Imagine a world:

  • There are large fantasy animals capable of flying exist, so it means dragon-like winged lizard, and horse-shaped winged beast. (should I call them draconoid and equunoid?) Since this both kind of fantasy animals are commonly portrayed in popular fiction.
  • The civilization level is about European high middle ages or renaissance in culture and in metallurgical technology. Various small nation-states feuding with petty dukes or kings.
  • Magic exist. But magician is rare (1:10,000), so they don't form the bulk of a military force.
  • Chemical propelled weapon although exist is unpopular for various things, (monopolized by alchemist guilds, and warmage tendency in using fire and water spells is bane for gunpowder). In other world gunpowder and explosive is banned.

If somehow human civilization can tamed them since just say 1,000 years ago and use them for military purpose.

  • What are their weapon or tactic for ground combat and air combat?

And if it still permitted in this scope of question.

  • How can an army counter them?

Various media illustrate them using large lance for jousting ground and air target (air dueling anyone?). Just like a ground cavalry does. I find this use are rather limited and unrealistic.

So, anyone had any idea how to use a medieval fantasy animal air force in a realistic military setting? (or just how would you use them if somehow you had some of them in your disposal.)

Forgive my somewhat broken English... It's my second language you see... So if any help in correcting the question is much appreciated. Am I tagging it right?

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site! Your question is clear enough to be understandable and answerable (you might review for capitalization and grammar, if the urge strikes you). The issue I see is that you're asking for tactics for every fantasy beast under the Sun. Could you limit your question to, say, three creatures you most want an analysis for? $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Aug 5 '15 at 15:36
  • $\begingroup$ I think the commonly used flying fantasy beast like dragon-like, pegasus or gryphon. I just curious about what kind of effect they would bring on medieval warfare. Will edit my question, thanks. $\endgroup$ Aug 5 '15 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ Relevant: How would a dragon... and Tactical advantages.... $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Aug 5 '15 at 15:39
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm... the flying fantasy animal not necessarily be a shapeshifter though... and the rider is also not magician... but the dragoon idea seems interesting... but I wonder if there is something that the fantasy animal can do but airplane can't... but I think it will become an offtopic discussion.... Oh yeah... if this somehow considered as a duplicate, the person in charge (moderator?) can close this question. $\endgroup$ Aug 5 '15 at 15:48
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    $\begingroup$ The use of dragons really depends on the characteristics of the dragons... size, weapons, diversity, "armor", etc. It may be interesting to detail the kind of dragons you have. Pegasus or gryphon may also profit from more details, but mythology and fantasy are less diverging on those. $\endgroup$ Aug 5 '15 at 15:54

Being prior Air Force I have a literal out of the book answer for you. If anything seems confusing just ask, I can elaborate.

So I will do this in two parts, (after some comments) first the basics, these are the general principles by which Air power should be used, and second creatures (like varying aircraft) have different strengths and weaknesses so we can go into that.

General Information

Air Forces of any flavor should follow these basic rules/guides. What type of Air Power is being considered is not particularly relevant as all Air Power shares some of the same characteristics, mainly speed, maneuverability and the ability to strike basically anywhere.

Allow me to introduce you to AFDD1 (Air Force Doctrine Document 1)

Included in chapter three of the doctrine are the Tenets of Air and Space Power which are derived from the principles of war. (Unity of command, Objective, Offensive, Mass, Maneuver, Economy of Force, Security, Surprise, and Simplicity)

Tenets of Air and Space Power

  • Centralized Control and Decentralized Execution

Centralized control of air and space power is the planning, direction, prioritization, synchronization, integration, and deconfliction of air and space capabilities to achieve the objectives of the joint force commander. Centralized control of air and space power should be accomplished by an airman at the air component commander level who maintains a broad theater perspective in prioritizing the use of limited air and space assets to attain established objectives in any contingency across the range of operations. Centralized control maximizes the flexibility and effectiveness of air and space power; however, it must not become a recipe for micromanagement, stifling the initiative subordinates need to deal with combat’s inevitable uncertainties.

Decentralized execution of air and space power is the delegation of execution authority to responsible and capable lower level commanders to achieve effective span of control and to foster disciplined initiative, situational responsiveness, and tactical flexibility. It allows subordinates to exploit opportunities in rapidly changing, fluid situations. The benefits inherent in decentralized execution, however, are maximized only when a commander clearly communicates his intent

  • Flexibility and Versatility

Air and space power is flexible and versatile. Although often used interchangeably, flexibility and versatility are different. Flexibility allows air and space forces to exploit mass and maneuver simultaneously. Flexibility allows air and space operations to shift from one campaign objective to another, quickly and decisively; to “go downtown” on one sortie, then hit fielded enemy forces the next; to rerole assets quickly from a preplanned mission to support an unanticipated need for close air support of friendly troops in contact with enemy forces. Versatility is the ability to employ air and space power effectively at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of warfare. Air and space forces, unlike other military forces, have the potential to achieve this unmatched synergy through asymmetric and parallel operations.

  • Synergistic Effects

Air and space power produces synergistic effects. The proper application of a coordinated force can produce effects that exceed the contributions of forces employed individually. The destruction of a large number of targets through attrition warfare is rarely the key objective in modern war. Instead, the objective is the precise, coordinated application of the various elements of air, space, and surface power to bring disproportionate pressure on enemy leaders to comply with our national will.

  • Persistence

Air and space power offers a unique form of persistence. Air, space, and information operations may be conducted continuously against a broad spectrum of targets. Air and space power’s exceptional speed and range allow its forces to visit and revisit wide ranges of targets nearly at will. Air and space power does not have to occupy terrain or remain constantly in proximity to areas of operation to bring force upon targets

  • Concentration

Air and space power must achieve concentration of purpose. The versatility of air and space power makes it an attractive option for almost every combat task. Airmen must guard against the inadvertent dilution of air and space power effects resulting from high demand. One of the most constant and important trends throughout military history has been the effort to concentrate overwhelming power at the decisive time and place.

  • Priority

Air and space power must be prioritized. Demands for air and space forces (because of their flexibility and versatility) will likely overwhelm air commanders in future conflicts unless appropriate priorities are established.

  • Balance

Air and space operations must be balanced. Balance is an essential guideline for air commanders. Much of the skill of an air commander is reflected in the dynamic and correct balancing of the principles of war and the tenets of air and space power to bring air and space power together to produce a synergistic effect.


Rather than go creature by creature I am going to list off some standard categories of air power usage and then we can slot creatures into each category.

Airlift/Search and Rescue: Airlift is simply the movement of people and cargo. There aren't a lot of creatures that would fit in this category, even with modern technology air transport is incredibly energy intensive and there just aren't a lot of creatures that have the size/cargo space.

The exception here would be support for a covert operations (basically the roles for which we use non-attack helicopters), dropping operatives off, or for search and rescue. Dragons in most versions can carry several people but considering the other abilities of dragons it seems like a misappropriation of assets when they could to more good elsewhere.

The Pegasus would fall into this category, essentially, like the helicopter it can be used to get troops to places they otherwise may not be able to reach. Hippogryphs and Griffons would be useful here as well.


This is where a medieval force will be best applied. Dragons could wipe out legions without even landing. Keep in mind that in warfare, the biggest bang for the buck is not always (nor even often) a military target. Strategic objectives, i.e. command and control, transportation, communications, supply chain etc. You can to a lot more damage to an army if you destroy their food supplies than if you attack them head on.

Stymphalian birds are also a great choice...if you can control them. They are not generally looked at as intelligent so much as a force of nature like a plague of locusts.


This is a weird one as we tend to think of fighters with missiles...dragons naturally come to mind, but compared to smaller aerial creatures the are big and slow a pack of giant eagles could shred a dragon's wings without much effort.

Giant birds thus fit well, giant eagles, roc's (in some uses they can breathe lightning which would be awesome), the phoenix (my personal favorite), wyverns (usually depicted as smaller than dragons) I will add as well, though not really birds.


This is where it can get fun in my opinion. Gargoyles obviously come to mind, hide as stone, strike while everyone is asleep. The cockatrice works as well, can turn people to stone...

Support Roles: Now, any good air force member will tell you that air power is not best utilized in support roles because it violates several tenets, offense most particularly. That said some mythological creatures are totally functionally different. Sylphs and Fairies can heal in some mythologies so that would be helpful.

  • $\begingroup$ This is good information, but could you expand your answer to indicate how specific fantasy beasts should be utilized to carry out these goals? $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Aug 5 '15 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ Oh.... this is really nice. But I wonder if this means that each Dragons/Pegasus form a Team or some sort, tend to be generalized to perform wide range task (carry melee and ranger weapon), and mostly to support ground troops? Since the limitation is by technology of Medieval or Renaissance that lack any ranged weapon other than bow or crossbow. Since we had ban gunpowder and explosives. $\endgroup$ Aug 5 '15 at 15:59
  • $\begingroup$ @SatoriWita I will elaborate on some specifics in a bit $\endgroup$
    – James
    Aug 5 '15 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ @SatoriWita updated. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Aug 5 '15 at 19:39
  • $\begingroup$ Can someone elaborate on the down vote? $\endgroup$
    – James
    Aug 6 '15 at 14:03

These are your fighters and scouts. Armed with bow and/or lance primarily, though grenades (clay pot full of gunpowder and shrapnel or burning oil) are used on ground targets and draconoids if opportunity allows.
They are fast and nimble, and can land and approach on hoof to avoid being see flying above the enemy.
When faced by enemies in any numbers, it's best to run and escape by air.

These are the heavy bombers and gun platforms. Larger than the Equunoid, and able to carry more, they will usually have several archers besides the pilot, and the beast can also carry items in it's massive talons.
Barrels of oil or gun powder can be set alight by either the crew, or by the draconoids own fire.
The fire's limited range makes it more dangerous to use as a weapon, since getting that low to the ground makes the draconoid vulnerable to balista fire, which can penetrate the beasts hide.
Sometimes draconoids grow unusually large, and are equipped with armor to protect the beast and riders. These are used offensively by flying into the battle, landing, and using their fire and size to inflict damage like a tank.
Draconoids have a natural resistance to fire damage.

Defense against
Because draconoids and equunoids can fly higher than all but the most skilled archers can hit ground fire is of limited use. Draconoids don't have to worry much about normal arrows, but the crew can be killed by them, and also a balista bolt has enough power to take a draconoid down, though it is a tough shot unless the beast is very low.
So the best defense against draconoids and equunoids are other flying creatures. This is where equunoids really earn their keep, using arrows and lances to pick off other equunoids and kill the draconoid crews, and grenades have enough force to cripple the slower moving draconoids.
Draconoids occasionally fight other draconoids, but more often than not this results in the loss of both animals and so must be done with care.


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