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Making air useful

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  • Making air useful

    Randy's made a few comments about how air forces aren't really all that useful, and that we mainly run them as a concession to fun over outright effectiveness. I'm not sure I disagree with him.

    I don't LIKE it, though.

    Yeah, I know that TG is not a "win at any cost" outfit, but I've never felt that playing the TG way has ever been in conflict with winning (and, in fact, is usually in support of that goal). My personal feeling are that, as fun as flying is, if doing so is less effective than leading an infantry squad and ground pounding, I'm not really inclined towards doing it. I don't want to play tactically and employ teamwork at the expense of effectiveness, I want to be playing tactically and employing teamwork to be effective. I am NOT interested in indulging myself at the expense of the team as a whole.

    Since I like flying, I'd like to find ways to be a cost effective supplementary force to the ground pounders.

    I'm going to define "cost effective" as "helping achieve objectives more while flying than they would as boots on the ground". The primary ways that air units influence achieving objectives are:
    • Destroying targets on the ground. Obviously, the choice of target as well as how quickly they're destroyed has a large impact on how helpful it is to achieving an objective. Killing a tank outside a Bio Lab fight doesn't help defend the base, but hitting a Sunderer does.
    • Suppressing enemy ground elements. Infantry and armour have more difficulty moving around when there's a heavy air presence. This is usually when total air superiority has been gained.
    • Forcing the enemy to employ men and materiel as AA. If they're employing X people as dedicated AA and you are employing <X pilots, you've automatically justified your presence on the field.
    • Preventing movement of enemy troops and reinforcements. This is mostly shooting down Galaxies, and rarely happens without a dedicated team.
    • Providing airborne recon.
    • Preventing enemy air forces from doing any of the above. Achieving air superiority and shooting down enemy air assets does NOTHING for the overall objective save for stopping those assets from doing whatever task they'd have otherwise done. If they weren't going to have an influence on the fight, then shooting them down doesn't justify your presence in the slightest. Shooting down a liberator during a Bio Lab defense helps nothing but your K/D ratio.

    A few things this implies to me:
    • Under those criteria, we should actually be considering a heavy AA presence denying air support as a win condition, unless they're managing that AA with substantially less manpower.
    • The amount of AA pulled is going to be somewhat proportional to our effectiveness in other roles, and in particular destruction/suppression of enemy units. If air units keep killing Sunderers, they'll pull a burster team in response.
    • Air superiority only justifies itself if enemy air is being a hassle. Three dedicated AA Reavers to deal with one or two occasional Mossie fly-bys is complete overkill.
    • Air units should focus on hitting targets that ground units either really need dead or will have trouble engaging on their own. Hulled down armour, sunderers, snipers on ridges, entrenched enemy positions, etc. Hitting targets that local ground forces can readily deal with on their own is a losing game... air units aren't going to take them out faster, and are at much greater risk than more expendable infantry assets.
    • If we can manage to prevent enemy forces from even reaching the front lines (heavy interceptors, attacking sunderers en-route from other bases, etc) we can provide a service to the platoon that can't be done any other way. The clearest example I can think of of an air squad I was leading being indispensable was when we intercepted a pair of Galaxies en-route to Eisa tech plant as our ground squad capped it during a world-wide tech plant alert. If we hadn't been scattered by a series of (hilarious in retrospect) accidents and miscommunications and been unable to destroy the 3 Galaxy drop that came several minutes later, we might have been able to capture an alert-critical base with one infantry squad and one air squad during prime time. THAT would have been something! Of course, I could be putting way too much emphasis on this, given that I desperately want there to be strategic value in disrupting enemy logistics AND I came up with the tactic in question and thus might be a [i/]little[/i] bit biased.

    What are your guy's thoughts on this?

  • #2
    Re: Making air useful

    I think Air Power is a very potent force often overlooked. They are critically powerful at bases without built in AA and vehicle terminals for obvious reasons. Highly certed aircraft are capable of tanking quite a few burster rounds.

    Another, very critical capability, is the Recce role an aircraft can take.
    No person can simply just be; they are what they do.


    • #3
      Re: Making air useful

      "Since the German attack on Poland in 1939, no country has won a war in the face of enemy air superiority, no major offensive has succeeded against an opponent who controlled the air, and no defense has sustained itself against an enemy who had air superiority. Conversely, no state has lost a war while it maintained air superiority, and attainment of air superiority consistently has been a prelude to military victory. It is vital that national and theater commanders, their air component commanders, and their surface component commanders be aware of these historical facts, and plan accordingly."- John Warden

      Randy is right... You can win this game using nothing but infantry. But you will require several times more numbers for; Suppression, Asset elimination and even people to replace those who pulled Burster MAXs. I can assure anyone that as long as ally aircraft are able to fly above. The enemy can not effectively advance. At least not without taking severe casualties.


      • #4
        Re: Making air useful

        Sure. There are obviously individual points in which air power is very useful in the game. But as a dedicated squad, is that still the case?

        We can all point out times where air really wrecked us, or where it would have been brilliant to have air support... but are those just the exception? Are they enough to justify having a squad of people on-station at all times, sometimes idling on resources or timers, or in the big picture is that a poor use of resources? Is there an upper limit on how big an air squadron can be and still be useful in the general case, as opposed to a hit-once-and-then-revert-to-ground-pounding ESF swarm like TE used to run to terrifying effect?


        • #5
          Re: Making air useful

          Zep, that may be true for real wars, but Planetside 2 has its own dynamics. That's only true if the enemy has (or is reactively inclined to) pull more AA assets than there are air assets to counter. Is that the case, or is one AA asset capable of holding several pilots worth of aircraft off?


          • #6
            Re: Making air useful

            So I thought some on the title and came up with this:
            When a major facility (excluding a biolab) comes under attack and the enemy has yet to obtain air superiority, quick mobilization becomes a key asset to comtrolling the air. If one squad redeploys to the nearest large facility and pulls 6 reavers and 2 liberators. The reavers should be loaded with breaker rocket pods and with whatever else the pilot wants in order to feel most comfortable with in a dogfight. Basically, take an A2A reaver and add rockets. The libs should be decked with a dalton or zephyr, gunner preference. AA gun is recommended if the area is still contested but if it's clear of enemies, the bulldog can add some additional kick. Assuming these guys can get to the fight in about 60 seconds, we should be okay.
            the tactics:
            The reavers have an interesting job. rather than the current hover, shoot, fly away mechanic used by many, the reavers go in at speed and strafe an area with rockets, one after the other, with all six covering the same area, ideally concentrated with armor, for infantry, run only 2. The armor, if not dead, is now very soft. A lib with zephyr can easily clean up. This is not great for pilot score and K/D, but it furthers the objective an helps clear large quantities of forces that normal infantry would have to pull assets to have any chance against. I certainly would like to see this type of coordinated air strike more than the current one guy hovers, shoots, flys off tactic which can easily be countered by a sneaky AA HA fireteam.


            • #7
              Re: Making air useful

              Just wanted to cross link the air platoon AAR for last week's FNF. The video of the action is a must watch, imo.

              The onion in the ointment for air ops seems to have been having them as part of an infantry or mixed inf/armor platoon. It's hard for the PL in that situation to effectively call/mark targets as they are already juggling a number of tasks. I think the take away from last week is that the air works really well as it's own platoon, with an embedded spotter marking targets. I've suggested in the past that infantry, armor and air all run in separate platoons but without an in game company org option, TS is probably required to make it work. Folks have been reluctant to go this route.


              • #8
                Re: Making air useful

                I see that as a great way to split it. I have noticed that as an air unit (which I rarely squad lead as I have no certed vehicles and am not a great fighter pilot) I tend to get more autonomy and often note that the PL is busy managing the other squads, especially when armor is involved.
                Separating the squads outside of a single platoon, or even having the PL step down and let the airr, armor, and infantry squads operate in the same platoon, but autonomously, would be very interesting. WHat you suggest is basically the same, but with potential for higher numbers (which would create one heck of a tactical zerg >:D)


                • #9
                  Re: Making air useful

                  Originally posted by P.Drona View Post
                  Just wanted to cross link the air platoon AAR for last week's FNF. The video of the action is a must watch, imo.

                  The onion in the ointment for air ops seems to have been having them as part of an infantry or mixed inf/armor platoon. It's hard for the PL in that situation to effectively call/mark targets as they are already juggling a number of tasks. I think the take away from last week is that the air works really well as it's own platoon, with an embedded spotter marking targets. I've suggested in the past that infantry, armor and air all run in separate platoons but without an in game company org option, TS is probably required to make it work. Folks have been reluctant to go this route.
                  I agree, everyone who has not already should watch that, and again great work MrJengles, SS, and all of those who organized and participated in excellent air ops last week.

                  After discussions that resulted in, and especially seeing the results of, last weeks air op, I have been convinced that this is the way air should be run.

                  Armor however I think has certain synergies with infantry through the common link of Sunderers. Infantry need Sunderer(s) to spawn on but they must be protected when all the infantry go in to the base. Armor need Sunderers for Repair and Ammo, which keep the tanks close to said Sunderers and protecting them. That's why I think one squad of armor (including Sunderer support) along with 1-3 squads if infantry in the same platoon works so well.

                  Unless you are doing airborne infantry, or rapid redeployment, which is sometimes not compatible with the slower pace that it takes armor to move across the map. In which case maybe there is something to your point of 2 (or 3) separate platoons: 1 armor (+ maybe mech infantry), 1 airborne infantry, 1 strictly air. Perhaps ideal from a flexibility standpoint, but I see two problems with it. The first being, I don't think we have the numbers for all of that. And secondly, even if we did, we run into the old issue of not having enough qualified SLs / PLs to keep all the individual moving parts going. But maybe one day...
                  "The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." - George Bernard Shaw


                  • #10
                    Re: Making air useful

                    Has anybody considered embedding an AA group into the air platoon? It's something I do when playing with friends sometimes, we'll squad up and I'll fly a Lib with my regular gunner and other members will grab a couple skyguards. At least at the fireteam scale it synergizes very well, the AA usually has something to shoot at anyways, the Lib has somewhere safe to fall back to in the event of enemy fighters, and the skyguards sometimes get hapless fighters drug directly over top of them.

                    I've been curious for a while to see if something like that could be expanded larger, perhaps as an adjunct to regular TG air platoon. Perhaps two regular air squads, a small spotter squad and a small support squad with a Ranger/Ammo Sundy and a couple skyguards. The AA unit could stay relatively on the move and should be fairly safe from ground threats if they position well and communicate with the air about incoming enemies.

                    Something I've only ever seen one time is a dedicated air support squad. A couple of months ago I saw (I think) a CML squad setup on the dry seabed northeast of Howling Pass Checkpoint on Indar. The NC was pushing south up the mountain and the CML squad leader was calling out in multiple chats where the support squad was. They had AA, ammo sundies, and engineers all on standby and anybody who touched down would get full service repair and rearm. It was one of my favorite things I've ever seen in this game.

                    A pilot who doesn't have any fear probably isn't flying his plane to its maximum. -Jon McBride, astronaut


                    • #11
                      Re: Making air useful

                      I've tried it in the past as a good role for downed pilots waiting on timers or resources, they can man an AA turret or pull a skyguard to provide a safe zone. It's fairly helpful when engaging equal or greater enemy air forces in an air superiority contest because it means that retreating from a losing fight or luring them over an AA nest are both possibilities.

                      I'm not opposed to having something like that in an air platoon. It wouldn't be a huge factor in the kind of hit-and-run CAS tactics shown in the video, but would pay for itself if the enemy started bringing interceptors in in large numbers. However, an armour squad often has a skyguard or two (as well as occasionally MBT/sunderer secondaries) and if we're working in close coordination with a regular infantry/armour platoon a dedicated AA unit MIGHT be a little redundant.

                      Along those lines, though, a tactic I've seen done to great effect (in particular by AACE back when they were active) is to load up a galaxy full of burster MAXes and a few support troops, then bait enemy fighters and liberators into engaging you. Often you can rip them apart with the flak before you even hit the ground, and against a resource constrained enemy this can actually be a pretty significant dent in their continental air power.


                      • #12
                        Re: Making air useful

                        These are my thoughts, although I do not claim to be any expert on aircraft or air combat in Planetside2. I just love flying liberators, and would love to see them used.

                        Infantry Is Always Good, Tanks and Air are Awesome, Sometimes.
                        I believe infantry is a master key. In any situation, infantry can address it, although not perfectly. (All doors are open to infantry) Tanks and planes are really awesome in some circumstances, but not even useful in others. Thus I think they should not be the majority of the platoon, or even 1/2 of it. The platoon needs infantry. In real armies the bulk of the force (in numbers) is infantry. Armor and Air forces are smaller in number.

                        However, I think that air can be really effective, as can tanks, in the right circumstances. Even a single liberator can provide good suppression on an enemy armor group or engage air, which could otherwise strafe friendly ground targets, or recon the next objective.

                        The Problem of Freedom
                        I think air has a major problem though, which is it requires giving each pilot some freedom. Until we master formations, each pilot has some choice. (BigAl and I and a few others tried formation flying a bit, and it can be fun, but we are not at the point of really utilizing it at a platoon level yet. We need to tweak it some more.) This freedom means that players who lack hard discipline will think "I need not stay with the group, or stay on task, I will go do X" -- where X is what they feel like.

                        But to be effective, in my view, each craft must have some freedom. Example, the ability to pick their targets not seek exactly what they are ordered, flexibility in how they approach the target, and free choice of when to retreat. The PL, on the ground, may order his air into a very hot area, not realizing the amount of flak and danger that would expose them to. The air must have the discretion to make small choices without consulting the PL, or even their SL. If they wait 20 seconds to check with the SL, their aircraft, and previous resources/Cool down timer, could be wasted. Otherwise it would clog squad/platoon comms with information not relevant to the majority of the squad in the air or platoon on the ground.

                        Separate Platoon is a good idea
                        I agree that air should be in a separate platoon. I have even thought about a squad for reavers, and a squad for each lib or galaxy. This would allow communications inside each craft between the crewmembers, which in my book is essential. Yes TS would be needed for cross platoon comms, but I do not see that as a negative.

                        Air within a mostly ground platoon can be a good investment if the pilots are the right sort
                        I think having one lib or a small amount of air within a mostly ground platoon (as the fourth squad for instance) is a cost effective use of resources, provided you put players in there have have the discipline to really seek to support the ground forces. (Example: A and B infantry, and C either tanks or infantry, and D as just 2 or 3 people in one liberator / 2-3 reavers)

                        Often the people who volunteer for air are not the people you see instantly obeying orders in infantry platoons and staying right on their squad leader. I think that's the problem. I say we can have air, but the leash is tight, or we only let people fly who we trust 100% to be on task. My view is you give the freedom and discretion to those you trust to use it well. Don't give it to some player who is going to buzz the convoy for the fun of it. Because an air squad leader cannot provide the in depth supervision and direction a ground leader can, you need to send the best into the wild blue yonder.

                        If we only have a small number of air pilots, and they are truly elite in their team-mindedness, I think that air is a good investment of players for the platoon. It is when air becomes a large group, very few of which are really focused on supporting the ground offense, that air becomes a waste. The platoon needs to keep the majority of its force on the ground, where infantry can address any issue, not in the air where it can address only some issues. As much as I love liberators, I recognize that most days I will not get to fly one, because the platoon needs my boots on the ground.
                        The question foremost in my mind is "what will bring the most tactical fun to the server?"


                        • #13
                          Re: Making air useful

                          Originally posted by Garthra View Post
                          Don't give it to some player who is going to buzz the convoy for the fun of it.
                          Er. Well, so much for me, then.

                          If it makes any difference, I also say "NEEEEEEEEOOOOOWWWW" in prox chat while I do so.


                          • #14
                            Re: Making air useful

                            I really was enjoying the formation flying. Still needs some work in translating formations to Game mechanics.

                            I was in a gunner role, and really could have used some more intelligence from on the ground of what targets to hit or look for. I had draw distance all the way out and it was challenging to find a useful ground target before I had to switch to A2A and fend off some random fighter that decided to chase us.

                            I definately see how this could turn the tide of a battle front and create a very effective force. It does require some numbers just to field enough personnel to make it worth while. Too few and it becomes hard to maintain air superiority. But if you have superiority, where your liberators can pound any strong ground resistance. Your ground troops can secure the facility.

                            I think the key I am seeing is that there are multiple facets to the air assets in this game. Mobility, Air to Ground, Air Superiority. My armchair general battle plan would go something like this.

                            Air Cav Platoon
                            A Squad - Infantry
                            B Squad - Infantry
                            C Squad - Galaxy 1 crew
                            D Squad - Galaxy 2 crew

                            Second Platoon
                            A Squad - Sunderer + Tanks
                            B Squad - Infantry
                            C Squad - Infantry Support + Anti Armor/Anti Air troops + Mech Infantry

                            Third Platoon
                            A Squad - Fighters
                            B Squad - Liberators
                            C Squad - Ground spotters

                            Second Platoon is the spearhead. As the armor + mech inf rolls into battle A squad Third Platoon establishes air superiority. Then B Squad Third Platoon flys in formation and softens targets. First platoon then halo drops on the capture point now that the enemy is fully engaged with Second Platoon, and the skies are clear for the galaxies by B Squad Third Platoon.

                            Now Second Platoon regroups, mounts up and begins rolling to the next objective. First Platoon stays on defensive. Third platoon preparses to assault the next point. Once battle is imminent, first platoon mounts their galaxies and transits and the plan basically repeats.

                            Downside... requires superior numbers and lots of coordination.




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