APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 7 August, 2001


Howchu Patrol Dirigible

Christian Schaller

I'm currently running a Heavy Gear campaign set in the Mekong Dominion, specifically in Mekong City. The Mekong Dominion Leaguebook notes that the Peacekeepers fly patrol dirigibles to keep watch over the city (p. 50). Odds are good my players are going to need one of those at some point, so I figured I'd design one. Howchu is the Chinese god of air, according to the Encyclopedia Mythica.

Howchu Patrol Dirigible

Vehicle Overview

                   Name: Howchu-class Patrol Dirigible
           Manufacturer: Mekong AeroCorp Ltd.
                   Type: Peacekeeper Patrol Dirigible
                   Cost: 4,000,000 Kronars
         Control System: Bridge
                 Height: 25 m
                  Width: 20 m
                 Length: 120 m
                   Mass: 95 tons
             Powerplant: Gas Turbine
                Sensors: Optical Cameras, Thermographic Imaging,
                         Acoustic Lasers, Infrared, UC, Low-Light,
              Equipment: Airlift Winch, Search Lights, Pintle Mounts,
                         Smoke Launchers, Trideo Link-Up
      Offensive Systems: 2 x Machine Guns, 2 x Grenade Launchers
      Defensive Systems: ECM
        Auxiliary Craft: 10 x Flea micro-helicopters

In these large, graceful airships, the Mekong Peacekeepers fly regular patrols over the cities entrusted to their care. Easily spotted from kilometers around, the Howchu patrol dirigibles provide a symbol of the Peacekeepers' presence and a subtle reminder of their constant vigilance. Nearly every city-state in the Mekong Dominion has a small fleet of these vessels -- Hsi Tsang being a notable exception -- but their presence is best felt in Mekong City itself, where there are no fewer than twenty in the air at all times and an equal number on the ground.

The Howchu dirigibles primarily monitor ground traffic and activity, though they do keep their sensor and antennas trained on air traffic as well. The latter is a relatively easy job, considering the dirigibles themselves are usually the only objects in the air, apart from the occasional emergency services hopper or the odd fly-over of a MILICIA fighter escadrille. The dirigibles often coordinate large-scale ground force Peacekeeper activity, since their high altitude and ability to keep station over a ground target provides them with a great deal of tactical command over an area.

A spacious hangar towards the rear of the dirigible's gondola houses ten small, one-man micro-helicopters virtually identical to the Flea helicopter found in the Badlands (Tactial Air Support, p. 66-67), and the vehicles' pilots have a ready room just forward of the hangar. A maximum of four of these craft may be on patrol at any time, augmenting the dirigible's patrol zone. The remaining helicopters are held back and kept in a state of constant readiness in the event of an emergency, for which they serve as a small, highly mobile rapid reaction force. The vehicles can be deployed and recovered while the vessel is in flight, although it has to slow down to no more than 10 kph during such operations, and even these are somewhat dangerous; it normally launches and recovers its helicopters while keeping station.

A second ready room is found forward of the pilots' room. This area normally houses a squadron of ten constables who can be delivered on-scene as necessary via the aircraft's airlift winch. A command and control version of the Howchu has a tactical center housed in this area, however, to allow the coordination of large-scale operations. Forward of this area is a large cargo bay used to store supplies; these supplies may include medical equipment, disaster relief, food and water, rescue equipment, or combat supplies as needed by the dirigible's mission. The airlift winch can service the cargo bay as easily as it can the ground troop ready room.

Three powerful searchlights can illuminate a zone of interest. If the dirigible has to take direct action against ground targets, a short-range grenade launcher mounted in a turret on the underside of the gondola can deliver intense flares to augment the searchlights or blind unruly crowds. A second launcher can deliver non-lethal tear gas into a crowd to suppress a riot, and a smoke launcher can provide cover for allied ground forces. A simple electronic countermeasures broadcasting mast is normally enough to interfere with most civilian electronics, though a dedicated military communications system can easily overcome the device. Finally, the airship can provide lethal cover fire if absolutely necessary, from both a pair of machine guns mounted near the front of the gondola and several pintle mounts spaced evenly around it.

Service Record

The Howchu has been in service with the Peacekeepers for several decades. It can be destroyed with relative ease by a military force, but its day-to-day operations as a patrol vehicle for Mekongese city-states ensures that it sees very little such opposition.

The vessel is often employed in rescue operations, particularly for ferrying support materials and personnel to and from the site or for providing illumination on-scene during nighttime emergencies. Helicopters and other VTOLs can perform the ferrying duties more easily, however. The Howchu's advantage is that there is usually one or two already in the air when disaster strikes, and its personnel are often able to respond more quickly than other rescue vehicles.

During the War of the Alliance and the CEF's occupation of the Mekong Dominion, the Howchus were either grounded or commandeered by the invaders for their own patrols. The most frequent duty of the commandeered vessels was curfew patrol, and Morgana GREL snipers made effective use of the vessel as a stable platform for picking off violators. When the CEF finally was forced to retreat, the surviving Howchu dirigibles were given a fresh coat of paint to cover up the hated CEF logo and splashed with bright colors. Many were decorated as giant dragons, and when they took to the skies, their grenade launchers filled with fireworks rounds, raucous celebrations followed in their wake.

Vehicle Specifications

              Code Name: Howchu Patrol Dirigible
        Production Code: D-119
        Production Type: Limited Production
                   Cost: 4,000,000 Kronars
           Manufacturer: Mekong AeroCorp Ltd.
                    Use: Peacekeeper Air Patrol 
   Avg. Armor Thickness: 110 mm
         Armor Material: Composites
    Standard Op. Weight: 95 tons
      Primary Move Mode: Flight
    Secondary Move Mode: N/A
       Deployment Range: 200 km (400 km)
           Sensor Range: 2 km (20 km)
    Communication Range: 10 km (100 km)
             Powerplant: Gas Turbine

General Stats

           Threat Value: 1378
        Offensive Value: 1423
        Defensive Value: 115
    Miscellaneous Value: 2595
                   Size: 15
  Original Default Size: 11
       Indv. Lemon Dice: 2
                   Crew: 6
          Bonus Actions: 2


      Primary Move Mode: Flight (Lighter than Air)
           Combat Speed: 60 km/hr (2 MP)
              Top Speed: 120 km/hr (4 MP)
Secondary Movement Mode: N/A
           Combat Speed: N/A
              Top Speed: N/A
               Maneuver: -5


                Sensors: +1
         Communications: +1
           Fire Control: +0


           Light Damage: 20
           Heavy Damage: 40
               Overkill: 60

Weapon Summary

Name                         Arc     Ammunition Payload

2 x Machine Guns             T       800 rounds each
Light Grenade Launcher       T       10 rounds (illumination)
Light Grenade Launcher       T       10 rounds (non-lethal)


Name                  Rating Game Effects

Airlift Winch         7      Can lift Size 7 Airlift-Ready Objects
Autopilot             -      Autopilot, Level 1
Cargo Bay             -      128 cubic meters of storage (4 x 4 x 8)
ECM                   1      Offensive electronic equipment
Fuel Efficient        -      Double-Efficient Engines
High Cap. Computer    -      -
Lighter Than Air      -      It's a blimp! (Self-sealing)
Loudspeakers          -      Public address system, emergency sirens
Passenger Seating     -      20 passengers total
Pintle Mounts         -      6 scattered around gondola
3x Searchlight        -      Swivel, 200 meters range
Smoke Launchers       -      10 rounds
Trideo Link-Up        -      Provides trideo feed to HQ


Name                  Rating Game Effects

Cannot Glide          -      Cannot glide
Exposed Auxiliary     -      "Aux" hits one step worse
Exposed Movement Sys. -      "Movement" hits one step worse
Fragile Chassis       -      "Structure" hits one step worse
Large Sensor Profile  3      Subtract rating from Concealment
Maximum Ceiling       8      4 km maximum altitude


The command and control version of the Howchu replaces four of the passenger seats with a Rating 0 Tactics Laboratory. Doing so increases the MTV to 3237, the TV to 1592, and the final cost to 5,000,000 Kr.


The kronar (Kr) is the unit of currency of the Mekong Dominion. 1 Kr equals 0.5 d (dinar).

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APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 7 August, 2001