VTOLs are used similarly to ground units. However, they do have a few differences. For one thing, they can fly...
Design and production
To produce VTOL units, you'll need the VTOL Propulsion and VTOL Factory researched, and a VTOL Factory built. You should also research and build a few VTOL Rearming Pads, otherwise, they won't be able to reload ammo.
Before you produce a VTOL unit, you must design it. VTOLs are designed the same way as regular units—simply select 'VTOL propulsion'—but use slightly different weapons (more on that later).
VTOLs can only be built at VTOL factories. VTOL factories can be upgraded with factory modules—there's no need to research a separate "VTOL factory module".
After producing a VTOL from a VTOL Factory, it will fly and land on the rally point. VTOLs can be ordered to move and attack like any regular unit. Although they will fly over water and cliffs, they can't land on them.
VTOL weapons differ drastically from the norm.
To attack with a VTOL, select it and click an enemy like normal. However, you may have noticed the white ammo bar below its health bar as you start attacking.
Unlike ground units, which reload automatically, VTOLs carry a limited amount of ammo. Once that ammo runs out, the VTOL can't attack until it refuels. A VTOL out of ammo will automatically find a VTOL rearming pad to rearm and repair itself (and will resume attacking once fully rearmed), or it can be manually rearmed by selecting it and clicking on a rearming pad.
VTOLs will not attack anything automatically. However, by selecting a VTOL and Alt+clicking on an area, a VTOL will patrol the area between its current location and the clicked location, and attack anything in the vicinity. Alternatively, they can be assigned to VTOL strike towers and VTOL CB towers, which will cause them to function similarly to artillery assigned to sensor towers.
Most weapons have a VTOL equivalent, which does approximately twice as much damage, but has limited ammo. VTOL versions of regular weapons, like cyborgs, do not need to be researched separately.
In addition to VTOL versions of ground-based direct weapons, VTOLs can also use bomb weapons. These weapons are the equivalent of artillery, and are very powerful.
Defending against VTOLs
VTOLs are not ground-based units, so most ground weapons cannot hit them. They an only be hit by either anti-air (often abbreviated AA) (can only hit air) or versatile (can hit air or ground) weapons.
There are only a few weapons that are versatile: machineguns, lasers, and Mini-Rocket Pod. Rockets and missiles are also versatile, but only when mounted on a cyborg or VTOL. In addition to being uncommon, versatile weapons do not do as much damage to VTOLs as dedicated anti-air, so having some AA is recommended.
There are three types of dedicated AA. In order of powerfulness, they are: Flak (Hurricane, Cyclone, Whirlwind), SAM (Avenger, Vindicator), and Stormbringer.
- Patrol: In the Unit Orders box (right-click, remember?), there are a couple of new icons. Patrol will do the same thing as Alt+clicking—move back and forth between its current location and the clicked location, and attack anything near its path, refueling when they need to before returning to defending.
- Circle: (pictured) Circling is only available to VTOLs. Click it and then click an area of ground, and the selected VTOLs will take off and fly in a circle above the selected point. Like Patrol, they will attack anything that gets nearby, and refuel automatically.