Stormwind and the Alliance as a whole employ the use of both ground and air-based war machines. These metal monstrosities are able to turn the tide of battle by ravaging both fortifications and infantry lines with a single cannon blast, rapid gun fire, or even charging enemy lines and using their weight to literally crush the enemy. Being some of the most complex pieces of machinery out there, these war machines are piloted by highly trained pilots and engineers that graduate from the Royal College of Engineers.
This chapter of the Stormwind Army Field Manual will touch on topics such as the varying types of war machines, both ground-based and airborne, the piloting of these machines, fuel, and a glimpse into the Stormwind Motor Pool for an overview of what vehicles are in use in the army.
Ground-based machines come to us in a time where simple cavalry units are unable to match the power of demons and despots alike, as the Burning Legion and now the Horde have shown us. Our friends in Ironforge have shown us the power of modern engineering with vehicles such as the steam tank and the variations therein and it’s because of these inventions that Alliance pilots and engineers are able to take down scores of enemies with little to no effort. While perhaps dangerously unreliable at times and used relatively sparingly, these vehicles have proven to be invaluable in siege warfare as replacements for cannons and support units during open field skirmishes.
While there can be debate regarding what would be considered a war machine, for the purposes of the field manual and the general knowledge a soldier is expected to know, a war machine is any mechanical machine that is piloted by a person usually with an engineering background that relies solely on the use of non-magical fuels (Azerite War Machines notwithstanding) and ammunition to function. Vehicles such as the dwarven Steam Tank fall under this category.
While the list of pros may be short, the investment and innovation of war machine technology has been proven to be worthwhile considering the significant advantages these vehicles bring:
· Their metal hulls are thick and resistant to sharp and blunt weapons, arrows and lead, and even some minor explosives, making these machines resilient to all but the heaviest of weapons. They can even be used as a sort of mobile shield that infantry can hide behind while moving across an empty field or into an area monitored by scores of archers or hand gunners, such as the path to a stronghold’s gates.
· Fast for their size. While not exactly a goblin rocket on wheels, considering their weight, reliability, and the general difficulty of piloting such a thing, they can move at an impressive speed.
· A cannon on wheels, steam tanks are good alternatives to canons proper as they are self-propelled and more maneuverable. No horses or throngs of men to simply move or turn it.
Alas, no technology comes without disadvantages and war machines are no exception. While concerning, it is assumed that as investment continues, the following disadvantages will either be significantly mitigated if not completely resolved.
· They are not the most reliable of machines. Being powered by a boiler or combustion engine and fueled with coal or oil, these steam engines require constant monitoring to ensure that the pressure in the boiler or the heat of the engine does not exceed safety limitations. Should this occur, an explosion of some magnitude should be expected, as the boiler/engine splits apart, destroys the tank, and the ammunition and black powder “cook off” or ignite as the machine burns.
· Continuing on the topic of safety, there is an excellent chance that there will be more friendly casualties if proper care is not taken when moving with these vehicles. The pilots of the steam tanks don’t have the best of views and as such, may very well run over friendly troops, crushing them to death in what could very well be a slow and painful death.
· These vehicles require skilled crews and in-depth training to operate correctly and efficiently. There isn’t an engineer alive who would allow your average soldier to attempt to pilot one of these machines without significant training and drilling and because of this, there is a shortage of qualified pilots and engineers capable of piloting these machines. As such, few of them are seen together in a given battle.
While not by any means useless or burdensome, steam tanks and derivatives thereof are powerful, massive machines that can lay waste to enemy fortifications and emplacements with ease, never worrying about cavalry charges or the shot of a skilled ranger. At the same time, they are also their own worst enemies, their power source being a potential time bomb in their bellies and a lack of pilots owing to their rarity on the battlefield.
Aerial War MachinesEdit
Flying machines started out as little more than metal and wood slapped together with rotors that spun really fast and have evolved into larger designs, featuring repeating guns, multiple engines, and even multiple seats on some. Further advances in engine technology have allowed for the creation of airships, dreadnought-sized creations that are kept aloft by massive engines, with four of them being used while on the largest of them. While fragile and expensive to produce, these machines can change the course of battle by giving ground-based troops aerial fire support and even being able to airlift troops and supplies to hard to reach locations.
Much like their ground-based cousins, aerial war machines are generally powered by steam engines or combustion engines. On the smaller gyrocopters and bombers, repeating cannons and bomb bays are the standard armaments, with bombers also being able to carry a passenger, usually the bombardier. In stark contrast to land-based war machines, gyrocopters and bombers are made out of much more fragile materials in order for them to achieve flight. This is generally the reason there are brought down and destroyed. In yet another contrast, the gunships of the alliance are constructed of some of the toughest materials available, making them as tough, tougher even than some naval warships. However, even these beasts have some cons.
· All aircraft, be it the small and agile gyrocopter, or the massive behemoth that is the gunship have a slew of weaponry that makes them deadly from above. Standard shields and plate armor are generally not enough to protect against their projectiles.
· A gyrocopters speed and size allow it to be the vehicle of choice for reconnaissance missions and combat sorties. What’s more, they can take off from the carrier decks on some airships.
· Bombers are effectively aerial siege tanks. Able to drop significant payloads on entrenched enemies and their fortifications. Bombers are also able to partake in limited air-to-air combat, making them versatile vehicles.
· Multi-role. Aircraft like the gunships are not beholden to a specific role and thus can be used in a humanitarian fashion by airlifting large amounts of supplies to locations in need.
· Engines are extremely fragile. While the praises of these machines have been sung in the pros, it should be stated, perhaps more so than the pros, that these vehicles are very much vulnerable. Their engines and engine housings are susceptible to damage and if taken out, will bring these machines down in no time, leaving not much more than a crater and scattered wood and metal debris.
· Reliability issues appear to follow these machines as well. Flying machines with steam engines require the same kind of monitoring that steam tanks do. Should the boiler explode mid-flight, the chance of survival is almost zero. Combustion based flying machines can suffer a similar fate. Airship crews that neglect engine maintenance can see their engines fail mid-air with not much recourse available.
· All forms of aircraft are vulnerable to land-based artillery. While their fragility has been explained, it should be noted that it does not take sophisticated weaponry to bring down these vehicles. A well-aimed ballista or cannon ball will absolutely macerate a gyrocopter or bomber, and can blow off an entire engine from the sides of a gunship.
Flying machines of all kinds are on the bleeding edge of technology and should be heralded as such. However, it would be foolish to treat them as if they have no downsides. As a soldier stationed aboard an airship, ensure that you have a means of escaping safely. Be sure to note down where the store of parachutes is located and how to get to an open-air deck in case of an emergency. When riding as a passenger, or even piloting a gyrocopter or bomber, make sure you bring your personal parachute and a set of tools with you in the event that you experience engine troubles or need to bail out in an emergency.
Piloting of War MachinesEdit
It is assumed that pilots of war machines, be they air or land, are trained in the arts of piloting their vehicles. Those who wish to train at the Royal College of Engineers as a pilot are expected to know upon graduating how to operate and maintain their vehicle, how to fuel it, how to arm and re-arm, how to safely operate it, and of course, how to use the weaponry. It is also expected of pilots that they learn how to operate more than just a single vehicle, with heavy suggestions towards learning all of the vehicles in use by the army of Stormwind and her allies. Considering the vast shortage of skilled pilots and engineers, these teachings may be mandatory and should be expected by new and veteran pilots alike.
In terms of operating and piloting gunships, one should note that it is most certainly not a one-man job. Gunships operate much like their water-based counterparts in that it takes a whole crew to ensure a ship operates at peak efficiency. As with naval ships, an Admiral or Captain will give the general orders while aboard a gunship. It is up to the pilots, or navigators in this case, to heed the orders and sail the ship professionally, safely, and efficiently. Under the guidance of the vessels chief engineer, rotating the pilots and general engineers should be possible and expected, especially in times of extended service, ensuring no one person becomes ill-fit for duty.
Specific instruction for the operation of a given vehicle is out of scope for this chapter. Should you be interested in becoming a pilot or engineer, please speak with the Headmaster of the Royal College of Engineers or an Officer of the Regiment for further information.
Fuel Usage and YouEdit
While some may find this section to be superfluous, the importance of fuel cannot be understated. It is quite literally what gives you and your war machine the ability to conduct, well, warfare. The basic fuels are wood, coal, and oil. Wood and coal are generally used for steam engines and oil is used in combustion engines. Azerite, the world's newest form of power, has been harnessed as a form of fuel, specifically for the modern war machine known as the Azerite Tank. Much like classical fuels, Azerite is a non-renewable energy source as it’s stores can be depleted in much the same way.
When operating a vehicle, even before leaving the depot, the pilot and engineers should check the fuel levels in the vehicle. A pilot should not wait until their fuel is almost empty to refuel, as cutting it too close can risk losing the entire machine, costing the kingdom a fair amount of gold. Built into the dashboards and control panels of every vehicle, is at least one fuel gauge, with more added depending on the amount of fuel tanks the vehicle may have. Using a standard gauge with two demarcation points and the letters E and F, a pilot or engineer can gauge how much fuel they have in the tank(s). Should these reach a quarter of a tank during a mission, it is advised that the pilot return to the nearest carrier, landing strip, or in the case of a ground vehicle, a motor pool or depot, in order to refuel.
Stormwind Motor PoolEdit
Below is a list of vehicles that the Army of Stormwind currently fields and their accompanying armaments. It should be noted that such configurations can be changed, and that these are their standing defaults.
· Steam Tank – Heavily armored tank, generally on six wheels driven by a steam powered piston on both sides. Utilizing a siege cannon as its main weapon, this vehicle is generally used in a siege-weapon role.
· Azerite Tank – Super-heavy tank. Fueled and armed with azurite, this is the strongest land-based fighting vehicle either the Horde or Alliance have ever fielded. Armed with a lion-head plow and a troop bay, this vehicle is more suited to close-combat and troop transport than it is to indirect ranged combat.
· Gyrocopter – Lightly armed and armored, the gyrocopter is used as a light reconnaissance vehicle as well as a light bomber and fighter due to its small repeating cannon and ability for the pilot to drop grenades while in flight. Can take off, land, re-arm, and refuel on gunships with landing pads/strips and on their naval counterparts.
(Placeholder location for Gyrocopter)
· Small Gunship – A two-person variant of the larger, mainline gunships, these versions are propelled by six engines: Two main engines keeping it aloft, two small engines in the front for stability, and two medium engines in the rear for forward propulsion. With an armament of four small cannons, this small warship can deal quite a bit of damage to a broad range of enemies, including armored targets and other war machines.
(Placeholder location for Small Gunship)
· Light Gunship – More or less the medium sized gunship, this ship has the same engine layout as the Small Gunship, with six engines in the same layout. The armament however includes two top deck turrets, ten standard cannons with five on each side, and eight radial gun turrets with four on each side. The rear of the gunship has a small landing pad for animals or gyrocopters to take off and land from.
(Placeholder location for Light Gunship)
· Heavy Gunship – A monster of a machine, the heavy gunship sports an extra two engines keeping it aloft, a carrier deck, and plated cannon hatches on the gun decks for further protection. The bridge contains two helms that are occupied at all times with the admiral or captain directly behind them in the middle. The armament is the same as the light gunship except with an increased caliber of canon for both the broadsides and the turrets.
(Placeholder location for Heavy Gunship)