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What effects would large scale powered flight have on medieval Strategy and tactics?

kenco

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Counterfactual theorizing time! Say one side of a conflict Figured out a magical way to get big ships airborne, but did not develop explosives. What other tactical and strategic advantages would they be able to implement?

I have some ideas, but I'd like some fresh perspectives and possibly new thoughts. Thanks!
Depending on details of the flight magic, weather magic might become critically important.

If countermagic is straightforward, this might limit uses to logistics and communication in safe territories.

In the early days the simple terror effect might be substantial.

If there is already an aerial combat arm e.g. winged mounts, it might only add a troop type like a move fortress to that battle domain, changing aerial tactics, but less influence on logistics.

Many applications of flight are also covered by teleportation and a scrying: so if these magic are already powerful, strategic impact might be limited.

Rapid long distance communication by chains of zeppelins dangling strings of coloured flags.

Safe battle command station. But some kind of messaging system is needed to relay orders to the troops.
 

Amberpup

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If one had aeostat (using say coal gas to keep them afloat), one could just fly over the enemy's supply train and firebomb it with small clay pots filled with Greek fire. Could also do the same to food crops (burning the land to prevent foraging) and even dropping clay pots filled with diseased or rotted flesh (animal or human) into any possible water source like streams or ponds.

A lot depends on the lifting capacity of the air craft and its working altitude, because a wooden case filled with small stones could do a real number on a enemy camp if dropped from a good height. Turn that one into twelve wooden cases for a single bomb run, and it could be a real nightmare till proper countermeasures were came up with. I mean, supposedly the Night Witches during WW2 on occasion would drop railroad rails or ties on the German base when actually aerial bombs were in short supply.
 

Munindk

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I'd say the major benefits would be to reconnaissance and logistics.

You could know where the enemy was and move your troops accordingly, possibly moving them fast with your airships.
Geography becomes less important, as you just fly over rivers and swamps.

In combat you could drop the same flaming materials as you could by catapult.
 

Amberpup

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Dropping-off or picking-up spies and saboteurs behind the enemies lines could be real useful. And think how useful it would be to be able to park a manned-balloon high over a enemy castle during a siege. Even if the crew above could only communication one-way with sending notes down their guide rope, it still would be pretty intimidating to those trapped in the castle.
 

Xander

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What destroys big flying ships? Flaming crossbow bolts? Lightning? Dragons? Sabotage?

For the non-flying opposition, defeating the airship force becomes strategically critical, or getting hold of flying technology asap.
 

Rose Embolism

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I'd say the major benefits would be to reconnaissance and logistics.

You could know where the enemy was and move your troops accordingly, possibly moving them fast with your airships.
Let's not underestate this. Put this front and center. As far as changing warfare this would have a bigger effect than anything else. One of the biggest problems in ancient warfare was FINDING the enemy. Seeing where they were going, and with how many. to the point where armies made appointments to meet for battle. Even on a tactical level. That's why the earliest flying machines (that is, balloons) were used as scouts. And as a reaction, huge amounts of military effort were put in to confuse aerial observation.

But that's something that tends to be glossed over in game settings.
 

Rupert

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Let's not underestate this. Put this front and center. As far as changing warfare this would have a bigger effect than anything else. One of the biggest problems in ancient warfare was FINDING the enemy.
Well, quite often you knew where they were going to end up. The thing is, quite often you didn't want them to get there, so it was about knowing whether you could make a choke point before they could. This also means you have to know where your own army is, and that was something that wasn't a sure thing either. It will also make things like knowing if you actually had reinforcements or not a much easier thing to find out, even if they can't be moved in by air.

Command and control, communications, and intelligence would be revolutionised even by small airships in not very large numbers. Logistics would be the next revolution with larger and/or more numerous airships, by allowing troops to be transported over rivers and (some) mountains, and by allowing fast and reliable supply - this is more important than the troop movements, as it removes the need to forage (i.e. plunder) as the army moves, and makes it possible to keep large forces in supply in times and places where there's no local food to be had.

Effectively it allows modern armies. If the other side doesn't have this, it's like the Colonial Era, except probably even worse for the have-nots - and that's ignoring any advances in weaponry, like (re-)inventing Greek Fire and pouring it on towns (though as was said up-thread, aerial bombing is less effective than most people think).
 

AndrewGPaul

New member
Eric Flint's Ring of Fire series is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine (a West Virginia town from 1999 is dumped into the middle of the 30 Years War by magic), and there's a few times that air power comes up. It's perhaps not quite what the OP is asking about, as the number of available aeroplanes is limited (although airships are starting to become more widespread), but the main change in strategy is scouting; no other army can hide its location, movements or numbers.

On the other hand, aeroplanes require runways; if you manage to besiege a town, you'll generally prevent any planes arriving or leaving even if you don't manage to shoot them down. You might find that city walls expand to enclose an airstrip.
 

loconius

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Aircraft
On the other hand, aeroplanes require runways; if you manage to besiege a town, you'll generally prevent any planes arriving or leaving even if you don't manage to shoot them down. You might find that city walls expand to enclose an airstrip.
A city that had air power would probably have its landing strip (that might only need a few hundred feet) inside the city walls.
 

mindstalk

Does the math.
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Seaplanes just need water, not runways. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seaplane#History

Huh, jetliner runways are a lot longer than I expected. 6000-10,000 feet. But https://www.quora.com/How-short-does-a-runway-have-to-be-to-be-considered-short-in-commercial-aviation-How-about-in-general-aviation says 1000 feet can suffice for a turboprop. Another comment mentions using gravel bars under 300 feet in a Super Cub. Another page says 500-800 feet for a Cessna 172, but altitude, temperature, and wind matter. Part of the length is to have room for coping with a failed engine
 
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