Air Role Guide: Part I
Before we get started..
Many of you reading this guide have probably seen my YouTube videos where Apaches are relentlessly destroying ground forces with ridiculous firepower. One person on YouTube had left a comment that in our mod, armor and infantry players will be nothing but "moving targets" and that Air will be so overpowered to the point that helicopters should be extremely expensive.
Well, before this gets you excited, don't get your hopes up yet. Allow me to be the first one to tell you: playing Air in this mod will be hard.
That's right, if you want to have lot of fun owning those enemy tanks and ground forces, you'd better pay close attention to this tutorial or you'll quickly find that Air role is not powerful AT ALL as portrayed in some of our development videos.
You'll find that there are several attack helicopter options. For purpose of getting started with this mod, choose the "Attack Helicopter for Beginners". If you want to play "Attack Helicopter for Experts", that will be out of the scope of this tutorial. We'll have another tutorial designed for intermediate to expert players to show you how to play that helicopter later on.
Fly one unit at a time..
Your attack helicopter carries 16 anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) that can be rapidly fired one after another before you go into a long reload. This not only increases your firepower substantially, it also increases your mission time, allowing you to stick around longer.
Because of this, we recommend that you only fly 1 chopper at a time. Flying 2 doesn't give much added advantage other than more ATGMs, but it also distracts you by having to micro manage two units instead of one unit. Getting distracted as air pilot is the worst thing that could happen to you.
So, you can buy two helicopters, but you should fly 1 at a time. Once you run out of ATGMs while in mission, you can return to base and then switch to the other chopper, while your first chopper reloads its ammo.
How to Properly Use Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs)
Based on our observation, lot of new air players get themselves killed by trying to get up front and personal to the enemy.
You're not a fighter pilot, you're in a slow moving helicopter. You cannot escape enemy's line of fire so best option for you is to avoid being seen by enemy in the first place. If you get close to the enemy, everyone and their grandmother will shoot at you and kill you. Even tanks will not hesitate to aim their main cannon at your cockpit and fire a 120mm SABOT up your face.
Your helicopter's ATGMs are very long ranged and they outgun the short range air defense systems (SHORAD), like Stinger missiles, AAA's. etc. This gives you an enormous amount of edge in that you can safely stand-off outside of the air defense threat and snipe it with your long range ATGM, and then kill the tanks or whatever else your intended targets may be.
Use the Offensive Special Ability button to lock onto your target and fire your ATGM missile.
As shown in the above picture, DO NOT get close to the enemy! SHORAD anti-air units and even tanks will open fire on you and quickly bring you down.
Note: ATGMs here are not fire-and-forget weapons. Your helicopter must stay up in the air and maintain visual contact with your intended target all the way until impact. If you fly away from the enemy after firing your missile, it will lose guidance and not hit anything. Also note that ATGM's are not always accurate either. From time to time they will overshoot or undershoot and miss the target. In that case, you'll have to try again by firing another ATGM.
Using non-guided munitions
Depending on which faction you are playing, your helicopter may also be equipped with rockets and most definitely a 30mm powerful gun that could easily fry any soft targets.
To use these unguided munitions, simply get close to the enemy and right click to fire your 30mm gun. To fire rockets, press and hold "F" key to use "Attack Ground / Force Fire" feature and aim at the ground where you want your rockets to land. If your chopper is out of ammo or doesn't have rockets on board, then it obviously won't do anything in that instance.
Do note however, non-guided munitions are short ranged and you have to get close to the enemy. You should avoid this whenever possible. You will open yourself up to get shot at by getting closer to the enemy to employ your unguided munitions. Always stick to long ranged ATGMs whenever possible and use guns/rockets only as last resort to quickly mop up soft targets.
You'll quickly find that sophisticated enemy air defenses will force you to never come out of hiding unless you want to get killed. This unfortunately limits your options to attack the enemy, because when you're hiding, you can't really attack as effectively as being in front and center.
But don't worry. The best part about playing the Air role is that you get access to some really really neat toys! They are strategic offensive weapons such as cruise missiles and ballistic missiles at the cheapest price! You should definitely take advantage of these strategic weapons available for you at bargain prices.
Cruise missiles and ballistic missiles give you more options to punish the enemy. But most importantly, they allow you to deliver offensive firepower deep into enemy territory, penetrating their air defenses without putting your pilots at risk.
When you need to attack a concentrated troop area, chances are, it will be under a massive air defense umbrella that will make it simply impossible for you to attack with helicopters alone. In such instances, you could launch a cruise missile into the enemy formation and it will take out lot of them very quickly! Very satisfying too!
Using the Cruise Missile and Ballistic Missile Tactical Aids
These tactical aids actually do not give you a cruise missile or ballistic missile. Instead, they give you a launch vehicle that you can use to fire a missile every minute! So do NOT place the tactical aid on where the enemy is! Always call it in near your spawn zone, where it is safe and far away from enemy units:
Launching Cruise Missiles (CMs)
Cruise missiles (CMs) are cheap (only 10-15 TA for Air Role) and nasty. They are aerial vehicles capable of sustaining flight through aerodynamic lift while carrying a lethal 660 to 1,000 lb high explosive warhead. They also evade detection by flying very low and using terrain masking, making them difficult to counter for enemy air defense forces.
CMs are typically used to target high-value and concentrated troop locations, such as command points, armor player's sniping positions, air defense systems and artillery.
However, they are most effective at targeting enemy ground forces out in the front line as well as to clear enemy-held command points. CMs are extremely difficult to intercept at front line due to their low altitude flight and speed, and you'll quickly gain lot of TA and score points by attacking front line forces with your CMs.
If you wish to target high-value assets deep inside enemy territory, such as artillery and air defense systems, beware that Heavy SAMs like Patriot will not sit idle to your attack. They will quickly respond and fire their own missiles to intercept your CM before it arrives to their spawn zone. You may need to team up with another player or keep buying more CM launchers to launch a massive salvo of CM spam to penetrate into enemy's integrated air defense network.
To launch a CM, it is very easy: Simply select Offensive Special Ability button, then left-click on the desired attack position on the map.
Launching Tactical Ballistic Missiles (TBMs)
TBMs are surface-to-surface missiles that fly in a ballistic manner. They are extremely fast and carry a lethal 500 to 1,000 lb high explosive warhead that can reduce a fortified command point into dust, killing everyone inside lethal blast radius.
Note that REDFOR faction gets a wide range of various TBM options to field, while BLUEFOR is limited to just one expensive missile -- so TBMs are more abundant and powerful if you are playing on the REDFOR side.
Despite the high terminal velocities and massive explosion they cause, TBMs also come with disadvantages. The moment you launch one, the missile will be detected on enemy air defense radars, giving them a warning that you have fired a TBM.
Seeing this, enemy forces could react to your TBM launch and promptly evacuate their ground forces away from the predicted trajectory of your TBM strike, limiting the effectiveness.
Launching a TBM is very easy and same fashion as cruise missiles. Simply select offensive ability and left-click on the target area you want to attack.
In addition to the disadvantage of early detection, do note that air defense systems like Patriot and S-300 missiles will race to the high altitude like ambulances to intercept your TBM before impact.
The biggest fear factor of TBM is its raw speed. It's extreme speed makes it very hard to stop and difficult to intercept. Only advanced high-altitude SAMs like Patriot and S-300 could intercept an incoming TBM. Should they fail to intercept, then there is no other anti-air in the game that could get in the way of your TBM to stop it before impact.
You could also spam your TBMs by teaming up with another player. Salvo launching TBMs will overwhelm enemy's missile defense systems and with enough TBMs spammed, you could penetrate any air defenses and hit your target. There is a reason why these TBMs are so darned expensive, their speed makes everything on the ground look like a child's toy.
And that will be all for the Basics.
Sounds easy eh? Not really, you'll quickly find that playing air requires you to be very patient and act as a sniper. So, understanding and practicing the principle of "standing off" from enemy's range of fire is very important.
Remember, your mission as a combat helicopter pilot is to avoid contact with the enemy whenever possible, then kill him with a surprising blow. Good attack helicopter pilots will kill their enemy without him knowing what had just killed him.
And do spend your tactical aid points wisely. You should buy those cruise missiles to augment your offensive attack capabilities. With helicopters alone, you simply cannot dominate the battlefield because air defenses are just way too strong for you to be flying around anywhere you want with choppers.