Flames of War: Fielding the FOW L-4 Grasshopper AOP

L4Grasshopper1944

Piper Aircraft was founded in the late 1920s with an eye toward building planes for general civilian use. From 1938 to 1947, Piper sold nearly 30,000 of their relatively inexpensive J-3 Cub models, making the plane one of the most ubiquitous non-commercial planes soaring over the United States by the mid-20th-century.

1943 industrial film of the building of a Piper Aircraft J-3 Cub

During World War II, Piper supplied the US Army Air Forces with nearly 6000 of their J-3 Cub planes in a modified military version known as the L-4 Grasshopper. The main modification of the light plane was the installation of wide banks of plexiglass windows, making it usable as a radio observer and reconnaissance plane during key missions like the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. The Grasshopper also found varied service transporting supplies to the front, carrying wounded to the rear and ferrying military and political dignitaries. In rare cases later in the war, the plane was also equipped with light weapons for use as an air-to-ground attack platform.

IMG_4250My completed Flames of War US AOP Grasshopper

My modelling for Flames of War has been focusing as of late on filling in some odd little gaps in my forces. Since I run some US artillery from time to time, adding an air observation plane not only allowed me to add to my gaming but also take a break to model another plane. This time around I also decided to pay a bit more attention to basing my plane to add a bit of visual interest to an otherwise simple model. I like the quick work on the base so much that I’m going to go back and add the same to my US P-47 Thunderbolt and British Hawker Typhoon models. While relatively inexpensive and easy to assemble and paint like my other aircraft, my one criticism of the FOW Grasshopper model is the lack of decals.

Even with the one shortcoming in markings, my new Grasshopper will be a welcome addition to my FOW games. In most American army lists, adding an AOP is a cheap point spend while also greatly expanding the effectiveness of the already devastating US 105mm howitzer battery. Getting this little plane zipping over the heads of my Axis opponents on the tabletop battlefield may not prove to be a total game changer. It is, however, going to give the enemy one more thing to worry about and may just provide an edge like this classic of American engineering did some 70 years ago in the skies of Europe.

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Flames of War: Fielding the FOW Hawker Typhoon

Typhoon

The story of the British Hawker Typhoon in WWII is one best told in two acts. Its early use beginning  in 1941 met with very mixed service results against superior planes in the German Luftwaffe  and production of the plane was nearly scrapped by the Royal Air Force. However, with a bit of re-purposing, the Typhoon’s speed was soon coupled with increasingly-heavy bomb payloads to become an effective fighter bomber against ground targets.

In 1943, the Typhoon really came into its own when armed with wing-mounted rockets and fuel tanks providing greater flight range. While of questionable effectiveness against tough-armored German tanks, a run from a squadron of  Typhoons with rockets firing struck fear into German forces and devastated supply lines and production facilities in Western Europe. The Typhoon’s role in D-Day, Operation Goodwood, Operation Varsity and other engagements was both disruptive and deadly in support of ground campaigns all the way to the war’s end.

fowtyphoon

Flames of War offers a model of the Typhoon as well as a short online guide to painting their model. With my British ground forces fairly well built out with artillery, tanks, infantry and support weapons, adding some air support seemed to be the next natural step as well as another interesting modelling project.

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I picked up my model online at a slight discount online and went straight to work. I painted the plane in a RAF grey and green camouflage pattern with yellow details to the nose and leading wing edges. Next, I added black and white “invasion stripes” which had been used on Typhoons since earlier in the war, although my plane was going to be flying over late war Normandy. The decals included with the kit finished off the plane with “V” markings, subtly allowing me to add my own initial to my completed plane. Finally, a little watery rusty brown wash brushed along the seams in the fuselage added a weathered look of many previously-flown missions.

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With my existing American P-47 Thunderbolt, having the Typhoon in my miniature Allied arsenal is sure to add more depth and choice to my Late War Western Europe gaming. With the Typhoon hitting the table in the near future, my hope is its presence above the battlefield will rain rocket-fueled terror and distraction on my German opponents just as they did over Europe some 70 years ago.