War Thunder Practical Combat Flying Guide by LordFlashheart11.
The purpose of this guide is to hopefully provide some useful pointers, tips and maxims to be remembered at all times when flying. Whilst these tips will work in Arcade, they’re almost redundant in that mode due to the instant nature of the engagements; it’s written more with Historical Battles and Full Sim modes in mind. It is not designed for any specific nation or aircraft; all the rules listed here should be just as applicable to a BF109 as they are to a Spitfire, a P51 or a Zero.
The guide itself is an amalgamation of the rules I set myself when flying, my experiences over more than ten years of combat flight simming and my thoughts on virtual combat flying. Much of this will probably be common knowledge and may be of no help whatsoever. I make no claim to have any real experience of it; if you want a similar thing from real combat pilots, my advice is to seek out the Dicta Boelcke, the entirety of which is available on Wikipedia, along with Mick Mannock’s rules.
It’s difficult to decide whether it’s meant for experienced pilots or novices; perhaps both. Some of it may be old hat to you and some of it may be completely new, or it could all be rubbish. I shall leave that up to you to decide.
Guide continued after the page break...
The Basic Rules
1. Always maintain situational awareness.
More than anything else, this will keep you alive longest in the air. It should become second nature to be constantly checking your six o’clock, and your six o’clock high and low, as well as your 12 o’clock high as these are the directions from which most attacks will come. Too many novice pilots are consistently ‘jumped’ by aircraft with an altitude advantage because they weren't keeping up situational awareness. Do not make yourself an easy kill for the experienced pilot.
Before engaging an enemy who is below you, always check for enemies above you.
2. Practice your gunnery, especially deflection shooting.
Some people might hold that aerobatics is the most important part of combat flying. I believe this to be wrong. Most manoeuvres kill speed and can disorient the pilot, especially the novice. It is far better and more useful to be able to shoot consistently and accurately than it is to perform elegant manoeuvres. Whilst practicing gunnery, beginning with deflection aids is helpful, but these should be got rid of as soon as possible and a natural feel for where your tracers will go must be acquired.
3. Where possible, always maintain an advantage of altitude; there is nothing wrong with an unfair fight.
Altitude is speed, an advantageous position to attack from, allows you to pick your moment of attack and begin it on your terms and thusly means life. Where possible, never make an attack upon an enemy, particularly one whose aircraft you know to be superior to yours, without the advantage of a few thousand feet of altitude. If he lacks situational awareness, a high speed pass, with accurate gunnery, may cripple his machine before he has even noticed you. By the time he has spotted you, you should be pulling up to regain all the height lost. Deny him the chance to respond by your absolute command of the initiative.
4. Engage only from close range.
My personal preferred range to open fire at is one hundred metres or less. In aircraft with guns aligned with the fuselage, this is particularly easy to do as the rounds will not be affected greatly by deflection. With wing-mounted guns, this becomes more difficult to gauge, but with practice and experience should become second nature. Fire only in short bursts; one second trigger pulls for machineguns and half second or one second bursts for cannon. If you have observed Rule 2 one or two bursts should finish your enemy.
Do not blaze away all your ammunition at long range, only to find yourself with none left at the critical moment.
5. Do not aim for the fuselage.
The fuselage on most aircraft contains practically nothing of importance. Photos from WW2 attest to the survivability of what appears to be horrific levels of damage to the fuselage, with pilots standing by gaping holes and grinning, happily back on the tarmac. You will eventually kill your enemy by doing this, but it will waste a great deal of ammunition.
Instead, aim for;
- The Cockpit; kill the man and you kill the machine or,
- The Engine.
To achieve this, do not attack directly from the rear, but slightly above and to the side of the enemy, leading his machine slightly if you are flying a level and straight course. Following Rule 4 and Rule 2 you will have secured yourself the kill.
6. Avoid the dogfight at ALL costs.
Dogfighting is not where the majority of your kills will be found. It should be a last resort, only when you are out of energy or disadvantaged. At this point, it is a contest between your skills in piloting and gunnery and your enemy’s, as well as the characteristics of your machine. In this scenario, radio for help and try to uneven the odds. When in a dogfight, always attempt to use the vertical. An advantage of even a hundred feet is still an advantage.
Tight turning bleeds speed; speed is life.
7. When under attack, always turn in into the enemy.
If an enemy is turning in to attack you, do not follow the turn of his attack in an attempt to get away from him. You will do the exact opposite; you will instead give him an ideal deflection shot from your nose to your tail. Instead, roll in the opposite direction and begin your turn. He will have to change direction entirely, bleeding energy, by which point you could either be above him or in a position to begin your own attack.
Turning away from the enemy will only allow him to kill you faster.
8. Do not become target fixated or greedy.
Target fixation, especially in ground attacks, but in all engagements, tends to be the death of pilots. You will either collide with the enemy in an attempt to get in that last burst of fire, plow yourself into the ground or become an easy target for his rear guns if you’re attacking a bomber. In addition, you will lose your situational awareness and become an easy target for any enemy fighters.
This rule must be divided between bombers and fighters;
Fighters: If the enemy is slower than you are (which, ideally he should be due to a surplus of energy) make your pass, climb and regain altitude and make another pass at him. If he does not alter his course during your initial attack, you do not need to climb very high, just enough to slow yourself behind him and give yourself the advantage once more.
If his machine is quicker than yours on the level, you should climb as quickly as possible to the greatest altitude you can achieve with your energy, watch him and decide when it would be most effective to make another pass. As long as you maintain an altitude advantage, you will control the fight, so negating his speed advantage by requiring him to climb to meet you.
Bombers: Nearly all bombers will be slower than your aircraft, but also pose a significant threat thanks to their rear facing guns. In this case, make slashing attacks, aiming for the engines or where possible make head on attacks and kill the flight crew in a single pass. After your pass is complete, pull away until you are well out of range of his guns and once more above him. Rinse and repeat the process until the bomber is forced down. When engaging bombers, remember to maintain your situational awareness; escort fighters love to pick up on careless, target fixated fighters, too focused on their prey.
9. Teamwork and communication are essential to victory.
You cannot do everything, no matter how good your machine. Keep a watchful eye on your teammates. If they are diving to attack ground targets, remain a few thousand feet above them and watch for enemies who are diving to engage them. You may not have time to give your teammate a warning; instead, go in to save them, or at least divert the enemy’s attention. You will not only have an altitude advantage over the enemy, you will have contributed to your team’s victory.
The longer the more of you stay alive, the better your chances of success.
If you have saved somebody from an enemy attack, they will be more inclined to return the favor.
10. Once committed to an attack, do not shy away from it.
Doing this will only give your enemy an opportunity to recover and seize the initiative. Always keep the initiative and balance of the fight weighted in your favor. If your enemy is clearly a better pilot than you, at least give him a run for his money. You may get lucky, he may make a mistake, a teammate may dive in to uneven the odds in your favor once again.
If you let the enemy seize the initiative in a fight, you have signed your own death warrant.
I hope these rules have been helpful. I will add more as and when I think of them. If you have any to suggest, feel free to do so, and if you have any questions, ask them. There’s no such thing as a stupid question. I have purposefully not included any tips on aerobatics etc.; these are things which you should learn for yourself either through instinct and experience in combat, or by studying the common maneuver such as the Split S and Yo-Yo. Whilst this might not be particularly helpful for experienced pilots who probably have their own set of maxims, these may be of some good to novices.
In any case, go out and enjoy yourselves flying some beautiful historical aircraft and good luck. I hope to see you in the skies and to steal a phrase; ‘May the odds be ever in your favor!’