19. Air Combat
Focus: This section provides background information on how the air combat models work in WiTE2. Most of this is not directly under player control but understanding these issues may help you to plan more effective air operations.
- How Air Superiority and Auto-interception missions work and interact with other air missions
- What affects success during air to air combat
- Impact of Anti-Aircraft fire on air missions
- Air to Ground Combat
- Some likely causes of high operational losses
- How wins and losses are determined
19.1 Air Mission Sequence
19.1.1 General Overview
The following illustrates the general flow of events during the conduct of an air mission:
A. Air Mission sub-phase
- Phasing player Air Group units committed for [mission]
- Phasing player Air Group units rendezvous at staging base and then fly to target hex
- Non-phasing player Air Group units committed for air intercept resulting in air to air combat (missions can be intercepted en-route to target or on return and can be intercepted multiple times)
- Anti-Aircraft Defence (any accumulated AA from flak flown over is resolved prior to each air combat, bombing of target and landing of the mission).
- Air to Ground combat in target hex or transports deliver cargo
- Phasing player Air Group units return to staging base and then fly independently back to air base unit
Only fighters and fighter-bombers flying escort will drop the tanks when they have used them up during flight as a/c with bombs and drop tanks cannot drop one without dropping the other (so they keep the drop tanks until they drop the bombs). Fighter-bombers that are bombing may jettison their bombs and drop tanks and switch to “sweep” which simply means they are becoming fighters trying to fight in A2A going after enemy fighters. This allows those fighters and fighter bombers to engage enemy interceptors at full effect.
Air groups are broken down into smaller “flights” to resolve air missions, to include air to air combat and bombing runs. Decision by fighters or fighter bombers to drop their drop tanks/bombs is made by each such flight. These flights can consist of 4-12 aircraft So one part of an air group unit can switch to sweep while another keeps their drop tanks and press on with their escort mission or, for fighter bombers, to bomb the target.
19.1.2 Interaction of AS and Other Air Missions
The following is a brief overview of the air execution phase and how air superiority missions interact with other air missions:
- Air execution starts.
- Execute night air directives.
- Execute day patrol flights. a. Launch all AS directives, friendly and enemy. Number of aircraft participating based on doctrine and target area settings. Flights are generated with the flight path from the staging air base unit to the center of the target area. AS flights can be intercepted on the way to the target area. b. Resolve all AS combat. If enemy has AS flights in the same target area, i.e. both friendly and enemy AS target areas have common hexes, enemy AS flights have a chance to engage friendly AS flights. c. Resolve automatic naval patrols. Existing AS flights which are still active contribute to the naval patrol calculations in the AS area with their fighter values.
- Execute day air directives. As they run all still active AS flights can intercept and engage in air to air combat a. Friendly air missions b. Enemy intercepts (size determined by AS Mis Pct air doctrine setting)
- Land all air superiority flights and repeat from step 2.
19.2 Air to Air Combat
Three groups of factors determine which plane is most likely to destroy or damage its opponent in air to air combat. These are: the characteristics of the pilots; the characteristics of the plane; and, the weapon systems in use.
A Fighter air group unit’s ability to engage other air group units will decrease based on the distance flown (in hexes) relative to their range, which is calculated as aircraft radius divided by ten, resulting in fewer enemy aircraft being damaged or destroyed during a lengthy mission.
Pilots are rated according to three characteristics – morale, experience and fatigue. In the Commanders Report (35.4) and the unit screen (37.16.3) these are reported as the average for all the pilots in that particular air unit.
The air unit tab by default shows the average values for experience, morale and fatigue (1), opening the pilots tab (2) will show these values for each pilot in the unit. In air to air combat low morale pilots may try to break off before combat and are less effective in any exchange.
In general, the higher the experience of a pilot, the more likely they are to win an exchange. Finally, fatigue lowers the effectiveness of pilots – as well as creating a situation where it is more likely that an ‘operational’ loss (19.5.2) will occur.
All the planes available in WiTE2 are rated for a number of characteristics including their range, speed, load, maximum altitude, number of engines and the types of weapon systems they can carry (both default and optional).
The image in 19.2.1 shows all this information for a given type of plane. This is also available from the Commander’s Report (35.8.2) and it is possible to compare the values of different types of planes.
In air to air combat a number of these are important. Planes that have high manoeuvre values, rate of climb and higher maximum speed will have an advantage in terms of positioning and possibly attacking first. The armour and durability values will help a plane survive being hit.
Fighter versus bomber combat will be more lethal to the bombers than these raw numbers would imply.
The value for reliability will have an effect in determining if a damaged plane will crash on its return to base (i.e. become an operational loss) or land safely.
Operating beyond the ideal altitude for a plane will see some degradation of its combat efficiency. The ideal altitude for each plane can be found in the editor (41) and the data exported to a spread-sheet.
19.2.3 Weapon Systems
While some reconnaissance and transport planes are unarmed, almost all planes in WiTE2 carry some form of weaponry. This is made up of weapons integral to the plane and those related to a given load-out. Note that some load-outs may allow a plane to fly further or carry heavier weapons at a cost in terms of mobility and speed.
Fighters and Fighter Bombers carrying drop tanks and/or bombs will fight less effectively if engaged in air to air combat by enemy interceptors. In such a situation, there is a chance that some of the aircraft will prematurely drop bombs and/or drop tanks to more effectively engage the enemy interceptors.
In air to air combat, each weapon system (35.8.3) is rated for effect (this is only used in the context of A2A combat), range over which it can fire, the accuracy, the rate of fire and its value when used in air-to-air combat (anti-air).
19.3 Anti-Aircraft Defensive Combat
Anti-Aircraft fire can occur both when the planes reach their target and as they move from their base to the target hex(es).
Flak values can be seen by depressing the relevant tab (6.2), right clicking on a hex or using the hotkey/Display options are to show no flak, only that in cities or all flak values.
Numbers displayed are between 0 and 9 to indicate intensity of flak, with the left number being low/mid altitude (below 20k feet) and the right number being high altitude (above 20K). With FOW enabled, the accuracy of the flak values will vary depending on the detection level of the AA support units.
19.3.1 Anti-Aircraft Fire on Route to Target
In addition, anti-aircraft guns can target planes flying in adjacent hexes. AA units in cities/airfields will fire at aircraft flying in adjacent hexes if they are 15,000 feet or higher. Any AA attached to combat units or HQs (whether part of the unit TOE or an attached Support Unit) will fire into adjacent hexes if the enemy aircraft is 10,000 feet or higher.
Fire at adjacent hexes has much less effect than fire at aircraft flying directly overhead. For all air missions AA units in the target hex are much more effective. AA units attached directly to cities or airfields (including flak intrinsic to the airfield unit) are more effective, as are self- propelled flak units. These are cumulative benefits, so a self-propelled flak unit in a city that is in the target hex will receive benefits from all three conditions. Flak against air transport and airborne missions is more severe in daytime than at night.
19.3.2 Altitude Effects and Anti-Aircraft Fire
Anti-aircraft guns have two range bands, effective ceiling and maximum ceiling, which is generally 1.4 times the effective ceiling. Fire is allowed up to the maximum ceiling, but any fire above the effective ceiling will be considerably weaker.
When determining the effectiveness of flak, aircraft speed is more important to aircraft flying at lower altitudes. At higher altitudes the effectiveness of flak is most impacted by the altitude itself (i.e. higher is better to avoid being hit by flak).
In air to ground combat (19.4) it is assumed that fighter and tactical bombers with a mission altitude over 5,000’ will actually conduct their attacks at 1,000’. This will lead to additional anti-aircraft fire at the lower altitude as non- specialist weapon systems can also be used in an anti- aircraft role.
Air units that fly below 5,000’ for their mission will evade most conventional anti-aircraft fire but may be vulnerable to other weapons. In addition, low experience air units flying at this altitude will suffer higher operational losses (19.5.2).
19.3.3 Barrage Balloons
All ports are assumed to have barrage balloons that will impact any raid that is bombing anything in the port’s hex. Aircraft bombing under 3000 feet have a chance of being destroyed by the barrage balloon equal to two times the size of the port (port 3 means a 6% chance that bombing aircraft will be destroyed). For night missions, the percentage chance is tripled (so port level 3 means that each plane has an 18% chance of being destroyed).
19.3.4 Anti-Aircraft Fire and Combat Reports
As aircraft fly along their path on a mission, the flak they fly over accumulates until an air battle or a bombing/recon occurs. At this point, all the flak they have flown over fires at the aircraft before the air battle or bombing/recon takes places (and all of the flak is listed as participating in this battle). If no battle takes place on the way home, any flak flown over and the losses caused by this prior to landing are retroactively placed into the last battle site report that had been created by the mission.
19.3.5 Anti-Aircraft Fire and Ground Support Missions
If an air mission takes place in the Ground Support phase, planes will be attacked by flak on their route to the battlefield, by any flak in the target hex and by any flak Support Units allocated by a HQ to support the combat.
19.4 Air to Ground Combat
Apart from Air Superiority missions (18.1.7), most air missions involve the aircraft attacking targets on the ground.
The impact of this will be determined by the weapons carried by the plane, crew morale, experience and fatigue, the weather (8.4), impact of anti-aircraft fire and the type of mission (18.1).
Broadly there are two types of targets for air to ground combat – physical targets and combat units. The differences (and the types of missions that can be chosen as tactical or strategic bombing) are set out in chapter 18.
19.4.1 Weapon Systems
When attacking ground targets each weapon system is rated for its effect (Eff), accuracy (Acc), blast radius (Blast), anti-soft (ASoft) target efficiency, anti-armor (AArm) target efficiency, target penetration (Pen) efficiency, and High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) efficiency.
Effect is an overall measure of the impact of the weapon and a higher value indicates more explosive impact. The values are related to the amount of high explosive in the bomb or other weapon system. Accuracy reflects the chance to hit a target and the lower the value the less likely this is to happen while the blast radius indicates the area it can impact (so an inaccurate large bomb may still do substantial damage).
The anti-soft value is used for attacking soft targets (unarmoured ground units), the anti-armour value is used for attacking armoured ground units. The penetration value is the ability to pierce armour. In addition, some weapon systems such as rockets are rated for HEAT as an alternative method of attacking armoured targets.
19.4.2 Air Crew
As in air to air combat, the morale, experience and fatigue of the air crew will play a role in determining the effectiveness of a mission. Again low morale crews may break off before actually attacking. Fatigue will reduce effectiveness and increase the chance of a damaged plane crashing during the mission.
19.4.3 Weather, Altitude, and Anti-Aircraft Fire
All of these can affect the effectiveness of a mission. Poor weather can reduce the accuracy of an attack, especially if it is combined with lower Detection Levels (10.2). Planes bombing at higher altitudes will be less accurate than those operating at lower altitudes. Finally, anti-aircraft fire can have the effect of damaging or destroying attacking aircraft even before they carry out their attack and lower the accuracy of a given air mission.
The terrain in the target hex will influence the effect of any bombing. Not only will wooded, marsh, hilly or urban terrain reduce the detection level (10.2) thus limiting the effectiveness of any mission, but also such terrain provides additional cover reducing the impact of any attack.
19.4.5 Air Mission Type and Weapon System
Matching load out to target is complex but there are some broad guidelines.
For a strategic bombing mission, if the target is solid (a factory, port facility or oil field) then it is usually better to use as heavy a bomb as possible. A 500lb bomb has an effect value of 1100 compared to 550 for a 250lb bomb. In addition, larger bombs have much wider blast areas and are thus less reliant on precise accuracy.
For interdiction missions, usually the most effective combination is either rockets or multiple small bombs.
For ground attack missions aimed at units (18.1.4) or for ground support missions, usually more bombs are better than heavier bombs (but poor terrain or substantial defensive works may alter this judgement). In this case, each bomb attacks a separate ground element and the goal is often to disrupt the enemy rather than inflict direct damage or destruction. If the enemy is well dug in, or defending in urban terrain, it might be more effective to use fewer but heavier bombs.
For naval interdiction missions (17.1.11 and 18.1.8) aircraft flying with torpedoes get a bonus when generating naval interdiction during naval patrols.
19.4.6 Damage to Ground Elements
When ground elements are hit during a ground attack mission they can be destroyed, damaged or disrupted.
Disrupted elements recover before the ground phase but have extra fatigue as a result which can have a substantial impact on their combat performance (23.1.1).
Ground support missions occur as the first phase of a ground battle. Any ground elements disrupted in that phase remain disrupted (i.e. unavailable) throughout the ground phase.
19.5.1 Air Crew Losses
Aircrews of destroyed planes for the phasing player will have 90 percent of the crew destroyed and 10 percent captured. The non-phasing player aircraft will have 100 percent of their crew KIA if the plane is destroyed.
These casualties count for victory point totals (when appropriate to the scenario) as they are treated no differently than other permanent losses.
19.5.2 Operational Losses
During air missions, planes will suffer operational losses in addition to combat losses. This will be affected by the weather, the reliability of the planes, crew experience and fatigue and any damage inflicted (by either enemy aircraft or anti-aircraft fire) during the mission.
Planes flying at night will suffer higher operational losses.
Aircraft flying under 5,000 feet can suffer additional operational losses, with the lower they fly the greater the losses. Extremely high experience pilots can avoid most/all of these extra losses.
Note that flying low has the advantage of evading almost all anti-aircraft fire.
19.6 Determining Win/Loss for Air Missions
Victory and defeat for air leaders is judged based on losses in aircraft, and damaged, destroyed and disrupted ground elements. There is the possibility that no victor or loser will be declared if the loss differential is not significant.