A Flakpanzer IV "Wirbelwind"
|Role||Multi-Purpose Anti-Aircraft Tank|
|Unit Cost||480, 8|
|Upkeep per Minute||-8.06|
|Prereq.||Luftwaffe Tactics: Wirbelwind Flakpanzer|
|Primary armament||4x 2 cm Flak 38 Anti-Aircraft Cannon|
|Secondary armament||Hull-Mounted MG42 Light Machine Gun|
|Max. Speed||5 m/s|
The Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind, also known as the Wirbelwind Flakpanzer or simply Wirbelwind, is an anti-aircraft light tank fielded by the Panzer Elite Luftwaffe Tactics company in Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts. It is essentially a Flakvierling 38 20mm AA gun mounted in the chassis of a Panzer IV tank, and as such is an excellent rapid-fire weapon capable of wiping out enemy infantry squads with ease, or causing damage to enemy light and medium vehicles. It has many advantages over the Flakvierling emplacement, not least of which is its ability to freely move around the battlefield to where it is needed.
While the Luftwaffe Tactics doctrine allows the Panzer Elite to construct anti-infantry emplacements in the form of the Flakvierling 38 20mm AA gun (its only active anti-infantry defense, in fact), this stands in contrast with the mobile offensive nature of this faction. To remedy this, the Panzer Elite can instead field a mobile version of this gun, having many advantages that can be put to good use.
The Wirbelwind Flakpanzer is called in from the field using a Command Ability also called Wirbelwind Flak Panzer. This ability becomes available once the Wirbelwind Flak Panzer Command Upgrade has been purchased from the Luftwaffe Tactics Command Tree. Each use of the ability costs 480, 8, and will field a single Wirbelwind. You may select a destination for this ability, in which case the new Wirbelwind will automatically travel there after entering the battlefield.
The Wirbelwind is essentially a Panzer IV chassis, fitted with a Flak 38 rapid-firing quad 20mm Anti-Aircraft cannon. Similar in many respects to the Flakvierling 38 20mm AA gun, it nonetheless has several advantages that make it much more useful both for killing enemy infantry and, surprisingly, for hurting enemy tanks if it manages to flank them properly. Naturally, the biggest advantage this vehicle has is its ability to move freely around the battlefield, instead of being confined to wherever it was constructed.
Owing to its chassis, the Wirbelwind is also far less vulnerable than a Flak 38 emplacement. It is impervious to small-arms fire or even Heavy Machine Guns, and can sustain some firepower from enemy medium vehicles and tank guns (though not much). Furthermore, due to its crew being protected behind armor, it cannot become abandoned and captured by enemy units - normally a significant danger to a Flak 38 emplacement.
This tank can be used as a mobile response force for fending off infantry and light vehicles attempting to encroach on your territory. On assaults, it can protect your flanks and/or move in to dislodge infantry from protected positions or buildings with ease.
The primary weapon of a Wirbelwind Flakpanzer is a set of 4 Flak 38 20mm AA guns - rapid-firing cannons designed to bring down aircraft by filling the sky with medium-caliber shells. When used against ground targets however, it is decidedly dominant against both infantry and light vehicles.
In addition, the Wirbelwind carries an MG42 Light Machine Gun mounted at the front of the hull. This secondary weapon is relatively weak, and is meant only to provide some additional firepower.
2 cm Flak 38 Anti-Aircraft Cannon Edit
The four 2 cm (20mm) Flak 38 guns are magazine-fed automatic cannons linked together through a mechanism that coordinates their firing, so they are all treated as a single weapon.
This is the same weapon normally found in a Flakvierling 38 20mm AA emplacement. However, there are several differences between the stationary version and the Wirbelwind's mobile cannon, most of which lean towards the Wirbelwind's favor.
This weapon fires bursts of 12-15 shells, each 2-2.5 seconds long, followed by a cooldown period of about 4 seconds. After 3 bursts, the weapon must be reloaded, taking 6 seconds to do so. Although this may seem like a slow-firing weapon, each shell it fires has significant potential on its own, resulting in massive firepower being expended in each burst.
These shells are a little less accurate than those fired by the Flak 38 AA emplacement. Each shell has about a 35-50% basic chance to hit its target, and each hit will deliver 12-20 points of damage. While also slightly less accurate against elite infantry, it has one important advantage: it is extremely suppressive, capable of pinning down a unit in only a few bursts. Each burst will also kill at least one infantryman, on average.
The weapon also has unusual but interesting Penetration properties. It is a little less likely to penetrate the front armor of light vehicles such as the M3 Halftrack or M8 Greyhound than the immobile Flakvierling 38 20mm AA, but actually has a slightly better chance of penetrating some tank armor. That chance is not impressive, but thanks to the rapid fire it does mean the Wirbelwind Flakpanzer can do some good when flanking enemy heavy vehicles. Remember that the stationary Flak 38 AA can't really "flank" anything unless the enemy vehicle is foolish enough to turn its rear armor on the emplacement...
The Wirbelwind Flak 38's range is 40 meters - just beyond its own sight-range.
MG42 Light Machine Gun Edit
The Wirbelwind is also equipped with a front-hull-mounted MG42 Light Machine Gun. This standard LMG, mounted on many Axis vehicles, is a carryover from the Panzer IV chassis on which this tank is built.
Compared to other LMGs in service with the Wehrmacht and Panzer Elite, this weapon is quite lacking in both accuracy and damage. It is unlikely to do much damage to enemy infantry, and its primary purpose is to suppress them. It will still take plenty of fire to suppress a single unit though.
Since it is mounted on the hull, you can turn this weapon to face a different target than the one your main Flak 38 cannon is firing at, or align the two together to increase the suppressive fire on a particular unit.
Wirbelwind vs. Flakvierling 38Edit
In the Air Defence branch of the Luftwaffe Tactics command tree, the first two abilities will unlock two similar anti-aircraft units: the stationary Flakvierling 38 20mm AA emplacement (built by Luftwaffe Ground Force squads), and the Wirbelwind Flakpanzer anti-aircraft tank. While the two units have a similar cannon installed as their primary weapon, the differences between them are quite significant.
Firstly there's the price. To construct a Flakvierling 38 20mm AA, you must first create a Luftwaffe Ground Force for 260, and then build the gun itself for another 300, 30. This requires the Luftwaffe Ground Force to work for 70 seconds, possibly close to enemy lines. The emplacement can only be located in controlled territory. The Wirbelwind, on the other hand, costs only 480, and will appear as soon as it is summoned.
Naturally, the Flakvierling 38 20mm AA is a stationary weapon. Wherever it is built, it must stay there for the remainder of the mission - or until being destroyed. This poses a problem when the battle lines shift - you can either scuttle the gun and build a new one elsewhere, or leave it there in case the situation changes again. The Wirbelwind does not suffer from this problem, as it can move to wherever it is needed. It can protect several sectors simultaneously by moving between them as they come under attack, can stay in one position to fend off repeated enemy assaults, or even join other assault forces to attack the enemy in their own territory.
In terms of vulnerability, the Wirbelwind is also superior. Unlike the stationary gun, it is encased in plenty of armor, making it less vulnerable to almost any type of weapon. In fact, it is impervious to small-arms, which are often the most numerous weapons on the field. Furthermore, the Wirbelwind's crew is in no danger of being killed independently, as they are considered an integral part of the vehicle. Therefore, unlike the stationary AA, the Wirbelwind cannot be captured by the enemy and used against you. The Wirbelwind is also tougher in terms of health and damage resistance, and on top of this can move to avoid enemy artillery strikes.
Finally, while the Wirbelwind's gun is a little less powerful and accurate than the stationary AA, it has two advantages. Firstly, it will very quickly suppress any infantry unit it fires at - much faster than the stationary AA can. Additionally, since it is mobile, it can be brought into a flanking position behind enemy tanks to utilize its slight Penetration bonus to pierce the armor on such tanks. While it can't do much damage on its own, it can still offer some assistance to other units when surrounding an enemy tank.
The only real disadvantage for the Wirbelwind is its Population Cap consumption: it takes 8, compared to the AA emplacement's 3. However, one Wirbelwind can "fill in" for two or more Flakvierling 38s, and as a result is often worth that extra consumption easily.
The bottom line is that the Flakvierling 38 20mm AA is not really worth the trouble. Unless you have no access to the Wirbelwind for some reason, constructing these guns is relatively pointless. Instead, field one Wirbelwind and have it patrolling between the points you'd otherwise defend with several AA emplacements!
Like all other Panzer Elite units, the Wirbelwind Flakpanzer can attain 3 levels of Veterancy, by accumulating experience points from the killing of enemy units. As it gains levels, its performance will increase proportionally.
Like all other Panzer Elite units, the Wirbelwind Flakpanzer uses the Panzer Elite Shared Veterancy system to accumulate Veterancy points. In this system, units share experience from their kills with each other, within a certain radius.
Each kill the Wirbelwind Flakpanzer makes will grant it 100% of the experience value of the killed unit.
In addition, it will pass 50% of that value to any Panzer Elite units within 35 meters of itself.
Vicariously, the Wirbelwind Flakpanzer receives 50% of the experience value of kills made by other Panzer Elite units within 35 meters.
Every time the Wirbelwind Flakpanzer gains a level, you'll be asked to choose which Veterancy Upgrade you wish to apply to it - either a Defensive bonus or an Offensive bonus, but not both. You can choose a different bonus at each Veterancy level, if you want.
The bonuses described below are specific to each level. Due to the way they are applied on top of each other, when computed together (see below) they may or may not add up as you may expect.
When these bonuses are computed together with each other as well as the unit's basic statistics, the results at each level are as follows:
* Click the button at the top-right corner to view the entire table.
Selecting Veterancy bonuses for the Wirbelwind is tricky, because it can benefit greatly from from defensive and offensive bonuses. Defensive bonuses will increase the speed of this vehicle, allowing it to respond more rapidly to the defense of various sectors, and the other bonuses will keep the vehicle alive longer in the face of heavier vehicles and/or anti-tank infantry. Offensive bonuses will significantly increase the weapon's deadliness, allowing it to kill targets faster (thus being able to engage larger groups more easily too).
Whatever you choose, like most other Panzer Elite vehicles, it's usually best to at least take the first level in Defensive Bonuses, because it has the most effect and increases the vehicle's chance to reach higher veterancy levels alive.
The Wirbelwind Flakpanzer is by far one of the most useful anti-infantry vehicle available to the Panzer Elite, alongside the Panzer IV Infantry Support. Though not as fast as the Light Armored Car, it is both more powerful and better protected - especially against the very infantry it is designed to kill. In addition, it can do well against light and medium vehicles, and can even assist against tanks.
The versatility of this vehicle allows it to perform both defensive and offensive duties. On the defense, it is charged with fending off enemy infantry attempting to infiltrate and capture your sectors. A single Wirbelwind can patrol your front lines against this menace, hold its own against large numbers of infantry and light vehicles, and then move to another sector when required. On the offensive, the Wirbelwind usually rides at the flanks of an advancing force, keeping them safe from enemy infantry and vehicles attempting to flank you.
In both capacities, the Wirblewind must stay mobile and alert. It can usually kill enemy anti-tank infantry before they can do it much harm, but in confrontations with heavy vehicles it will often lose out. It is also somewhat vulnerable to artillery fire.
Mobile Defense Edit
Instead of constructing several Flakvierling 38 20mm AA cannons to protect your valuble sectors, one or two Wirbelwinds can perform the same duty along your entire line.
The Wirbelwinds will usually do best patrolling your forward sectors. When enemy infantry are spotted attempting to steal away your territory, a Wirbelwind can quickly move to engage and destroy them. A single Wirbelwind can often take on two or three enemy infantry groups, or at least buy time for more anti-infantry units to move in to support it.
Even infantry accompanied by light vehicles are no match for this tank, which will easily shrug off anything less than rockets or cannonfire. It will outlast a quad-mount M3 Halftrack in one-on-one combat, and will usually come out equal against a Stuart Light Tank or similar vehicle.
The use of a mobile Wirbelwind gives much better value than static Flak 38 emplacements, saving you many Population Cap points. As an added bonus, it will fire at any incoming aircraft, making it particularly useful whenever fighting an American Airborne Company. In such scenarios, remember to patrol often in order to shoot down Paratroopers attempting to land behind your lines.
Assault Flank Protection Edit
When mounting an offensive, the Wirbelwind can provide powerful protection for your flanks. It should generally drive behind the main force, then move to a flanking position once the battle has started.
Any enemy infantry or light vehicles attempting to encircle your units will quickly be stopped by the Flak 38 cannon - either pinned-down or destroyed outright.
If a larger enemy vehicle shows up, the Wirbelwind can at least soak up some damage, delaying the enemy for a few previous moments before it has to retreat to safety. Don't leave the Wirbelwind to fend off such vehicles or it will eventually be destroyed.
If expecting lighter resistance, such as during the early stages of the battle, you can use the Wirbelwind as your center armored piece, supported by infantry and other smaller vehicles. If you spend your first few Command Points to acquire the Wirbelwind Flakpanzer ability, you could own the most powerful unit on the battlefield until the enemy fields more serious anti-tank weapons or heavy vehicles. This can give a massive early advantage.
During a battle, always remember that your Wirbelwind can do some damage to enemy tanks - but mainly if it managed to flank them. Pull in the Wirbelwind from flank-protection duties to attack a tank's rear, slightly speeding up its destruction. Of course, remember that the Wirbelwind's primary task is still to protect the flanks - you don't want to be surprised by enemy infantry while trying to take out enemy armor...
The Wirbelwind is not truly a medium tank. It only carries about 60% as much armor as a Panzer IV. While this makes it impenetrable by small-arms and machine-gun fire, it does not prevent Penetration by most tank and anti-tank weapons. When tanks show up against it, retreat the Wirbelwind as soon as possible.
When coming up against anti-tank infantry, there is less to worry about than you might expect. Although they can do damage to this tank, they will rarely survive long enough against the Flak 38 cannon to fire more than a single rocket - if any. You're better off taking the shot and wiping them out than allowing them to live and attack one of your lighter vehicles later.
Artillery fire is another hazard, though the Wirbelwind is usually fast enough to get away before being destroyed. Keep your Wirbelwinds moving at all times. They are better off patrolling than sitting still anyway.
Historical Data Edit
An article about this unit in real life can be found here.
(When raining)Rain... Open top tank.... Fucking great engineering.