What could justify large amounts of troops that can move entirely by helicopter & organically have the means to do so? This nation has saudi levels of m o n e y (in proportion with their military's size). But having several divisions of airborne forces that can move themselves entirely by helicopter would still put a significant strain on that kind of budget. The major advantage of this type of unit would be extreme mobility. But they would have to contend with fuel consumption higher than even armoured units. These units are ~brigade sized with organic helicopters but with most support assets at the division level. Due to being difficult to transport by helicopter.

There are 3 major theaters these forces would fight in. A small very mountainous border with a neer peer opponent. A large open desert with fighting against insurgencies & very well equipped small ranger type units for raiding sent by major nations. And Indonesia (literally,) fighting against a large mostly less well equipped force with a few slightly better equipped units.

Note: When i say "organically", i mean integrally. (military terms are weird)

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Aug 9, 2021 at 15:11

6 Answers 6


The USA used Airmobile Infantry extensively in Vietnam 60 years ago.

The advantage is indeed mobility.

The two main disadvantages are mass and logistics.

  • Mass: Airmobile forces are mostly light infantry, with lightweight fire support. If they outrange their artillery, that means they need plenty of Close Air Support firepower. In turn, this makes them vulnerable to clouds and rain and dark and smoke. The troopers can take a bit of rain or smoke, but the CAS aircraft need to see their targets clearly. And aircraft on CAS missions aren't hitting valuable strategic or political targets instead.

  • Logistics: Airmobile forces rely upon air-carried resupply of ammunition, food, water, and airborne medical evacuation. However, that vital air link is flying to a predictable location over enemy-held territory. The air link may be vulnerable to other aircraft and to ground-based anti-aircraft fire.

Airmobile employment falls primarily into two categories: Raids (including spoiling attacks and denial operations) where 'mobility' includes withdrawl, and surprise Seizures of key locations followed by rapid reinforcement.

If your struggle is not ideological or hatred-based, the wealthier side might find it much cheaper to co-opt or bribe the poorer side than to fight. So you need a strong, fear-based or hatred-based fighting motivation to keep the conflict from being settled cheaply.

So your justifications would be:

  1. Need for mobility to counter superior enemy numbers
  2. No heed to hold terrain from the enemy -- area denial is enough
  3. An poorly-equipped enemy that lacks the capability to shoot down your helicopters or to concentrate mass quickly
  4. A struggle with a strong ideological, hate-based, or fear-based component

If there are no roads which can be used for land transportation, helicopter carrying troops will ensure both speed and accuracy of delivery.

As compared to dropping paratroopers, helicopter transported troops will be able to carry some more load (think of ammunitions and gear) and also be more precisely landed in a given spot, while parachuting them might spread them over a large area, which is sometimes unwanted.

Also helicopters can more easily fly at low height above the ground, being better at evading radar detection, while for obvious reasons you can't drop paratroopers from a low flying airplane.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ You can drop paratroopers from a low flying airplane. You just can't do it with the same paratroopers twice. $\endgroup$
    – Oliver
    Aug 6, 2021 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ You can drop paratroopers in various very interesting approaches, but the main difference from helicopter-mobile infantry is that you can't get your paratroopers out unless they manage to win enough territory to secure a route back. $\endgroup$
    – Peteris
    Aug 6, 2021 at 22:15

To answer this, I will split up the situation to every theater of war you described.

  1. Mountainous Border:
    Depending on the topology of the mountains (height, wind systems, etc.), helicopters may very well be ill-suited as the main mode of transport, attack, defence and support. They are - after all - dependend on weather and skilled pilots. The best bet for a defensive stance on a mountain pass would be a series of static defenses, e.g. bunkers, fortifications, placed mines, as well as a rapid response unit that can countermand surprise attacks and infiltration.
    Another point against helicopters in this theater is the near parity with the eventual enemy. Consider anti-air-weaponry: A shoulder-mounted rocket can quite easily disable or destroy a modern heli, and the difficult terrain will make it easier for AA-strike teams to hide and fire their weapons

  2. Desert
    Insurgencies have mostly old weaponry, a shaky leadership, not very much military experience - as long as they are not backed by a third party, that is. They will not field air units, will have only limited access to most modern weapon systems (as for example AA-rocketry), and therefore are more a hassle than a thread. The high mobility of your troops wil give you a significant advantage, as well as the scouting capability of helicopters.

  3. Indonesia
    I am by far no expert on the country, its military or topology, so take the following with copious grains of salt.
    That said, Indonesia is a heavily forested country, an island state, and tropical. The nearest analogy that comes to mind would be the Vietnam War, where the support of helicopters was critical for numerous missions.
    Nonetheless will you have a massive disadvantage, if your troops are made up of air-transported infantry and air cavalry. Infantry cannot penetrate hardened targets, while air cavalry lacks the durability for an attack on a heavily defended position, where close air AA has been installed.

Conclusion: A military comprised moslty of helicopter-transported infantry (or maybe even mechanized infantry) will limit itself severely for some niche situations, while being ill-equipped for more generalistic scenarios.

  • $\begingroup$ I didn't say exclusively helicopter borne troops, said a large amount of, other units are still there to help out if needed $\endgroup$
    – OT-64 SKOT
    Aug 6, 2021 at 7:55
  • $\begingroup$ Will edit my answer accordingly, but the main point still stands. $\endgroup$
    – DarthDonut
    Aug 6, 2021 at 8:08

Low numbers of troops, relative to the need

Let’s say you are significantly outnumbered by threats. However, for whatever reason, these threats have not massed. Instead, threats flare up from place to place along this remote inaccessible theater in numbers small enough that one or a handful of these units can respond effectively. You must be able to respond with you very limited forces quickly, and do not have the luxury of posting sentries.

Maybe mitigating the fuel infrastructure problem might be radio thermoelectric generators (RTGs). They can and have been made small enough to power pacemakers. Helicopters are basically single-speed devices, which works well for electric motors.



Your Nation is a Confederacy

The national force comprises almost purely helicopter borne elite infantry because such troops require a higher degree of expenditure and training. The individual states/territories that make up the nation as a whole field mostly infantry and artillery units. Armored warfare isn't a high priority for geo/political reasons.

This layout somewhat reflects the CSA/USA forces in the American Civil War, and USA forces in general before WWI. Essentially each state produces/maintains "baseline" forces, with the national government maintaining a core of professionals and specialist units beyond the scope of individual states to equip. In your case, helicopters and heliborne infantry become the purview of the Nation due the expenses involved, but also because of the inherent disadvantages of those units. It means that the National Government could not easily use its troops to combat state forces. So the national government, either by law or historical consent, does not field any land forces besides helicopter units. Sort of like how the UK has a "royal" navy and air force, but not a royal army.

Meanwhile the states would be fielding soldiers specific to their general needs. So the desert-facing state might decide to field armored cavalry units and long-range artillery, whereas the mountain-facing state would invest in static defenses and garrison troops. A state bordering Indonesia might disregard land-based forces entirely and concentrate on marines and swiftboat-style navy vessels. None of the states bothers much with armored warfare because tanks are either not super useful/cost effective (mountains, Indonesia) or flat-out too expensive (desert). Plus for the desert state the National Helicopter divisions can more easily do the job required against insurgents/bandits. In times of national emergency state forces are amalgamated into the national army, but are still somewhat distinct. (In the CSA for example, state troops in the "national" Army of Northern Virginia could still be recalled/have their operating area restricted by their individual state governments.)

Your helicopter national forces would be excellent support/rapid assault troops in all three environments. But if they were 100% of the armed force they'd have huge problems everywhere apart from (maybe) the desert. Both mountains and forest/jungle can create severe limitations to helicopters/air assault troops. In Vietnam for example there were still many more divisions of non-airborne/air assault units. Meanwhile in the various dustups/wars between India and China, and US/Soviet operations in Afghanistan, you can see the restrictions of helicopter operations in mountains.


Several (independent, but could be mixed) reasons that pop into mind:

  1. Extremely extreme mobility has been always a necessity for you. Your entire fighting force is all you've got to stand a chance to fight a single incursion/invasion event against your enemies. You need to move everything to mount an effective opposition or to stall the initial momentum until heavier armaments back you up, so basically that becomes your favored military doctrine.

  2. You are the world's leading expert in combat helicopters. Your helicopter forces contain the best units: better armored, better armed, have enough self defense systems, very effective active countermeasures, incredibly agile as air support, plus stealth capability.. The world even acknowledges that your heaviest-class helicopter units are literally flying cloaked tanks. Oh and you just happen to have most numbers of helicopters per capita in the world to begin with!

  3. Element of surprise. While I've only experienced this in video games, I think it's fun to imagine your enemies are not expecting to fight massively helicopter-borne army that can surround them from multiple directions. Plus many enough close air support strikes to overwhelm their anti air defenses (if they have any). You know, comically many helicopters flying towards you is terrifying. Especially when they start shooting. And spewing forth their infantry minions.


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