CrashTailspin's Guide to Successful Heavy Fighter Operation
This guide was written to give players some tips, hints, and tactics to get the most effective use out of their heavy fighters. Note: I said Heavy Fighters, not "bombers". These aircraft were not specifically designed to fly straight and level like a heavy bomber. With their speed and potent armament, they excel in high-speed slashing attacks against even the most armored aircraft. However, this speed and firepower comes at a price: reduced maneuverability. The following information will help you maximize your heavy fighter's strong points while minimizing its weaknesses.
Rule 1: GET ALTITUDE!
At the beginning of a match, nearly all aircraft start at very close to the same altitude. Most players choose to remain at the altitude they start at, too. However, gaining altitude at the beginning of a match gives you several advantages, especially in a Heavy Fighter:
- It gives you a better vantage point of the battle map.
- It allows you to better choose which target you want to attack.
- It acts as stored energy (since diving converts altitude into airspeed).
- A diving attack gives an enemy less of an opportunity to mount a counter-attack
Rule 2: PICK AN APPROPRIATE TARGET
Once at an effective altitude, targets will start to appear. You may be tempted to engage the first target you see, but I would advise against it. Look around first and determine which target would be best to engage first. Here's a few characteristics of proper targets to engage first:
- Aircraft which are unaware of your presence or are currently occupied. Tell-tale signs of this are aircraft flying in a straight line or on a ground attack run.
- Aircraft that are weaker and / or have less firepower (think Japanese fighters / I-16s / lower-tier fighters). Tehese fighters can typically be destroyed in a single pass and at longer range (due to your cannon) if engaged early and adequate hits are maintained.
- An aircraft carrying ordinance. External ordinance weighs an aircraft down and adds drag, reducing its maneuverability and top speed. Also, these aircraft are more likely to be focued on attack ground targets, taking their attention away from incoming enemy attackers (see previous tip under this rule).
Rule 3: ATTACK IN A HIGH-SPEED PASS / AVOID THE TURNFIGHT
Once you've chosen an appropriate target, it's time to start your attack run. From your altitude advantage, dive down on your target, and open fire once they're in range. Here's some tips to achieve maximum damage to the (hopefully) unsuspecting target:
- Try not to overshoot! Heavy fighters are fast, but you'll do yourself no good if you pass your target before you destroy it. To avoid this, reduce your throttle (if you have a joystick), or flat-out idle your throttle (keyboard / mouse users) to avoid gaining too much airspeed in your dive. Also, every aircraft has an "effective speed range". Overspeeding this range makes the aircraft sluggish to respond to control inputs, potentially causing you to dive right into the ground (and that's bad).
- Once you're in range of the target (your lead indicator gets brighter), start firing and DON'T LET UP until you either destroy the target or egress from the attack. Enemy aircraft left at 1% health can still deal damage. Better to finish them off then to leave them damaged.
- Try at all costs to stay out of a turning engagement. Heavy Fighters are large, heavy aircraft - nowhere near as light or nimble as their Light Fighter or Carrier-Borne Fighter counterparts. As such, they cannot turn as well, and are easy prey if caught in a turning engagment.
Rule 4: EGRESS THE AREA IN A CLIMB
After your attack run, it's time to get out of the engagement, get some range from the enemy, so you can turn around safely and re-engage. Here's some tips to effectively re-engage with success:
- After your attack run is through, enter a climb at about a 45 degree angle (it doesn't have to be perfect). This helps accomplish two things - DISTANCE FROM THE ENEMY and ALTITUDE ABOVE THE ENEMY.
Too steep of a climb doesn't provide enough distance from the enemy (and reduces your airspeed too much).
- Too shallow of a climb doesn't allow for enough altitude above the enemy to re-engage in a diving attack.
- Too steep of a climb doesn't provide enough distance from the enemy (and reduces your airspeed too much).
- Once the area is clear (typically ~2,400ft / ~800m from the previous target) and no other enemies are immediately near, turn to either re-engage or pick a new target and repeat the process.
Rule 5: FIGHT ON YOUR TERMS
Eventually, you WILL get an enemy on your tail. However, do not fret. There are several tactics which work particularly well against enemy pursuers:
- If you've got boost (and you should), USE IT! Enter a fairly steep climb and hit the boost. Most fighters have only half the boost duration that Heavy Fighters do, and are somewhat slower as well. This combination allows you to pull away from an enemy in a climb. Enter your boost climb, and once the enemy is around ~2,400ft / ~800m, turn around to re-engage your new target.
- If you're out of boost, get some altitude while keeping as much airspeed as you can and find some friendly fighters. The F7 key is the default macro for "Clear My Tail!", and puts a little "SOS" above your aircraft for friendlies to see, letting them know that you've got an enemy on your tail, and need some help shaking him.
- If friendlies are in short supply, try to find some friendly ground targets. Friendly targets quite often have at least one (and sometimes multiple) AA guns, which can damage the enemy. The friendly base is full of them, and when loitered over, can significantly damage (or even destroy) an enemy fighter.
- Remember, whatever you do, AVOID A TURNING ENGAGEMENT! As previously stated, Heavy Fighters don't work too well in a turning battle. If you see an enemy attempting to lure you into a steep turning battle, get into your egress climb, boost away, and if need be, completely avoid engaging the more maneuverable fighter.
Rule 6: BOMB EARLY, BOMB QUICKLY
Let's review a couple concepts in regard to external ordinance and ground attack concepts (for a better review, check out my Guide to Successful Low-Tier Attack Aircraft Operation):
- External oridnance (i.e. Bombs and Rockets) add additional weight and drag, reducing maneuverability, acceleration, and top speed.
- Heavy Fighters are NOT armored like similarly-tiered Russian Ground Attack aircraft
- Heavy Fighters do not receive as much camoflage bonus a Ground Attack aircraft when they fly at low altitude
- A Heavy Fighter's optimum altitude is typically not low-level
With these concepts in mind, it's beneficial for Heavy Fighters that are carrying bombs to rush to the target they're attacking, drop their bombs, and then do what they do best - fast, slashing attacks. If you're carrying bombs and looking for targets to hit, here are my recommendations:
- Get to your optimum altitude and gain airspeed. This gets you to your target faster than diving to the deck, where your aircraft doesn't operate as well.
- Stay at altitude until you find a target to your liking. Once you're close, enter a dive until you see the bomb reticule on-target. Once on-target, drop your bomb (or bombs), find a new target, drop your bombs again, and regain altitude.
- ALWAYS BE AWARE OF ENEMY FIGHTERS! Even though you're at altitude, you're typically going to be flying in a straight line, which makes you an easy target. If you see an enemy approaching (other than head-on), do not be afraid to dump your bombs and run. Staying alive outweighs dying after taking out a single ground target.
Use speed an altitude to your advantage.
Avoid entering a turning engagement.
If using bombs, get to your target early.
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 hunting!