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

Rose Embolism

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They're also the possibility of creating catapults to launch airplanes off of shorter runways. And if we're talking about ultralights, they could probably be launched off of castle walls with a sufficient headwind. Then there's autogyros, which can take off with a 100-300 foot runway.

Finally, a zeppelin or balloon could probably use a relatively small landing field.
 

WistfulD

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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.

There are plenty of castles where one or more sides are only wall-protected at the level of 'if lines of defense #1-3 are breached, there's a castle with walls on all sides to fall back to' but defensive lines #1-3 are effectively 1-2 sided because the other directions are protected by 'there's a little plot of land there, but you can't get to it' (perhaps because it is a sheer cliff straight to the sea). so there aren't those extra walls and sentries on that side. If you suddenly invent technology that defeats this, then there are a bunch of castles which are semi-sitting ducks. If this technology becomes known, a bunch of castles will need redesign projects.
 

Chris Tavares

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If said aircraft are reasonably fast, then it's a huge communication advantage to the possessing side, even if they don't directly contribute to combat. Being able to actually see what's happening on distant battlefields and distribute orders quickly would make a big difference.

Actually, even if they're just fairly static dirigible-type things they'd still be useful. Colored smoke signals or heliostat type light flashes would do great to relay basic messages around a battlefield.
 

Randall

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If magic is available, but nobody else figured how to do flying ships, other magic uses that will be commom may include:

Weather manipulation
Weather prediction
Long distance fireballs
Invoke flying animals/creatures
Control what you invoke above
Same with dragons
Ocultation spells/effects
 

Amberpup

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If said aircraft are reasonably fast, then it's a huge communication advantage to the possessing side, even if they don't directly contribute to combat. Being able to actually see what's happening on distant battlefields and distribute orders quickly would make a big difference.
I totally forgot about how much advantage one would have in statecraft with the ability to get information so much quicker then anyone else. Some ruler dies, you as the Air Lord would have that information on your desk within days instead of weeks or months. Natural disaster in some far away kingdom, rebellion in the province, a battle won or lost.... it would all be there at your fingertips within weeks or days. And no screw-ups from some distance governor, because you could have daily flights with orders and demands for reports, even fly his happy ass back for a dressing down. Sky-Rome could rule, and not let any uppity general get any ideas about doing their own thing with your troops.

So in truth, you won't even need heavy lift capability (for men or material) to have a large impact on a country. With reliable and acceptable range aircraft, a king could increase the level of control upon their nation, it's military power, and likely it's wealth.
 

mindstalk

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Eh, more like it's another tool. Peak communication techs before the telegraph were messenger pigeon (60 MPH) or pony express (200 miles/day). Neither of which was a thing in pre-Crusades medieval western Europe, so any air force would be a huge advantage there. But if you're up against Saladin (pigeons) or the Achmaenids (mail relay), it's less of an advantage, if any (since the airship speeds haven't been specified.) And as for getting news from across a border... are other realms letting your aircraft land? Pigeons could at least be smuggled in by merchant-spies.

And if you just have one-person airplanes that can carry news, it's neat that you can get news of a rebellious general, but what can you do about it? Your troops can't move nearly so fast.

So it's useful but not necessarily a game-changer, especially if pitted against peak mundane options.

...having said all that, pigeons have a key limitation of only being able to fly back to a fixed point (usually one, maybe flights between two if you're clever). They're great for getting field reports but completely useless for sending messages to the field. So aircraft would be awesome for field C-and-C, along with surveillance power.

But for just coordinating your peacetime cities and fortresses, they're neat but less uniquely neat.

That said, I figure 'dragons' is why the Seven Kingdoms can make sense as a united realm even with the really big sizes of Westeros. Even at 3000 miles from the Wall to Dorne, everything is within a couple days flight for a dragon from King's Landing (assuming they can fly as well as pigeons). And you're arriving not in a fragile two-seat biplane but on a nigh-invulnerable WMD that can burn stone castles. Throw in ravens for reporting problems, and everything's on a "make trouble and die burny death" status.
 

kami2awa

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I would recommend the Temeraire/His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novak for ideas, which is set in an alternate Napoleonic wars in which dragons are commonplace, and used by both sides as an air force.
 

AndrewGPaul

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The main effect that dragons have in that setting is allowing the sub-Saharan African nations and the native Americans to effectively halt European colonialism. IIRC The United States still exists, but it doesn't look like it'll be expanding much past the borders of the original 13 colonies, and the relations with the native population seems to be on a much more equal footing. Meanwhile the Europeans have basically been ejected from southern Africa, and the Africans are heading to Brazil to get the slaves back. Mind you, that's not just adding aeroplanes to medieval (or earlier; the European tradition of dragon-taming goes back to Rome, I think) warfare - it's adding heavy bombers.
 

Shade the Lost

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I think one change you'd see is a stronger emphasis (particularly among the underdogs or defensive forces) on night operations, unless this flight also affords those with it effective night vision. Secondly, I'd expect those lacking flight to start restricting their operations to within range of cover, such as forests or other convenient methods of evading aerial surveillance.
 

WistfulD

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I think one change you'd see is a stronger emphasis (particularly among the underdogs or defensive forces) on night operations, unless this flight also affords those with it effective night vision. Secondly, I'd expect those lacking flight to start restricting their operations to within range of cover, such as forests or other convenient methods of evading aerial surveillance.
OMG, I hadn't thought about it! It's literally become 'fantasy f______ Vietnam!'
 
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