan Mud and Gryphonne Sepia inks liberally coating the Charadon basecoat. I’m trying to weather with inks for a few reasons, first to try and work out some techniques that work for me and second to see if I need to buy some weathering powders instead. I’ve always wanted to try the powders but never had reason to before now, I usually paint very clean miniatures so weathering hasn’t been a priority. The chips are the standard spot of black paint covered by metallics with a slight rim of black left around the edges to delineate things.

So there we go, one battered, tired Thunderbolt is slowly taking shape and hopefully will be done by next weekend so I can move on to the Aeronautica Imperialis Thunderhawk I’ve been drooling over all week as it sits in front of me. I’ve got some aquila decals for the wings and numbers for the fuselage, I’d like to make the highlights more obvious and to up the weathering to make it more noticeable, so that should be pretty achievable for next week even with university interrupting.

Updates on the Exorcists and IG coming soon so watch this space…

Third Wave



It had seemed too easy to Wing-Sergeant Faunk at the tail end of a long, tiring patrol. A lone Ork Fighta cruising through the skies with nary a jink or bobble, as if the damned creature owned the skies of Armageddon. Months of fighting overwhelming odds made him check the skies thoroughly, seeking aerial ambushers. Finding none he surveyed the ground for flak traps, despite their crudity and the Thunderbolt’s reputation as a tough old bird Ork flak guns could be devastating at anything but the highest altitude. He checked the skies again, unable to believe the Ork was just bumbling along through the green-grey clouds of pollutants as if on a training run. Faunk himself hadn’t flown straight and level for more than a handful of seconds since he’d come within 40 klicks of the lines today. Again, he could see no trap and with a mental shrug he closed on his unsuspecting victim, setting his sights on the Fighta’s tail and nudging the throttle forward a touch to increase his rate of closure.

Barely a hundred metres from the enemy now Faunk removed the safeties on his autocannon and tightened his finger on the trigger. The Thunderbolt juddered as its quad autocannons spat out hundreds of slugs in just a few seconds. Sparks flew across the tail and port wing of the Fighta, the shells ripping the rudder and an aileron to shreds. Faunk smoothly sideslipped the big Imperial craft as his crippled foe began jinking weakly, he settled his sights on the Fighta again, this time he pulled the double triggers on his control stick. His autocannon stuttered briefly before falling silent, their ammunition spent but his lascannon spat bolt after bolt of energy at the Ork plane, stripping chunks of crude armour and other inexplicable pieces of Ork engineering off it.

After a few seconds the overheated lascannons fell silent too, Faunk cursing the lack of equipment and experienced personnel that rendered servicing aircraft on Armageddon difficult at best and a nightmare the rest of the time. The war had been a shock to the cocky fighter pilots of the Imperial Navy, hordes of Ork Fightas and Fighta Bommers had wrested control of the skies and low-orbit from them in the opening weeks and refused to relinquish it. Air superiority had let the Orks pound Imperial airbases and only the dispersion of aircraft, including Faunk’s, to isolated strips of inter-city road had allowed them to survive at all.

These aircraft, often piloted by crews just out of flight school, were worn out, as tired as Faunk himself was after months of combat and ammo shortages and systems failures were common. Before the war Faunk would’ve stripped the hide from his crew-chief if his weapons had failed mid-dogfight, now he just concentrated on tailing the Ork plane as waited for the lascannons to cool. The Ork wobbled all over the sky, whether intentionally or as a result of damage Faunk couldn’t tell and the Imperial chopped his throttle to avoid a collision.

He took a moment to check the skies around him for other aircraft before checking his weapon panel again. One indicator flickered amber, the other remained a solid red beacon on his panel. With a grunt of exasperation Faunk settled down to following the jerky movements of the Fighta. Ten seconds, maybe fifteen went by before he got a solid bead on the battered red vehicle, again he clamped down on the trigger and tracked the bolts of light across the Fighta’s wing and into its engine. A tremendous flash of light lit the polluted skies around Faunk’s aircraft as he hit something vital and the Fighta ceased to exist as more than a cloud of smoke and a few scattered pieces of metal slowly falling earthwards.

The fight over Faunk turned his aircraft for home once more. With luck he’d get home without seeing any more of the enemy and be able to grab some sleep before his next patrol. Throne he was tired…


A third wave of Imperial reinforcements has arrived, this time in the shape of air support:

As a young lad I ate, lived and breathed Biggles, Sopwith Camels and Fokker Tripehounds  from about 6 or 7 through to, well, today. I still re-read my Biggles books these days and love nothing more than joining 266 Squadron in the skies of France. BfA has provided the ideal inspiration to paint up some of ForgeWorld’s AI aircraft. In addition to First World War aircraft I’ve also spent lots of time on WW2 planes, I must have made dozens of Spitfire, 109, Lancaster and Hurricane models over the years not to mention more esoteric aircraft like the He129 or Do-335 as well.

The 40K Thunderbolt reminds me of the P-47 a little, but for some reason I’m always minded of the Hawker Typhoon/Tempest more. Dunno why, but still, the Tiffie was one of my favourite aircraft so I’m thinking of trying a similar colour scheme to 609 Squadron RAF circa the Normandy landings. 609 was the subject of an excellent book titled ‘To Live Among Heroes’ by George Bell, the Squadron Medical Officer and was also one of, if not the highest, scoring RAF squadron of the Battle of Britain. That said I’ve always felt that ‘modern’ aircraft always look better in simpler, non-camo schemes so I may try a dark blue-grey or mid-grey instead. We’ll see.

So plenty of history there which I’ll be using as the basis for the Imperial Navy’s 609th Fighter Wing, but I can’t resist a few nods to Captain W.E. Johns’ creation. So, the Thunderbolts will be the 187th Squadron of the 609th Wing and once I’ve got some Lightnings they’ll be 266th Squadron.  That makes the tough, steady gun platform T’bolts Wilks and his SE5a’s and the nimble Lightnings the Camels. I’ll have to pick an RE8 unit to be the Marauders I think…