Talking about infantry transports, I mentioned that rocket helos are among the deadlier types of fire support. On superheavies, I kept bringing up that they’re countered by AT planes. Time to give the spotlight to antiair, the class of units meant to deal with these threats.
There’s two types of ground-based antiair – radar and nonradar (IR). IR weapons lend themselves to dealing with helos; radar ones come with good antiplane ranges. Of course, that isn’t to say that radar weapons can’t kill helos or vise versa – as you can see, the roland 3 above has a very usable antihelo range, it’s just slightly less than that of the equivalently priced crotale. Fighting a helo at 2.8km, the crotale would also be more accurate than the roland due to range scaling.
The [RAD] tag isn’t just shorthand for the range stat though. It also has a drawback in that any radar weapon can be automatically spotted and targeted by SEAD aircraft. The only way to protect your radar weapons from this fate is to turn them off when SEAD is around (it’s only necessary to turn off the weapons that are actually radar; a tunguska will be safe with its missile turned on, for example, as long as the radar gun is off). Because SEAD planes can be used to escort bombers, it’s generally necessary to mix in some IR even if your opponent isn’t a heavy helo user.
What else is there to consider beyond RAD vs IR? Missile count is a factor. Many big SAMs only come with 3-4 shots. If using them on the main frontline, resupply is just a minor inconvenience. For flank defense or extended pushes however, the lack of self-sufficiency is a big drawback. Wheels vs tracks is another – it helps to have a wheeled AA piece to escort your forces in the opening minutes.
The range vs price tradeoff is just as important as the RAD vs IR one. Some cheap AA pieces lose range compared to costlier alternatives, but keep most or all of their accuracy. This makes their role a defensive one – their range prevents them from covering pushes or dealing with carefully used bombers, but high lethality for the price allows you to cheaply protect your airspace from being completely trampled over. Full-featured AA on the other hand comes with much more convenient engagement ranges, but may be too expensive for low-importance flanks. MANPADS, aka infantry AA, are a common example for defensive AA – very cheap compared to conventional AA (always take the highest end ones), barely any range, but a stack of two is enough to create an instant death threat.
When picking defensive AA, keep in mind that range scaling does NOT apply when shooting at planes. This is the only exception – every weapon in the game becomes more accurate the closer the target is, except when shooting planes. The antihelo osa pictured above for example, while it has low accuracy, will become a lot more reliable as it gets closer to enemy helos. Regardless of how close a targeted plane gets however, the kub and osa will both remain inaccurate. This isn’t to say that a low-accuracy AA unit is automatically useless, but it’s different from how all other cheap units work and a factor to keep in mind.
What about SPAAGS? The cheap ones trade some lethality for the ability to stun anything within seconds, and for a decent fire support role, making them versatile defensive AA. The expensive ones are as different from each other as they are from pure missile AA, but they’re all very lethal.
Finally, an important hidden stat – the number of tubes on an AA piece’s model determines how many shots it can fire in quick succession. For most units this is only important when being swarmed by helos, but the roland series for example only comes with two tubes per piece. Where many radar AA will have enough time to shoot thrice at a bomber, the rolands always enter a lengthy reload after the second shot.