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Yes, you can choose to fire directly or indirectly with a whirlwind.

I suspect most people fire indirectly is because you can keep the unit behind large cover and out of sight from pesky long range anti armor fire. The longer it lives on the table, the more damage it could dish out. The only drawback is not being able to apply the BS skill to the scatter dice.
And that penalty of course applies only when you can not draw LOS.

The only advantage to firing direct is that you can ignore the minimum range of the gun, which being 12" for the Whirlwind, isn't going to be needed often.

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