To make up for many of their light arms requiring closer ranges than either of the SSU’s opposing blocs, their leadership created the transport chopper. Early models didn’t even feature weaponry. However, the bravery of the soviet pilots the addition of machine guns to the nose of the rotor-craft to better aid its use and support of close air support the troops it drops. Despite being a helicopter, a design inherently slower than most modern aircraft, the SSU has engineered around this problem by adding a rocket thruster to give the aircraft that added velocity to match the other blocs if needed. All the while keeping a more nimble and maneuverable flying machine that can stop and hover in place.
The MIL MI-45 Airborne Transport Helicopter can carry up to 6 Solider 1/2 and half that number for Soldier 3/4. This makes them useful for carrying squads with a hero or Commissar attached or even weapons teams such as the “Red Lighting” Tesla Gun Team. They cannot be used to move blobbed squads (two similar soldier 2 squads joined together with a Commissar) unless that squad has lost so many soldiers as to at or under 6 soldiers. Additionally, when taking the Drakoni as the Command Section of a Political Platoon, you may take an Airborne Transport Helicopter as a command transport option. Though you must still spend the 40 Army Points for the cost of the chopper.
The Airborne Transport Helicopter is equipped with the Quad DShK 12.7mm machine guns as all SSU choppers. It provides outstanding anti-infantry and anti-aircraft firepower at the medium range of 16″. While not as effective, these guns can also engage up to Vehicle 3 if required or opportune.
The Wingman Concept: I find it most effective when using aircraft to use at least two units. Most army lists are built with some anti-air, but many lists only have enough to fight one unit effectively. Obviously this depends on your local meta (what units are the most popular/played within your gaming group), but I find that two or more aircraft units can survive/destroy enemy anti-air early in the game and fly above the battlefield uncontested. Plus, it force your opponent to decide on which target is most important.
For the Airborne Transport, any of the SSU’s choppers work great in support. The Attack helicopters can soften and suppress the enemy as they escort the loaded transport closer to your target. Even the Walker Transport or another Airborne Transport allow you to quickly move a large strike force where you want it.
Move, Shoot, Move: Because of the optional (for aircraft with the Hover special ability) Compulsory Move, you can move you transport 12″ actually fire at the opponent to suppress, and move 12″ again to drop the on board squad within 3″. Once on the ground, this squad can also make another attack. That is the more than a March Move (and it avoids terrain) for two full turns and the solider unit still gets to shoot.
Rear Area Raid: You can use the aircraft Compulsory Move off table rules to your advantage to get your troops behind enemy lines. To do so, angle your transport so that it will travel off the table during its Compulsory Move (and only its Compulsory Move as normal movement counts as a Retreat off table and the lost of all units involved). While you no longer get to use this aircraft for the remainder of the turn, neither can your opponent shoot at it. On your next turn, you must return the aircraft back onto the table, though it can at any part of the same table edge it left. This means that the transport chopper could leave the on a poorly defended spot of the table edge behind your opponent only to return next round directly behind them to cause all manner of havoc.
Pick-Up and Move: I don’t really recommend this tactic. Or at very least, wouldn’t suggest it as a reason to have an Airborne Transport Helicopter in your army. However, in the event you have cleared a portion of the battlefield of enemies, you can bring you transport in at Low Altitude to pick up soldiers. Remember at low attitude, Aircraft units are considered Vehicle units in terms of what weapons and how many dice can damage them. Most of the time, this is more of both. After embarking a soldier squad or two, the transport can move them closer to active battle on the table. I typically don’t recommend this tactic as it dangerous to the chopper, and Dust Warfare games usually only last 5 turns for each player. To use the Pick-Up and Move Tactic, chances are 1 to 2 turns have been used to clear that part of the table, another to move and pick up the soldiers, and yet another to get them where you want. That leaves you with only a single full turn to get any use out of those soldiers. While it could be useful, I would consider this tactic of opportunity not as part of your overall strategy.
Gun in the Sky: The Quad Machine guns on any of the SSU choppers combined with the Hover Special Ability make these aircraft very good support units to ground forces. As mentioned in the Weapons portion of this article, these guns are very good at engaging Soldier Units. Being at High Altitude can make it seem like this unit as attacking at range as well making them very good at killing solider squads or at very least suppressing them. With Hover, they can remain close to friendly forces and can even help defend the sensitive rear arc of vehicles with their better turning ability (helicopters can turn 90 degrees during Compulsory Move as well as normal movement).
Quality of Soldier type to Transport:
While the Airborne Transport Helicopter can transport every kind of solider (even the new Soldier 4 Steel Guard) some are more useful than others in general. I will go over each SSU soldier squad on how useful I find transporting them as well as some ideas how to use them with a transport chopper.
Command Section (Any): I tend to avoid doing this as I never really want to move them that quickly across the battlefield, and I find having protected in a transport a waste of 45 Army Points (40 for the transport and 5 for Cavalry Platoon upgrade). I would hard pressed to left step foot in a chopper unless I bought the Cavalry Platoon upgrade, since Command Sections are so valuable alive. However, if you managed to get the Assassination Objective on the Battle Builder, there is nothing stopping you from flying your V.I.P.s away from the enemy. You could even fly them off the table using the Compulsory Move rules. Just remember, they must come back on the table next turn.
Frontoviki: I don’t find moving them around all that useful with the transport chopper. The helicopter itself has good anti-infantry guns to deal with soldiers and the neither unit can fight Vehicles very well. It might be useful to load the Frontoviki in the transport to be able to reach critical areas of the battlefield such as kill zones or objectives however.
Fakyeli: They are my favorite unit to use the transport chopper with. Because they need to get right up on the enemy to do anything, the Move, Shoot, Move tactic above works great with them. They also work great if you opponent used one of their vehicles during the Command Phase or otherwise has a reaction token. You can use the chopper to quickly rush the Fakyeli right up to the vehicle and have the Fakyeli unload on it without worry of it moving away or even firing back.
Ohotniki: This just seems like a really bad or really awesome idea. Bad it that the Ohotniki already have good range to hit things, but awesome at the same time, because you could air drop them on top of a building close to your opponent’s main force and just have them picking off units from above in cover.
Chinese Volunteers: They are actually meant to be moved around with the transport and already have what the Cavalry Platoon upgrade gives other solider units. They are cheap as well so you don’t feel too bad throwing them in the midst of the enemy to be slaughters. However, their weapons don’t give them a lot the can to that another squad could do better.
Jnetzi: Like the Ohotniki, a few squads of them loaded into a transport and dropped off around the enemy could really do some damage. Remember the Widowmaker can damage up to Vehicle 4 and has the Tank Killer special ability. Equipped with the Walker Dissection, and you could really slow down the enemy.
Nabludatyel: Not a bad option to transport and one of the few I wouldn’t worry about taking the Cavalry Platoon upgrade for. You could drop them off in a place on the table where they have a good view of everything to see for any and all artillery units you might have.
Red Storm: They could work nearly as well as the Fakyeli with the transport chopper. Although, given the choice, I would rather use the Fakyeli.
Red Thunder: They could compliment the transport helicopter’s anti-infantry with their own anti-armor ability. I fear that they don’t quite roll enough dice or do enough damage to take on medium walkers without the Karamzim though. Even with him, it could be risky with only the chopper’s guns for support if they get too far from the rest of your forces.
Hailstorm: I don’t see any reasonable reason to move them around with the Airborne Transport. Their main weapon is artillery and the rest of the weapons are mostly for defense. Unless you are getting them out of a sticky situation, I would mostly leave them where they are.
Red Lightning: Much like the Hailstorm, I see them mostly being picked up out of danger from the transport chopper more than being dropped off by it. However, it might be useful to quickly give them to a strong point (not the fortification necessarily) to hold ground against the enemy.
Red Tornado: With their good range and already tough to damage traits, I don’t see this unit needing all that much in the way of air transport. Like many other units, I would only load them in the chopper if I wanted them to get to and hold a part of the battlefield before they could otherwise get there.
Silent Death: Like the Ohotniki and the Jnetzi, I like the idea of loading the Airborne Transport Helicopter with a couple of these squads and placing them in hard to reach spots where they can shoot at the enemy and the enemy has difficult attacking back. Places like the tops of high buildings or areas mostly (or completely) surrounded by impassible terrain.
Air Cavalry (300)
Political Platoon (178)
Command Section: Drakoni (25)
1st: Fakyeli (21) +2 Grizzled Veterans
2nd: Fakyeli (21)+2 Grizzled Veterans
3rd: Chinese Volunteers (15)
Transport Support: Airborne Transport Helicopter (40)
Support: Jnetzi (14) +3 Walker Dissection
Support: Silent Death (30)
Upgrade: Air Cavalry
Political Platoon (122)
Command Section: Drakoni (25)
1st: Chinese Volunteers (15)
Transport Support: Airborne Transport Helicopter (40)
Support: Airborne Transport Helicopter (40)
This army list is very, very weak against vehicles unless you can get the Fakyeli or the Chinese Volunteers close enough to hit them. To support this, it has a two sniper teams: the Jnetzi and Silent Death. I would use them to interrupt and waylay the enemy while the three transport choppers swoop in and drop off the Chinese Volunteers, and both squads of Fakyeli up close on the enemy.
The Airborne Transport Helicopter is a decent enough unit for the SSU. However, while I like this bloc’s use of choppers, I find myself not wanting to use this unit nearly as much as even the Walker Transport Helicopter (I find that unit more fun to play). If I take this unit, I feel pretty obligated to also take the Cavalry Platoon upgrade as well. While the Chinese Volunteers don’t require this, I find that I don’t like using them because all they really are a cheap solider squad that really doesn’t offer me much on the battlefield especially cut off from the rest of my forces. Mostly, I think I just don’t know how to get the most out of this unit and that is why I tend to not use it. It is a fine addition to the SSU, and despite my personal misgivings of it, I rate it average to good.