War Thunder may have started life as a pure World War 2 air combat sim, but developers Gaijin Entertainment don't seem like they'll be satisfied until the free-to-play game encompasses the entire history of vehicular warfare. Next on the cards for the game: Helicopters, coming in patch 1.81 as announced at Gamescom. Naval combat has been in beta testing for some time now, but rotary-wing aircraft always seemed like a dream, only teased in an earlier April Fools event. Turns out they were just hovering overhead. Check the debut trailer and some streamed footage below.
War Thunder's tech tree has long since outgrown World War 2, of course. Earlier this year, Gaijin rolled out a slew of Cold War era technology, including the M1 Abrams tank. Helicopters will be available from technology rank 5 upwards - Korean War era, roughly - and will be playable in combined ground battles across all realism settings, with tentative plans for a pure helicopter vs helicopter mode in the future. While only America and Russia will have helicopters at first (and on their own choppers-only tech tree), they'll likely expand to other nations later on.
You can also see Gaijin's debut gameplay stream below, and a few more from guest streamers listed on the official announcement page.
While most helicopters will be unlockable through regular play, the same as tanks, planes and (once they leave beta testing) ships, there will be some premium-only choppers available when version 1.81 launches. Gaijin have confirmed that the UH-1C XM30 and the Mi-24d (A Hind D?) will be premium only, although the more common variants of those aircraft should be playable for everyone, regardless of the size of your wallet. Metal Gear Solid references cost real money, apparently.
While there's no release date pinned down for for helicopters or public beta testing yet, Gaijin say they will be making their public debut in "the next major update" for War Thunder. You can find out a little more in their extensive announcement FAQ here, and take a peek at dev-blogs on earlier and later generation combat choppers, including the chunky Russian Mi-4 and the iconic AH-1F Cobra.