CrashTailspin's Guide to Successful Low-Tier Ground Attack Aircraft Operation
This guide is written to give players a few hints, tips, and tactics to getting the most out of their first few Russian Ground Attack aircraft. These aircraft have a playstyle that's different from most other aircraft. They're large, slow, and significantly less maneuverable than other aircraft currently in-game. However, this does not mean that they don't play an important role on each team. I'm here to explain how to best utilize these aircraft in order to achieve more kills, and in doing so score more wins.
Rule 1: Get LOW and Stay LOW!
In Build 0.3.4, aircraft concealment with relation to altitude was introduced. The closer an aircraft flies to the ground, the more it's concealed ("stealth mode"). This effect is greatest for Ground Attack aircraft, and least for fighters. The lower you fly, the more you're concealed (starting at 200m off the ground).
The best way to take advantage of this is simple:
- As soon as the battle starts, start diving for the deck. Not only will this get you camouflaged faster from enemy pursuit aircraft, but it will also give you a slight increase in airspeed, getting you to the enemy targets faster.
In addition, a high-flying Ground Attack aircraft is an easy target to pick off for a wandering fighter. Also, most GA aircraft have very poor rear gun depression, which means that fighters can attack from below and not have to worry about taking damage from a tail gunner. Place that same GA aircraft at low altitude and now the fighter has to worry not only about the tail gunner, but also smacking into the ground.
REMEMBER: Unseen is safe. Try to stay that way.
Rule 2: Choose an approach route and STICK TO IT!
Before the battle starts (or as soon as you spawn into battle), survey where you're at, where the enemy Headquarters is (denoted on the minimap by a flag inside a red circle), and determine what route you're going to take to get there. Typically, a route along the outer parts of the map will keep you (relatively) safe from roving enemy fighters, and provide enemy ground targets to take out along the way.
Here's the big thing - DO NOT get caught up in an early dogfight! You effectively remove yourself from the entire battle if you attempt to chase an enemy aircraft, no matter how tempting it is. You're here to DESTROY GROUND TARGETS. Go do that.
Tip 2a: Attempt to take out the Headquarters AT ALL COSTS
The Headquarters (or Aircraft Carrier on some maps) is the strongest and most heavily guarded enemy target on the map, and for good reason:
ITS DESTRUCTION NETS 3 SUPERIORITY POINTS AND REDUCES ENEMY AA GUN ACCURACY
Your primary goal should be to survive long enough to take out this target. A 3-point swing in supremacy points could be enough to cause your team to gain the advantage, and at the very least inaccurate enemy AA gun fire helps out the entire team from taking any additional damage.
As previously stated, the Headquarters is strong - usually at least 3 times the HP of other ground targets. If you've got large bombs equipped, one well-placed bomb should take it out. However, if you have lighter bombs equipped, you may need to use two bombs, and even then have to come around on a strafing run to completely take it out.
Tip 2b: Use ordinance APPROPRIATELY
A Ground Attack aircraft can only carry so much ordinance (bombs and rockets), and as such it should be used judiciously. Most GA aircraft can take out a target in one pass with only their guns. However, the use of guns will break your "stealth mode" and allow enemy fighters to spot you much easier.
Herein lies the trade-off: do you use your ordinance early and maintain concealment, or do you save your ordinance and use your guns to take out targets as you proceed to the headquarters?
The answer to this varies with situation. If there's a lot of enemy fighters overhead, I tend to use ordinance. However, if I don't see any enemy fighters nearby, I'll typically use guns only, saving the bombs and rockets for a later time.
The IL-2 is an exception to the rule. With 8 rockets and 4 bombs, it's got ordinance to spare. With the IL-2 I typically wait until I'm about 3,000ft (1,000m) away from a target, then fire one rocket while I strafe it with cannon, repeating this process to as many targets as possible while still proceeding to the enemy Headquarters. This allows a player to conserve the IL-2s ordinance while still keeping the cannons cool enough to take out targets in one pass. However, in a Tier 5-7 match, ground targets are strong enough to require multiple rockets AND cannon fire to destroy it in one pass.
Tip 2c: AVOID CIRCLING A TARGET prior to the Headquarters
If you attack a ground target but fail to destroy it, keep on flying toward the enemy HQ. DO NOT TURN AROUND!
Simple: every time you attack a ground target, that enemy's minimap pings the location of the ground target you just attacked. By turning around to re-attack it, you're giving the enemy more time to "fly to the ping", find you, and take you out. Also, by loitering in one spot, you're delaying the destruction of the enemy Headquarters.
Once enough enemy fighters are destroyed, loitering an area to destroy all the ground targets is permissible, so long as the remaining fighters are not nearby or pose a threat to you.
Rule 3: If attacked, Fight on YOUR TERMS
Eventually, every Ground Attack aircraft will take some sort of enemy aircraft fire. This does not have to mean an instant death for the GA pilot. Here's some tips to survive (and even thrive) in an aerial engagement:
Tip 3a: Ask For and Find HELP!
In-game Chat Macros are wonderful things. They're a quick way to place a chat message to your team and also place a symbol over your aircraft visualizing what you've requested. The default "F7" key is "Clear My Tail!", with an "SOS" symbol placed above your aircraft. The "F4" key is "Cover Me" as well. A combination of these will let your team know that you're in need of fighter support.
If the Headquarters is destroyed and you're out of ordinance, a viable option is to head towards friendly fighters and AA guns. Any extra friendly firepower in a fight is a good thing, and closing the gap between you and your teammates can help shorten the time it takes to get those guns on target.
Tip 3b: Maneuver SMARTLY, but not EXCESSIVELY
A maneuvering aircraft is harder to hit than an aircraft flying straight and level. With this in mind, a GA pilot should keep changing direction. Bobbing and weaving or a horizontal scissors maneuver (sharp change in the opposite direction when the enemy pursuer changes theirs) gives your tail gunner the most time to engage the enemy.
However, do not attempt any steep pitch attitudes. You will NOT out-climb an enemy pursuer, and your aircraft generally does not have enough power to climb (at a reasonable speed) for an extended period of time. What will most likely occur is a stall, which makes you an easy target. This completely goes against Rule 1.
You can use your slow speed to your advantage in some cases. If an aircraft of lower tier is chasing you, and your tail gunner has a clear shot, you can actually SLOW DOWN to draw the enemy closer and potentially overshoot you. The closer the enemy, the more damage your tail gunner can do. Smart maneuvering and a low airspeed can keep the enemy close enough for the tail gunner to hit while minimizing the amount of damage you sustain.
Finally, try to avoid engaging enemy aircraft AT ALL with ordinance equipped. A ground attack aircraft has poor maneuverability in general, and any ordinance still equipped will bring down the aircraft's maneuverability even more. Simply dropping bombs or firing rockets to get rid of them to dogfight should be the absolute LAST RESORT possible. If there's a ground target still standing, your ordinance should be used on that if at all possible.
Get low and stay there. Stick to your route. Take out targets enroute to the enemy Headquarters. Take out the Headquarters, whatever you do. Don't pretend to fly like a fighter. Stay alive!
Remember, each battle is different. What works in one may not work in another. These rules and tips are general in nature and are not meant for any specific engagement.
Good luck, and happy ground target killing!