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Author Topic: Effect of flying mounts on war  (Read 976 times)

Offline oops

Effect of flying mounts on war
« on: September 21, 2016, 12:04:20 AM »
So as I said I will now write about how large affect would the dragon and flying mounts in general (I was first thinking about doing separate topic about flying mounts but unless this gets way too long I will keep them together so I don't spam the forum too much and since lot of the solutions would apply to both) from this post http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/general-discussion/semi-realistic-dragon-(based-on-asoiaf)/ have on battlefield and on war as whole. There are basically 2 quite different scenarios
1st The societies newer used nor encountered any flying mounts and we suddenly introduced them.
2nd The societies did use/encountered flying mounts and as such have developed ways how to deal with them

I will mostly talk about the 2nd scenario since the 1st one can then be mostly taken as how fast could they figure out (and implement) the things from the 2nd (I also have no idea how large empires worked and how fast they would be able to adapt to something so different.)

I will assume there are 2 mounts + dragon
And for simplicity (and clarity) sake I will name them Falco and Harpy.
I will give few “parameters” first so we can get rough estimate on how powerful they would be.

Falco
wingspan 10m (32ft)
weight 200kg (440lb)
carry capacity 50kg (110lb) (for relatively unaffected flight)
Top speed horizontal 100km/h (60mi/h) dive 320km/h (200mi/h)
(mostly based on peregrine falcon but I had to change the wingspan/mass ration a lot (mostly in line with the dragon) otherwise the weight would be 700t)
needs to eat around 10kg (22lb) of meat per day

Harpy
Wingspan 20m (65ft)
weight 2t (4400lb)
carry capacity 500kg (1100lb) (for relatively unaffected flight)
top speed horizontal 50km/h (31mi/h)  dive 110km/h (70mi/h)
(mostly based on harpy eagle but I also had to modify the Wingspan/mass ratio)
needs to eat around 50kg (110lb) of meat per day

I should also say that the strength of their tissues is roughly 2 times that of their real life counterparts.
Lets also assume that the behaviour did differ from their real life inspiration and that they were flock animals and had intelligence comparable to dogs.
As far as poisons, heat/cold resistance and similar stuff goes lets assume they would be comparable to real life birds.

I'm not sure how realistic these numbers are but I will go with them (at least for now).

Dragon
60m wingspan
tissues roughly 6 times stronger than ours (tensile strength 120Mpa for wing membrane 800Mpa for bones 700Mpa for scales)
Flame temperature 6000K (10000°F)
Flame size and 60m (200ft) long 0.6m (2ft) wide near head 6m (20ft) wide near end.
Flame misc. can breath for 4s the needs to stop for 2s the time before he runs out of flame following this pattern is 12mins then 12hours to refill.
The flight speed would be 60km/h (37mi/h) for normal flight 100km/h (62mi/h) for fast flight and 250km/h (155mi/h) for dive.
Carry capacity (how far he can carry it) 30t (33tons) (few meters 20t(22tons) (few km (mi) at low altitude) 10t(11tons) (100 or 200km (around 100mi) or climb with it to 1 or 2km (around 1mi) altitude and drop it.
Needs to eat roughly 300kg (660lb) of meet per day (3 or 4 cattle per week).

I should also list some more “parameters” (thanks to The_Gem_Cutter without his post I would have certainly forgotten about something (which I still will but at least it will be fewer things :) ))
So lets say that:
there exist some poisons that can kill it but they are very hard to get hold of/hard to produce and that none of them act fast enough to bring him down mid fight and that they need to be delivered in relatively high dosage. (poisoned arrows wouldn't kill it)
Their intelligence should be comparable/slightly higher than that of the smartest animals.
Next lets say that  multiple dragons of same gender don't go well together which should limit us to 2 dragons per battlefield unless the battlefield is ridiculously large (combined strength of both armies 100 000+ as very rough estimate)
They would also bound only to 1 person so no multiple people riding it (not that it would be very useful).

So lets begin. For this purpose I will assume 3 "types" of empires and then try to figure out how they would be able to deal with each other in medievalish settings (no gunpowder electricity steam engines and similar things but on the other hand something like rapier or greenwich armour is fine despite it being more Renaissance than medieval also anything that was there before the medieval era is also fine for example the level of organization similar to Roman empire) and with no/weak magic.

Lets call them G (no flying units) F (flying units) D (flying units + dragons)
This will give us 6 combination: GxG, GxF, GxD, FxF, FxD, DxD
Of curse some of these combination are not very interesting or the solution are the same.

GxG

Nothing interesting here just standard medieval combat. (I suppose you can speculate if some invention/strategies from the other ones would affect this.)

GxF

Now it gets more interesting. I'm pretty certain that the F would be in so massive advantage that it would extremely unlikely for G to win the war and pretty much impossible to defeat them in battle unless they were outnumbering them 100 to 1 or more.

Lets begin by the ability of air forces to engage ground force and how they would respond. The most obvious one is that they would simply swoop on the infantry/cavalry. But I actually thing this is not all that good idea if the infantry is prepared. They can get very tightly packed and if they have long polearms the swooping would be probably suicidal (assuming they managed to keep their formation). And while there would be some losses on the infantry it doesn't seem worth it for the other side (at least in majority of circumstances).

Second option is to fly around them and shot arrows at them but this won't always work all that well after all it's something you can defend against either with shields or high quality plate armour. Further more they could fire back with their bows.

So it seems both the heavy cavalry and light cavalry (I'm aware that is gross oversimplification of what was heavy and light cavalry) approach wasn't that op. But there is one more thing they could do that can't be done by the cavalry nor the infantry.

Drop things. Assuming my calculation are correct the longbow should have effective range somewhere between 100m (330ft) and 200m (650ft) (arrow going at 70m/s (230ft/s) straight up in vacuum should go above 200m (660ft) but the air drag will slow it down and it won't have much energy left near the end)
This means if you picked 400kg (880lb) stone (or I suppose multiple lighter ones would be better) and fly with it high up performed dive and dropped it at lets say 300m and pulled up you would be out of reach of all bows now I'm not sure how high something like ballista could fire but you can always drop it higher up albeit your accuracy would decrease somewhat. This should mean that you are unkillable for the ground forces and they will have 400kg (880lb) stone falling on their heads at 120 km/h (75mi/h) or faster. I still thing more lighter stones would be better. How heavy do you think the stone would have to be to easily take down units such as tustedo? (My guess would be around 50kg (110lb))

So how do you defend against this well you can disperse your troops but 1st you aren't going to completely eliminate the losses 2nd this would make it extremely hard to organize any attack and even if you managed to you would be facing tight formation with disorganized loosely packed “formation” (I really don't thing it would resemble any formation by the time you engaged with enemy infantry) 3rd this also means enemy air force could swoop your troops with minimal risk and it would leave your troops wide open to cavalry charge.

The cavalry should find the defence somewhat easier in the regard that they would be lot harder to hit and could disperse and reorganize faster (at least in theory not sure if it would be doable in reality). But their defence against swooping and arrow raids would be somewhat lover since they wouldn't be able to use as long polearms as infantry and pointing them up (the infantry can also brace them against ground). Further more you can fit more footman than horsemen in  the same space so the polearms won't be as tightly packed. As far as the bows are concerned you will once again have fewer bows per area and I also doubt you would be able to use longbow (or something with similar power from horseback).

As far as taking down fortified (G defending F attacking) structures go I still thing the F would be at massive advantage mostly because I doubt you cold build tower or cover on walls that would be able to withstand 400kg (880lb) stone hitting it at 120+km/h (75+mi/h). Or am I underestimating how strong you could make the roof?
If the roofs could withstand it it should be somewhat more bearable for the defenders.

I'm also pretty sure that having big flying things which you pretty much can't hurt would have big effect on morale.

now outside of combat I find it lot harder to speculate since I have very limited understanding of how ancient empires functioned but I assume F will have massive advantage in reconnaissance and communication also they could easily do some damage anywhere they wanted that wasn't extremely well defended (I imagine mostly setting things like crops, forests, villages on fire).

GxD

Seems mostly similar to GxF but a lot worse for G while you could shoot on the dragon while he would be breathing the flames at you it is questionable whatever handheld weapons (bows/crossbows) could hurt it (I suppose you should be able to take out an eye). Something like ballista would be better but I'm not sure how mobile you could make it while keeping it big enough to be effective and if you don't have that many the dragon could simply drop something on it. And if it can get close enough to use its flame (around 50m (170ft)) it could absolutely decimate anything on the ground in moments (smallish formation should take few seconds while army would probably take few minutes.)

Defending fortifications would also probably be almost impossible 1st you would need to mount enough ballistas (or something similar) to keep the dragon far enough so it can't use its flame and even then I find it impossible that any medieval structure (with exception of something like pyramid) could withstand being hit by 10t (22000lb) rock travelling at 250+km/h. (155+mi/h)

I also think the effect on morale would be catastrophic.

Further more it could go and set things on fire pretty much anywhere extremely easily (say goodbye to crops or villages or anything that isn't super heavily defended).

FxF

Now I already addressed the ability (or the lack of it) of ground forces to engage the air force so I'm not going to deal with that hear. I will only state that I think that the battles would be pretty much decided by air combat. So lets discuss the air combat.

This is the part where I have the most problem imagining how it would work (probably because in the previous cases it was real vs fantasy now its fantasy vs fantasy).

1st. thing you can imagine is that they would be fighting like normal birds do expect with the addition of rider with some polearm and I actually thing this is the most realistic scenario.

2nd is something akin to ww2 fighter dogfights but I seriously doubt that mostly because  you  can't compare bow/crossbow with machine guns (and that the aircraft couldn't engage in melee combat).

So I will actually mostly ask questions here. would it make sense to have some sort of formation in the air (and maintain it once the units collided or would it actually be more effective do it Hollywood stile (a lot of duels)? I seriously doubt the latter but I'm not sure what formation would work in 3d environment.

Also this is the 1st place why I created 2 flying units so the question comes Do you thing the Falco would be more effective at air engagements and the Harpy in air vs ground or would the harpy actually be better at both? I have hard time deciding so lets do pros and cons of both.

Falco
pros
faster, more agile, I also assume you would be able to field more of them so lets say you would outnumber the enemy 3or4:1
cons
weaker, could carry 1 barely armed very slim men.

Harpy
pros
stronger, could carry more better armed men (4?)
cons
slower, less manoeuvrable, would be outnumbered 1:3or4

I also think this may be relevant
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sx96Xyq3HdY
From that it seems the eagle is incapable to engage the falcon but on the other hand the falcon doesn't really do any significant damage to the eagle. Not sure how much something like spear could change that.

Now another thing I want to tackle here is communication between ground and air and I think it would be very bad (then again that's nothing new the communication was quite bad in general back then when compared to modern standards). I suppose the ground could use something like flag signals to communicate the most basics things and if they had telescopes the air could use some hand signals if necessary (I'm quite doubtful it would be very effective).

Another thing is what would you do with the ground forces before the enemy air force was defeated. Would you even bring any (assuming you weren't trying to siege something) or would they be left only as last line of defence and for logistic purposes?

If you did bring them would you start in formation or would you start dispersed and formed the formation only after you were sure the enemy air lost? Also what would you do if your air lost? I suppose the cavalry would have some chance at escaping but the infantry would be probably as good as dead/captured. Further more the infantry would slow down the air A LOT. The infantry speed would be at best 7km/h (4.5mi/h), the cavalry could move at about 16km/h (mi/h) (so still a lot slower) and they wouldn't be able to sustain these speeds for more than few hours while the air could move at roughly 40km/h.(25mi/h)
As far as fortifications go I think they would still exists but would look quite different with robust roofs and as many ballistas(and similar stuff) as you can reasonably fit.

I think this means the battles (at least the ones in open field) would be fought in the air and won/lost in the air. So the air force would probably be even more important than it is today.

FxD

Now if my conclusion from previous post is correct. Then the only difference as far as ground combat is concerned is that the fortification would be mostly useless. (They could still be build to repel some primitive tribes or revolts but won't be of much use against another army with dragons.)

So pretty much the only question here is how could the other air units bring down the dragon and I thing unless they outnumbered him massively (at least 100:1) they wouldn't be able to since 1st he is a lot larger and furthermore he tissues are stronger (so the difference in manoeuvrability shouldn't be that large). 2nd and most important thing is that he has massive super hot flame so getting close without being burned should be almost impossible. (unless you surprise him). For example at battle at Agincourt there were roughly 12000 to 36000 man and 1200 cavalry assuming the ratio between cavalry and air was similar to the one between infantry and cavalry that should give us at best 120 flying units (I think the optimal army would have more air if what I said earlier is true and if they could afford it). So the dragons probably couldn't “solo it” but with support the advantage seems overwhelming.

Also I'm somewhat doubting the the F empire would be able to stop “dragon-raids”

DxD

Nothing new here perhaps the only thing that could be discussed here is if you would open with the dragon or deploy it after the battle started depending on where it is necessary?

Now one more question. What would the riders wear?
For Falco its quite clear it would be something as light as possible (while also providing some insulation since it would be colder up there and the wind would be quite strong (mostly thanks to the flight speed)

for Harpy you could consider something like full plate armour but would it actually make sense the carry capacity is large enough to carry extra 30kg quite easily but if you had lets say 2 riders now it is 60kg and that starts to be noticeable also would the armour be all that useful in these circumstances?

Now for the dragon the weight of the amour is completely negligible so the only issue is if it would benefit the rider more than the additional weight would hinder him (and in case of closed helmet it would also limit his vision). I also wonder how would flame of this size (and temperature) affect the rider assuming the dragon had long neck and the rider was sitting somewhere on the body this should put the origin of the flame somewhere between 15 and 25 meters away from the rider. This seems quite close but assuming they don't stop to breath the flame (which seems kinda stupid) they should be also moving quite fast.

I hope at least someone enjoyed reading this (and that perhaps someone will want to discuss this further).

p.s. This should be last topic I post for very long time but the impact of having flying beasts on warfare is something that (slightly) bothered me for several years but I always thought it's weird do post something like this. (I still think it is weird but I have seen weirder things on the internet so why not.)

p.s.s. English isn't my 1st. Language so I'm sorry for any grammatical errors and weird sentences.

Offline Lanko

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Re: Effect of flying mounts on war
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2016, 12:22:22 AM »
Air power would be a massive advantage of course. But since it's totally on human/animal coordination, the training would also be extremely hard. And the enemies also need to be portrayed as smart, so they wouldn't fight where they would simply be bombed to hell. Places with a lot of wind, mountains, cold, hot, and the other trying to force a battle in the open.

I do think "Fantastical Warfare" is sorely missing in Fantasy (or at least I didn't see much of it, if at all).

Yes, you do see it at the "operational level", with a couple of special characters directly on the frontline among the common soldiers, flying on their unique special mount, throwing fireballs, swinging magical swords and such.
But on the tactical and strategical level of an army/kingdom I have yet to see it as a focus. Something I'm trying to tackle myself.

Well, Mistborn did have "magical dampening" on the populace or "magical inspiration" on the rebels, but the Allomancers of both sides were like elite shock troopers on the front. But the amount of Allomancers one had was an indication of a noble house's power. And some also acted as spies, assassins and diplomats, I think. But I think all this was simply glossed over for pure action...

Even Harry Potter just had people throwing Expelliamus and the same wand lasers at each other... so much for decades of learning magic... I'm wondering about the Temeraire saga, which I have yet to read.

And wow, don't think you should worry about that amount of details  :o   
« Last Edit: September 21, 2016, 12:29:31 AM by Lanko »
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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Effect of flying mounts on war
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2016, 12:41:21 AM »
If realism in war is what you seek, here you go. It won't be as fun, I caution you.

The real uses of air forces are in the areas of reconnaissance, strategic bombing/destruction, and a distant third is actual combat.

Recon is everything in war, because it defeats deception, and allows one to devise the best counter at leisure. War is like chess, only chess is easier because you can see the pieces and know their capabilities/limitations.

Strategic destruction would target infrastructure (bridges, crops, docks and warehouses, granaries, etc.), supplies and material (food, water, weapons, etc.) and the means to produce, store, use them, and vehicles (ships, wagons, horses). Tactical and many operational uses of limited air power is not worth the risk of the asset(s).

Eliminating an enemy's fleets and docks, bridges, and crops would devastate a kingdom beyond all hope.

The scale changes everything. A dragon or two seriously tilts the balance; squadrons of them destroy it. This puts warfare on its head.

Fortifications and concentrations of forces, once decisive, are now obsolete. Dispersal and mobility become the keys to success. Air to air combat seems enticing, but likely both sides would avoid it - their assets being irreplaceable and the only basis for parity. Likewise, committing them to air-ground battle would be ridiculous without a clear advantage; those without that advantage would/should flee.

Once you have air mobility, all warfare becomes mobility-based. Fortifications become convenient places to starve or burn or be crushed. Large formations become opportunities to die. Roads become death traps. Asymmetric warfare becomes key - using assassination and fear. Small forces, hard to spot, become more important - but they rely on flexible leadership giving open-ended objectives, not detailed plans. Unless you have good communications (way more than a raven bringing notes here and there).

Consider the LOTR Return of the King film - the flying Nazgul's most potent weapon is fear (see book), and it is effective. In the film, they are only employed at the crucial fight with a clear advantage, not wasted on skirmishes, which would give their enemies the time and foresight to devise counters.

The traditional counter to air threats is going underground. In a fantasy, if you want to maintain some balance, that's where you should go. Kingdoms of men and elves would be eaten by Smog at his leisure. Only Durin in his underground halls would laugh.

My two cents.
-Gem
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Offline Peat

Re: Effect of flying mounts on war
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2016, 07:14:28 AM »
Huge amounts of medieval warfare was Strategic Destruction anyway. You gather up your army and you ride around looting everything in sight. Partly because you need to keep your army fed, partly because loot's part of what keeps your army from being too hideously expensive, and partly to hit the enemy where it hurts; the wallet. This is the age of the chevauchee. The enemy responds by either withdrawing into their fortifications to see things out, or they raise an army and the guys pillaging the countryside usually try and disappear into a fortification. Pitched battles by and large mean someone's eff'ed up and the other someone is convinced they have a giant advantage.

Also, how powerful are these Dragon flames/what's the range on them? You could use the same sort of cover they used on battering rams to give some protection from dragon flame. Depending on range, you might be able to protect cities and castles with really big ballistas pointing upwards. Its not foolproof but as TGC points out, you don't risk a dragon if you don't need to. Underground settlements do seem really obvious though.

Flying units I see being like Helicopters. You use them to put troops in somewhere and use them to remove them and pray no one shoots at the bloody things. Not durable enough. Charging into combat with them would be cool but without giving them reason to be super tough/plentiful, dumb.

*pause* I'm now trying to imagine someone capturing a Dragon and ransoming it back.
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Offline Nora

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Re: Effect of flying mounts on war
« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2016, 10:15:22 AM »
Read His Majesty's Dragon, for realistic dragon warfare.
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Re: Effect of flying mounts on war
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2016, 10:27:57 AM »
Read His Majesty's Dragon, for realistic dragon warfare.
Note: book is called Temeraire in the UK, I think they called then the series that.
(and they're fab! - at least the first 4 or so, and then they started getting a bit repetitive)
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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Effect of flying mounts on war
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2016, 03:09:40 PM »
You gather up your army and you ride around looting everything in sight.
Not strategic, really. Strategic targets yield long-term benefits and/or inflict long-term problems on your enemy, usually as part of a campaign with specific objectives that all contribute to a strategy.

For example, think of Vietnam and the American Revolution - both insurgencies, where a smaller, weaker force faced a larger one that was far away. Both relied on the principal that for them, victory was "continuing to survive and fight", while their opponents needed a decisive battle that destroyed the enemy and his will to fight.

In both case, their strategic goals were survival - not giving the enemy a decisive battle, and instead drawing things out indefinitely; exploiting the cost and time required to supply large forces over long distances. Both succeeded, despite losing most of the battles. Both featured dispersal and essentially meaningless campaigns and battles that had one objective - to continue to fight and kill their enemies, destroying the notion that the war would ever end. Both won because, like those ants out in the yard, they just kept coming back.
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Offline Peat

Re: Effect of flying mounts on war
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2016, 05:06:39 PM »
You gather up your army and you ride around looting everything in sight.
Not strategic, really. Strategic targets yield long-term benefits and/or inflict long-term problems on your enemy, usually as part of a campaign with specific objectives that all contribute to a strategy.

For example, think of Vietnam and the American Revolution - both insurgencies, where a smaller, weaker force faced a larger one that was far away. Both relied on the principal that for them, victory was "continuing to survive and fight", while their opponents needed a decisive battle that destroyed the enemy and his will to fight.

In both case, their strategic goals were survival - not giving the enemy a decisive battle, and instead drawing things out indefinitely; exploiting the cost and time required to supply large forces over long distances. Both succeeded, despite losing most of the battles. Both featured dispersal and essentially meaningless campaigns and battles that had one objective - to continue to fight and kill their enemies, destroying the notion that the war would ever end. Both won because, like those ants out in the yard, they just kept coming back.

Look upon it as the operational tool needed to achieve strategic gains then. Either the chevauchee hits the prosperity of enemy lords badly, or the threat of it forces them to turn coat and join you. Chevauchees did have long term effects.
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Offline oops

Re: Effect of flying mounts on war
« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2016, 06:17:54 PM »
Lanko

The guerilla warfare certainly seems like a good idea which I didn't address but I still think the empire with flying mounts would have too large advantage for the one without to overcome. This would probably be even more true if the 1st empire didn't want to occupy them but just to eliminate them (seems like rather unlikely scenario).

I didn't use many fantasy elements (aside from the mounts) for 2 reasons
1st. It would mean I would have to precisely described how they worked otherwise you couldn't discuss how they would interact with the rest. This would mean the post would be a lot longer than it already is.
2nd It is hard to correctly predict how new elements affect war so I wanted to keep the new elements to minimum.

Completely agree with the thing about harry potter fights.

The_Gem_Cutter

Not necessary sure if it has to be less fun. I suppose it depend on how you would approach it on the one hand it certainly would mean fewer opportunities for epic battles but on the other hand small raid is certainly better opportunity for single character/small group to shine. After all one soldier (not talking about generals) won't affect large battle all that much no matter how good he is.

Otherwise I would say you have great points and I agree with all of them.

Ok maybe I'm not so sure about the underground. If it isn't very large you can smoke them out and building something large enough (like an underground cities with tunnels between them which should work I'm not denying that) seems beyond the capabilities of medieval society (without introduction of strong magic).

Also do you think that even if you had highly centralize/organized empire (like Rome for example) it would still not make sense to mostly rely on large combined armies?
Further more would it even make sense to have professional ground forces (like Roman legions) or would they be simply a waste of resources and if you needed ground units (for example to take a city) you would simply raise some peasants/slaves. The air force would need to be professional since as Lanko pointed out (thanks Lanko) it would require a lot of training.

Peat

I did list the parameters near the beginning. The flame was 60m long 0.6m and 6m thick (near head and near its end) and 6000K hot. I don't think anything that could be mobile would be able to provide cover from that.

I also somewhat doubt they would be all that squishy for example the "harpy" should have over 1m long claws.

Nora
ScarletBea


Thanks for that suggestion I will probably give it a read eventually.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2016, 04:59:34 PM by oops »