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What Can You Do With a Drunken Stuka?

What Can You Do With a Drunken Stuka?

What Can You Do With a Drunken Stuka?

Earl-aye in the Morning

 

The Battle of the Bolts in Frank Chadwick’s ETO

 

By Alan Emrich

 

For those seeking cultural references to this article’s title, look here.


For players of Frank Chadwick’s ETO, it is the (figurative and literal) “siren” call of the Stuka Air unit that inspires this examination of a superior Ground Support Air unit type. Like the Stukas themselves, we are taking an aerial view and deep dive over the target, aiming to hit you with some things to think about.

 

The Double Red Bolt Ground Support Air Units

 

Air support is vital for ground and naval operations, of course, but a good yardstick to measure its quality (in terms of support Bolts) is the red double-bolt Ground Attack air units. These are illustrated below:


However, for their longevity and impact on the game, the two German Stuka units remain our primary focus here. These Stuka units, as much as the German Panzer Corps units on the ground, are symbols of Blitzkrieg! warfare. Despite their intrinsic vulnerability, they operated throughout the entire war, so potent and vital are their double red bolt strike symbols.

 

Anti-Shipping Support


In addition to its oft-used and remarkable enhancement for ground combat support, these double red bolt Ground Attack Air units proved very useful in an anti-shipping role. Most Non-Naval Air units might assist in a Sea Zone with their single white bolt (hoping to roll a 1). Stuka units, on the other hand, use their two red bolts (rolling twice in the hope of achieving a 1 or 2 on each die) and thus bring their good quantity of die rolls and To Hit values to sea. Much of the loss and harassment of Allied operations around Crete and Malta, in the English Channel, and the demise of the Soviet Navies in the Baltic and Black Seas can be attributed to the Axis lending the support of their Stuka units to an anti-shipping role.

 

Jericho Trumpets


Germany’s two Stuka units come with a free “shock and awe” card, Jericho Trumpets. For the first turns that the Germans are at war with a new belligerent nation, the Jericho Trumpets card simulates those new nations’ initial encounters with Ju-87 dive bombers and the horrors of modern mobile warfare.


Featuring the WWII equivalent of “pinpoint bombing,” these aircraft had a reputation as “flying artillery” for their precision strikes. Adding to the target’s fear of their accuracy was the certainty that they were approaching – their attached sirens howling as their dive attack ensued. To simulate these elements, when a nation first comes to grips with Stuka attacks, we have made their initial support attacks slightly more effective and anti-aircraft against them slightly less effective by giving one of their two bolts an automatic full hit – that is, they do not have to roll for that first bolt; it is an “Auto-Hit.”


Oh, No, You Don’t!

 

Another important aspect of the Stuka units’ Strike Value is that these are red Bolts. This means that when found in the Available box, they can be summoned for Defensive Air Support (and lots of it). Of course, because of their terrific abilities as Offensive Air Support, they are seldom found idling in the Available box to await their defensive use. Still, by spending the ½ Fuel Point necessary to Rush Recover them (as is so often necessary for Fighter units), they can find their way to doing some critical double-duty. The mere threat of using them on defense often upsets the opponent’s attack calculus, which can prove just as beneficial as actually employing them at a defensive battle.

 

The Glass Cannon Effect

 

The two red Bolts are certainly an excellent air-to-surface attack cannon, but glass? Yes, glass. That is because the Stuka units have a Vulnerable (8-ball) icon on them, making them easier targets for enemy Fighters attacking them. In the opponent’s eyes, German Stuka units are flying with a bull’s eye on them! Their delay from Damage or Suppression (or worse, their loss to the Destroyed box) is always jarring to an Axis player hurrying their conquest plans for a newly active belligerent.

 

Naturally, glass cannons like the Ju-87 units are something the Axis player will want to use and do their utmost to protect. These are ways to help ensure the life expectancy of these units:

  1. They should always fly with (and deserve) the best Escort Fighter unit available. Once Escorting Mission Packets are allowed circa mid-1940.

  2. Fly them in a Mission Group with an Air unit having a Shield icon. That cancels out the Stuka’s detrimental 8-ball icon, improving the Stuka’s chances on the Dogfight table when intercepted.

  3. Fly them in a Mission Group with another Air unit having an 8-ball and, when losses occur, have to other unit in that Mission Group “take the Hit” so the Stuka will be less bothered by the encounter. Of course, having two 8-ball marked units in a packet is sure to give the enemy Fighters a very strong attack against it!

  4. Or, have a Sweep Fighter nearby to defend that Stuka. In this manner, it can swoop in and take the Hit as a “meat shield” to protect Mission Air units (especially vulnerable Stukas!).

 

Early War Air Losses (no Escort Missions)

 

The Early War period (prior to Air Doctrine changes) saw Air units taking damage and being destroyed at an alarming rate. During this time (historically after the Fall of France and prior to the Battle of Britain circa June 1940), there is only a single Intercept unit allowed in a Packet, and no Escort Missions are allowed! Protecting your Air Missions means arranging nearby Sweep Missions to arrive late and clean up the mess made by the enemy’s Interceptors. This Early War Air Doctrine envisioned Bombers’ machine guns sweeping enemy Fighters from the sky while, as in the First World War, Fighters would hunt in packs against whatever enemy Fighters would rise nearby.


“Help yourself, everybody. There’s no fighter escort!”

From the great film Battle of Britain (1969).

 

Until these doctrinal deficiencies are resolved, the Flown and Destroyed boxes are going to be ladened with injured Air units. When will doctrinal matters improve? All Factions receive their shiny new Air Doctrine OOB cards when the Germans have 7+ Air units in their Destroyed box OR the beginning of 1941, whichever occurs first. Historically, it was the combination of Air losses over France, then Britain, and German production in June 1940 that confronted all Factions to face the new reality of modern Aerial Warfare and adjust.

 

Suppressing Chain Home Radar


It is no surprise, therefore, that the double red Bolt Stuka units are the tool of choice to make Airfields Attack Missions.


One of the German’s goals while England stood alone was to sufficiently suppress the UK’s Chain Home (CH) Radar card and return it to the Allied player’s hand. In this early war of radar, the German’s best tool for this job was Luftwaffe Stukas. These were well suited to creating Suppression markers in quantities sufficient to keep the RAF down and make “holes” in the CH Radar chain to cancel its benefits. Of course, due to losses, the Stukas were only available on a “while they last” basis.


Here is another great visual from the film Battle of Britain.

Notice the Jericho Trumpets sound made while dive bombing.

 

The Luftwaffe version of “The Hammer”

 

Most players have come to use the German’s two Thor-like hammers against intransigent Ground units. The first is employing a German HQ marker in Attack mode for a double shift against one hex. Although expensive (1 OP to put that HQ in Attack mode and 1 OP = 1 EP + 1/2  FP), the attacking double shifts it guarantees can be vital.

 

The German Air Force’s version of a hammer is a Close Air Support Mission Packet consisting of 1 Stuka + 1 Ju-88 unit, Escorted by 1 top-quality Fighter unit. Should the Mission Packet endure, its 3 bolts (2 of them red) should garner, on average, a double shift. Unlike the HQ hammer, the Luftwaffe hammer does not cost 1 OP but instead risks the cream of the German Air units to hazards from the air and ground. When the difference between a strategic victory or defeat is all about maintaining offensive momentum, having and using these hammers properly is a vital Axis player skill!

 

Franco’s Air Force


In Victory at All Costs (the final volume of the ETO series tying everything together), the Spanish National Air Force includes a Stuka unit, which becomes available as Spain modernizes its forces. The Axis tried to bring Spain into the fold after France fell, but Franco’s price to join the war was too high. Had a deal been struck, then, circa 1941, the Spanish Air Force could be equipped with newer-model German Air units, including a Ju-87.

 

And this returns us once again to the film Battle of Britain. Its release in the anti-war sentiment year of 1969 was long before the age of computer graphics in movies. A mixture of real aircraft and models made up the aerial visuals. The RAF provided a (very) few real Spitfires and Hurricanes, but finding German aircraft posed a problem.

 

No Stukas were available anywhere, so the film used radio-controlled flying scale models for them. The film’s technical director, Luftwaffe ace Lt. Gen. Adolf Galland (an actual Battle of Britain veteran), suggested looking at Spain’s Air Force to see if they still had some airworthy Heinkel 111s and Messerschmidt 109s. As Spain was just about to scrap them from active service, the film production was able to purchase what was needed (cheap!).


From Enemy at the Gates using CGI (Computer Generated Images), here is an anti-shipping Stuka Attack at the Battle of Stalingrad challenging the arrival of Soviet reinforcements.

 

Hey, Ho, and Up She Rises! (rebuilding)

 

One feature of the Stuka and other single-engine types of Ground Attack Air units is that their counter sizes shrank from Medium to Small size. This has no gameplay impact on the map, but getting these units to the map is made easier by their now diminutive counter size. That is, the 1 FP cost for a Medium Air unit to rise from the Destroyed box or Rush Recover is only ½ FP for Small (Unhindered) Air units. Since the Ju-87 (and the V-1 rocket) units so often find themselves taking abuse from Dogfighting, this cheaper repair and recovery cost is a significant help to the fuel-starved Axis.

 

Flying with Alice’s “Eat Me” Cake


But this concept of reducing the size of these Small Ground Attack Air units found its mirror image for more technically advanced Air units. All the Jet Aircraft and Night Fighter units (not to mention the V-2 rockets) are Medium-size (Major) Air units.


This means they must pay that full 1 FP to rise from the Destroyed box or to Rush Recover. During the late war period, when the availability of these amazing pieces began to increase, the Axis player must consider their Fuel Point cost with parsimony.


Upon reflection, size matters.


Summary: Ground Attack and Anti-Shipping workhorses

 

The Ju-87 Stuka and its evolutionary double-red Bolt counterparts:

  • The HS-129 (essentially, a Stuka without the Vulnerable (8-ball) icon (Germany and Romania)

  • The Il-10 (USSR, very late-war)

  • And the amazing A-26 (USA, with its Tough (Shield) icon that really is a Medium Air unit!)


These are oft-used workhorses of air support for smashing the enemy’s forces. Reach for them with careful consideration to assist in the attack or defense at the key combat locations evolving on the map. Although few (and thus they cannot be everywhere), where they fly, their opponents will know it.



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Erich Honecker
Erich Honecker
Nov 25, 2023

Americans tested all these dive bombers since 20's, even pioneered in its combat usage, in Nicaragua 1927. German ace Ernst Udet saw that squadron on air show in 1932 and was so impressed with it's precision that lobbied Stuka in production, that was a first step to the loss of battle of Britain.

In US however they understood(not everyone, George Marshall tried to lobby divers into army under impression of polish campaign) how vulnerable dive bomber was, so they only significant result was A-24, which was decommissioned shortly after it's poor preformance against japanese on Java and New Guinea.


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