|Opening Salvo: Pt. 3|
|Condition Zebra Set|
|by Rich Baker|
elcome back! In our third preview of the upcoming Axis & Allies Naval Miniatures expansion Condition Zebra, we'll take a look at a couple of long-awaited airplanes finally making their first appearance in War at Sea: The Short Sunderland flying boat, and the German Fi-167 torpedo bomber.
Short Sunderland Mk. 1
The primary British flying boat of World War II, the Short Sunderland was a big, tough, heavily armed airplane that mounted up to 18 defensive machine guns, earning the nickname "the Flying Porcupine." On one occasion a Sunderland tangled with six German Ju 88's, shooting down one and driving the rest off; on another occasion, a Sunderland fought off an attack of eight Ju 88's, shooting down three of them with the loss of only one man (although the Sunderland was badly shot up and was wrecked on landing). With its excellent endurance, over-water capability, and radar, the Sunderland played a key role in the Battle of the Atlantic. It carried a wide variety of ordnance, including anti-submarine bombs, bombs, and depth charges.
Game Play: The Sunderland is very expensive at 10 points, but it has a very dangerous ASW value (for a plane) and a formidable Bomb attack. Defensive armament only improves its Armor rating, not its Vital Armor, so you should exercise some care about exposing it to strong AA attacks or capable fighter aircraft. The most intriguing new combination offered by the Sunderland is the tactic of aerial mining. As the first airplane with a mine capability, the Sunderland can easily reach sectors the enemy will want to move through and mine them before they get there—something that surface ship minelayers have a hard time doing.
A biplane torpedo bomber somewhat similar to the Fairey Swordfish, the Fi-167 is one piece of one of the more interesting "what-ifs" of the naval war. It was designed to serve aboard the Graf Zeppelin and future carriers envisioned in Germany's Z Plan to expand the Kriegsmarine in the early '40s. Despite its ungainly appearance, it was a very competent design, exceeding its performance and payload requirements. It also had outstanding landing characteristics and could land almost vertically in the right conditions, such as a carrier's headwind. However, when construction of Graf Zeppelin was put on hold, the Fieseler's reason for being was no longer apparent and only a dozen aircraft were ever built.
Game Play: As you might expect, the Fi-167's purpose is to provide Germany with a carrier-borne torpedo bomber. Since Graf Zeppelin only carries two squadrons, you'll probably have to decide between carrying the Fi-167 and the Ju-87 Stuka; torpedo bombers are better against fleets with battleships and submarines, while dive bombers do better against fleets containing cruisers and destroyers. The Fi-167 is more robust than a Swordfish, but it has no business attacking high-AA targets without the cover of more attacking squadrons or flying without fighter cover in the face of enemy fighters.
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