Gunship Academy

by Richard Sheffield


If you aren't successful with your countermeasures, you're going to get hit eventually. The amount of damage sustained will depend on where you're hit and what type of weapon hit you. Every time you take a hit, check the system damage lights across the top of the screen. You must keep up with what works and what doesn't.

Damage to certain systems can drastically alter your mission plan. If you're loaded with Hellfires and planning to take out a depot with your gun, you had better keep a look out for damage to the gun. If it should get hit, you have no way of destroying the depot. In this case, you might want to change course to the secondary target if it can be destroyed with Hellfires, or you might choose to just hang around the base long enough to use up all of your Hellfires and then land for a reload with FFARs.

Whether or not damage to a particular system is critical will depend upon your mission and situation. There are some systems, however, to which damage is always troublesome. Let's look at the damage-panel abbreviations and possible damage to each area (listed in order of their appearance from left to right across the display).

R (Main Rotor)

If the main rotor is damaged, it's serious enough that if it gets hit again, you're going down. Flying with a damaged rotor is aggravating but can be done. Fortunately, this system does not seem to get hit very often.

O (Nose Optics)

This system is very important since it controls the TADS aiming system. Damage is troublesome; destruction of this system means it's time to head for home since you cannot lock onto targets to activate your weapons.

A (Forward Avionics Bay)

Damage or destruction of this system is not critical to completion of your mission, but you'll lose some of your gauges (most importantly, your fuel gauge).

G (Gun)

Damage to the gun does not mean that it cannot be used, but generally it means that it can no longer be aimed with the TADS system. With a damaged gun, you'll have to aim it by pointing the aircraft like you do to aim your rockets. Total loss of the gun can be ignored if you're carrying rockets or if you can ignore soft targets.

F (Fuel Tank)

If this tank is damaged, your flying time will be significantly reduced. If this happens, it may be time to head for home or go for a secondary target.

W (Wing)

It is not damage to the wing that is important here, it is the loss of the weapons on the wing. In most cases, the wings will be destroyed, not damaged, with the first hit.

If a wing is lost, you'll lose half of all your weapons except for gun ammo. This includes Sidewinders, so if, for instance, you have fired one and you lose the other wing, you will be left only with your gun as the defense against Hinds. Take that into consideration when deciding whether to go on or turn back.

E (Engine)

The loss of an engine is serious, though you can continue if you're careful. If you lose both, you'll have to autorotate to land and possibly get captured or killed. Weather conditions will effect how well the aircraft will perform with the one remaining engine. If you are in the Middle East where temperatures and elevations are high, you might have to jettison some of your weapons to stay up or to hover.

A (Aft Avionics Bay)

This bay contains your jammers and navigation equipment, the loss of which could make your target, and home, hard to find and make missiles hard to avoid. This area seems well protected and does not go out often.

L (Launchers)

Losing a flare or chaff launcher can be serious but can be overcome by using maximum standoff when attacking and using pop-up techniques to shield you from missiles. Since you'll be attacked more frequently by IR missiles, losing the flare launcher is the more serious of the two.

R (Tail Rotor)

A damaged tail rotor is very serious. It takes a lot of guts and skill to continue on with a bad rotor. The aircraft will be very hard to control and that makes firing rockets almost impossible&madsh;so stick to guns and Hellfires. If the rotor is destroyed, you won't have control over the direction of the aircraft. You'll have to land sooner or later, but if you seem to be drifting away from the enemy, you might want to tough it out for a while to increase your chances of evading capture.

Operating with a damaged aircraft is troublesome but is the test of a great Gunship pilot. Medal of Honor winners will all tell you that they got shot up pretty badly but continued on to finish the mission.

Repairing damage is another factor that you must consider. Remember that if you have your damage repaired when you return to base, the enemy will have time to replace some of the targets you destroyed. If you have cleared a safe area around your base or a path to your target, you wouldn't want to repair damage and have some of those targets reappear. The really great pilots have been known to fly second missions with one wing, no flare launchers, and a damaged rotor because they knew that they had a clear path to the target and all they had to do was zip out to a good standoff range, blast the target, and zip back.

If high scores and winning medals are your goal, then you must learn to fight on with a sick bird. Skills such as dodging missiles without jammers or decoys can be practiced over the training area and is a good idea. Learning to jink a missile is a valuable and difficult skill and well worth study.

When jinking a missile, remember to break towards the missile to force it to turn as sharply as possible. You must also wait until the last second before turning or the missile will have time to react. There is only one way to learn this skill and that is with practice.

Take time to plan your mission, keeping in mind your active and passive countermeasures. React to threats quickly by watching your threat display and know your damage condition. If you can balance your time between those two tasks and trying to make a good attack, you'll have a much longer and more productive life as a Gunship pilot.

Table of Contents
Previous Section: Passive Countermeasures
Next Section: Playing the Game—Tips and Information