Helicopter Landing Zone Requirements and Crossfire

I have found myself looking at the Portuguese Colonial War again recently. Last night I was reading “The Chopper Boys: Helicopter Warfare in Africa” by Al J Venter again and thought I’d share something on Helicopter Landing Zone Requirements and Procedures.

Chopper Landing Zones (LZ)

Of course all of “The Chopper Boys” is about helicopter warfare but the Landing Zone (LZ) requirements and procedures are on page 159.

Standard Helicopter Landing Zone (Venter, 1994, p159)

Standard Helicopter Landing Zone (Venter, 1994, p159)

Venter specifies the details for a Puma but I assume something similar applied to the Alouette III helicopters used by the Portuguese.

The short story is:

  • 15m circle: Central hard surface where the helicopter lands. Cleared to ground level. A natural grass covering is best. Rubbish, tree stumps, loose gravel, loose grass, dust and ash are all bad.
  • 35m circle: Cleared to ground level
  • 50m circle: Cleared to 1m high

Judging by photos pilots sometimes softened these requirements and landed in tall grass.

Marines Alouette II

Marines Alouette II
Notice the long grass which undermines claims of “cleared to ground level”

Landing Zone (LZ) in Crossfire

So what does a helicopter LZ look like in Crossfire. Actually there are three sub-questions to be answered:

  1. Where can the LZ be on table?
  2. How big is the LZ on table?
  3. Does the LZ provide cover?

I reckon a LZ is either a open space between terrain features that is suitably large or a cleared area within a terrain feature. An example of the latter would be an area of elephant grass with a LZ cleared in the middle. Personally I would be disinclined to put a LZ in the middle of a Woods feature, but would be happy enough to put it in the gap between Woods features.

I believe Ground Scale in Crossfire is anything in the range 1:300 to 1:1700 and have settled on 1:1000 for most of my own games. At this scale a helicopter LZ would be 5cm (2″) across – much smaller than my area terrain features which start at 4″ across.

My choice of ground scale is unusual and most people play Crossfire at 1:300 to 1:500 scale. In fact for Fogo Cruzado variant, which is 1-to-1 figure scale, the smaller ground scale seems appropriate. This would make the LZ of 17cm or 10cm respectively, which corresponds to the size of my medium (6″) or small (4″) terrain features. So either a bigger gap between terrain features or a bigger gap in the middle of my elephant grass.

A cleared LZ should not provide cover. If, however, the LZ is improvised, say in long grass, then it would provide cover to direct fire.

References

Venter, A. J. (1994). The Chopper Boys: Helicopter Warfare in Africa. London: Greenhill Books.

4 comments to Helicopter Landing Zone Requirements and Crossfire

  • Le Duc

    This is interesting. I’m still trying to get a Crossfire game on the table, but my ultimate aim is to use it for Vietnam – so this will prove very useful for Huey LZ variants.

    • Steven Thomas

      There is a big overlap between Africa and Vietnam, so hopefully you’ll find a bunch of stuff on my site to inspire you.

  • Fascinarinating. In the war I was in, the chopper pilots, depending upon the urgency of the mission they were performing, would go into LZ’s that included small trees and heavy brush, knowing that the very heavy blades of the UH1B and. -D’s would chop wit impunity through them. We came home many times with big dents in the leading edges of our rotor blades. Once we took what we suspected was a .51. DsHK HMG round through one of our rotor blades, which set up a nasty wobble in the rotor disc. The pilot landed our bird in the clearing on the way back and the crew chief dismounted. Then when the rot blade had unspooled and stopped, the CC inspected the damage to the blade and, after pacing off and measuring the approximate distance, he walked around to the opposite blade and taking out his .45, shoot a hole in a similar location on the other blade. Balance problem solved. The maintenance crew wasn’t too happy, though.

    • Steven Thomas

      Great anecdote Dale. And a good example of initiative in the field.

      I suspect chopper pilots often broke the rules. As I mentioned in the post a lot of photos suggest the land zones were not so perfectly organised. Often the photo shows long grass and nearby trees. I also read today, in another book, that often ground attack aircraft would blast a landing zone in heavy shrubs, just before the choppers came in. On other occasions the choppers would land in a cleared zone, but the infantry would find the land is cleared because the locals had only just burnt off the vegetation and the ground would be literally hot. So lots of examples where reality doesn’t match the book.

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