Kevlar Pigeon by David Manley

Issue: 20
System: Iron Cow
Publisher: Wessex Games

Kevlar Pigeon
Air Ops in Iron Cow
by David Manley

'Tiger 505, feet dry, one minute to target'. The twin-engined turboprop shuddered as the plane crossed the tree line close to the beach. A loud scraping noise from the port wing told of a turn made slightly too low over one of the waving palm trees. 'More branches for the fight crew to remove' mused Kovacs as he checked his altitude.

'Roger '505, weapons free' said the Forward Air Controller. Your target is confirmed, tanks 100 metres short of the summit. Go get 'em Tiger!'.

Kovacs switched his master arm switch to 'Armed' and bore in on the hapless tank column. Only light flak came up to meet him - the earlier VTOL strike had taken out the enemy's only heavy flak tank. Too bad ...

These rules expand on the ground attack rules presented in Iron Cow and are based on a forthcoming set of modern rules, hopefully to be produced by Felix Enterprises sometime later this year. Whereas the original Iron Cow rules covered air ops over the battlefield, these rules take Air Superiority missions, SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defences), and strikes on enemy air bases into account. I have included a lot of explanation in the rules, which makes them look more complicated than they really are. At the very least you can ignore the Air Superiority, SEAD and Air Defence aspects and simply use the rules increasing the range of aircraft types available for strike missions. In fact, it is probably best to start with these expanded types and add the other aspects on a gradual basis, as you become happy with counter air missions, AS Pools and Air Defence batteries.

Aircraft Types

Players may choose aircraft from the following types. Present-day equivalents are included to illustrate the various types.


Interceptors - Mirage Fl, Mig 27
Air Superiority - F-15 Eagle, Tornado F3
Multi Role - F-16 Falcon, Mig 29

Ground Attack

'Sturmoviks' - A-10, Su-25
Strike - Harrier GR5, A-7
Multi-Role - F-l6, Mig 29

Aircraft Ratings

Each aircraft is described by a number of rating.

Air Superiority (AS) rating: This denotes the aircraft's air to air capabilities. This will range from 1 to 3. Note that ground attack aircraft will also have AS ratings as they will often carry air to air missiles (AAMs) for their own defence. In this case their maximum rating is 1, but the carriage of AAMs will reduce their ordnance load for air strikes.

Speed rating: this varies from 1 to 3, denotes the maximum speed at which the aircraft can fly. A rating of 1 corresponds to Iron Cow's 'Slow' , 2 to 'Medium' and 3 to 'Fast'.

Damage rating: This is a saving throw against ground. When an aircraft is hit it is removed from play. However, if the aircraft rolls over its damage rating the aircraft is not destroyed, but instead is or the pilot is sufficiently 'spooked' to force the aircraft to abort its mission and return to base.

ECM rating: This denotes the effectiveness of on-board jammers and (in the case of Sturmoviks) built-in armour. The ECM rating is a negative modifier to ground and air fire (although rolls to hit an aircraft are never reduced below 1, i.e. if a 1 is rolled the aircraft is hit). Some aircraft may boost particularly low ECM ratings by carrying ECM pods, which increase the rating but reduce the capacity to carry offensive loads.

Ground Attack rating: This denotes the size of the template covered by an airstrike by that aircraft. This rating is reduced by 1 if AAMs are carried, and by 1 if ECM pods are carried. (It may also be reduced by a further 1 if additional fuel tanks are carried, again this will be scenario dependent and will most likely occur in campaign games). The GA rating equals the dimensions of the template used to determine which ground targets are attacked. For example, an aircraft with a GA rating of 10 would attack all targets in a 10cm by 10cm template (as in the original rules). Hanging ECM pods and AAMs on the aircraft would reduce the size of the template by 2 to 8cm by 8cm.

Example Aircraft Designs

High-tech Interceptor
AS Rating3
ECM Rating2
GA Ratingnil
Mid-tech Multi Role
AS Rating1
ECM Rating2
GA Rating8
Low-tech Ground Attack
AS Ratingnil
ECM Ratingnil
GA Rating10
Low-tech 'Sturmovik'
AS Ratingnil
ECM Rating4
GA Rating12

Air Defence Units

Players may deploy long ranged ground based Air Defence units. These have AD ratings similar to the AS rating of Air Superiority aircraft. Air Defence units may be represented by models on a separate table (only a small area is required on which to place the battery) or as an 'abstract' battery existing on paper. AD ratings should vary from 1 to 3, depending on the effectiveness of the battery. Each battery consists of a command vehicle and a number of launchers. Each launcher contributes 1 to the battery's AD rating. This is expanded on below.

Air Ops

Aircraft are assigned to the Air Superiority (AS) Pool or the Tactical Air (TA) Pool at the start of the game. Multi role aircraft placed in either pool cannot transfer to the other pool during the game. Those in the AS Pool are assumed to be on-station close to the battlefield and will interfere in enemy missions. Those in the TA Pool are available for air strikes, SEAD and Counter Air missions.

When a player orders an air strike the type of mission is decided also. These can be:

Strike - an on-table air strike mission. This may include fighter escorts.

Counter Air - fighters fly against enemy Air Superiority aircraft.

SEAD- attacks on enemy off-table Air Defences.

The 1d4 turn time delay between calling for a mission and mission resolution is still followed. Where a combined mission is called for (for example a Counter Air mission is called for to clear the way for a Strike mission) a d4 is rolled for both missions and the higher roll is taken.

Strike Mission Resolution

Total the AS ratings of the defenders AS Pool aircraft. This is the roll to hit a attacking aircraft. The defender chooses an attacking plane, rolls a die and downs the attacker it the score equal or lower than the total defending AS rating. The defender then totals the AS rating of their strike aircraft and any escorts, and makes a roll against one of the defending aircraft in the AS Pool. It a defender is shot down the AS Pool rating is reduced proportionately. This continues until all the attacking aircraft have been attacked, all AS Pool aircraft have been shot down, the defending player withdraws their AS Pool aircraft, or the attacker decides to withdraw and the defender allows them to. Note that each defending aircraft may only be attacked once - if the defender rolls for an attack against a strike aircraft and muffs the roll the strike aircraft gets through.

Once the AS Pool has been passed the attackers face the Air Defence batteries. Total the number of AD points and roll against each attacker to see of they get through.

Those aircraft which successfully penetrate both the AS and AD defences may attack targets on the table.

Example: An attacking strike is made up of 3 strike aircraft, each carrying AAMs (AS Rating 1 for each aircraft) and 2 fighter escorts (AS Rating 2), for a total AS Rating of 7. They are faced by 2 defending Air Superiority fighters (AS Rating 3 each) with a total AS Rating of 6. The defenders attack one of the escorts and roll a 3, downing one of the fighters. The attackers AS rating is now reduced to 5. They roll a 6, missing the defenders. The next attacker to be fired at is the second fighter; a 2 is rolled, shooting it down. The attacker's AS rating is now 3, but they too roll a 2, downing one of the defending fighters. The defender's AS rating is now 3. On subsequent rolls the players score as follows: Defender 6 (against 1st strike aircraft), Attacker 4, Defender 2 (against 2nd strike aircraft, downing it - Attacker AS rating now 2), Attacker 1 - downing the last defending AS aircraft. This part of the mission is now over, with two strike aircraft continuing into the target area. The defender has an Air Defence battery with an AD rating of 3. Both strike aircraft are attacked, but the rolls are 4 and 6, so both survive and go on to bomb targets on the battlefield. All the aircraft downed pass their damage rolls and return to their pools with delays as described below.

Counter Air Resolution

This is similar to a strike mission except the attacker is going out with the express intention of engaging the enemy's AS Pool. Action continues until all aircraft on either side have been shot down or either player decides to withdraw. The defender may even choose to withdraw before combat begins, but this may allow other missions to get through (see later). Note that in this case there is no limit to the number of times an aircraft can be attacked, as the action continues until one side leaves the field. CA missions may coincide with Strike missions. In this case the CA mission is resolved first. It all the defending play er's aircraft are shot down or the defender withdraws, the strike succeeds without having to encounter the AS Pool aircraft.

Air Defence units plays no part in Counter Air missions.

SEAD Resolution

This is a strike mission against off table Air Defence units. As usual the strike must penetrate the AS Pool aircraft. The Air Defence units then engage the attackers. Surviving attackers then attack the Air Defence units. This is completed as an abstract strike requiting no models. Air Defence units should consist of one or more command vehicles and several launcher vehicles, with each launcher vehicle contributing 1 AD point. The AD battery will be well dispersed, so each attacking aircraft can only get one vehicle in its attack. If the command vehicle is destroyed the battery goes to local control and is reduced to an AD rating of 1 until a replacement command vehicle is available (these may be hidden nearby as those active in a battery are prime targets). Destruction of a launcher vehicle reduces the AD rating by 1.

Base Strike

The most vulnerable time for any aircraft is when it is on the ground. Aircraft in the Iron Cow time frame are likely to be advanced Vertical/Short Take Off, Vertical Landing (V/STOL) aircraft, or Short Take Off and Landing (STOL) aircraft capable of operations from rough strips, forest clearings etc. This allows bases to be set up close to the battlefield to reduce transit times for the strike aircraft. It also allows a commander to bring his air assets on line in a short time, especially important if a force has just arrived from orbit. These base may also be the subject of air strikes, if they are located.

The location of the enemy's airfields may be known at the start of the game by prior reconnaissance, may be discovered by recce units operating in the enemy's rear, or may be located by Air Defence radar. The first two methods are determined by the referee. The third requires that a player has an operational AD unit. Each time an enemy mission is launched from the TA pool roll a d1O. The location of the base is discovered on a roll of 8+. Henceforth the base may be the subject of an air attack, or Base Strike.

This is resolved in the same way as a SEAD mission. For the actual strike the air base may be set up on a separate table, or the following abstract system is used. Each attacking aircraft rolls for destruction against 2 aircraft on the ground OR attacks the base facilities, delaying further flights from the base by 1d3 turns. Players may allocate local Air Defence units to airfields, in which case the attackers must run the gauntlet of the AD system before attacking the base, and also have the option to attack the AD units instead of the airfield facilities.

Post Mission Resolution

Following the completion of the mission aircraft from the TA pool returned to base for refuelling and rearming. This takes 5 turns to complete, during which time the aircraft are unavailable for missions. Aircraft which are hit during the course of the game may be returned to the TA pool if they pass their damage rating roll. They are available for action 5+ 1d4 turns later, the additional time being spent in making battle damage repairs, removing wounded crew members etc. Aircraft in the AS Pool which are hit but which pass their damage rating roll return to the AS Pool in 5+1d4 turns also.


Iron Cow does not, as yet, have a points system to determine force sizes. Players and umpires in games using these additional rules must be careful to ensure that the air assets allocated to each side, especially Air Superiority and Air Defence units, does not create an unbalanced scenario. It is possible to create an Air Defence system which is virtually impenetrable. However, remember that the majority of Iron Cow scenarios feature relatively small units on frontier worlds. Obviously space is limited on the troop ships carrying these contingents and therefore the force commanders need to strike a balance between all arms, tanks, artillery, Air Defence etc. I would suggest that a Brigade may have a single Air Defence battery assigned with an AD rating of 3, and up to 6 AS points worth of Air Superiority aircraft.


Copelands Models (now available as the Future Wars range from Ground Zero Games - ed) do a number of suitably high-tech looking aircraft which will fill most needs, but some of the historical ranges of 1/300 aircraft offer up a number of possibilities, especially when wings are clipped or reshaped, bombs and ECM pods included and unusual paint schemes used. The subject of the 'teaser' of this article, "Tiger 505", is a converted Heroics/Navwar Dornier Do335 with AAMs and weapons pods added. This makes a particularly good 'low tech' ground attack aircraft, especially as its push-pull engine arrangement looks far too advanced for a WW2 aircraft, instead looking like a tandem turboprop arrangement which may be typical of a rugged crop-sprayer converted into an armoured attack aircraft on some frontier world.

Ed Note: Iron Cow is a 6mm (Epic) SF Armour rules system produced by Wessex Games and was reviewed in Ragnarok 19. A revised edition, Iron Cow 2103AD, was reviewed in Ragnaraok 39. For further details regarding price and availability, send an SSAE to Wessex Games, 4 Old Acre Road, Whitchurch, Bristol, BS14 0HN.

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