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Despite being somewhat rare nowadays, many warlords captured wyverns for use in war and possibly starting some early form of domestication. Now here are some characteristics of these wyverns:

  • have flame retardant feathers
  • can just about support the weight of ONE unarmored human (68kg)
  • are 13.5 ft long with a wingspan of 25.5 ft
  • have dolphin level intelligence
  • can breath fire for 1-2 minutes straight
  • have eyesight greater than an eagles
  • have sharp talons
  • have a small bird like tail

Given these characteristics I was wondering in what field might these wyvrens be most useful in 13th century medieval warfare?

NOTE: magic does not exist in this world

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  • $\begingroup$ This isn’t far off from a question I asked a couple of hours ago. There’s some great answers there that might be helpful given the similarities. $\endgroup$ – NixonCranium Feb 27 at 22:02
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    $\begingroup$ @NixonCranium really? well that's convenient but I still want to hear what question I get here $\endgroup$ – icewar1908 Feb 27 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ of course, the answers on this site are always interesting $\endgroup$ – NixonCranium Feb 27 at 22:14
  • $\begingroup$ "napalm-like fire" implies it is spraying a sticky burning liquid. Given the dimensions of your wyvern, the absense of magic and its need to fly, the amount of liquid it could possibly hold is pretty small. If eked out over several minutes, it'll probably be a jet no more copious or powerful than an infant urinating, and probably quite a lot less. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Feb 27 at 22:30
  • $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime understood i'll increase the total amount of the flammable liquid it has while cutting down the amount it can fire consecutively $\endgroup$ – icewar1908 Feb 27 at 22:49
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Let's split it out...

In a pitched battle:

Flying wyverns are useful, but not necessarily game changing. I'm assuming that wyverns flame breath is going to be short range, at least compared to an arrow. Wyvern wings are big and exposed. Against a prepared group of bowmen, wyverns become target practice.

You don't need any fancy weapons to kill them. A standard longbow is already designed for range and power - it could easily punch a hole through a wyvern's wing membrane. All it would take is a couple of good shots and the wyverns will fall hard.

In terms of ballista, instead of scorpions or catapults there would be a greater emphasis on 'scattershot' weapons. Wyverns are highly mobile, so you need to launch a wide area of debris in order to take them down.

There would be organised volleys of projectiles whenever the wyverns are in range, as well as dedicated anti-wyvern archers. It should be noted that wyverns are distinctly unarmored, so taking them down is not that difficult.

The best use of wyverns in that case is to give the riders bows themselves. The wyverns fly safely out of bow range, and their riders take free shots at an army below. They'd have awful accuracy, but who cares?

Of course, this assumes that the enemy is prepared. If the enemy is unprepared, the wyverns become much more useful. If the wyverns dive and the bowmen aren't ready for them, then shock and awe alone would have a huge effect.

If the battle is already won and the enemy if being routed, the wyverns become free to swoop down and inflict maximum damage. It would be the demotivating finishing blow to end a battle.

In a siege:

If sieging a castle, wyverns are a bit more useful, but they still can't replace a standard army. Wyverns still lose against bowmen, so they can't assault a fortress themselves.

But the point in siege is that the defenders can't maintain a full guard all the time. Sooner or later the defenders will slack, and then the wyverns shine. Wyverns could very quickly lift a ladder over the walls, or drop a group of assassins on the roof, or set a stable on fire in the courtyard.

It becomes much more difficult to defend against against flying foes. Wyverns would be great for constantly harassing a group of stationary defenders trapped in a castle.

In skirmishes / raids:

Now, this is where the wyverns become the most useful. Wyverns move quickly, and they can terrorise an undefended populace. The wyverns can fly over the countryside, burning farms, and hurting the enemy where they're most vulnerable - their infrastructure.

The enemy will send groups of mounted archers to hunt the wyverns, but the flying raiders will just fly away and attack elsewhere. The wyverns have the advantage of absolute mobility, they should use that.

Sooner or later, when the people realize that their government can't protect them from these flying raiders, it'll spark riots against the government.

Of course, all this assumes that you have wyvern riders and there enemy does not. In practice, as soon as one nation tames wyverns, the other nations will work very hard to tame their own wyvern. From then onwards, in warfare, the two opposing forces of wyvern riders will be too busy fighting each other to harass the ground.

It would be rather like the role of aircraft in World War I; the aircraft themselves are flimsy, and the air forces spend their time fighting each other, while the ground forces are fighting below. The contest for sky superiority almost becomes a separate battlefield.

In reconnaissance:

Honestly, this is where the wyverns would be absolutely essential. I'm assuming you probably don't have many tamed wyverns, and it would take a large investment to rear each one. For the most part, the wyverns are likely going to be too valuable to risk in battle, and would be resigned to the 'boring' jobs.

Instead, most wyverns would be dedicated towards scouting, navigation and ferrying messages. It should be noted that medieval armies largely sucked at information chains. Forward scouting was poor, sending messages was a risky business, and men on foot took so long. Many early commanders were loathe to ever split their armies because they knew they wouldn't be able to coordinate afterwards. Rather than enacting any complicated tactics, most medieval armies just blundered their way through.

The wyvern riders would change that. I'd expect each wyvern to be ridden by a very distinguished noble knight, someone trusted to pass on orders and to represent the king himself. For the most part, the wyverns will avoid combat, but felling even a single wyvern and its rider would mark a major achievement for the enemy.

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    $\begingroup$ The whole surveillance thing is indeed amazingly important. The Army of the Potomac had a Balloon Corps that was used for surveillance throughout the American Civil War, and they had considerably fewer options for movement. I note that the Confederate forces quickly learned that the balloons were used for intelligence and would choose routes they could not be seen by. This meant that using the balloons limited their options to travel, an advantage in itself. $\endgroup$ – Mary Jun 18 at 2:32
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Improved Communication Speeds

If the wyvern can carry an adult than that means the speed of messengers has substantially increased. Wars are won and lost based on the speed and reliability of communications.

Vastly Superior Reconnaissance

The invention of aircraft had an incredible impact on intelligence gathering capabilities that can’t be overstated. Your medieval military now has access to an intelligence gathering system that would not exist until the 20th century in our world.

Strategic Bombing

Your wyverns are able to light fields of crops on fire, granaries, wooden houses and possibly entire cities due to the ability to spray napalm and fly. You don’t even need the wyvern to ever take the field directly, they could be used to light as many important things on fire as possible. Famine and homelessness would likely abound in areas under attack by the wyvern riders.

Airborne Raiding

Wyverns and their riders can attack supply lines with rapid speed and escape before they can be confronted, and they can fly past fortifications and other defensive structures to drop in riders who could be assassins or some other kind of special operator.

In short, your wyverns make your medieval battlefield appear a lot more like a 20th century one.

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They would be like nukes during cold war. MAD. They have nearly no counters. A wyvern would be very hard to hit with a bow (imagine shooting down a small aircraft with an assault rifle - possible, certainly, but damn hard). Depending on the interval between their fire breaths a small squad of them would be capable of lighting up enough fires to burn down a town. A large squad would burn down a city. Then comes the retaliation. You would have to include a very strong taboo on attacking civilians or burning down population centers.

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