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Author Topic: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird II  (Read 2426 times)

sillybrit

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Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird II
« on: 22 June 2015, 22:45:28 »
Thunderbird II Battle Armor - Experimental Technical Readout Republic II page 16



     The Thunderbird II. Proof that the Nova Cats are still making their mark on the Inner Sphere, and that the RAF have a bit of a thing going for heavy battlesuits. This article nearly ended up as just an addendum to the existing Thunderbird article, but in the end I decided that the new version is different enough to warrant a Battle Armor of the Week of its own. That and I haven't gotten to write that many articles in recent months.

     Hot off the presses in Experimental Technical Readout Republic II, the Thunderbird II handles very differently to its sire, but similarities can be seen with both the original Thunderbird and its upgrade that appeared in 3145's New Tech New Units. No longer attempting to be an Elemental replacement, the Thunderbird II switches from being a poor man's medium to the pocket assault role instead, focusing on firepower at the expense of mobility.

     The earlier versions of the Thunderbird both sported the maximum jump capability available to heavy battlesuits thanks to the use of jump boosters, giving them a 90 meter jump range matching many medium suits. Obviously intended to mimic the Elemental’s maneuverability, this feature was discarded in the Tunderrbird II, saving the suit a hefty 375kg, or a quarter of its entire mass. Some of this reclaimed mass is used to beef up the ground mobility, which would normally allow the suit to move at twice the ground speed of the old Thunderbird, but thanks to the use of detachable weapon packs, the Thunderbird II will typically only be seen moving the plain vanilla one movement point.

     This reduction in mobility does hurt. The Thunderbird II will find it much more difficult to operate in rough terrain, especially around rivers or other bodies of water that a Thunderbird could jump. It also loses the +2 target movement modifier that a 90 meter jump could provide, which does make the Thunderbird II much more prone to taking damage compared to the earlier models.

     This lessened ability to avoid damage isn't a good thing when we consider that the Thunderbird II doesn't actually strengthen its protection, so it will be easier to kill with certain types of weapons. I say only certain weapons, because it does copy a trick from the Thunderbird (Upgrade) and use reflective plating, which means that it's capable of withstanding a shot from a Clan ER PPC or Inner Sphere heavy PPC, for example. Of course, if your foe shoots you with a Gauss rifle, then you're SOL.

     All told the Thunderbird II has 720kg available for weaponry and other systems, or almost half the suit's mass. The Thunderbird II is notable for being that rarest of beasts, a Clantech design that incorporates some Inner Sphere technology that's otherwise unavailable in its native tech base. In this case, the Inner Sphere equipment is a C3 module, added by the Nova Cat scientists specifically at the request of the RAF. Generally I find battle armor C3 to be somewhat dubious. Battlesuits lack the speed to reliably act as spotter and typically lack the long ranged weaponry to benefit from being the shooter in a network. Obviously there will be times when the C3 network will allow a Thunderbird II to make shots that would have otherwise missed, or for the suit to act as a spotter for friendly units, but in many engagements I can't help but wonder whether a better use could be made for the mass.

     As a last comment on the C3, it's worth noting that while a C3 Slave is a relatively minor investment for many ’Mechs or tanks, for a heavy battlesuit it represents a sixth of its mass. Apparently the prototype for the Thunderbird II didn't have C3, but just what might have been originally been in its place is unknown. All we know is that the RAF were originally shown an entirely Clantech prototype, so given the other equipment my guess is more armor and/or guns, as returning the jump jets would have been somewhat pointless given the current weaponry.

     For firepower, the Thunderbird II combines what are arguably the best configurations of the Thunderbird and Thunderbird (Upgrade). Mounted on detachable weapon mounts to save mass, the right arm sports a LB-X, while the left arm has an AP Gauss Rifle. Together, these guns make the Thunderbird II a brutal opponent for vehicles and infantry in particular, and even ’Mechs aren't going to enjoy being the recipient on what is effectively a LB 20-X (depending on squad size), with an average of nine points of extra damage from the AP Gauss Rifles as a chaser. While the Thunderbird II might lack any real hole punchers, it's still a foe that you don't want to allow within eight hexes.

     Of course, with mobility matching that of foot infantry, unless a friendly Omni or APC offers a ride, the Thunderbird II is mostly going to rely upon the enemy to close the range. Battle armor don't really like open spaces, especially those lacking any form of stealth, so even if an opportunity presents for a squad to step into range, the risk of leaving cover may be too great a deterrent. Ideally, like most battle armor, you're going to want to use your Thunderbird IIs in confined areas, such as cities, unless you use them with a transport to backdoor an already engaged foe.

     jymset: The Tbird is basically an area denial suit. You have the classic marks of one: negligible movement and very strong armament, and I think on this suit, this is where the C3 kicks in. Ideally, the T-Bird II will be dropped somewhere meaningful and if the enemy closes, the T-Bird's friends will just add to the pain. Personally, I think it's frustrating having C3 on a BA without guns, and out of the matrix speed-armor-guns even a suit as fast as the Buraq will never be an *ideal* C3 spotter, so anything invested in the speed side of things per se makes for a poor BA C3 unit.

     sillybrit: I did some thinking about what jymset said and I can see his point regarding an area denial implementation of BA C3 by using it in a heavily armed suit, although I'm still far from a convert. Rather than re-write the article and thereby invalidate jymset's comments, I added a reply here. As I commented during our discussion on the article, by their nature almost all battle armor are effectively area denial units, they just achieve that goal by different methods, so I still found myself feeling unconvinced. What made me waver a little in my view was when I compared BA C3 to the use on TAG on battle armor, something I find quite useful. Both systems are methods of extending a battlesuit's threat by exploiting another unit's firepower. I would still argue that the footprint of TAG on a battlesuit design is much less, and often can be included as a bonus afterthought without impacting other areas of the design, so while I'm willing to be less dubious about BA C3, it's still low down on my list of preferences.

     As I noted at the beginning of the article, the RAF is effectively the #1 heavy battlesuit operator among the Inner Sphere states, making them almost Clan-like. They don't slouch in the assault category that's been more typical of Inner Sphere factions, with the example of the Tortoise II also found in Experimental Technical Readout Republic II, but in the heavy category we've so far seen the Phalanx D, Taranis, Centaur and now the Thunderbird II. The Centaur is obviously a specialist that operates in what is currently a unique role for battle armor, while the other three offer different variations on the same theme of slow, heavy firepower. The Phalanx D and Taranis are more like different sides of the same coin, but while they bring what is considered a hole puncher armament by battle armor standards, the Thunderbird II is obviously a crit seeker. With such complementary roles, whereas a Phalanx/Taranis partnership would be somewhat wasteful, a Phalanx/Thunderbird or Taranis/Thunderbird pairing would be mutually beneficial for either combination. The Thunderbird II's lack of stealth makes it a less than perfect partnership, but still useful all the same.

     So far it's been the good news about the Thunderbird II, but now for the bad. Relatively few Thunderbird IIs made their way into RAF service before Fortress Republic was implemented and with Shitara and the Nova Cat enclave that built the suits now in Kuritan hands it's possible that no more will ever be built. It's unlikely that we'll instead see them in DCMS ranks, so it can only be hoped that when the Republic bursts free once more that they're able to swiftly capture Shitara and restart production. Until then, enjoy the Thunderbird II while you can, as it may one day go extinct.

Colt Ward

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird II
« Reply #1 on: 23 June 2015, 03:01:02 »
So . . . can the TB2 spot while loaded in a VTOL or APC?
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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird II
« Reply #2 on: 23 June 2015, 03:45:55 »
So . . . can the TB2 spot while loaded in a VTOL or APC?

No. The only action mounted infantry can take is to dismount again, and equipment that doesn't require actions (like ECM) explicitly doesn't function while mounted. My physical copy of Total Warfare is old enough to say otherwise with regard to the latter, but that's been covered by errata since.

Colt Ward

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird II
« Reply #3 on: 23 June 2015, 04:23:34 »
bah humbug . . .

 . . . I think it is worth more as a defensive C3 net spotter . . .
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lucho

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird II
« Reply #4 on: 23 June 2015, 05:32:31 »
A short but informative article. How does the T-Bird II compare to the kuritan Zhou? More firepower, less armor and mobility, it is safe to assume the two are very different.
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Wrangler

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird II
« Reply #5 on: 23 June 2015, 07:34:08 »
Well, I've been in a game where we had a incredibly nasty city fight, with hidden units using c3. 

Since the Republic does have control of good chunk of these T-Bird IIs i was thinking the RAF version of the Bolla would be perfect partner in crime for it.  In similar situation, Bollas goes stealth, while the T-Birds IIs hook up to the Bolla's master, they could potentially team up with others ambush heck out of people.   

The lack of good movement is problem, but there suppose to be not so perfect suits out there. I'm not fan of reflective armor, but alot units do use alot of lasers so it may even out.
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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird II
« Reply #6 on: 23 June 2015, 07:48:33 »
Reflective armor on battle armor doesn't suffer from the disadvantages it does on larger units. (At least it doesn't on the regular tabletop scale, I'm not sure about the RPG level.) So as long as you go up against suitably energy-heavy opposition, it's pure win.

And wouldn't a Bolla that engages its stealth automatically cut itself off from its network until it "uncloaks" again?

UnLimiTeD

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird II
« Reply #7 on: 23 June 2015, 08:36:43 »
Yes it would.
That article catched me completely unaware.
Nice to see there's another batch of Battlearmour to eventually be covered.
As for the actual TB2.... meh.
The advantage of Tag that C3 doesn't have is that you don't need to tie specific units in with specific suits.
If they carried C3i, sure, but that's not in much demand right now.
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sillybrit

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird II
« Reply #8 on: 23 June 2015, 10:26:29 »
A short but informative article. How does the T-Bird II compare to the kuritan Zhou? More firepower, less armor and mobility, it is safe to assume the two are very different.

Head to head a Thunderbird II will typically beat a Zou, even if the Zou manages to keep the range at 9 hexes, thereby taking the LB-X out of the fight. The Thunderbird II needs 4 APGR hits to kill a Zou, while the Zou needs 6 ML hits to kill a Thunderbird II. If the LB-X gets to play or the C3 has an effect then the advantage swings even more in the Thunderbird II's favor. If the C3 variant of the Zou is used instead, its MRR can kill the Thunderbird II in 4 shots, but it has to enter LB-X range to do so, with the APGR shooting at medium range while the MRR is at long, so the firepower advantage is still massively in the Thunderbird II's favor.

Against other units, the Zou's extra point of armor is a very minor advantage that doesn't even have any worthwhile effect against many common damage combos. The Zou's extra MP can be more telling in fights against other slow units, but again it's not a significant advantage, and most importantly doesn't generate a TMM.

In terms of firepower, the standard Zou is a one trick pony. Its ML is a great weapon against armored targets, and by battle armor standards is a powerful hole puncher, but it's weak against PBIs, almost inviting a platoon of Inferno-armed jump infantry to come pay a visit. Mutual support by an anti-personnel capable unit is a must. Both the C3 Zou and Thunderbird II can handle PBIs by themselves, with the latter better capable of dealing with larger targets too.

Overall, the Thunderbird II is a much superior design in my opinion, but it is (mostly) Clantech, so that's to be expected.

sillybrit

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird II
« Reply #9 on: 23 June 2015, 11:08:52 »
The advantage of Tag that C3 doesn't have is that you don't need to tie specific units in with specific suits.
If they carried C3i, sure, but that's not in much demand right now.

A point I made to jymset: that C3 prevents me from fielding a pure BA force - which makes me feel unclean! A Nova-style force would seem to fit well though, with two/three of the four Omnis providing the required C3Ms to link the battlesuits and transporting Mechs/tanks into a single network (configs 1 or 2 on the C3 chart, with the Omnis and Thunderbird IIs mixed among the red and yellow units, leaving a C3M-C3M link free for a second Mech/Vehicle lance as the blue units).

Colt Ward

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird II
« Reply #10 on: 23 June 2015, 11:36:20 »
Well . . .

It could be the TB2 as part of a BA company, and when they go into action its a 'mechanized' battalion.  One or two BA companies with a company of transport & ISV along . . . one of which just happens to be a C3M or two, tied into something offering fire support, LRMs IMO being the best options here.
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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird II
« Reply #11 on: 24 June 2015, 07:58:25 »
A point I made to jymset: that C3 prevents me from fielding a pure BA force - which makes me feel unclean! A Nova-style force would seem to fit well though, with two/three of the four Omnis providing the required C3Ms to link the battlesuits and transporting Mechs/tanks into a single network (configs 1 or 2 on the C3 chart, with the Omnis and Thunderbird IIs mixed among the red and yellow units, leaving a C3M-C3M link free for a second Mech/Vehicle lance as the blue units).
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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird II
« Reply #12 on: 24 June 2015, 08:09:10 »
Sadly that would require freeing up another 80 kg since the suit only has 20 kg to spare so some firepower or armor would have to go. Those poor Nova Cat technicians have had to tinker with the suit enough as it is.

And for what it's worth it would tick off the Dominion.

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird II
« Reply #13 on: 24 June 2015, 09:16:53 »
I feel like the C3 serves more to improve the shots of the BA squad/point. You can't provide crit seeking firepower out to 9 hexes if you can't hit after all. With the TB2's low speed it becomes even harder to close to effective range. But being in a C3 network ups the odds of being in medium range or better thanks to the friendly hole puncher your supporting.
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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird II
« Reply #14 on: 24 June 2015, 09:33:13 »
Contemplating C3 networks with battle armor. Imagine if you had a Omni hover that could not only deliver the battle armor, but carried the C3 master for the network and had a TSEMP to disable the target for initial easy shots. Yes the network is momentarily shut off when you fire the TSEMP but don't ruin my fun. It might also be interesting if there were load outs for that hover that packed C3 slave units.

There might be some synergy at work in such an instance.

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird II
« Reply #15 on: 25 June 2015, 09:02:32 »
Sadly that would require freeing up another 80 kg since the suit only has 20 kg to spare so some firepower or armor would have to go. Those poor Nova Cat technicians have had to tinker with the suit enough as it is.

And for what it's worth it would tick off the Dominion.
Could swap the LB-X for another APGR? I'd really rather have stealth armor on it, thought. Anything to keep the enemy from killing you when you can't shoot back!

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird II
« Reply #16 on: 25 June 2015, 09:18:35 »
Absolutely possible, though those changes step away from both the battle armor's theme as well as an unhealthy love for the BA LB-X.

Sabelkatten

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird II
« Reply #17 on: 25 June 2015, 10:19:50 »
Well, you could drop the APGR instead...

sillybrit

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird II
« Reply #18 on: 25 June 2015, 11:21:41 »
Why not just go full munchkin, replacing the Clan chassis with an IS one, thus providing the 100kg needed for the switch to C3I without changing anything else.

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Re: Battle Armor of the Week - Thunderbird II
« Reply #19 on: 25 June 2015, 15:12:39 »
Then we'd have a WoB suit.....   
hmmm.
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