Posts Tagged "History"

Imperial Navy Aircrew (1)



The Imperial Navy’s aircrew are an elite body, for every aviator there are a dozen or more failed recruits and for each washed out recruit there are hundreds more would-be aviators who failed to even reach the training stages. Even the humblest cargo shuttle pilot has passed tests and challenges which would confound most of his fellow sailors and is an individual a cut above the conscripts and recruits who fill the vast majority of the Imperial Navy’s ranks. Even the groundcrew, clerks and menials of the Aviation Branch consider themselves better than their big ship Navy counterparts, a piece of bravura which often leads to tension and occasionally violence between the two types of sailor.

Another unique aspect of service in either aviation branch is the limited role that the Navy’s systems of familial lineage and patronage play in advancement and assignments. Navy families and indeed the Navy itself, see the greatest glory in service with the big ships, battleships and the like, and it is here that the patronage game is played the hardest leaving the aviation branches relatively untouched. Ironically in the 41st millennium both aviation branches have seen the rise of a new kind of clique, this time based on the old-boy’s networks of the Schola Progenium and it is not unusual to see Schola graduates favoured by their commanders, usually Schola alumni themselves, in much the same way as familial patronage works in the rest of the Navy.


Imperial Navy aircrew are drawn from three sources - the Navy’s own Schola Progenium, volunteer recruits and, more rarely, from the ranks of the Navy’s technical and mechanical ratings. The Schola Progenium are the largest source of aircrew, particularly pilots, and the Schola on Imperial Navy worlds are rightly famed for the aces and commanders raised from their ranks. Entry into a Navy Schola  requires that one, or more often both, parents of the child have died on active duty in the Imperial Navy. A number of ancient and prestigious Navy Schola have further requirements such as both parents having been commissioned officers or having died honourably in combat and not simply on active service. In the case of the famed Schola Progenium Mackensen, attached to the Navy’s Gothic sector headquarters, at least one parent must be the holder of the Cochrane Starburst, one of the Navy’s highest awards.

The lifelong training and conditioning of Schola graduates fosters greater than usual levels of dedication, even fanaticism, to the Imperial cause, a desirable trait in the face of typically high aircrew casualties. Schola life also provides graduates with a wider variety of military skills, their long, arduous training encompassing in depth analysis of tactics, weapons theory, aerodynamics and the like that older entrants into the training system are unable to match.  Whilst the majority of Schola graduates opt for Orbital Branch aircrew assignments there are still many who are drawn to the romance and history attached to the Aviation Branch, linked as it is to the Imperium’s earliest days,  and many of it’s most famous members were educated and trained in a Navy Schola.

Aircrew volunteers come from two very different sources, the first is best described as the daughters and younger sons of Navy families who see the dangerous but glamorous job of aviator as a way to draw attention from older siblings to themselves. Given the role that family lineage and patronage play in the Navy, particularly for officers, it is not uncommon for families to expend all their political capital and favours to secure a prime posting for the oldest son or sons, leaving few means of advancement for any daughter or junior son who also wishes to join the Navy. Aircrew duty, though more dangerous than life on a cruiser or battleship, also offers more opportunities for advancement and recognition independent of the Navy’s patronage systems. Most female aircrew in the Navy have joined via this path and whilst many have gone on to great things yet more have suffered the all too common fate of young Imperial aviators - death on a distant world or in the depths of space.

The second source of volunteer aircrew recruitment is from the ranks of would-be Navy conscripts. When given the choice between joining the chain-gangs deep in the bowels of a Navy battleship or trying out as aircrew many a new conscript has stepped forward at the petty officer’s barked command. Typically these men and women form the rank and file f the aviation  branches, their roles ranging from aircraft maintenance and clerking to the less-recognised aircrew roles such as Gunner or Cargo Master.

The final source of aircrew for the Imperial Navy is from within its own technical ranks, many aircrew roles, such as Flight Engineer or Vox Operator require a degree of technical knowledge and expertise most often found in the ranks of maitenance crews. Such men are offered incentives such as flight pay, promotions and relief from the more unpleasant duties of their trade in exchange for service aboard an aircraft. Such offers are rarely refused although it is difficult to say whether this is due to these  inducements or because refusal almost always brings a raft of unwelcome and unpleasant assignments for the unlucky sailor.


The following ‘Imperial Navy Aircrew’ posts will deal with the Armageddon sector Aviation Branch more specifically, providing details of selection, training and the typical combat experience of IN aircrew on Armageddon. Hopefully after that I can fill in the basic org chart and rank details for the Av. Branch in general and the 609th specifically, I’d also really like to do some character profiles for famous 609th members during this stage too.

Junior Officer’s Dress Cap

This cap belonged to Ensign Sebastian Fontein of the 266th Fighter Squadron. Fontein was one of the Squadron’s first casualties, being brought down by an Ork Fighta on the first day of counter-invasion operations whilst pressing home an attack run against one of the enemy Roks descending on Armageddon. His sacrifice was not in vain, his final attack severing a number of fuel lines and causing the Rok to fall out of control to its destruction. For his actions Fontein was awarded the Cross of Armageddon (3rd class) and mentioned in Admiral Parol’s dispatches to the High Lords of Terra.

Note the brass Teyrn Dragon emblem of the Squadron in place of the standard Aquila. An unthinkable practice in most of the Imperial Navy such changes are tolerated within the Aviation Branch as part of its unique esprit-de-corps and as a sign of the relative independence of the branch.

Navigator’s Dress Tunic

This dress tunic belonged to Navigator Roboute Gorgo of the 463rd Bomber Flight, 609th Fighter Wing. Gorgo was Navigator aboard Marauder ‘JO-D’ when it went down early in the war due to lack of maintenance as a result of the racketeering of the 609th’s pre-war commander, Silas Wertheimer.

Non-pilot aviators typically hold rank as Warrant Officers, this gives them a status between that of a commissioned officer and a senior non-commissioned officer. Gunners are an exception to this rule and may rank anywhere between Rating and the senior NCO ranks depending on their experience. As such the uniforms and accoutrements of non-pilot aircrew are simpler and plainer than those of the commissioned counterparts.

1. Rank Insignia

The simple insignia of a Second Warrant Officer (2WO), the most junior warrant rank. It consists of a small patch in Navy black bordered in silver with a single silver bar across the patch. Also just visible are the two silver cuff buttons of a Warrant Officer. This compares to three gold buttons for officers, one silver button for NCOs and a plain black plastic button for other ranks.

2. Trouser Stripes

Stripes running down the outside of the trouser legs indicate the wearer’s branch, in this case light blue for Aviation.

3. Navigator’s Wing and Ribbon Bar

Aircrew are identified by the half wing and letter borne on the right breast, in this case a stylised ‘N’ identifies the wearer as a Navigator. A variety of other designations also exist including :

  • B - Bombardier
  • G - Gunner
  • E - Flight Engineer
  • V - Vox Operator
  • C - Cargo Master

Unusually Gorgo’s tunic also bears the green, white and purple ribbon of the Valoris Aeronautica, awarded during the 609th’s actions on Brant shortly before the outbreak of the Third War. Most Imperial decorations go to pilots in the Aviation branch, their position as commissioned officers as well as their role as captain of a bomber crew or, as fighter pilots,  gallant knights of the air mean that the lion’s share of recognition goes to them.

4. Epaulettes and Collar Insignia

Note the simple epaulettes and collar insignia of non-pilot aircrew, compare this to the intricate regalia of their commissioned counterparts.

5. Tunic Pockets, Belt & Material

Unlike the closely fitted, high quality dress tunics worn by officers non-pilot aircrew wear a simple dark blue version of the standard Navy utility tunic. Note the pockets and belt absent from the officers’ version as well as the plain buttons and lower quality cloth of the tunic in general. Unlike officers, who must outfit themselves from their own funds, non-pilot aircrew are issued their dress tunic and most are happy enough to wear the simpler tunic in exchange for more spending money in their rare periods of leave.

Unofficial squadron patch of the 266th Squadron, 609th Fighter Wing, Imperial Navy.

Worn only on undress and flight uniforms this patch depicts the fearsome Teyrn Dragon, a native of the planet Caledonia which is home to one of the largest Schola Avia in the Imperium. The laurel wreath was added to the insignia in the closing stages of the 3rd Armageddon War to signify the award of the Imperial Navy Unit Commendation for its efforts in the defense of Armageddon.

The patch is typically produced in subdued colours so as not to attract attention in combat and forward zones.


Formal dress tunic belonging to Wing Commander Iven Macroy of the 609th Fighter Wing, Imperial Navy.

This is the standard formal tunic of officers of the Imperial Navy’s Aviation Branch. Unlike their counterparts of the Orbital Branch their uniform is the dark blue rather than the pure black of space. Their atmospheric duties are further emphasised by the light blue braiding and piping signifying the blue skies of ancient Terra where Imperial pilots first took to the skies in the Emperor’s service.

1. Aerial Victor insignia

This golden lightning bolt, a traditional symbol of the Emperor and service to him, is the mark of the Ace, a pilot with 5 or more confirmed aerial kills. Once awarded this decoration a pilot is also entitled to have it painted on his aircraft, typically beneath the sill of his canopy.

Note that this award is reserved for pilots only, aircraft gunners are not eligible for this award nor an equivalent.

2. Rank insignia

The three pale blue stripes and white silk slash indicate the rank of Wing Commander.

3. Pilot’s Wings & Ribbon Bar

The coveted wings of the pilot are traditionally cast from adamantium and are the mark of one of the Imperium’s elite warriors, less than 3% of pilot candidates are awarded their wings. Wing Commander Macroy’s ribbon bar shows his many decorations including the Armageddon Honorifica (1st Class) and the Navy’s Cochrane Starburst, its equivalent of the Macharian Cross.

4. Aviation Branch insignia

The laurel wreath and shield motif of the Aviation Branch is visible on  the stiff collar of the tunic. The shield is inscribed with the likeness and name of the world where the pilot underwent his Scholam Avia training, the tunic buttons are inscribed with highly decorative Aquila.

Non-pilot aircrew wear silver buttons with simple Aquilas and are not entitled to the laurel wreaths nor to depict the world on which they trained on the collar tabs.

5. Lanyard & Aiguillette

The braided cord running from shoulder down to the opposite side of the chest is the traditional officer’s lanyard, the second braid indicates Macroy’s status as a Commanding Officer. Wing Commander Macroy also bears four aiguillettes, an unusually high number, each signifying service in a different Imperial Crusade (the Majeste, Seach, Cornwallis and Audax Crusades).

Although I haven’t yet made any of my ‘First Five Days’ material public I have been slowly working on it when work and uni permit, one major problem I’m having though is fitting the details into a solid, GW canonised background. As most of our readers will be aware there’s a dearth of material on the Imperial Navy in general and how it handles aircraft as opposed to spacecraft in particular. So, what details are there out there about the IN, especially with regards to bombers, fighters and the like?

Well, I’ll catalogue what I’ve got so far and hopefully some of our readers and other bloggers will be able to chip in with some other sources and tidbits too. Once we’ve got all the info we can find I plan to create a workable background for Imperial Navy flyers that I can adhere to for the rest of the 609th material I produce.

So, what do we need to know?


  • Ranks
  • Awards
  • Titles
  • Training
  • Period of service

Aircraft Types


  • Squadrons
  • Wings
  • Larger formations? (’Air Armies’ like the 8th Air Force or 2nd Tactical Air Force of WW2?)

Air/Space differences
Do IN units specialise in orbital or atmospheric combat? Are there distinctions between the two types of unit?

Imperial Guard
We know that the IG don’t field ‘fast-movers’, aircraft like Lightnings and Thunderbolts that is, except for the Phantine squadrons. Why? Did Guilliman ban it in the same way he banned the Astartes from commanding IG units? It would make sense certainly, but where do the Phantine fit into that?

PDF and militia flyers are mentioned in several locations, particularly Dan Abnett’s novel ‘Double Eagle’. What role do they play? Are they subordinate to the Navy or Guard? Are they ever drafted into the IN, like PDF units are into the IG?

And then we get to what we know about IN aircraft in the 3rd Armageddon War.

So those are the questions. Below are the answers I can come up with:

Aircraft Types

  • Thunderbolt - ‘heavy’ fighter, orbit capable but not a ’starfighter’ ♦ ‘Double Eagle’ notes Thunderbolts have some thrust vectoring capability♣
  • Lightning - ‘light’ fighter, orbit capable, no details if ’starfighter’ , recent addition to IN ranks, STC rediscovered Karnak III♦
  • Valkyrie - airborne assault carrier, crewed by the elite of the IN ♦
  • Vulture - multi-role gunship, atmospheric ops only ♦
  • Fury - a true ’starfighter’, interceptor, appears roughly analogous to Thunderbolt ♦
  • Starhawk - ’starfighter’, bomber, minor details noted in BFG (BFG)
  • Aquila Lander - light personnel shuttle, orbit capable ♦
  • Arvus Lighter - light cargo shuttle, orbit capable ♦
  • Marauder - medium (?) bomber, interdiction bomber ♦
  • Marauder Destroyer - Marauder variant first used during 2nd Armageddon, close air support and ground attack aircraft, crewed by ‘handpicked IN pilots’ ♦
  • Marauder Vigilant - Marauder variant, support aircraft with C3, EW, ESM etc. equipment ◊
  • Marauder Colossus - Marauder variant, payload is one very large guided bomb, used for special target types only ◊


  • Standard Imperial formation appears to be the Wing. Wings seem to be deployed as such rather than as individual squadrons (no specific source, simply the most commonly mentioned formation), although Phantine units seem to be deployed as ‘Flights’ (squadron sized units).
  • 717th Fighter Wing consisted of 10 squadrons, each of approx. 20 aircraft during Siege of Vraks ♥
  • 1099th Bomber Wing consisted of 7 squadrons, each of approx. 12 aircraft during Siege of Vraks ♥
  • IA Vol 6 implies that squadrons can be of mixed aircraft models if of same type, i.e. Thunderbolts & Lightnings in one squadron, or multiple Marauder variants ♥
  • One bomber wing & one fighter wing appear to be total IN aerial assets committed to liberation of Vraks, a Forge World, may offer some perspective on potential deployment sizes in other battle zones? ♥
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests Valkyries and possibly Vultures are attached to specific IG regiments rather than used as separate IN formations
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests most pilots/aircrew are male and that there is a bias against female aircrew ♣

Known Units/Actions

Sabbat Crusade, Enothian War, 772. M41 ♣

  • 63rd Imperial Fighter Wing ‘Sundogs’, notable member (commander?) Flight Commander (?) Leksander Godel (40 kills)
  • 409 Raptors (Fighter Wing?), commander Wing Leader Ortho Blaguer (110 kills)
  • 567th Fighter Wing
  • 786th Fighter Wing, Lightnings
  • 96th Fighter Wing, Thunderbolts
  • 101st Fighter WIng, ‘The Apostles’ - wing  of celebrated aces (members include: Quint, Wing Leader Etz Sekan (CO), Harlsson, Major Suhr, Captain Guis Gettering)
  • Fleet Admiral Ornoff appears to be senior aviation officer on Enothis
  • 42 Fighter Wings, 16 bomber flights deployed to Enothis (also listed as ‘58 Wings’)
  • ‘Battle of the Zonophian Sea’, multi-day (weeks?) battle on Enothis. Imperial losses 948, Arch-Enemy losses (claimed) 7840

Taros Intervention (Imperial Armour 3)

  • Fighter Wings: 83rd, 386th, 1002nd, 2774th
  • Bomber Wings: 5012st, 2424th

Siege of Vraks (IA 6)

  • 717th Fighter Wing consisted of 10 squadrons, each of approx. 20 aircraft
  • 1099th Bomber Wing consisted of 7 squadrons, each of approx. 12 aircraft

Third Armageddon War (Codex: Armageddon)

  • Imperial Fleet lists 43 Bomber Strike Wings and 67 Interceptor Strike Wings on its strength. Presumably these are Furies and Starhawks but no details are provided.
  • Furies may have been used from ground bases as well as fleet units
  • 2-3500 Ork Fighta Bommer squadrons listed as being present at 3rd AW plus 2100+ Ork attack craft (spaceborne/capable aircraft???)


Flight Personnel Ranks (in approx. order of seniority), no info on groundcrew available

  • Wing Sergeant (WS in IA is noted as being second in command of 83rd IN Fighter Wing, ‘Eagle’ squadron) ♦
  • Flight Commander/Commander (sep. ranks?) ♣
  • Captain ♣
  • Wing Leader ♣
  • Fleet Admiral ♣

PDF Aviation

  • Aircraft Type: KT4  Wolfcub (pulse (rocket) engines, quad cannon (nose mounted) )
  • Aircraft Type: Cyclone (twin piston engined, delta form, ‘Interceptor pattern’, twin seat)
  • Personnel: Rank: Pilot Cadet
  • Personnel: Rank: Major (appears equivalent to IN Wing Leader)
  • Personnel: Rank: Air Commander
  • Planet Enothis air units known as ‘Enothian Commonwealth Air Force’, part of PDF

Imperial Air Force

  • Only known units are Phantine or ‘Imperial Phantine Air Corps’ (’only founded IG regiment who are fliers’)
  • XXI Wing ‘Halo Flight’, deployed as part of reinforcements to Enothian War 772.M41, Sabbat Crusade
  • Halo Flight was equipped with Marauders and commanded by Captain Oskar Viltry, strength 12 aircraft & crews
  • Aircraft nicknames appear permissible, known nicknames ‘K forKillshot’, ‘Widowmaker’, ‘G for Greta’ (aka ‘Gee Force Greta’), ‘Hello Hellfire, ‘Throne of Terra’, ‘Mamzel Mayhem’, ‘Get Them All Back’, ‘Consider Yourself Dead’,  likely based on aircraft serial numbers or aircraft markings with a squadron
  • XX Wing ‘Umbra Flight’ commanded by Commander Jadgea Bree,  equipped with Thunderbolts, strength is 12 pilots & aircraft
  • XX Wing ‘Obris Flight’ commanded by Wilhem Hayyes
  • Ranks: Pilot Officer, Commander (Flight Commander?), Captain (seniority unknown between Cdr & Capt.)
  • Umbra Flight flys as three flights, each of 4 aircraft
  • As part of IG can recruit from PDF units unlike the Navy which either doesn’t or isn’t permitted to do so


  • Aeronautica Imperialis
  • ◊ FW website
  • ♥ Imperial Armour Vol. 6
  • ♣ ‘Double Eagle’
  • Codex: Armageddon
  • Imperial Armour 3

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…

Despite having the mighty Adeptus Astartes of the Praetoris Aeneas the Ordo Xenos knew that their particular mission on Armageddon would require a lot more firepower, the Space Marines would be doing what they do best - rapid insertion assault - whilst Imperial forces moved into position to complete the objectives.

Operating under special orders Interogators found a squadron which had seen extensive combat on Armageddon already, the Phantine XXIII, to be used as rapid deployment air support. Due to heavy casualties in a series of missions, where Adeptus Ministorum adepts had determined the risks as within acceptable loss parameters, the squadron was practically decimated and ready to be absorbed into the XXVIII. 

However edict from the Ordo Xenos meant they had a different role to play.

Designated purely Primarus and Secundus the Praetoris Aeneas gunships would be used as rapid deployment craft and extreme close support vehicles, and the sole responsibility of Epsilon Squadron to defend from both ork aircraft and long range bombardment.

In order to provide such cover the heavier Thunderbolt class Imperial fighters of the 492nd wing are tasked with close support duty. Whilst a number of pilots had been recovered after ejection the number of fighters available was greatly diminished and as such Lt Raffkin led a single formation which rotated in pilots when needed tostave off exhaustion.

Even with the squadron reduced below typically operational size the basic support crews and facilities needed to keep it running and operational for the Alpha-492 operation was still substantial. In order to fend off the inevitable marauding Ork bands the remaining Lightning craft were designated as 297th wing CAV for the duration of the mission.

The final component of the XXIII for the Alpha-492 mission were the 519th Marauder Destroyer wing. In order to ensure the Praetoris Aeneas could be most effective in their rapid strikes Lt Carlsen was tasked with attacking massed Ork hordes in areas near the planned operational zone. Along with Imperial Guard they were trying to inflict maximum casualties and run interference, generally harassing the greenskin leaders a great deal, to draw the savage beasts away from the true objective.

This is my planned 17 plane Aeronautica Imperialis force which I will be putting together over the coming weeks (or knowing me, months). I was heavily inspired by Double Eagle some time ago and so quite simply had to have a Phantine unit!

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.