The Pilot's Flying Guide to W.W. I and W.W. II Aircraft
By Chuck Hawks
I discovered the Total Simulation Series Warbirds flight simulator and online game several years ago while researching a series of articles about World War II fighter planes. The TotalSims (http://www.totalsims.com/) people have compiled a most impressive and extensive set of performance parameters for WW II aircraft and I used some of their data in my articles. It seemed only fair, having benefited from their extensive database, to purchase their Warbirds CD, which I did.
Later I discovered Aces High II, a massive online WW II simulation based on an equally huge data base that offers a more limited number of offline practice options if you download their program (free!). It is my understanding that Aces High was developed by some of the people who had previously worked on Warbirds. This is plausible, as the two are similar and even most of the controls and keyboard functions are the same or nearly the same. Most of the information that follows, while based primarily on my experience flying Warbirds simulations, also applies to flying Aces High simulations.
It took a long time, but I have finally explored the simulations of a large
number of WW I and WW II aircraft. In addition to a wonderful educational
experience, it has been a lot of fun and I thought that other amateur WW I and WW II
aviation historians might profit from my take on test flying simulations of these various historical aircraft.
My actual, hands-on piloting experience is limited to flying light and ultra-light
aircraft along the lines of the QuickSilver MX-L II, Aeronca Champ, Cessna 152
and Grumman Cheetah as a student pilot. This is certainly not any sort of
qualification for taking real, high performance WW II fighters aloft for test
flights, but I found that my actual stick time (although limited) was an asset,
as at least I understood from practical experience the interaction of ailerons,
rudder, elevators and throttle in the three dimensional world of flight.
Warbirds and Aces High are compatible with inexpensive "twist for rudder" joysticks, which is
what I used, as well as more sophisticated joystick + rudder pedals controls.
In most cases, the program will "recognize" your choice of
joystick and adapt to its use without requiring any operator action. I pretty much used the
"Default" settings for my inexpensive Saitek ST290 Pro
and Logitech Extreme X3D PRO joystick controllers. (Basically, push forward or pull back to deflect the elevators,
push to either side to control the ailerons and twist the stick to the right
for right rudder and left for left rudder.) The throttle lever is on the base
of the controller. If applicable, the trigger at the front of the
joystick is typically used to fire the airplane's forward machine guns and the thumb
button at the left side of the joystick fires the cannons.
In Warbirds your computer's keyboard is used to operate some important features. Here is a synopsis of some of the most commonly used key strokes:
- Q = Lower flaps one increment (if available)
- W = Raise flaps one increment (if available)
- Space Bar = Applies wheel brakes
- E = Start or Stop engine
- G = Raise or Lower landing gear
- X = Autopilot and auto trim
- Z = Closer view
- V = Wider view
- Ctrl+X = Autopilot and auto trim for angled flight (climb or dive)
- Ctrl+E = External view
- F1 (Function Key #1) = Shows map or removes map
- F9 (Function Key #9) = War emergency power on/off
- F12 (Function Key #12) = Center joystick
- O = Open/close bomb bay doors
- B = Drop bomb
- Enter = Bail out
- / = Activates radio bar for text messaging (hit "Enter" to send message)
Once I understood the basic Warbirds and Aces High keyboard, mouse and joystick controller inputs, I went
through the Instruction program. When I felt that I had gotten about
as much from the Instruction phase as I was going to get, I moved on to
"Free Flight" (in Warbirds) or "Offline Practice" (in Aces High) to get some simulation time on the easier to fly aircraft.
My suggestion is to start flying WW II aircraft with the Ju-87 Stuka dive-bomber; it is about
as easy to takeoff, fly and land as it gets. (Among the WW I fighters, the SE5a is about the safest and most predictable, as well as one of the very best, fighters of the period.) As I gained confidence, I began trying other, higher performance aircraft and eventually moved on to a more
structured flight testing regimen.
My aircraft testing was done in Warbirds with "Free Flight" selected for basic aircraft flight testing and "Target Drones" selected for aerial gunnery practice. (Aces High combines these two modes in their offline practice arena.) I found that the easiest and most versatile way to access the Warbirds mode desired was to click "Instant Action" on the main (opening) page, then close the "Instant Action" instant start menu (click the little "X" at the top right corner) and select my operating options from the main menu beneath. Be sure to turn "Ack" off, as you don't want to be shot down by ground fire when you are practicing. (You can't turn the "Ack" off in Aces High offline practice, but you can safely ignore it.)
British and Japanese WW II fighters usually have only two flaps settings, fully down and fully up. American and German fighters tend to have much more flexible flaps with four settings. (Hint: these can be used in low speed turns during dogfights.) My usual flight test routine was to take fighters off without using flaps. I retracted the landing gear immediately after takeoff (and flaps in the case of bombers, as well as jettisoning any bombs), then climbed to approximately 5000 feet (or 1500 meters, as the case may be). I found 5000 feet to be high enough to give me adequate room to recover from my (inevitable) flying errors.
Once at my target altitude, I executed a low speed/power-off stall, to get an idea of the airplane's stall characteristics. I did this by reducing the throttle to idle and then pulling back on the stick until the airplane stalled and dropped its nose. (Push the stick forward and gradually add power as needed to recover from the stall and get the airplane into a controlled dive, then pull out.) I did coordinated standard rate turns at about 75% power. I also did steep right and left 360-degree turns with the airplane's wings approximately perpendicular to the ground. I did right and left aileron rolls. Then I attempted a full power inside loop. (Be careful not to pull too much "G" and black out.) With fighters, sometimes I did a split-S and transitioned into a loop, a good way to build up plenty of speed for the loop.
With WW I aircraft I also executed steep, full
power dives to test their structural integrity. Unfortunately, most will quickly shed their fabric
covering or entire wings. In the course of that test I gained a
more complete understanding of why the average operational lifespan of a WW I
fighter pilot was only six weeks. In the main, those were poorly designed,
inherently dangerous flying machines, enemy action aside.
In any event, after completing the flying part of my flight test, I returned to the airfield and landed. (Well, okay, sometimes I crash-landed. In which case, I did it over until I got it right.) On landing I normally used full flaps, if available. Aces High offers the option to take-off and land on an aircraft carrier in their offline practice mode. That is a real challenge for the novice pilot, but entertaining.
Having gotten some feel for the various airplanes, I then moved on to "Target Drones" for some basic interception and gunnery practice. (As mentioned previously, drones are combined with regular offline practice in Aces High.) Target Drones are not towed targets, but a random variety of authentic aircraft "flown" by the computer at relatively easy intercept angles. These "drones" will use moderate defensive maneuvers, such as turns and course reversals, to throw off your gunnery, but they do not use high G evasive maneuvers such as snap rolls, tight turns, spins and power dives to escape and they never shoot
back. Target Drones is, after all, supposed to be gunnery practice, not an air combat simulation.
My "advanced" training was 1v1 air combat offline. This is simulated much better in Warbirds than in Aces High. The latter offers only one offline scenario, in which both you and the computer fly P-51D's, while Warbirds offers a choice of aircraft. The final step (graduate course, if you will) was air combat against other human opponents online. This was usually in the Main Arena in Warbirds, and the Dueling arena in Aces High. (Of the two, the basic Warbirds graphics seem both more realistic and less demanding of the computer's video card and internet connection, while Aces High seems to have the more sophisticated special effects graphics.)
To be able to fly a variety of planes in Warbirds 1v1 air combat, you must first go to the Instant Action menu and click "Settings." Then click "Current Mission" and select "1v1 Air Attack"; set Your Country to "Random" and Enemy Country to "Random." Save changes and close menu. On the main game menu, click the Offline Game Mode button. That menu should be set to "Air Attack" and "Ace" for maximum realism (and difficulty). Then set "# of Nme Drones" to "1." I also turn the "Ack" off (un-select) at this time and then save changes. Taken together, these settings allow you to choose the fighter that you will fly and lets the computer choose, apparently at random, what your opponent will be flying. (Other optional settings were the same as those listed below.) Select the terrain you want, the airplane you want to fly, the altitude at which you wish to start and you are ready to face one of the enemy's best (the computer!) in 1v1 air combat.
These 1v1 dogfights are both fun and stressful for the novice pilot, but very educational. You quickly learn, for example, that the computer likes to fight in the vertical and you have to find ways to counter that tactic. You learn to accept head-on passes when you have superior firepower and ruggedness and to jink or maneuver to avoid them when you don't. You also learn that if you lose sight of your opponent (situational awareness) he will probably shoot you down. (The computer never seems to lose sight of your aircraft!) For that reason, I learned to detest clouds and bad visibility in general.
Clicking the "LCDS" button at the bottom of your cockpit screen while the enemy aircraft is in view designates his position and helps you keep track of his location during the dogfight. It also indicates the correct lead when you get into firing position, making deflection shooting much easier. LCDS is particularly helpful in most WW I fighters, which have limited visibility forward and upward due to their biplane design. (Such an aid was, of course, unknown in WW I and WW II, although modern jet fighters have a lead computing gunsight.) Note that there is no LCDS in the online version of Warbirds.
The best novice level fighters in the WW I arena (actually in either arena for the novice) are the Sopwith F1 Camel, Spad VII and SE5a. The latter two have a throttle and superior structural integrity and the SE5A offers better pilot visibility than the Spad or any other WW I fighter, making it my favorite.
I found that among WW II fighters for the novice, at least in my case, maneuverable and forgiving planes such as the A6M Zero, Ki-43, Spitfire Ia and Vb, FM2 Wildcat, F6F Hellcat and Hurricane gave me the best chance of survival in 1v1. I also learned to bail out quickly. (Hold down the "Enter" key.) The high performance, late model fighters, such as the F-51D, Bf 109K, P-38 L, F4U-4, etc. especially benefit from using War Emergency Power (the F9 key).
I did my Free Flight, Target Drone and 1v1 testing in all aircraft with a full load of ammunition, 50% fuel load at start, gun convergence set between 300 and 500 yards as seems appropriate and no bombs, rockets or other external stores. (This specifically includes bombers, which were all flown "light"; if necessary, I jettisoned all bombs as soon as I leveled off after takeoff.) The cockpit configuration of all aircraft was set to be accurate for the type. Other Warbirds settings used in my Free Flight and Target Drone flying included "Ace" pilot and "Ack" off.
For Free Flight of WW II aircraft, I usually take off and land in the "Midway" terrain setting using the following parameters:
country = Green
field = Midway-1
filter = All
Altitude = 0
ammunition = Off
outs/Red outs = On
Airspeed limits = On
mode = Realistic Flight
For WW I aircraft, I use the same basic settings except in the "Flanders" terrain and the default "Field-1."
I like the airfield at Midway for its flat terrain, easy final approaches (which are over water) and long, wide runways without trees and other obstructions to worry about. Other relatively easy terrain settings with good airstrips include Atoll (Iddons-22) and Tunisia (Phillipville-1). In the (default) Blitz terrain, I prefer the Lympne-22 field.
In Target Drone mode, I also use the Midway terrain setting for all WW II aircraft (and Flanders for WW I), regardless of national origin, with basically the same parameters. This time I start at 5000 feet to save the time otherwise required for takeoff and climb out. (Remember, Warbirds is a real time simulation, so if your SE5a fighter takes an hour to climb to 20,000 feet and you feel the need to go that high, you are going to spend the next hour in a very long, boring, climb.) After exhausting my supply of ammunition on the Target Drones, I return to my airfield and land.
For 1v1 air combat in all WW II fighters I used the Tunisia, Blitz and Atoll terrain settings and My country = Green. In this case I usually started between 10,000 and 15,000 feet, but sometimes as low as 5,000 feet or as high as 30,000 feet, depending on the altitude performance of the fighter I am flying. 1v1 combat usually starts with a head-on or near head-on pass, so learn to shoot or learn to evade that initial burst of enemy fire.
All WW I 1v1 air combat takes place in the Flanders terrain setting. I use the "Ace" pilot setting and the default airfield (Field-1) for all WW I dogfights My country = Green regardless of the nationality of the plane I am flying and I initiate the duel at 5000 feet. It is much easier to learn to fly and fight in the WW I fighters compared to the much higher performance WW II fighters. I definitely recommend that the novice pilot start learning the intricacies of 1v1 air combat in a WW I fighter (the SE5a is a good place to start) before graduating to WW II machines.
In the case of Warbirds, the online terrain setting in the Main arena is rotated periodically. When you log-in online, the current terrain for the arena automatically appears. You choose your color (green, red, gold or purple) from the available choices (sometimes only two colors are available) and attempt to shoot down the "bad guys" flying for another color.
In the Warbirds online Main arena (or the Aces High Dueling arena), you can choose any fighter you want to fly and I found it wise to tailor the plane and its fuel load to the situation. For point defense--for example defending my base with enemy fighters very nearby or overhead--I usually fly the A6M5a or Spitfire Vb(II) with about 30% fuel. For intercepting bombers (when I am sure the enemy blip on the map is a bomber) the heavy cannon armament of the Bf 109G/R6 and FW 190A-8 are very effective. These are relatively short range fighters, so a 40% fuel load seems advisable. As fighter or bomber interceptors, the fast F4U-4 and P-38L have the blend of speed, overall performance and firepower to get either job done against most adversaries. I usually carry a 35-40% fuel load, depending on the distance to the likely interception point. As a general air superiority fighter, I favor the Ki-84-1a for its blend of speed, climb, range, firepower and maneuverability. I usually find a 35% fuel load is sufficient in the Ki-84. Other excellent air superiority fighters include the P-51, Bf 109F, Yak-3, F6F and Ki-61c. All are very dangerous opponents in a furball, especially with an altitude advantage.
Having gained valuable insights about "flying" of a wide variety of WW I and WW II aircraft and amassing a considerable amount of subjective data, including hundreds of online victories and defeats, here are my impressions of a variety of WW I and WW II combat aircraft from a simulator pilot's perspective. The WW I and WW II aircraft are presented and rated separately, as the two are vastly different and not directly comparable.
Likewise, and for much the same reason, I have separated bombers from fighters. Note that I have no online combat experience flying bombers, only in shooting them down. From that perspective, I can tell you that the American heavies, the B-17 and B-24, are the most dangerous to attack and you want to be flying a heavily armed and highly survivable fighter if you engage them.
My "Novice Pilot Ratings" are just that, an evaluation of each particular airplane's suitability for the novice Warbirds simulation pilot. They should not be construed to represent the airplane's performance or combat potential in the hands of the very experienced simulator pilots who dominate the online Warbirds and Aces High scenarios.
WORLD WAR I FIGHTERS
Albatross D-Va - Streamlined looking German single seat, single engine fighter. Handled gently the Albatross is reasonably stable, turns well and is stable in a loop, but sluggish. Overall sort of clunky handling. Fairly fast in level flight. Small gunsight is mounted too low. Roll response is slow, but satisfactory. Limited visibility forward due to upper wing, but good visibility upward, to the sides and aft. Prone to structural failure at high speed and in high-G turns, but stronger than the Fokker Dr. I. Reduce speed or "G" immediately if you hear a noise like a flag flapping in a stiff wind or, heaver forbid, crackling sounds.
The Albatross Lacks the performance necessary to make it a standout in 1v1 air combat. The best I could manage was a 1 to 1 victory ratio. Loses energy fast and tends to stall out of loops. The power to weight ratio is apparently not good compared to the DR-1, Camel, SE5a and N-17.
Equipped with the usual five German metric instruments, including a tach and an altimeter. (This is lavish instrumentation for a WW I fighter.) Armament is 2-8mm MG's. This is an easy airplane to stall and it should be flown with engine power on (not idling) all the way to touch-down. Easy to takeoff, but beware of stalling on climb out. Novice Pilot Rating = C-
Bristol F.2b - This is a two man, tandem seat fighter armed with one forward firing .303 MG for the pilot and a single .303 MG for the observer/rear gunner. The F.2b is fairly fast in level flight, dives well and the airframe seems to be adequately strong for a WW I airplane. The Bristol two seater is not a good "turn and burn" fighter, being slow to respond to both aileron and rudder inputs and generally sluggish to change direction. The roll rate is slow. Good, legible instruments.
Standard rate turns can be smooth, but she wants to spin out of tight turns. Keep the nose up in turns and rolls, as this puppy has an affinity for the ground. When you hear the wind rustling over the wings, or the nose starts to drop in a turn, flatten out immediately. Power-off stalls at high angles of attack are gentle, but recover immediately to avoid a spin. Pilot visibility is very bad to the front and upward due to the low top wing. Visibility to the sides and down is good.
Takeoffs are simple and flying speed is fairly low. The Bristol is easy to land if you use a little throttle on final and keep some throttle on almost until touchdown. The roll-out after landing is short. Other than being easy to takeoff and land, this is a dangerous warbird for the novice pilot to fly and a lousy dogfighter. (You'll earn your victories in the F.2b, if you can get any.) WW I Novice Pilot Rating = D-
Fokker D-VII - German single seat, single engine fighter. Powerful, fast, good climb rate, but slow aileron (roll) response and rather insensitive rudder response. Adequate turning rate, poor roll rate. A dangerous opponent as flown by the computer.
This is a tricky airplane for the novice to fly. It is very easy to stall the D-VII and fall into an unrecoverable flat spin. Poor forward visibility, poor upward visibility, very good visibility to sides and astern. Structural failures are possible at high speed. Reduce speed if you hear a sound like a flag flapping in a stiff wind. 2-MG mounted on front cowl, the optimum WW I armament.
In the hands of an expert who can take advantage of its power and speed, it can be effective in a dogfight, but it is not a good choice for the novice pilot. I managed only a dismal 1 to 2 victory ratio in the D-VII (two losses for every win). Substantial torque steer on takeoff. Tends to stall and roll at low speed, so must be flown under power (not idle) all the way to touchdown when landing. WW I Novice Pilot Rating = D-
Fokker DR-1 Triplane - German single seat, single engine fighter. A highly maneuverable fighter offering fast turns, precise rolls and a good climb rate. Very light wing loading. Stable in a loop. An excellent "turn and burn" fighter that could dominate 1v1 combat if only the airplane would stay together. Carries 2-8mm MG mounted on front cowl, the optimum WW I armament. Each gun has its own metal ring/crosshair sight! I found that to shoot at a target dead ahead it was best to aim between the two sights. Strangely, this is not particularly difficult to do. Visibility is very restricted through about a 180 degree arc forward and down due to the triple wings. In dogfights, this means that it is difficult to keep your opponent in sight if he gets below you, a very dangerous state of affairs. Use the "LCOS" button at the bottom of your screen to keep track of the enemy in 1v1. The famous German aces Werner Voss and Manfred von Richthofen liked the DR-1 and both were killed by enemy action while flying Fokker Triplanes.
My own 1v1 experience in the DR-1, to date, is a total of 31 missions against all of the other WW I aircraft. The result was 28 victories against 14 losses, a 2 to 1 kill ratio. Many of the losses were the result of the structural failure of my DR-1 during the stress of combat maneuvering (maneuver kills), rather than actually being shot down by enemy guns.
This is an easy plane to fly once it is airborne. DR-1 is very prone to structural failure at high speed and in high G maneuvers, even with engine off. Reduce the "G" load immediately if you hear crackling or a sound like a flag flapping in a stiff wind. Poor visibility forward and downward, good visibility upward (over the top wing), good visibility to the sides and downward behind the wings as well as astern (credit the open cockpit). The obstructed forward visibility is especially noticed when taking off and landing, since you cannot see the ground to the front or below. Powered by a rotary engine, there is no throttle; cut the engine to slow down. Glide in for a landing with the engine off. (The DR-1 glides well.) WW I Novice Pilot Rating = C
Nieuport 17 - French single seat, single engine fighter. Somewhat underpowered, but maneuverable and easy to fly; twitchy rudder. For some reason the N-17 has a throttle function in Warbirds, unlike other rotary engined planes that only have a kill switch. Armed with only one Vickers MG and the gunsight is small. Prone to structural failure in dives and high G maneuvers. Reduce speed if you hear a sound like a flag flapping in a stiff wind. Easy to loop and turns very quickly. Restricted visibility forward (the windshield is horrible in the N-17), but good visibility upward and excellent visibility to sides and rearward due to the open cockpit, a big asset in dogfights. The single instrument is an altimeter, calibration unknown.
In 1v1 dogfights the Nieuport 17 is a very even match with the Sopwith Camel in terms of general manuverability, but suffers in power and armament. One of the longest and most even fights I've ever had in Warbirds was flying a Nieuport against a Camel. I managed a very good 8:1 kill ratio in 1v1 combat flying the Nieuport 17.
Easy to takeoff and land. Largely replaced in French service by the Spad, which was faster, stronger and better armed, although many of the best French pilots continued to prefer the Nieuport. Having flown both on the simulator, I can see why. WW I Novice Pilot Rating = B
SE5a - British single seat, single engine fighter. The SE5a lacks a gun sight in Warbirds (the computer automatically fires the upper wing gun and you fire the lower gun by guess-estimate), but is otherwise probably the best of the WW I fighters from the standpoint of the novice fly boy. I solved the gunsight problem by putting a pencil dot on my computer monitor's screen right at the gun's point of impact. (The Camel and Spad VII have the same point of impact, so you can use their sights as a guide.)
The SE5a is generally a forgiving airplane. It tends to spin out if your energy gets low or you over-control, but it's easy to recover. Fast, climbs well, dives very well, handles predictably in all three dimensions and stays together (unlike most WW I fighters). Easy to turn, roll and loop. Slow aileron response makes for a very leisurely roll rate, though. The SE5a handles much like the Spad VII and I imagine that most pilots who like one will like the other. There are several instruments, but they are hard to read.
The slow aileron response is something that you have to work around in 1v1 combat, but altogether the SE5a is my favorite WW I fighter in which to dog fight. In 170 dogfights against all of the other WW I aircraft (as flown by the computer), I have managed to average about a 14 to 1 kill ratio in favor of the SE5a. This is my best sustained combat record flying any fighter. I ran one string of 54 victories against a single defeat.
Moveable machine gun mounted on top of wing + machine gun on cowl makes the armament a bit odd, but reasonably effective and better than the Spad VII. The SE5a offers the best pilot visibility among the Warbirds WW I fighters and therefore it's easier to keep track of your opponent's location. Its other great virtue is superior structural strength; it is unlikely to disassemble during dives and maneuvers. Powered by an inline engine, so it has a working throttle. Easy to takeoff and land. WW I Novice Pilot Rating = A
Sopwith F1Camel - British single seat, single engine fighter. Very maneuverable in all three dimensions, reasonably fast, handles well, easy to loop and equipped with excellent and legible instruments for a WW I fighter. 2-MG's mounted on front cowl, the optimum WW I armament and an easy to use gun sight. The rotary engine lacks a throttle, so it is always full on. Slow down by cutting engine (the "E" key). Land dead-stick (engine off), otherwise easy to land.
Do not pin knot meter or the Camel may suffer structural failure, otherwise it has satisfactory structural strength, although you can pull the wings off attempting very tight turns at high speed. Reduce speed or G-load if you hear a sound like a flag flapping in a stiff wind or a cracking sound (very bad!).
The Camel has the overall performance to dominate in 1v1, but the restricted visibiliity forward and upward makes it hard to keep track of your opponent's position in a dogfight unless you have your "LCOS" activated. Never the less, I accumulated a very satisfying 9.5 to 1 kill ratio over the course of some 75 1v1 combats in the Camel and I consider it to be one of my best overall fighters in Warbirds. WW I Novice Pilot Rating = B+
Spad VII- French single seat, single engine fighter. The Spad VII is reasonably fast in level flight with good acceleration in a dive. Use full power in tight turns. Rather sluggish aileron response, but good rudder response and overall controllability. Fairly easy to loop. Limited visibility to the front and downward, marginal visibility to the sides, good visibility upward and aft. Armed with 1-.303 cal. Vickers gun and a good gunsight. Good suite of instruments by WW I standards (if you can figure them out). Not as fragile as the Nieuport 17 that it largely replaced and, in fact, the Spad VI is the most durable (along with the SE5a) of the WW I fighters.
Oddly, I found this earlier model Spad much eaier to fly, maneuver and fight than the later Spad XIII. It even has a less intrusive windshield. Apparently the single gun and less ammo (and/or other more obscure differences) gives it a more favorable power to weight ratio compared to the later model Spad. In any case, it is more responsive and lacks the handling vices of the XIII. It also seems to zoom climb better, at least as modeled in Warbirds.
The Spad VII is very reliable in 1v1 combat. It can more than hold its own against the Albatross, DR-1, F.1 Camel and Nieuport 17, for example. Its performance and strengths seem very similar to the SE5a, but the pilots forward visibility is not as good in the Spad as in the British fighter. Use "LCOS" to keep track of the enemy. Not nearly as prone to spins as the Spad XIII, its major drawback is its single MG armament. I achieved a shocking 22 victories to only 1 defeat in the Spad VII. Novice Pilot Rating = A-
Spad XIII - French single seat, single engine fighter. The Spad XIII is fast in level flight, but slow in a climb and it doesn't like to loop. Very good acceleration in a dive. Not very maneuverable, it is okay in gentle turns, but slow and prone to spin out of tight turns. Use full power in tight turns. Sluggish aileron response, but good rudder response. Limited visibility to the front and downward, marginal visibility to the sides, good visibility upward and aft. Armed with 2-.303 cal. MG's. Not as fragile as the Nieuport 17 that it largely replaced.
The Spad is a poor choice for 1v1 combat. It can about hold its own against the two seaters, but is inferior to most of the single seat fighters. Use "LCOS" to keep track of the enemy. Very quick to spin out of loops and you have to catch it instantly or it goes into a flat, unrecoverable, spin. Basically, you have to make that first head-on pass good or suffer the consequences. I have managed only a dismal 1 to 4 (negative) victory ratio in the Spad XIII. Most of those losses were maneuver kills, caused by spinning out.
The Spad XIII has a lot of torque steer on takeoff, which is unfortunate since you cannot see where you are going. It is dangerous for the novice pilot to land because it doesn't handle very well at low speed and your view of the runway ahead and below is totally obscured. The Spad was flown by American WW I "ace of aces" Eddie Rickenbacker, for whom my respect markedly increased after flying this dog in Warbirds. WW I Novice Pilot Rating = D
WORLD WAR II FIGHTERS
A6M2, A6M3, A6M5a (Type 0 Carrier Fighter) - The famous Zero, Allied code name "Zeke," was a Japanese Navy single seat, single engine, carrier-borne fighter. It is one of the great WW II fighters and deserving of its reputation. Light wing loading, responsive to control inputs, very maneuverable, yet stable and easy to fly. Rolls nicely, turns great and is easy to loop. Easy to recover from controlled stall. No vices. Very good all around pilot visibility beneath greenhouse canopy only somewhat restricted by excessive bracing. Average, but effective, armament of 2-7.7mm MG + 2-20mm cannons. The Zero's cannons were short barreled, low velocity guns without the flat trajectory of most other 20mm cannons, so I set the convergence for 300 yards. The Japanese instruments are complete, but hard to decipher.
Warbirds models the A6M2, A6M3 and A6M5a. The A6M2 was used from July 1940 onward until replaced by the A6M3 in squadron use. The A6M2 was at Pearl Harbor, Coral Sea and Midway. The A6M3 was introduced in mid-1941 and started to be replaced in the summer of 1943. The A6M5 (Type 0, Model 52) dates from mid-1943 and was used until the end of the war. Of the total production of 10,500 Zeroes, around 6,000 were A6M5's.
An excellent plane in a turn and burn fight, particularly at medium to low altitude (15,000 feet on down). The A6M5a became my overall favorite WW II fighter for Warbirds 1v1 air combat (off line), where the action opens with both fighters at the same altitude. The A6M5a has more power, a higher top speed, faster dive, better zoom climb and is a little more durable than earlier Zero versions, but it still can't take a lot of "pings." It can out maneuver anything in Warbirds except an earlier model Zero or a Ki-43 and it has a lot more firepower and more speed than the super-nimble Ki-43.
I recorded more 1v1 missions in A6M's than in any other Warbirds aircraft, flown against all of the other Warbirds WW II fighters chosen at random by the computer. The totals in the A6M3 were 124 victories against 32 losses, a positive 3.88 to 1 kill ratio. Flying the A6M5a I manged 320 victories against 108 defeats, a 2.96 to 1 victory ratio. Comparing the A6M3 and A6M5, the A6M3 is probably a little better against the more maneuverable early war fighters and the A6M5 is probably a bit better versus the later "boom and zoom" fighters.
In Warbirds online, Zero is supreme in a level "turn and burn" dogfight and makes an excellent point defense fighter, but it is vulnerable to the "boom and zoom" fighters if they have an altitude advantage. It is not fast enough to overhaul retreating late war fighters, nor to escape from a disadvantageous tactical situation. Avoid head-on passes at all costs. During sustained, full power tests at 2000 meters (about the altitude many furballs seem to take place), I attained a maximum speed of 455 km/h (282 mph) in the A6M5a.
The Zero is easy to takeoff and land, as befits a carrier-based plane with a wide track landing gear. Do not use flaps on takeoff. Novice Pilot Rating = A
A-36A Apache - USAAF single seat, single engine fighter-bomber and ground attack aircraft. The A-36 is essentially a Mustang I airframe powered by an Allison V-12 motor. It is armed with 6-.50 cal. wing mounted MG's and can carry 2-500 pound bombs under its wings. The A-36 offers good level speed, good stick response, a good roll rate and adequate turning ability. Initial climb at low altitude also seems to be good. The Apache is relatively easy to loop. The instruments are easy to understand. Pilot visibility is good above, but only fair to the front, side and rearward. The canopy is cluttered by too many wide braces, especially in front and directly to the side.
The Apache is not much of a dogfighter at medium and high altitudes. At low altitude (5000'), where it is most comfortable, it seems to be inferior to the Spitfire, Zero, C.202, Ki-43, Ki-61 and Bf 109 in (off line) 1v1 combat, although it is faster than some of these.
The A-36's predictable handling qualities make it less difficult to takeoff and land than many other planes with comparable performance. Its wide track landing gear and good flaps help, but its restricted forward visibility makes maneuvering close to the ground more difficult than it needs to be. Novice Pilot Rating = C-
Bf 109E-4 - German single seat, single engine fighter. The Messerschmitt Bf 109 series was popularly known as the "ME-109" and this is the "Emil" version famous for its role in the Battle of Britain. Good overall performance; fast with a high rate of climb. Rolls well, dives well, adequate in tight turns and loops.The flaps can be used to tighten low speed turns. Pilot visibility is good forward, to sides, downward and upward, but restricted aft. Metric instruments.
The armament of 2-wing mounted 20mm cannons plus 2-cowl mounted 8mm MG's gives the "Emil" about average firepower. The 109 was a very small airplane and carried a meager supply of 20mm ammunition, only 120 rounds per gun, so you must be a good shot to be successful.
Not quite the equal of the Spitfire, Hurricane, Ki-43 or Zero in Warbirds 1v1 combat, at least in my hands, although historically it stood up well against the Spitfire Mk. I, Mk. II and the Hurricane. A very even match with the P-51 in a 1v1 turn and burn engagement. Starting at 15,000 feet, I achieved a 1:1 (even against all comers) victory ratio in the Bf 109E.
Torque steer on takeoff must be corrected by rudder pressure. Get the speed up before attempting to climb out after takeoff or the ME-109 will stall and crash. Good forward visibility helps on final landing approach. Steer gently on the ground to avoid tipping a wing into the dirt, the 109 has low wings and a narrow track landing gear. Novice Pilot Rating = C
Bf 109F-1 and F-4 - German single seat, single engine fighter. The Bf 109F ("Franz") series provides good overall performance. They are fast, maneuverable and offer a very high rate of climb with good high altitude performance. Rolls, loops and turns well. The armament (1-20mm cannon [200 rounds] + 2-8mm MG's) seems marginal and all 109's carry a limited supply of ammunition, but all three guns are mounted in the nose, eliminating convergence problems and increasing effectivness. The F-4's cannon has a faster cyclic rate of fire. Pilot visibility is good forward, very good to the sides, down and upward, but restricted aft. A good suite of Metric instruments. The "F" series was probably the design peak of the ME-109 series and a fine air superiority fighter in Warbirds online.
I especially like the "Franz" because, although it dates to 1942, it is competitive with both the later high energy fighters and the earlier, highly maneuverable fighters. This is my favorite German fighter for 1v1 dog fighting. Starting at 15,000-17000 feet, it is difficult to handle really maneuverable opponents such as the P-40, Ki-43, Wildcat, Hellcat, Hurricane, Spitfire and Zero when flying the "F," but it can dominate the ME 110 and DH 98 and hang in there with the P-47, P-38, P-39, Corsair, Ki-44, J2M, Ki-61, C.202, C.205 and P-51. Using war emergency power (WEP) helps in dogfights.
I flew the "F" a lot in Warbirds 1v1 off line because I like the airplane, although my personal record in either variant (it doesn't seem to make any appreciable difference) of the Bf 109-F is nothing to cheer about. The final score was 31 victories against 62 losses, a negative 1 to 2 loss ratio, mostly flying the F-4. In other words, I got shot down about twice as often as I won. On the other hand, I have a positive kill ratio online.
Multiple position flaps are useful in sustained tight turns as well as for landing. Good forward visibility on final landing approach. Steer gently on the ground to avoid tipping a wing into the dirt, the 109 has a narrow track landing gear. Novice Pilot Rating = C
Bf 109G2 (ETO), G6 and G6/R6 - German single seat, single engine fighters. The "G" (Gustav) series was the most numerous of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 variants. This is the principal model that Luftwaffe pilots flew when they took on the American daylight bomber raids and their accompanying fighter escort. It came with a more powerful motor that had a bigger supercharger than the Bf 109F . The armament was usefully improved by replacing the 8mm Mg's with 13mm MG's, for a total of 1- 20mm cannon + 2-13mm MG's, mounted in the nose for maxiumum effectivness. Like all ME-109's, the Gustav carries a rather limited supply of ammunition. The breeches of the big 13mm MG's caused large fairings to appear on both sides of the engine cowling, giving the "G" its nickname, "the Bulge" and somewhat restricting forward visibility.
The Gustav is fast, offers a high rate of climb and is a good performer at high altitude. It rolls quickly and loops well (including outside loops). Turns adequately, but not spectacularly. In a low speed stall the nose drops abruptly and she wants to snap into a roll. Handle with a light touch on the controls; the "G" seems to be trickier to fly than the "E" and "F" models. Good metric instruments. Pilot visibility is satisfactory forward, very good to sides and upward, but restricted aft. Using war emergency power (WEP) helps in dogfights.
Both the G2 and G6 are very effective at high altitude. The G2 (ETO) version is the lightest and the best dogfighter. It is a pretty good Mustang, Thunderbolt and Focke-Wulf killer in 1v1 dogfights. In sustained, full throtle level flight at 1700 meters, I attained a top speed of 500 km/h (311 mph) at 100% power and 520 km/h (323 mph) using WEP in the G2.
The G6/R6 is a specialized bomber destroyer version of the Gustav, armed with two additional 20mm cannons (one carried externally below each wing). The extra load and drag compromises the airplane's speed and overall performance, but the heavy armament really chews-up bombers. This is my favorite plane for attacking enemy bombers online. Try to avoid combat with enemy fighters when flying this model.
Flying the Bf 109G-6 in 16 consecutive off line 1v1 dog fights starting at 15,000 feet, I managed seven victories while suffering nine losses, approximately a 1 to 1.3 negative kill ratio. As usual, it was generally the more maneuverable fighters that shot down my Bf-109G-6. Although the "Gustav's" extra speed and increased firepower are an improvement, it does not change the ME-109's basic relationship to the other WW II fighters, as they were also improved as time passed.
Considerable torque steer on takeoff, counter with rudder. The gun bulges on the upper sides of the front cowl restrict the pilot's view during takeoff and landing. Four stage flaps. Steer gently on the ground to avoid tipping a wing into the dirt, the 109 has a narrow track landing gear. Novice Pilot Rating = C
Bf 109K-4 - German single seat, single engine, high altitude interceptor fighter. The final development of the ME-109 series with a terrific power to weight ratio, acceleration and climb rate. Overpowered, but an excellent high altitude fighter and probably the ultimate vertical fighter in Warbirds. This is an expert's fighter and a match for the other top prop fighters, such as the Spit XIV, FW 190D, Ki-84 and P-51D, but only in the hands of an expert pilot. Responsive to control inputs; it is easy to red-out or black-out with abrupt control movements or during high speed maneuvers. Trickier to loop and more difficult to fly than the earlier Bf 109's. Armament includes 2-13mm (about .50 cal.) MG's + 1-30mm rapid fire cannon, all in the nose, but the ammunition supply for the cannon is very limited and its effectivness seems only marginally greater against other fighters than the 20mm cannon carried by the "F" and "G" models. The big cannon does shine against the very durable and heavily protected American B-25, B-17 and B-24 bombers, though. Pilot visibility is good forward, very good to the side and downward, but restricted upward and aft. A complete suite of metric instruments and excellent, four-position flaps; the first flap setting can be used to tighten low speed turns.
In my speed testing, this is one of the three fastest fighters in Warbirds (the other two being the F4U and FW 190D). In my sustained high speed tests at 2000 meters, the "K" achieved a top speed of 560 km/h (348 mph) at 100% power and 575 km/h (357 mph) using WEP.
It is easy for the novice pilot to get into trouble in 1v1 combat when flying the "K." There is a lot of dangerous torque steer and the plane is easy to stall despite its excellent power to weight ratio. Using war emergency power is imperative when dogfighting in this airplane. I found that the 109K is best at very high altitudes (25,000' and above). At 15,000 feet or less, any of the more maneuverable late war fighters, including the Hellcat, F4U-4, C.205, Ki-61, Ki-84, P-38L and Spitfire Mk IX are likely to prevail against the 109K in 1v1. My record in the Bf 109K is a dismal 3 wins against 10 losses. I found it very frustrating to routinely be shot down by lower performance fighters. On the other hand, when the tactical situation online calls for a very fast fighter, I find the "K" generally preferable to the Spit XIV, P-51D and FW 190D.
The hot "K" is harder to takeoff land than the more forgiving "E" and "F" models. Steer gently on the ground to avoid tipping a wing into the dirt, as the 109 has a narrow track landing gear. Novice Pilot Rating = C-
Bf 110C-4 and Bf 110G-2 - German twin engine, tandem two seat fighter. The C-4 is the day fighter version of the ME-110 that served in the Battle of Britain. As a long range bomber escort it proved to be less than entirely satisfactory. Its overall fighter vs. fighter performance was found to be inferior to the Hurricane and Spitfire interceptor fighters that it faced over England. This big, twin engine fighter later proved to be effective on the Eastern Front as well as an excellent ground attack plane and, in the Bf 110G configuration (also modelled in Warbirds), a fine night fighter and bomber destroyer.
The 110C is easy for the novice to fly if not pushed to the edge of its performance envelope and it turns smoothly, but not very quickly. Aileron rolls are slow. Loops are possible as long as you keep your momentum up. The Bf-110 is fast at sea level and it can out run most of the single seat fighters of its day on the deck, but at high altitude its level speed, although superior to the Hurricane and Zero, is inferior to the Spitfire and most other fighters.
Armament is good in the C-4 version, comprising 4-8mm MG's and 2-20mm cannons in the nose, so there is no convergence to worry about. The G-2 model carries a very heavy nose mounted armament of 2-30mm cannons and 2-20mm cannons with a good ammo load, making it the supreme heavy bomber destroyer in Warbirds. It is the one fighter that can really chew-up four engine bombers such as the B-17, B-24 and Lancaster, although if they are coming over at high altitude, the 110 has a hard time catching them. There is a rear gunner behind the pilot to help protect the 110's tail with a single or twin 8mm MG. The greenhouse canopy provides good views in all directions except downward to the side, where a good part of the view is obstructed by the engines and wings. Metric instruments.
In Warbirds 1v1 combat the Bf 110C-4 is inferior in maneuverability to virtually all of the single seat/single engine fighters. Getting a victory in the 110 is an achievement, but not impossible. In 21 recorded 1v1 sorties, I tallied 11 victories against a Yak, Corsair, P-39, P-40, Ki-84 and 6 Bf 110's, while being shot down 10 times. The latter losser were to a Spitfire, Bf 109 (2), P-51, F4F (2), A-36, Bf 110, Ki-61 and P-39. Most of those victories came in head-on passes, as did the loss to the A-36. Previously, I had earned a split decision against an La5 and also against a P-38 (we shot each other down) and stayed on another La5's tail for an incredibly long time, getting many rounds into him without managing to shoot him down. He eventually escaped in clouds.
Good flaps, a wide landing gear track and excellent forward visibility (there is no engine in front of the pilot) make takeoffs and landings relatively easy, although the airplane is heavy on the controls. There is a lot of torque steer on takeoff, since both props turn in the same direction. Novice Pilot Rating = B-
C.202 Series VII - Italian single seat, single engine fighter. Macchi's fighter built around the same Daimler-Benz inverted "V" 12 engine visually resembles the Bf 109F. It offers smooth and easy roll, adequate climb and speed. Very quick rudder response; go easy on the rudder in turns. Rather easy to spin out in tight turns and loops, so pay attention to the stall warning horn. Good metric instruments. Pilot visibility good except for heavy bracing, particularly around the front windscreen.
The light armament of only 2-.30 + 2-.50 MG's is a drawback in 1v1 combat, although the C.202's performance is competitive with most other fighters of its time and it is a good match for the Bf-109F, P-51, Ki-61 and La-5. A dangerous, but not overwhelming, opponent no matter what you are flying. In 15 test sorties, I have a 1:1.5 (negative) kill ratio in the C.202. More revealing is that the victories came against two DH98's, two P-38's, a Yak and a Ki-44; two thirds of the wins, in other words, were against twin-engine fighters. The losses were to a Zero, Spitfire, Bf 109, Ki-61 (2), P-40, F4F, P-39 and P-51.
Good flaps and decent forward visibility make the C.202 comparatively easy to takeoff and land. Novice Pilot Rating = C
C.205 Veltro - Italian single seat, single engine fighter. An improved version of the C.202, which it strongly resembles. More horsepower and a heavier armament of 2-20mm cannons and 2-12.7mm MG's makes for easier kills. Good speed, good climb, smooth roll. Rather easy to spin out in tight turns and loops. Very quick rudder response; go easy on the rudder in turns. Good metric instruments. Pilot visibility like C.202, which is generally good except for the areas blocked by the canopy bracing.
Performance is generally comparable to the Ki-61, P-51 and Bf 109G, so it should be competitive with these in 1v1. The very manuverable Zero, Wildcat, Spitfire and Ki-43 are a problem. In limited testing I found the C.202 easier to handle and dogfight in. Flying the C.205 I scored only one victory (against a FW 190) against six defeats (against two ME 109's, a Ki-43, C.205, A-36 and F6F), for a negative 1 to 6 kill ratio. After that, I gave up!
Good flaps and decent forward visibility make the C.205 relatively easy to land. Novice Pilot Rating = C
D.H. 98 Mosquito VI - British twin engine, two seat fighter-bomber. (Also see below under "Bombers.") Wooden construction and side by side crew seating. Command Pilot sits on left side of cockpit. A fine night fighter, light bomber and high altitude photo reconnaissance plane, but an inferior air superiority fighter.
Fast, especially at high altitude, and very well armed with 4-20mm nose mounted cannons that eliminate convergence problems. Stable in turns and rolls and can be looped, but lacks quick control response of single seat fighters. Pilot visibility is poor to right rear, good to left rear, poor to sides and not that great to the front. Nice, clear, easy to read instruments.
The Mosquito was designed for hit and run tactics, at which it excels. Don't get into a turning fight. In fact, it is best not to get into a 1v1 fight at all. If you do, you are in trouble the second the initial head-on pass is over, so make it good and then keep going. The Mosquito makes a big target for the smaller, more nimble, single seat fighters and it is not particularly durable. I did a series of ten 1v1 sorties starting at 15,000 feet flying the Mosquito IV. The results were four victories (against a Spitfire, P-39, Bf 109 and F6F) and five defeats (against a Bf 110, Corsair, Zero, Ki-61 and La7. One fight against another La7 turned into a tie when we shot each other down. All of the victories came in head-on passes. Online, the Mosquito is hard to catch, but relatively easy to kill, as long as you avoid head-on passes.
Both props rotate in the same direction on the Mosquito, making for lots of torque steer on takeoff. Novice Pilot Rating = C
F4F-3, F4F-4, FM2 Wildcat - Single seat, single engine US Navy carrier-borne fighter. Very maneuverable, but rather slow. The various models are all similar in terms of flight characteristics and handling. They are easy to fly, responsive and predictable in steep turns, loops and rolls. Controllable stall. Handles well at low speeds. Pilot visibility is good to front, upward and sides, below average view aft and downward. There are, however, too many metal braces in the pilot's sight lines.
The F4F-3 was the Wildcat version in squadron use when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. It was armed with 4-.50 MG's, had fixed wings and was lighter and therefore had better performance than the next version, the F4F-4. The F4F-4 had folding wings for improved storage on aircraft carriers and was armed with 6-.50 MG's (but fewer rounds per gun) at the insistence of the Royal Navy, who called the Wildcat the "Martlet" and used it on their carriers. It also came standard with pilot armor and self-sealing fuel tanks. (These features were retro-fitted to most of the surviving F4F-3's in the field.)
The FM2 was the last version of the Wildcat and it was built under license by General Motors during WW II. It featured a more powerful engine, which improved top speed, acceleration, climb and made it the best of the breed for dogfighting. It reverted to the original 4-.50 MG armament, but this proved sufficient against most Japanese fighters and saved the weight of the extra two guns. It also allowed more rounds per gun to be carried. After the Wildcat was replaced by the F6F Hellcat on Grumman's assembly line and in use on USN fleet carriers, the FM2 found a home on the smaller escort carriers where it delivered excellent service and remained in production for most of the war.
While inferior in most respects (at least on paper) to the best WW II fighters, do not underestimate the Wildcat's capabilities in 1v1 dog fighting. The Wildcat is a very dangerous adversary, as it can turn inside of most of its opponents. It is also very durable and can take a lot of "pings." I found it to be slightly inferior to the A6M3 Zero and Ki-43 in maneuverability, about an even contest against the Hurricane and able to out maneuver pretty much everything else below 15,000 feet, making it one of the best choices for the novice 1v1 pilot. Flying the FM2 in 1v1 dogfights against other WW II fighters, I managed 30 victories against 6 defeats, a fine 5:1 victory ratio.
The Wildcat is relatively easy to takeoff and land despite its narrow track landing gear, as befits a carrier fighter. Novice Pilot Rating = A-
F4U-1, F4U-4 Corsair - Single seat, single engine US Navy carrier-borne fighter. Powerful, fast, good roll rate, but difficult for the novice pilot to fly. The late-war F4U-4 is superior in performance across the board compared to the earlier F4U-1. Pronounced torque effect from its powerful engine. Good, easy to read and understand instruments. Fortunately, its stall is controllable. The F4U-4 has a modified "semi-bubble" canopy that offers very good all around pilot visibility except for about a 90-degree arc to the rear; early Corsair models had "birdcage" canopies with more restricted visibility. Good armament of 6-.50 cal. MG's and a very generous supply of ammo.
The Corsair is a "boom and zoom" fighter with adequate maneuverablity when flown by a skilled pilot. The flaps can be used to tighten low speed turns. A good bomber interceptor, particularly against the fast, but not particularly well defended, twin-engined Axis bombers and the Mosquito.
In my top speed testing at 6000 feet, the F4U-4 achieved 348 mph at 100% power and a maximum of 360 mph using WEP. This makes it, along with the Bf 109K, P51D and FW 190D, one of the fastest fighters in Warbirds.
The Corsair was rated as the best all-around American fighter by the Japanese pilots who faced it. However, I consider it a better plane for experts than for beginners. Once I gained sufficient experience in the type, I managed a very positive victory ratio in the Warbirds online Main arena flying the F4U-4. When flying an F4U-4 I find the most difficult 1v1 adversaries to be the Ki-61 and Ki-84; the latter is an especially close match and the better pilot will usually prevail.
At the time of its introduction, the Corsair was seriously considered for mass use in the ETO at the time when the Luftwaffe retained air superiority over the Continent and Luftwaffe pilots were giving American P-38 and P-47 pilots a hard time, but was allegedly rejected due to its lack of visibility astern. I think that a "land based only" version of the Corsair with fixed wings, the tail hook removed and the rear deck cut-down to improve visibility to the rear would have been very effective in the ETO. It also proved to be a much better fighter/bomber than the P-51.
The Corsair is not too difficult to land on airfields due to good flaps and wide track landing gear; fly it all the way to touch-down at about 100 mph. It is more of a handful for carrier landings. Novice Pilot Rating = D
F6F-5 Hellcat - Single seat, single engine US Navy carrier-borne fighter. The successor to the Wildcat. Maneuverable, rolls easily, reasonable climb rate, very good rudder response, decent speed; does everything pretty well, including outside loops. Relatively controllable stall characteristics. The American standard of 6-.50 caliber machine guns gives the Hellcat good firepower. Good, understandable instruments. Easier to fly than the Corsair, particularly from aircraft carriers, and historically the Hellcat was extremely effective in the Pacific War against Japanese fighters.
Very limited pilot visibility aft, but good to the front, sides and upward. It is too bad that a cut down rear deck and bubble canopy was not adapted to the Hellcat to improve the pilot's rearward view, because there is a huge blind spot back there. Using LCOS really helps when flying the Hellcat in off line 1v1, but it is not available online. For that reason, I avoid the Hellcat in online combat despite its other virtues. (In the Warbirds and Aces High online arenas, situational awareness is absolutely essential to survival.) Nevertheless, it is popular with "Navy" pilots.
The Hellcat is a good 1v1 fighter. It has 2000 horsepower to play with (and maintain control of!) and it can out-turn most opponents. Very effective against the P-38, P-47, F4U, J2M and FW 190A at medium and low altitudes; a little less dominant against the Spitfire, C.202, A6M5, ME 109 and Wildcat. Starting at 15,000 feet, I flew a long series of 1v1 off line sorties against a wide variety of WW II fighters in the F6F-5 and scored 72 victories against 39 losses, a positive 1.8:1 kill ratio. The F6F is one of the best American fighters for the novice combat pilot.
The Hellcat is a tail dragger, but otherwise relatively easy to get off of and back onto the ground. (Carrier fighters are typically easy to take-off and land. Effective flaps help landings. Novice Pilot Rating = B
FW 190A-4 and FW 190A-8 - German single seat, single engine fighters. Historically, when handled well, the FW 190A was competitive with the Spitfire, P-38, P-47 and P-51 models that were its primary foes. Essentially, the Fw 190A-4 was a medium altitude "boom and zoom" energy fighter and as such it is more demanding to fly than the "turn and burn" fighters with their lighter wing loading. The FW-190A series were durable and offered excellent pilot protection, particularly the heavily armored A-8 (intended for use primarily as a bomber destroyer), so they can usually survive some "pings."
The A-4 has good performance at medium altitude, but performance falls off at high altitude, so I like to fly it below 15,000'. Rapid roll, good acceleration in a dive, but cannot turn with the likes of the Bf-109, C.202, Zero, Ki-43, Ki-61, Ki-84, F4F, F6F, Yak-3, Hurricane and Spitfire. A pretty fair match with the Raiden, P-47, Ki-44 and Corsair in expert hands and particularly with an altitude advantage. The A-8 is heavier than the A-4 and not as good for dog fighting; reserve it for the bomber intercepter role.
All FW 190's have good all around visibility, except for an annoying, wide strip of canopy bracing that runs longitudinally over the pilot's head and blocks his view forward/upward, the single most important direction you want to see when dog fighting! Standard German metric instruments.
My limited 1v1 experience in the FW 190A-8 resulted in 13 victories (mostly scored in head-on passes) against 7 losses, a positive 1.86 to 1 kill ratio. In a turn and burn dogfight, however, the FW-190 is at a disadvantage against most of the other Warbirds fighters. Use its phenomenal roll rate (the best of all WW II fighters) to foil your opponents aim.
All FW-190A models have excellent firepower. The FW 190A-8 has a particularly heavy and effective armament of 2-12.7mm MG's and 4-20mm cannon, while the A-4 carries 2-8mm MG's and 4-20mm cannon. You don't want to go head-on against a FW 190! Its heavy armament and good pilot protection makes the FW 190 favored by Warbirds pilots who are very good shots. They like to dive on you from superior altitude, deliver a single, fatal burst and zoom away.
The radial engine severely restricts forward visibility on takeoff and landing. I have managed to crack-up more FW-190's than any other fighter during landing attempts, particularly the heavy A-8 model. Novice Pilot Rating = D
FW 190D-9 - German single seat, single engine fighter. This is a very fast late war fighter and, like most of its kind, it was intended to fight in the vertical ("boom and zoom"). It was a match for the other late war fighters, such as the P-38L, F4U-4, P-47D and P-51D, provided its pilot was capable of taking full advantage of its performance.
Introduced near the end of the war, the "long nose" 190D traded the A's radial engine for a more powerful liquid-cooled Jumo 213A-1 V-12 motor. The FW 190A-8 fuselage was lengthened at both ends to accommodate the new power plant. The result was a substantial jump in speed and climb performance, particularly at high altitude, at the cost of some handling and maneuverability.
The FW 190D retains the light ailerons of its predecessors and boasts a very rapid roll rate and good acceleration. It turns easily, but not particularly tight. Standard German metric instruments. The Dora has an effective armament of 2-13mm MG's and 2-20mm cannon. Pilot visibility through a clear view canopy is very good in all directions in level flight, except for a wide strip of canopy bracing that runs longitudinally over the pilot's head and blocks his view forward/upward. The Dora's speed makes it one of the "super fighters" in online Warbirds scenarios, especially at high altitude. Its superb hit and run performance makes it very hard to nail. In my testing at 2000 meters in level flight, the FW 190D achieved a sustained top speed of 550 km/h (342 mph) at 100% power and 585 km/h (363 mph) using WEP.
In Warbirds offline 1v1, however, the Dora's speed and high altitude performance are negated by its lethargic turning ability and powerful torque steer. In a dogfight starting at 15,000', it is approximately an equal match for the Ki-44 and P-47, but the more nimble planes can gain the advantage over the long nose Focke-Wulf.
The long nose restricts visibility forward on takeoff and landing. Like most other very high performance fighters, the Dora's landing speed is rather high, although the good flaps help to some extent. Roll out after touchdown is extended and that needs to be taken into consideration by the pilot. Novice Pilot Rating = D
Hurricane I, Hurricane IIc - British single seat, single engine fighters. The Mark I had fabric covered wings, while the Mark IIc had metal wings, a more powerful version of the Merlin engine with a carb that allowed inverted flight and an improved armament. The Hurricane is an easy airplane to fly with good control in all dimensions. It rolls smoothly, turns and loops well. The low speed stall is predictable and it is relatively easy to recover. Climb rate is about average. The armament of the Mark I is inferior to most adversaries (8-.303 MG's), while the Mark IIc is well armed with 4-20mm cannons. Pilot visibility good upward, good to the front and sides, average to the rear. Nice, clear, easy to read instruments.
The Hurricane IIc is one of the novice pilot's best choices to get started in 1v1 (off line). Not particularly fast, but an effective fighter against its contemporaries and always a dangerous opponent. From the the novice pilot's point of view, the Spitfire, Wildcat and Zero are the most dangerous adversaries. In a series of 66 1v1 dog fights flying a Hurricane IIc and starting at 12,000-15,000 feet, I scored 41 victories against 25 losses, approximately a 1.6 to 1 positive victory ratio. You don't encounter the Hurricane very often online, as it is too slow to catch up with--or to escape from--the later fighters.
Easy to land and take-off; the Hurricane's wide track gear gives it an advantage over the Spitfire and ME-109 in this critical area. There are only two flap positions, "up" and "down." Novice Pilot Rating = B+
JM-2, JM-3 Raiden - Single seat, single engine fighter. The Raiden (Thunderbolt) was a land based Japanese Navy fighter designed for speed and durability and it featured heavy pilot armor, unlike most Japanese fighters. The JM-3 is an "improved" version of the JM-2 with heavier armament (4-20mm cannon compared to 2-20mm cannon and 2-MG's--the JM-3 was seen as a B-29 killer) and better reliability, but somewhat lower overall performance due to increased weight and wing loading. Stalls suddenly out of tight turns and loops if you pull a little too hard on the stick and drops easily into a flat spin; probably more inclined to uncontrolled spins that any other Warbirds fighter. These are tricky planes for the novice pilot to fly.
In my limited 1v1 experience, the Ki-61 and Ki-84 are superior to the JM-2 in almost every performance parameter. However, its heavy armament makes the Raiden very dangerous in head-on passes. The Raiden is not popular in the online arenas, although it was well respected by American fighter pilots and feared by B-29 crews during the war.
Raiden's have obstructed vision in many directions due to heavy and excessive canopy braces and particularly poor visibility to the rear. Forward visibility on takeoff and landing is limited by the engine cowling and rearward cockpit position. Lots of torque steer on takeoff and when accelerating. Novice Pilot Rating = D-
Ki-43-II Hayabusa - Japanese single seat, single engine fighter. A Japanese Army early war fighter that (due to the lack of replacements in adequate numbers) served throughout the conflict. The Ki-43 (Allied code name "Oscar") was sort of the Japanese Army's counterpart to the Zero. Easy to fly, very maneuverable, stable and easy to control in all dimensions, easy to loop, but not very fast. Very forgiving to fly at the edges of the envelope and without vices. Outstanding all around pilot visibility, including directly to the rear, except for a longitudinal strip of cockpit canopy bracing that runs directly over the pilot's head. Japanese instrumentation is complete, but hard to decipher.
A superb fighter in a 1v1 turn and burn fight. It outperforms the F4F from 20,000 feet to sea level. Start at 10,000' and it can sit on the other top dogfighters, such as the Zero, Ki-61 and Spitfire, practically forever. Unfortunately it needs to, because the Ki-43's big drawback is its light armament, which consists of only 2-.50 cowl mounted MG's, and it lacks the speed to disengage. This makes it hard to shoot anything down, unless you are a heck of a good shot or just plain lucky. If the Ki-43 had been armed with a 20mm cannon in each wing in addition to its pair of cowl mounted MG's, as the Zero was, it would be the deadliest dogfighter in Warbirds. Comparatively easy to takeoff and land. Novice Pilot Rating = A
Ki-44-II - Japanese Army single engine, single seat fighter with the Allied code name " Tojo." Unlike the Ki-43 and Zero, this is a more powerful, faster, higher altitude fighter. It rolls quickly, accelerates well in a dive and climbs well. It is maneuverable, but can't turn with the Ki-43, Ki-61 and Zero. It also stalls harder and has more tendency to roll when stalled. The Ki-44's moderate armament is 4-.50 cal. MG's, a disadvantage when facing more powerfully armed fighters of similar performance. During WW II, Ki-44 was replaced in production by the superior Ki-84.
The Ki-44 stacks-up pretty well against the FW-190, Raiden and P-47 in Warbirds 1v1 combat, except in firepower. For the novice 1v1 dogfighter, however, there are better choices. The Ki-44 has very good all around visibility except to the front at high angles of attack, where the big radial engine obscures the pilot's view. This becomes apparent during takeoff and especially when landing. It also lands at higher speeds than the Ki-43. For all of that, it is only of about average difficulty to land. Novice Pilot Rating = C
Ki-61-Ic Hien - The Hien (flying swallow), Allied code name "Tony," was a single seat, single engine Japanese Army fighter powered by a Japanese built version of the German Daimler-Benz inverted V-12 engine that powered the Bf 109E. The Japanese designed airframe built around this liquid cooled engine, intended as an improvement over the Bf 109E, visually resembles Messerschmitt's own improved Bf 109F. The Bf 109F, C.202 and Ki-61-Ic are all good fighters built around the same basic type of engine in different countries and make an interesting comparison.
Unlike the Ki-43 and Zero, the Ki-61 has about average pilot protection and self-sealing gas tanks, so it can take a few pings. I rate it about like the C-202/C205, Spitfire and P-51 in terms of pilot survivability.
The Hien is easy to fly and has no vices. It rolls well, accelerates quickly in a dive and climbs well. It is maneuverable, turns tight and is very easy to loop. It is a hard airplane to stall, even with the engine idling, as it will hang by its propeller for a long time. Although it has good acceleration, the Ki-61 is not particularly fast in terms of top speed in level flight. You can outmaneuver P-51's, FW 190's and Corsairs, only to find that they simply run away unless you have an angle on them. Very good all around visibility, better than the Bf 109F, especially forward, down and aft. The Ki-61-Ic is well armed with 2-.50 cal. MG's and 2-20mm cannons.
It is effective against most of the other Warbirds fighters in 1v1 combat and I have found it to be among the most dangerous opponents online. Compared to the benchmark Bf 109F, I found the Hien to be slightly more maneuverable below 25,000 feet, but the 109F had the superior zoom climb. The A6M Zero, Ki-43 and Wildcat can out turn the Ki-61 and are its most dangerous opponents; the Hurricane and the early Spitfires can almost match its maneuverability. You can run away from the Ki-43, Wildcat, Hurricane and early Zeroes if need be, but the A6M5 is almost as fast as the Ki-61 in level flight and therefore perhaps the most dangerous opponent for a Ki-61 pilot, especially at low altitude where you cannot dive to get away. The Hien is equal or superior in overall 1v1 performance to pretty much every other fighter in Warbirds and this makes it a popular ride. In a limited number of sorties flying the Ki-61 off line, I managed a slightly positive 1 to 1.33 victory ratio. Online, the Ki-61 is one of my favorite air superiority fighters and I fly it a lot.
The Ki-61's improved forward visibility, along with its wide track landing gear, makes it considerably easier to takeoff and land than the Bf 109F. With the landing gear and flaps down, its low stall speed lets it float in for a landing in a very reassuring manner. Novice Pilot Rating = B+
Ki-84-Ia Hayate - Single seat, single engine fighter. The Hayate, Allied code name "Frank," was a late war (1944-1945) Japanese Army fighter intended to compete with the latest generation of Allied fighters, particularly the Corsair, P-38, P-47 and P-51. It was effective both as an energy fighter and in a dogfight, a tribute to its excellent balance of qualities. Powered by a 1900 hp radial engine, it was almost as fast in level flight as the best Allied fighters. Armament consists of two cowl mounted .50 caliber machine guns and two wing mounted 20mm cannons. Online Warbirds scenario pilots have recognized the Hayate's excellence and it is regarded as one of the game's few "super fighters."
The Hayate's aileron response is a bit slow, but it can hold a turn well and at low speed the first flap setting can be used to tighten the turning radius. It is excellent in a sustained climb. Precise rolls are easy, if a bit slow, and loops are very easy using WEP. In level flight, the Ki-84-1a is a stable gun platform. Pilot visibility is very good in all directions except directly to the rear.
Pushed to the limit, the Ki-84 can be tricky. In power stalls, it tends to roll and dive rather suddenly, often winding up in a dangerous flat spin from which it is difficult to recover. Don't dive at full power (with the speedo pinned) or the wings are liable to come off. However, in the online Warbirds Main arena, the Ki-84 is one of the best choices for 1v1 air combat against any adversary and (along with the Ki-61) my top choice as an air superiority fighter. It doesn't feel overpowered like the Bf 109K, FW-190D or Spitfire XIV. In experienced hands, it is a good Corsair, Mustang, Thunderbolt, Messerschmitt, Lightning and Focke-Wulf killer.
In a series of 47 off line 1v1 air combats in the Ki-84 against other Warbirds fighters, I amassed a record of 24 victories against 23 losses. That amounts to slightly better than a 1:1 (even) kill ratio.
The big radial engine blocks forward vision on takeoff, but the KI-84 offers better visibility than most when landing. The Hayate is stable and easy to control at low speed. Landing speed is slightly slower that most of the other good energy fighters, but higher than a KI-61, Hurricane, Spit or Zero. Novice Pilot Rating = B
La5-F - Russian single seat, single engine fighter. Well thought of by the Soviet Air Force. Pretty good speed in level flight, but moderate climb rate and feels lethargic in the hands. Over-control and it likes to stall, falling off on one wing, but at least it is easy to recover (as long as you have adequate altitude). Good all around visibility except directly aft, but too many heavy braces over the canopy block out parts of the view. Standard armament of 2-20mm cannon. Good, easy to understand instruments. A scoop on top of the large radial engine cowling blocks the lower part of the reflector gun sight, so you are aiming just over the cowling with a very poor view of the target. This is the worst gunsight in Warbirds.
In my limited experience, the La5 is inferior to the Zero, Ki-43 and Spitfire in 1v1 combat and about even with the P-38 and A-36. In 10 consecutive missions in the La5, starting at 10,000', I scored victories over a J2M and two Bf 110's. The other seven sorties included losses to a Hurricane, Bf 109, Ki-44, Spitfire and twice to P-40's. There was one "no decision" with a P-38.
Note, however, that online or when the computer flies the La5, this can be a dangerous opponent, particularly in tight turns. The La5 is one of two fighters (the other being the P-39) with which the computer seems exceptionally successful. I have found that with most planes the computer and I get similar results. For example, flying a Spitfire Vb I can usually prevail against a P-38 flown by the computer and when flying a P-38 a Spitfire flown by the computer will usually shoot me down. This is as it should be and indicates that the Spitfire is a better 1v1 "turn and burn" fighter than the P-38. However, when flying an La5 in 1v1 my success rate is low against most of the other Warbirds fighters, but if I am flying one of those fighters and the computer is flying an La5 against me, the computer's victory percentage is much higher than mine. It is not a popular ride in Warbirds online, but the guys who fly the La5 are usually very good shots and highly skilled in the type, thus dangerous opponents. This seems anomalous to me and I cannot explain such results.
The La5 is no fun to taxi or takeoff and harder to land. Very limited forward visibility on takeoff and landing due to a tall engine cowling, so you can't see the runway on final approach. Novice Pilot Rating = D-
La7 - Russian single seat, single engine fighter. Well thought of by the Soviet Air Force. The La7 is an improved, and apparently more powerful, version of the La5. Good speed and climb, sensitive ailerons and a fast roll rate, but sluggish elevator response. Can easily hold a steep turn in either direction for a full 360 degrees and beyond, actually practically forever. Its full power turn rate is just about identical to the F4U-4 Corsair. Loops smoothly. Falls off on one wing in a low speed stall, but not hard to recover as long as you have sufficient altitude. Good all around visibility except directly aft, but too many heavy braces over the canopy block out parts of the view. Originally armed with 2-20mm cannons, later versions carried 3-20mm cannons, so avoid head-on passes at all costs. Good, reasonably easy to understand instruments. A scoop on top of the large radial engine cowling blocks the lower part of the reflector gun sight, so you are aiming just over the cowling with a poor view of the target. This is (along with the La5) the worst gunsight in Warbirds.
Ten consecutive off line 1v1 sorties starting at 10,000' in the La7 produced the following result: four victories (P-38, P-39, and two against Bf 109's) and six defeats (Ki-61, La5, F4F, Bf 109, Spitfire, Corsair). Historically, the La7 was intended to be a FW-190 killer, that aircraft being the bane of Soviet forces on the Eastern Front. As with the La5, the relatively few number of guys who choose to fly the La7 online are usually very skilled and should be approached with caution.
The La7 is normally not particularly difficult to fly, but it is difficult to takeoff and land and it is a handful when pressed to the edge. There is a lot of torque steer on takeoff and very limited forward visibility on takeoff and landing due to a very tall engine cowling, so you can't see the runway on final approach. Novice Pilot Rating = D-
ME-262 - The ultimate energy fighter and a pleasant surprise. This German single seat, twin engine jet has outstanding armament (4-30mm nose-mounted cannon), but closing speed is so high that the time available to line up on target and shoot is very brief. Easier to fly than I had anticipated. The ME-262 rolls well and turns adequately, but be careful not to over control with the rudder in turns. Loops smoothly. Pilot has excellent all around visibility, particularly forward for take-off and landing. Metric instruments. The engines are fragile, so keep the needles out of the red. 75% is usually plenty of power. (By the way, the plane flies well on one engine.) If the Germans could have gotten enough of these fighters into squadron service by late 1943 they could have really raised Cain with the American daylight bombing raids and probably regained control of the skies over Western Europe.
As good as it was, the 262 was not intended to be a classic 1v1 dog fighter. It is strictly a high altitude energy fighter. Fortunately, the ME-262 is not allowed in the main Warbirds online arena. The ME-262 can win in 1v1 by refusing to turn and using its superior firepower and speed, at least if you are a good shot. Simply start with a head-on pass and keep going straight when you pass the enemy. Extend the range to at least 35 units, do a tight 180 degree turn followed by another head-on pass. (Hint: hit the "Z" key to magnify your view of the gunsight during the head-on passes, cancel with the "V" key when you pass your opponent.) Repeat as many times as necessary. A boring tactic, but effective.
A tricycle landing gear, good flaps and excellent forward vision make the 262 surprisingly easy to land. No torque effect on takeoff, of course. Novice Pilot Rating = C-
P-38 Lightning - This is the USAAF's fast, single seat, twin engine fighter. The effective armament includes 1-20mm cannon and 4-.50 cal. MG's, all in the nose, eliminating convergence problems. (Avoid head-on passes when fighting against a Lightning.) In a post-war survey, Japanese fighter pilots rated the P-38 the best high altitude fighter plane that they faced. In online Warbirds scenarios, the P-38L became one of the first "super fighters," a tribute to its concentrated firepower, lack of torque effect, high speed, turning ability, durability and high altitude performance.
The P-38 is at its best as a high altitude energy fighter, although it is capable of smooth 360 degree turns and rolls in either direction. Easy does it in tight turns, it is easy to over control and stall if the stick is pulled back too aggressively. The first notch of flaps can be used to tighten low speed turns. Low speed, level stall characteristics are mild. The Lightning can be looped smoothly, but it has to work to drag itself into a sudden loop from level flight. The counter rotating props eliminate torque steer, but they don't keep the P-38 from stalling out of tight maneuvers. Using war emergency power is imperative when dogfighting in this airplane, as is keeping the speed and energy up.
The pilot has an excellent view to the front, unobstructed by an engine in front of the canopy. The view to the rear is also very good, but the pilot's view to the sides below his horizon is almost entirely blocked by the wide wings, engines and twin tail booms, a major disadvantage in a furball, where situational awareness is critical. The canopy of the early F model has too many braces that impede the pilot's view, but the L model rectified the problem. P-38's prior to the J-25-LO variant lacked dive brakes and could be impossible to pull out of power dives from high altitude due to shock stall (also called "compressibility") problems.
The P-38 is relatively easy to fly, but it is not a good 1v1 plane for the novice pilot, especially against the best "turn and burn" single engine fighters, including the Wildcat, Spitfire, Hurricane, Yak-3, Zero, Hellcat, Ki-61, Ki-84 and Ki-43. It is also a big target. (Its durability, however, makes it hard to bring down.) On the other hand, it can often turn inside of the Bf 109 and FW 190 and is about an even match for the P-51 and F4U, depending on the specific situation. Of course, the Lightning can easily dominate all of the other twin engine WW II fighters in 1v1.
The USAAF recommended P-38 tactic against more maneuverable fighters is to execute an initial high speed pass and engage only as long as you can pull the proper lead for your guns. Then, disengage by diving away. Extend the range and regain altitude in a gentle, high speed climb. Once you are above your opponent, you can re-engage at will and repeat the process until you shoot him down.
Starting at 17,000-25,000 feet, I flew off line 1v1 sorties in P-38J and L models with the following results: 42 victories (many of those against Bf 110's and DH98's) against 21 losses (all but one against single engine fighters) for a positive 2 to 1 victory ratio. In my speed trials at 6000 feet, the P-38L achieved a top speed of 325 mph at 100% power and 340 mph using WEP. Online, the P-38L is one of my favorite interceptors, giving a reasonable chance of success against both bombers and fighters.
The unimpeded forward view, probably the best of any Warbirds fighter, is a big asset for takeoffs and landings, as is the lack of torque steer, the (rare) tricycle landing gear and excellent flaps. Use a little power on the final approach and until just before touch-down to avoid stalling. Novice Pilot Rating = C+
P-39D, P-39Q, P-400 Airacobra - American single seat, single engine fighters. Bell's odd, streamlined fighter with the engine mounted in the fuselage behind the pilot, a "car door" for pilot entry and exit, tricycle landing gear and a 37mm nose cannon plus 4-.50 cal MG's. The P-400 was the export version of the P-39, but was also used by the USAAF.
This is a low altitude fighter with a sustained climb rate inferior to many fighters and average overall handling. Historically, the P-39 was inferior to most contemporary enemy fighters including the C.202, Zero, Ki-43, Ki-44, Ki-61, FW-190 and Bf-109. American and British pilots found it inferior to the Wildcat, P-38, P-40, Spitfire, Hurricane, P-47, Hellcat, Corsair and P-51. Most of the P-39's produced during WW II were given to the Russians, who used the type effectively on the Eastern Front.
All of that notwithstanding, the P-39 is a surprisingly dangerous opponent when flown by the computer in 1v1 combat. Do not take it lightly and avoid head-on passes at all costs when dueling with a P-39. It is capable of quick changes in direction that can make it hard to nail. Given a moment's inattention or a mistake, the P-39 can very quickly wind up on your tail.
The P-39 is one of two fighters (the other being the La5) with which the computer seems exceptionally successful. I have found that with most planes the computer and I get similar results. For example, flying a Spitfire Vb I can usually prevail against a P-38 flown by the computer and when flying a P-38 a Spitfire flown by the computer will usually shoot me down. This is as it should be and indicates that the Spitfire is a better 1v1 "turn and burn" fighter than the P-38. However, when flying a P-39 in 1v1 my success rate is low against most of the other Warbirds fighters, but if I am flying one of those (theoretically superior) fighters and the computer is flying a P-39 against me, the computer's victory percentage is much higher than mine.
If you (rather than the computer) are piloting an Airacobra in 1v1, you will find that it cannot climb or maneuver with the best turn and burn fighters or zoom and boom with the better energy fighters, so it is hard to score victories against a skilled opponent. The P-39Q is faster than the contemporary F4F, but otherwise inferior. Novice Pilot Rating = C
P-40 E Warhawk- American single seat, single engine fighter. Contemporary to the Spitfire I and II, Zero, Hurricane, P-39, Ki-43, F4F and ME 109-E, this is probably the easiest of the American WW II fighters for the novice pilot to fly. Easy to control, predictable, stable, adequate speed, good armament, fairly easy to loop, medicore climb rate, but no vices. Performance falls off above 13,000 feet. Pilot visibility is better than average. Good instruments and a standard "dot and ring" reflector gun sight that I prefer. Despite their extensive experience against the later Hellcat, Corsair, P-38, P-47 and P-51, Japanese fighter pilots rated the P-40 the best American fighter at low altitude. In my speed trials conducted at 6000 feet, the P-40E achieved a top speed of 295 mph at 100% power and 300 mph using WEP.
Personally, I enjoy flying the P-40. It doesn't seem to have the power to weight ratio (acceleration and climb rate) to be successful against the best single engine fighters above 13,000 feet, nor can it turn with the likes of the Wildcat, Zero, Ki-61, Ki-43 and Spitfire. The P-40 seems to be generally inferior to the Ki-61, C.202, C.205, Bf 109F, F6F and Yak-3, but can handle most other opposition.
Flying 100 P-40E 1v1 missions starting at 10,000-15,000 feet, I had 52 victories (many of which were against P-38, Bf 110 and DH98 twin engine fighters) against 48 losses (most against single seat fighters). It can be a dangerous adversary and should not be under estimated.
Relatively easy to takeoff and land despite a narrow track landing gear, but beware of over braking after touch-down on landing, as you can easily stand the P-40 on its nose. Novice Pilot Rating = B+
P-47C, P-47D Thunderbolt - The USAAF's P-47 is a single seat energy fighter. Powered by a single, massive Pratt & Whitney 2000 HP twin-row radial engine, it is speedy at high altitude and has a higher service ceiling than most other WW II fighters. In my trials, the P-47D achieved a top speed of 348 mph at 6000 feet at full power; WEP increased the top speed to 355 mph, making the P-47 one of the fastest fighters in the game.
This is not a "turn and burn" dogfighter, its forte' is "boom and zoom." The later P-47D is most easily distinguished from the "C" and earlier models by its all-around vision bubble canopy. Although the "C" model had decent pilot visibility in most directions except to the extreme rear, the "D" model bubble canopy provides excellent visibility in all directions, including to the rear. Excellent firepower is provided by 8-.50 cal. wing mounted MG's. Typically good American instruments.
The The P-47 is fast in level flight and has excellent aileron response and a high roll rate. It accelerates very rapidly in a dive and can zoom climb to regain lost altitude, although its sustained climb rate is not as high as some of its contemporaries. The P-47 tends to roll when stalled at low speed, so be prepared. Apply power to dive and then pull out to get the plane flying again.
Like practically all of the high speed, high energy fighters, the P47 is a better choice for the expert pilot than for the novice. In 1v1 dog fights its primary advantages of high speed and a high service ceiling don't count for much. The Thunderbolt can out maneuver the twin engine fighters, including the P-38, but most of the other single seat fighters have a maneuvering advantage over the P-47 if they survive that initial head-on pass against the Thunderbolt's heavy armament. In 25 1v1 dogfights flying the P-47D against a variety of Warbirds fighters, I managed 12 victories against 13 losses. Many of the victories came in head-on passes, where the P-47's heavy armament shredded a more maneuverable opponent.
Unfortunately, the one direction that the Thunderbolt pilot cannot see on takeoff and landing is directly ahead. The view forward is blocked by the cowl of the huge radial motor and its extended cooling flaps at low speeds and high angles of attack when the wing flaps and landing gear are lowered. This makes the P-47, although reasonably stable, one of the more difficult WW II fighters to land. The plane's heavy weight and high wing loading mean a relatively fast landing speed, so it is easy to overshoot the intended landing area and once on the ground stopping distances are long. Novice Pilot Rating = D
P-51B Mustang - USAAF single seat, single engine fighter. The P-51B has the Packard built Merlin engine that gave the type its high performance and turned it into a long range, high altitude escort fighter. Its armament of 4-.50 cal. wing mounted MG's, however, is only fair. The "B" model lacks the bubble canopy of the "D" and subsequent models. Consequently, pilot visibility in the "B" is good above, but only fair to the front, side and rearward. The canopy is cluttered by too many wide braces.
Performance in flight is similar in all Mustang models, which is to say very good, especially at medium to high altitude. Avoid low altitude dog fights.
The P-51B offers predictable maneuverability in all dimensions, high speed and a fast climb. It rolls quickly and easily and turns well, as long as sufficient energy remains. The powerful P-51B is relatively easy to loop. Stalls quickly and violently out of maximum rate turns if you exceed the flight envelope. The instruments are easy to understand.
Despite its high performance, the P-51B can be out maneuvered in 1v1 air combat by the Spitfire, Zero, Ki-43, C.202, Ki61, Wildcat, Hellcat and Hurricane. It is about equal to the ME 109. It can usually out turn and out climb the pure "boom and zoom" fighters. One nice thing about the P-51B is that it is faster than most other WW II fighters and you can sometimes use that speed to escape from an unfavorable tactical situation.
I don't consider the P-51B a great choice for the novice pilot for 1v1 combat, although I did better in the "B" than in the later "D," which I find hard to understand. In 19 dogfights, starting at 15,000-17,000 feet, I managed 13 victories against 6 defeats. That is slightly better than a 2 to 1 kill ratio.
The P-51B's basically good handling characteristics make it one of the easiest of the high performance fighters to takeoff and land. Its wide track landing gear and good flaps are a big help here, but the "B" model's restricted front visibility make maneuvering on the ground more difficult than it needs to be. Novice Pilot Rating = C+
P-51D Mustang - USAAF single seat, single engine fighter. The P-51D is the model that brought the Mustang to fruition. Many experts consider the P-51D to be the best all around fighter of the war. To the "B" model's assets, the "D" model adds a bubble canopy that gives the pilot excellent vision in all directions, including rearward. This is a big plus in air combat and even when landing. The "B's" substandard fire power was corrected by the addition of two more .50 caliber guns, for a total of 6-.50 cal. MG's in the "D," and the ammunition supply is generous. Performance in flight is essentially the same, which is to say very good, especially at medium to high altitude.
The P-51D features predictable maneuverability in all dimensions, high speed and a fast climb. It responds predictably to control inputs above stall speed and attitude. It rolls quickly and easily and turns fairly well as long as sufficient energy remains, but it bleeds energy fast in tight turns. The powerful Mustang is relatively easy to loop. Stalls quickly and violently out of maximum rate turns if you exceed the flight envelope. Using war emergency power is imperative when dogfighting in this airplane.
Despite its sterling reputation and overall high performance, the P-51D is not exceptionally difficult to out maneuver in 1v1 air combat if you are flying a Hellcat, Wildcat, Spitfire, Zero, Ki-43, C.202, Ki61 or Hurricane at 15,000 feet or less. A P-40 can give the Mustang a hard time below about 13,000 feet. The P-51D is similar to the Bf 109 in most 1v1 performance parameters. It is effective against the pure "boom and zoom" energy fighters, such as the P-47 and FW-190 (provided you stay clear of their heavy firepower), as it can usually out turn and out climb them. The P-51D is faster than most other WW II fighters (the exceptions being the Corsair, FW 190D and Bf 109K) and can sometimes use that speed to escape from an unfavorable tactical situation; It is often referred to as the "Runstang" by frustrated opponents in the online version of Warbirds, due to the propensity of Mustang aces to attack from very high attitude and then zoom up and run away, refusing sustained engagements. In my speed trials conducted at 6000 feet, the P-51D achieved 330 mph at 100% power and 350 mph using WEP.
Unfortunately, my Warbirds off line 1v1 record flying the P-51D is poor. In 38 dogfights I managed only 13 victories (against a Hurricane, two Spitfires, Zero, A-36, DH98 and two other Mustangs) against 28 defeats (by a wide variety of fighters). That is a dismal negative kill ratio of 1 to 2.2. For me, the vaunted P-51D (along with the Spit XIV and Bf 109K) is one of the most disappointing (and frustrating) fighters in Warbirds.
Because of its speed, firepower, ammo capacity and predictable handling (as long as you avoid low energy stalls), the P-51D is extraordinarily good at shooting down drones. My personal best against drones was 12 in one flight flying a P-51D before running out of ammunition.
The P-51's basically good handling characteristics make it one of the easiest of the high performance fighters to takeoff and land. Its wide track landing gear and good flaps are a big help here. Watch out for considerable torque steer when you pour gas to it on takeoff. Novice Pilot Rating = C
Seafire II - British single seat, single engine, carrier-based fighter. The Seafire II was the navalized version of the Spitfire V, flown from Royal Navy aircraft carriers. Decent speed and overall performance, very good maneuverability in all dimensions and easy to loop. Sustained climb rate is inferior to Bf-109F. The Seafire handles predictably and without vices. Fitted with an all aspect carburetor. Good all-around pilot visibility. Nice, clear, easy to read instruments. Armament is average (2-.303 MG's + 2-20mm cannons).
The Seafire seems to have slightly lower overall performance than the RAF's Mark Vb and it is slightly less effective in 1v1 dogfights as a result. I would rate the Seafire as virtually a tie with the Hurricane in overall dog fighting capability. In a series of 10 straight 1v1 sorties in a Seafire II, starting at 15,000 feet, I managed to shoot down a Yak, FW-190, Hurricane, Bf 109, Bf 110 and La7. I lost to a Ki-84, P-38 and Ki-61. There was one fight with no result, with another P-38; I had the advantage throughout, but ran out of ammo before I was able to shoot down the tough Lightning (despite scoring hits all over the American fighter).
Takeoff and landing instructions as per Spitfire 1a. Novice Pilot Rating = B
Spitfire 1a - British single seat, single engine fighter. Very fast for its time, highly maneuverable, handles well in all dimensions. Light wing loading. Easy and predictable tight turns and rolls; can be looped starting from level flight. Good all-around pilot visibility. The engine cuts out when inverted due to a primitive carburetor, so don't spend a lot of time upside down or in negative G maneuvers. The 8-.303 MG armament throws a lot of lead, but lacks hitting power.
The Spitfire is a classic "turn and burn" fighter and hard to beat in 1v1 dog fights. I flew a lot of sorties in a Spitfire I against Bf 109E's, using the simple "Instant Action" 1v1 setting, and achieved approximately a 2 to 1 favorable victory ratio.
Do not use flaps on takeoff in any Spitfire. The takeoff run in all Spitfire models is very short without flaps. Spitfires are relatively easy to takeoff and land if handled gently, but do not attempt to hold the nose down on takeoff or they will nose into the ground. Keep the elevators neutral on takeoff and let her leave the ground when she wants to, using the rudder to counter torque steer. Steer gently on the ground to avoid tipping a wing into the dirt, the Spitfire has low wings and a narrow track landing gear. Novice Pilot Rating = B
Spitfire Vb - British single seat, single engine fighter. The Spitfire's reputation as a pilot's airplane is well deserved. It is among the best fighters for the aspiring novice fighter pilot. The Mk. Vb may have been the best balanced of all the Spitfires, as was its German contemporary, the Bf 109F. Light wing loading, good speed and overall performance, excellent maneuverability in all dimensions and easy to loop. Better sustained climb than Spitfire 1a, but not as good as Bf-109F. Handles predictably and without vices. Fitted with an all aspect carburetor, thank goodness. Good all-around pilot visibility. Nice, clear, easy to read instruments. Armament is average (2-.303 MG's + 2-20mm cannons).
The Vb(II) quickly became one of my favorite choices for 1v1 combat at all altitudes from 20,000 feet to sea level. It remains one of the better 1v1 fighters and is always a dangerous opponent if you are flying something else. The even more maneuverable Zero and Ki-43 are probably the most effective Spitfire killers. Flying the Spit Vb in 65 recorded 1v1 dogfights against virtually all the Warbirds WW II fighter, I scored 37 victories against 28 losses. That amounts to a positive 1.3 to 1 kill ratio. Interestingly, that is slightly lower than the Hurricane's 1.6:1 victory ratio. I frequently (and successfully) fly the Spit Vb(II) online in point defense situations that I think will require a bit more speed than provided by the A6M5a.
Takeoff and landing instructions as per Spitfire 1a. Novice Pilot Rating = B+
Spitfire IXe - British single seat, single engine fighter. Climb and speed are superior to the Spit Vb due to increased horsepower in same basic airframe, but also trickier to fly due to the increased torque steer. The IX takes a more gentle hand on the controls. While it is not as forgiving of pilot errors as the Vb, it is still a Spitfire and a great fighter to fly. Armament above average (2-.50 MG + 2-20mm cannons), but the ammo supply is limited. Good all around pilot visibility. The increased torque effect can be a problem in dogfights and during take-off. The Mark IX's best combat altitude seems to be between 10,000-25,000 feet. During speed trials at 5500 feet, the Mark IXe achieved a top speed of 300 mph at 100% power and 310 mph using WEP.
In 1v1 dog fights the Mark IXe seems to be generally superior to the P-38 and P-47, but it is trickier to handle than the Spit Mark V. In a series of 1v1 dogfights flying the Spit IX against all comers, I won 18 and lost 24, for a discouraging negative 1 to 1.33 kill ratio. Online, I gave up on the Mark IXe in favor of the Mark Vb for point defense missions and the faster Ki-84-1a for general air superiority purposes.
Nice, clear, easy to read instruments. Takeoff and landing instructions generally as per Spitfire 1a. Novice Pilot Rating = B
Spitfire XIV - British single seat, single engine fighter. Features increased power from a RR Griffen engine on the Spit VIII airframe. This is really too much motor for a Spitfire and with all that horsepower you must be really gentle with the controls and throttle when maneuvering. There is a very pronounced torque effect from that powerful motor; be smooth or pay the price. Fast climb and high speed. A bubble canopy gives excellent all-around pilot visibility, but the very heavy framing in front can be a problem when you are hot on the tail of an enemy fighter engaged in evasive manuvering. Nice, clear, easy to read instruments.
In Warbirds on or off line, the Spit XIV is outclassed by most of the other late war fighters. This seems weird to me, as the Mark XIV looks good on paper, but that's the way it seems to be. It is also a rather fragile airplane, often destroyed by only a few hits from .50 caliber machine guns.
Here are the dismal facts: In 41 recorded 1v1 dog fights off line, I scored 5 victories against 36 losses, a negative kill ratio of 1:7.2. I am sure that it is not the right vehicle for a novice pilot. Keeping speed and energy high are absolutely crucial to success in the Mark XIV. For me, the Spit XIV, Bf 109K and P-51D proved to be the most frustrating fighters in Warbirds.
Takeoff and landing instructions as per Spitfire 1a. Novice Pilot Rating = C
Yak-3 - Russian single seat, single engine fighter. The Yak's proved to be good low to medium altitude fighters on the Eastern Front. Armed with 1-20mm cannon and 2-.50 cal. MG's, all mounted in the nose to eliminate convergence problems. Adequate metric instruments. Good speed and initial climb rate (zoom climb). Fast aileron response, quick rolls. Wants to stall out of loops and turns if over-controlled; keep the speed up. Torque steer can be a problem and the throttle should be handled carefully. Excellent all around view, including astern.
Turns well and is an effective 1v1 dog fighter, better than the Yak-9. In the course of 32 sorties, beginning at 10,000 feet, I was victorious in 16 and lost 16 against a wide variety of fighters. I would say that the Yak-3 is generally competitive with everything without being markedly superior in any particular area. A Spitfire that I eventually shot down was one of the longest defensive fights of my novice WW II flying career. He had the advantage about 90% of the time and I was rolling and diving away from his tracers almost continuously. Occasionally, I'd pull a tight loop to regains some altitude and take a head-on snap shot at the Spit (without really aiming precisely), then try to escape in a shallow dive and roll some more. After using almost all of my fuel (I started with 1/2 a tank), I got lucky on one of those brief head-on passes and flamed the Spit.
Counter torque steer on takeoff with rudder. Not too difficult to land if you stay on top of it. Novice Pilot Rating = C
Yak-9D - Russian single seat, single engine, multi-role fighter and fighter-bomber. Heavier with longer range than the Yak-3 and featuring all metal construction. It turns smoothly in either direction, but not particularly fast; try to push it and it wants to stall, particularly when looping. Responsive ailerons, rolls well. Lots of torque steer, so be aware. Armament of 1-20mm cannon and 1-.50 cal. MG is inferior to many contemporary fighters, but all guns are concentrated in the nose, eliminating convergence problems. Excellent all around view as per Yak-3, with which it apparently shares the same canopy. Adequate metric instruments.
A dangerous, but not unsurmountable, 1v1 adversary. Pretty even in a dogfight against an ME-109. I'd rate the Yaks the best of the Russian fighters, with the Yak-3 being a little better in the air superiority role than the Yak-9.
Controllable torque steer on takeoff. Not too hard to land as forward visibility is decent. Novice Pilot Rating = C
WORLD WAR II BOMBERS
Aichi D3A ("Val") - Japanese single engine, carrier-borne, two man, tandem seating dive bomber with fixed landing gear. Armament is two fuselage mounted .303 MG's for the pilot and a single .303 MG for rear gunner. Bombs are carried externally; a typical load would include a 551 pound bomb under the fuselage and a 231 pound bomb under each wing. Sans bomb load it is very nice fly, but slow. Hard to stall and easy to recover. Turns and rolls smoothly and predictably and can be looped. Pilot visibility is satisfactory, but obstructed by too many wide canopy braces. Instruments are in Japanese. The D3A is easy to takeoff and land. At least you can't forget to lower the landing gear. Novice Pilot Rating = A
B5N2 ("Kate") - Japanese single engine, carrier-borne, tandem seating torpedo and level bomber with retractable landing gear. Crew of two or three. Armament is limited to a single .303 MG for the rear gunner. No forward firing armament. Very easy to takeoff, fly and land, without a bomb load. Smooth and predictable rudder and aileron response. Stable and easy to loop. Forgiving stall characteristics and it is easy to recover from a power-off stall. Pilot visibility is very good in all directions under a greenhouse canopy. Instruments are in Japanese. The B5N2 is one of the easiest Warbirds aircraft to takeoff and land. Novice Pilot Rating = A-
B-17G Flying Fortress - The USAAF's B-17 was a four-engine, heavy bomber operated by a 10 man crew. The B-17G introduced a remote controlled chin turret with twin .50 cal. MG's, lacking in previous models, to discourage head on attacks by German fighters. Total defensive armament of the "G" was 10 to 13-.50 cal. MG's. In addition to the chin turret there was a twin dorsal turret, twin ball (belly) turret, twin tail guns and single waist guns on the right and left sides of the fuselage. Sometimes there were flexible mounted "cheek" MG's on each side of the nose and some planes had a dorsal .50 cal. MG operated by the navigator. The normal internal bomb load was 6000 pounds and the range was about 2000 miles.
Flying the B-17 is a slow and "easy does it" process. This is a big tail-dragger, but it is not particularly difficult to get off the ground if you have enough runway. Overall, it handles better than the B-24, but even without bombs on board the B-17 is slow in level flight and climbs slowly. It turns in wide arcs. Do not attempt 360 degree aileron rolls. Low speed, power off stalls are smooth, level and recoverable if you have enough altitude. Given adequate altitude, speed and momentum, the B-17 can be looped, although it is hard to see why anyone would want to do so. Pilot visibility to the front is only fair, good to both sides, poor above and nil to the rear. The B-17 is difficult to land because the pilot's forward visibility is limited, it is big, heavy, relatively slow to respond to control inputs and a tail dragger. That is not a recipe for easy, safe landings. Plan landings well in advance and leave plenty of room to line up with the runway before touchdown. While it is a little easier to control than the B-24, the Flying Fortress remains a boring, dangerous and generally unsuitable aircraft for the novice pilot. Novice Pilot Rating = D
B-24D, B-242J Liberator - The USAAF's B-24 was a four-engine, heavy bomber with twin vertical stabilizers. The normal crew of the standard bomber versions was ten. The "D" and "J" versions are modeled in Warbirds. These are quite similar, with the most noticeable external difference being a nose turret with twin .50 cal. MG's replacing the single .50 cal. MG in the "D" model's glassed in nose. Total armament of the "D" was 9-.50 cal. MG's, while the "J" carried 10 MG's. In addition to the nose guns, there was a twin dorsal turret, twin ball (belly) turret, twin tail guns and single waist guns on the right and left sides of the fuselage. Until the entry of the B-29 late in the war, the B-24 was the fastest, longest range US heavy bomber and carried the heaviest payload (8000 pounds internally + two 4000 pound bombs on external hard points under the wings ).
From the novice pilot's perspective, flying the B-24 goes downhill immediately after takeoff. (Takeoff is rather easy due to the plane's tricycle landing gear and adequate forward visibility.) Even when not burdened by a bomb load, the plane climbs lethargically, responds slowly to control inputs, is incapable of anything approaching a steep turn and cannot safely be aileron rolled through 360 degrees. Low speed, power off stalls are predictable and recoverable if you have enough altitude. Given enough altitude, speed and momentum, it can be looped, although it is hard to see why anyone would want to do so in real life. Pilot visibility ahead, right and left is good for a heavy bomber; there is no rear view, of course. The B-24 is a real handful to land because it is so heavy and slow to respond to the pilot's will. Plan landings way ahead and leave plenty of room to line up with the runway before touchdown. This is one of the most boring, dangerous and least suitable aircraft in Warbirds for the novice pilot to fly. Novice Pilot Rating = D-
B-25 Mitchell - The USAAF's B-25 was a twin-engine, medium bomber with twin vertical stabilizers. The normal crew of the standard bomber versions was six. The C, H, and J versions are modeled in Warbirds. The "C" is a straight bomber version with a glassed-in nose and a .50 caliber MG for the bombardier. Additional defensive armament included a power operated top turret and a retractable and remotely controlled belly turret, each mounting 2-.50 cal. MG's. The "J" retains that nose configuration, but adds 4-.50 cal. forward firing "package" MG's alongside the fuselage (two per side) that are fired by the pilot. The "H" was a special ground attack version with a crew of five (no bombardier) that mounted 4-.50 MG's and a 75mm cannon in a solid, armored nose as well as the 4-.50 "package" guns mounted on the sides of the fuselage below the pilots cockpit. Defensive armament of the "H" and "J" models included 2-.50 MG's in a top turret, a .50 cal. MG on each side of the fuselage aft of the wings (waist guns) and a tail gun position with 2-.50 MG's. Actual armament varied, as the airplanes were frequently modified in the field to suit local conditions, but it is fair to say the B-25 proved a nasty adversary for enemy fighters. Standard bomb load was 2,000 pounds, but the "J" could carry up to 6,000 pounds for short range missions.
From the novice pilot's perspective, the B-25 handles well when not burdened by a bomb load. It is fast and climbs well for a bomber. Standard rate turns are smooth and stable. Hard turns are possible, but the turn rate is slow and the radius large. Aileron rolls are fairly easy. Loops are ponderous, but possible. Low speed, high angle of attack stalls are gentle; apply power to recover flying speed once the nose is down. The Mitchell has a tricycle landing gear and is easy to takeoff and land, except that the pilot's forward visibility, especially to the right, is not very good and it is hard to see the runway. In flight, the pilots visibility the the left, left and down and upwards is good. The view to the right is obstructed and there is no rear view. Novice Pilot Rating = B
D.H. 98 Mosquito IV - Unarmed British twin engine light bomber. Very fast with generally high performance. This is Capt. de Havilland's famous wooden fighter/bomber. Two man crew with side by side seating for pilot and bombardier, who crawls down into glass nose for actually aiming bombs. Sans bomb load it is stable in turns and rolls and can be looped. Pilot visibility is poor to right rear, good to left rear, poor to sides and not good to the front. Both props rotate in the same direction, making for lots of torque steer on takeoff. As with most British planes, the Mosquito has clear, easy to read instruments. Poor visibility makes landing difficult. Also see Mosquito VI under "Fighters" below. Novice Pilot Rating = C
Do-17Z ("Flying Pencil") - German twin engine medium bomber with a four man crew, all clustered in the front of the aircraft. The Do-17 served the Luftwaffe during the early part of the war, including the Battle of Britain. In addition to about 2000 kg of bombs, the armament included a fixed, forward firing, 8mm MG for the pilot plus manually trained, single, 8mm MG's in the nose, belly and dorsal positions.
The crew operated under a wrap around greenhouse type canopy. Pilot visibility is good forward and down, good up, very good to the left, poor to the right and good to the rear. The following comments apply to flying the Do-17 without bombs aboard. It is reasonably fast in level flight, but does not like to climb at steep angles. It handles ponderously. Standard rate turns are smooth, but the ship doesn't like tight turns. Rolls easily but slowly. Loops very slowly, but with enough momentum from a dive it will loop. Equipped with a good suite of easily seen metric instruments. I found this tail dragger easy to takeoff (although there is a lot of torque steer) and fairly easy to fly, but very difficult to land despite excellent downward pilot visibility. As medium bombers go, I'd much rather fly a Ju 88 or B-25. Novice Pilot Rating = D
G4M1, G4M2 - Japanese Navy twin engine, land based, medium bomber with a six or seven man crew. This is the Mitsubishi bomber that the Allies named "Betty." Crew includes the pilot, co-pilot, bombardier/navigator/front gunner (1-.303 MG), top turret gunner (1-20mm cannon), tail gunner (1-20mm cannon), and one or two side gunners (1-.303 MG/side). Typical bomb load is 1000 kg or one torpedo.
Sans bomb load the Betty is fairly fast, climbs well, turns well, does 360-degree aileron rolls and can be looped. Low speed, high angle of attack stalls result in the nose dropping precipitously and the plane rolling; pull out using power. Pilot visibility is very good in all directions. There is a full suite of Japanese instruments for both pilots. Three flap settings. Both props rotate in the same direction, making for lots of torque steer on takeoff that must be counteracted by using the rudder. Unusual for a tail dragger, the nose must be held up as you apply power for takeoff or the nose will drop and bury itself in the runway. As the plane gathers speed down the runway, hold her level until she starts to fly, then begin climbing out. The landing difficulty is average and the procedure normal, no worse than any other twin engine bomber and better than some. Novice Pilot Rating = C+
He 111-H3 - German twin engine medium bomber with a five man crew. The He 111 served the Luftwaffe as a medium bomber, torpedo bomber and glider tug throughout the war. In addition to bombs (usually about 2000 kg.), the gun armament typically included one forward firing 20mm cannon controlled by the pilot, 1-8mm MG in the nose, 1-8mm MG in the ventral position firing forward, 1-8mm MG in the ventral position firing rearward, 1-8mm MG in the dorsal position firing rearward and 2-8mm MG's firing laterally (one per side). This defensive armament varied considerably from sub-type to sub-type and depending on local requirements, so not all He 111's carried the same armament.
The pilot sits on the left side of the cockpit in the asymmetrical, almost entirely glazed nose of the aircraft. Pilot visibility is good forward and down, fair upward, very good to the left, fair to the right and nil to the rear. As medium bombers go, the He 111 offers medium speed in level flight and an average climb rate. It handles like you might expect of a large twin engine airplane. With bombs aboard, limit maneuvers to standard rate turns, climbs, and descents. The following comments apply to flying the He 111 empty (without a bomb load).
Coordinated turns are smooth and unspectacular. The airplane does not particularly like to do complete aileron rolls, but will if pushed. Loops very slowly, but it can loop from level flight if you are going fast enough at the start. The usual German metric instruments are located above the windscreen so as not to block the pilot's view forward and downward. This arrangement gives the He 111 excellent takeoff and landing visibility. I found this tail dragger easy to takeoff and easy (but rather boring) to fly, as long as you don't try to push the airplane's performance comfort zone. For a big twin engine airplane, it is easy to land. The latter is primarily due to the great pilot visibility and stable low speed handling with the gear and flaps down. The He 111 is easier to fly than the Do-17, but not as much fun as the Ju 88. Novice Pilot Rating = C
Ju 87 Stuka - German single engine, two person, tandem seating dive bomber with fixed landing gear. The following comments apply to flying the Ju 87 without bombs aboard. Perhaps the easiest airplane in Warbirds to fly. Slow, but stable and maneuverable. Handles well in all three dimensions. Turns smoothly, rolls nicely and can be looped. Hard to stall and easy to recover. Good pilot visibility in all directions. Armed with two wing mounted 8mm MG's for pilot plus a single 8mm MG for rear gunner. Good suite of metric instruments. Easy to takeoff and land, and you won't forget to lower the landing gear. Novice Pilot Rating = A
Ju 88A-4 - German twin engine medium bomber with a four man crew, all clustered in the front of the aircraft to facilitate voice communications and crew interaction. The Ju 88 served the Luftwaffe as a high speed level, dive and torpedo bomber (in the latter role it could carry two torpedoes), as well as a radar equipped, heavy night fighter. In addition to 3000 kg of bombs, the armament included a fixed, forward firing, 13mm MG for the pilot and single flexible 8mm MG's in the nose, bottom and dorsal positions.
The pilot and crew (except for the bottom gunner) operate under a wrap around greenhouse type canopy. Pilot visibility is good forward and down, good up, very good to the left, poor to the right and very good to the rear. The following comments apply to flying the Ju 88 without bombs on board. Overall, it handles well for a large, twin engine airplane. It is fast in level flight and climbs well for a medium bomber. Standard rate turns are smooth and steeply banked turns are not difficult. Rolls easily and smoothly. Loops are easy when starting with some extra air speed from a gentle dive. Power off stalls are stable and easy from which to recover. The Ju 88 is equipped with a good suite of well placed metric instruments. I found this tail dragging bomber easy to takeoff, easy to fly and not too difficult to land. The good forward and downward visibility is a definite asset in landing. As medium bombers go, it is one of the best. Novice Pilot Rating = C+
SBD Dauntless - Single engine US Navy carrier-borne dive bomber with retractable landing gear and a two person crew in tandem seats. Very easy to fly. A little higher performance than the Stuka and Val dive bombers and somewhat better armed with two, wing mounted, forward firing .50 caliber MG's for the pilot and twin .30 caliber MG's for the rear gunner. Without bombs aboard, the Dauntless turns very smoothly, rolls well and can be looped. It is hard to stall and easy to recover from low speed stalls. Good pilot visibility and easy to land. Understandable instruments. Novice Pilot Rating = A-
TBD-1 Devastator - Single engine US Navy carrier-borne torpedo bomber with retractable landing gear and a three person crew in tandem seats. Poorly armed with one wing mounted, forward firing .30 caliber MG for the pilot and one .30 caliber MG for the rear gunner. The TBD does everything well except go fast and survive attacks by enemy fighters. Relatively slow in level flight and slow to climb when carrying a torpedo; noticeably better climb rate when empty. When empty, it's responsive in turns and rolls. The Devastator turns very smoothly, rolls well and can be looped. Gentle and stable low speed stall with easy recovery. Good pilot visibility in all directions under greenhouse canopy except for excessive metal braces. Typical (good) US instruments. The TBD-1 is very easy to fly, takeoff and land, much like Japanese B5N2 Kate. Novice Pilot Rating = A-
In summation, I will merely comment that the Japanese and British fighters generally seem to be the easiest for the novice pilot to fly. They seem to be "pilots" airplanes. The energy fighters, such as the FW 190, P-47, Raiden and F4U Corsair tend to be the most challenging fighters to fly. You need to keep your speed and energy up in these planes to stay out of trouble. I found the Spitfire XIV, Ki-84, Bf 109K and P-51D to be the easiest of the very high performance, late WW II fighters to master. None of them, however, are as easy to fly as the Hurricane, Spitfire V, Zero, P-40E or Bf 109F. I will continue to update this article as I "test fly" additional types of aircraft. Happy Landings!