Sturmgrenadier

 

 

I put this document together to help the new pilots from Sturmgrenadier get up to speed in air combat as quickly as possible. Almost all the information here was taken off the Internet and then edited by me to apply to WWII Online. I am currently making a new HE-111 guide based on materials already out there and some SG pilot training. Also, I will be rehosting Stewart's Stuka Guide. He is a member of Sturmgrenadier and has given permission to use both his guides. When that is done, I will be writing my own article on how to fly the 109 in WWIIOL. I am trying to list all the URLs in the 'Credits' page, so feel free to explore those sources if you still hunger for more information. This is a work in progress, and I plan to keep updating it. Feel free to give me any suggestions at:

 ThunderAce@thunderace.org

 

Preflight

Equipment

What is the "minimum" computer?  WWIIOL has raised the bar on the setup needed to fly successfully. A good frame rate is needed to be successful. Right now, you really need a badass computer. I know people are managing with less, but I would suggest a P1.7, GeForce3, and 512 MB RAM as the lower end of what is needed for good FPS. For those under that, take a close look at the tweaks at Avondells page to get the most out of your system. I have read that some people are flying successfully with a 56K modem, but I would set the lower bar at a DSL connection.

Joysticks:  Before you take to the skies, you need a minimum of support equipment to fly. In my opinion the minimum equipment requirement for WWIIOL is a good 2 button joystick and rudder controls. While it is theoretically possible to fly with only the mouse, it's not very practical. Rudder pedals are not mandatory, but many flight sim pilots swear by them. Keyboard commands are available for rudder control, but keyboard input is sorely inadequate for that purpose.  Some joysticks come with a "twist" stem that is used to control rudder input. These are perfectly adequate, and can be a more cost effective solution than buying the stick and rudder separately for the price sensitive pilot.

Programmable Joysticks and Throttles - do I really need them? Most pilots who take up flight simulations as a serious hobby eventually migrate to high end programmable Throttles and/or Joysticks during their flying career.  They are very useful ancillary devices, but they can also be very costly. I wouldn't recommend that a pilot sink $200 dollars into a top-of-the-line CHproducts or Thrustmaster setup unless he is dead certain that flight simulation is more than a passing fancy. In my experience it is more than possible to fly World War II flight simulations effectively using a two-button joystick, rudder pedals (or twist) and keyboard. The keyboard keypad views can be programmed to sticks which makes monitoring the views easier and more effective. I am currently enjoying a Saitek X36 system (under $100). I have barely touched on what it can do with the programming software.


Preparing for Flight - Some necessary preliminary skills.

Beginning Flying Skills

It never fails to amaze me how many pilots log onto WWII Online the first time without even having read the manual, or practicing some basic flying skills. As the saying goes: "Real Men don't read Manuals."  The following is a list of flying skills ordered in priority as I see them. I don't mean to scare off any new guys, but taking to the skies in WWIIOL without even rudimentary training will most likely lead to the uninitiated being shot down early and often.

These are the skills you should have before taking to the air:

  • Flight Controls

  • Basic flight

  • Take off and Landing

  • Stall and Recovery

  • View management

  • Radio

  • Terrain familiarization

Learning to fly on WWIIOL isn't all that much different from learning to fly a real plane. The good thing is that in WWIIOL you get another chance and don't place burdensome funeral debts on your family if you auger in.

The first thing prospective pilots should do is to familiarize themselves with all those needles and gauges in the cockpit. Learn what each one of them does and also what they imply. Most of these are fairly intuitive.

Basic Flight: If you are an experienced pilot (either virtual or real life) this phase should not present a problem. However I still recommend that all pilots take the time for some test flights before jumping on-line.  One reason for this is to become accustomed to how the stick and rudder react on WWIIOL. Many new players, used to "yank and bank" simulations, are often surprised as to how sensitive the joystick is in WWIIOL. This is also true of real pilots for two reasons: PC joysticks are generally much shorter than the controls of real planes, and therefore have a much different feel, and sensitivity.  Fly some simple maneuvers and learn how to do them without constantly putting the plane into a spin or blacking out! Then you should be ready to move on.

Take off and Landing are important skills. If you can't land, there isn't much of a reason to go into the air in combat, because even if (by some miracle) you actually make it home from your first sortie - you still won't survive!  WWIIOL planes fly very much like real planes, so the procedure for take off and landing are pretty much the same as in real aircraft.

Take off is relatively easy. Planes are trimmed for take off as a courtesy, so all that is required to take off is to start the engine (e), and provide a bit of opposite rudder (for single engine aircraft) and then pull up gently when the aircraft reaches flying speed. It's usually not necessary to engage flaps for take off. Then pull up the landing gear (g) and you are ready to Rock and Roll. Once you are up to speed, you should trim your plane so that it flies level and straight without any stick input.

Landing takes a bit more practice. The key is to allow the plane to land itself, and not to point the planes nose at the ground! That is, use the throttle and not the stick to control descent rate. Keep the nose level or slightly high and engage full flaps and gear. Most pilots try to land at too high a speed rather than too low a speed. This is where most WWIIOL landings go awry - hitting the tarmac too "hot".  Pitch and power is what you need to concentrate on.

View Management: The old hackneyed axiom "lose sight - lose the fight" is all true too in WWIIOL. Most new pilots die most often because they either didn't see their opponent or lost sight of him at a critical moment. Learning proper view management and discipline is absolutely critical on WWIIOL.  Regardless of which view system you use, be it keyboard or a fancy $300 throttle/stick combination with castle switches everywhere, learn it backwards and forward. Practice and get used to scanning views constantly. To practice getting used to a new system I recommend doing some aerobatics around an airfield and concentrate on keeping one ground feature in view at all times. Once you have mastered that you can move on to trying to keep planes in view!

That Radio: One of the first big tests on WWII OL for most pilots is learning how to communicate effectively. Currently, Sturmgrenadier uses Team Speak2.

Terrain Familiarization: In the old days grizzled commanders often advised their students to "Walk the Battlefield" if possible before combat. That is, learn the lay of the land and its features that could have tactical implications in combat. This is also good advise in the Big Blue Sky of WWIIOL.
Before you go zoom off into combat familiarize yourself with the terrain features and more importantly the airfield locations and orientations in that terrain. Although WWIIOL provides a very useful in-flight map (m) to ease flight, that doesn't mean that you can't get "lost" at a critical moment! The best thing to do is to build a mental picture of the overall layout of the terrain. It is critical to always know the direction of friendly airspace and a friendly airfield. When the fur starts to fly in a frenzied furball there is often not time to carefully study the map for directional data. You have to know instinctively which direction your escape route is. Extending from combat towards the enemy is an experience that almost all pilots have had (usually accompanied by first by a sinking feeling, and then near panic); the lucky ones live to tell the tale of their mistake.


Intermediate Skills:
If you are the impetuous type you can go into the air before learning these skills, but I would advise at least some proficiency in these areas before entering combat.
 

  • Basic Flight Maneuvers

  • Situational Awareness Training

  • Gunnery

  • Energy

  • Plane Familiarization

  • Air Combat Maneuvers

Please note that ACM is at the bottom of the priority list! (More on this later!)

Basic Flight Maneuvers: The Wise prepare, plan, study and practice before they go into combat. This reduces the incidents of fatal screw ups during combat.  WWIIOL proficiency requires some basic knowledge of the Basic Flight Maneuvers. Learn them and practice them again and again untill you they become second nature. Learning when and how to use the High Yo-Yo, Break Turn and Immelman moves to your advantage in combat moves you into the realm of Air Combat Maneuvers.

Situational Awareness Training: Situational Awareness (SA for short) is another critical skill. SA is not just knowing to use your views. It has other components, such as Energy Assessment of enemy contacts, threat assessment and others. The beginning pilot has to remember one major factor regarding arena SA. It's the guy you don't see in the multi-plane environment that will usually kill you. And that could be any one of the bogies in your area. Don't obsess about one plane for too long and always try to "keep tabs" on all contacts in your area. The veteran pilots know how to react correctly in the often confusing maelstrom of air combat because he has carefully prioritized enemy threats and adjusted his plans accordingly based on calculated risk.

Gunnery is an essential skill that I rate higher in importance than many others - and for good reason. To paraphrase a well known Ace of World W.W.I: Good flying doesn't shoot down planes - guns do! Gunnery is for the most part reduced to controlling three factors:  range, deflection (lead), and closure rate on the target. The effective shooter wants the range short, the deflection low, and the closure rate not too high. Add to that a dose of fire discipline - shoot short bursts of controlled length and intensity.  My general rule of gunnery, which will bring almost anyone up to a reasonable level of proficiency is: fire at ranges under 300 yards, in short bursts with moderate or low lead and closure. Don't overcorrect between bursts, and be patient when "saddled up" on the target.  Most beginners "spray and pray" at long ranges with long bursts and never hit anything. The more experienced the pilot the closer he gets to the target.

Energy management is one of those mysterious skills that often eludes the pilot bred on duels and combat versus weak drone opposition in Box Simulations. The energy we are talking about here is the combination of altitude and speed which dictate its ability to engage and maneuver. Energy management in combat is a combination of knowing your Energy State and being able to effectively judge the Energy State of other aircraft. Being able to do this is also linked to SA - another vital skill.  In a multi-plane environment managing energy is a critical skill.  If you are "low and slow" when that enemy flight appears on your six, you can claim it was bad luck, but most likely it was simply poor energy management on your part.

Plane Familiarization
WWIIOL has many aircraft, all of which have their own flight characteristics, quirks, strengths and weaknesses.  The successful pilot knows how exploit the strengths of his ride, and exploit the weaknesses of the target plane. The Pilot who gets into slow dogfights with a bf109 isn't going to have much success regardless of his skill level.  The beginner pilot cannot be expected to learn all the planes and all their nuances right away. My own recommendation is that the starting pilot concentrate on a minimum of two aircraft. One of the "Energy Fighter" class (BF109) and one of the "Turn and Burn" class (Spitfire etc.). It is important to learn both styles of combat. Concentrating on just one aircraft at the expense of all others has a negative influence on a pilots overall development in my opinion.  As the pilot gains more experience he should branch out to a larger repertoire of aircraft in order to learn the characteristics of those aircraft even if he doesn't plan to fly them often. Knowing the differences among the planes involved in a combat can be a critical factor in determining victory or defeat. For this reason the pilot should at least familiarize himself with most of the major plane types as soon as possible.  Air Combat can turn because of some comparatively minor factor. Knowing how to use those minor advantages is often the key.

Air Combat Maneuvers (also known as ACM) is the application of Basic Flight Maneuvers in Combat - knowing when and how to apply them to bring victory. ACM and Dogfighting are not synonymous of course. (Just like Energy Combat and "Boom and Zoom" are not synonymous.)  ACM provides much needed skills which can be developed most easily through off-line practice and dueling head-to-head. My main concern regarding ACM is that beginner pilots tend to concentrate on it to the detriment of their skill development in other important areas of air combat.

WWIIOL Air Combat - Myths and Assumptions

Ok, you have followed all my previous advise and are now ready (or think you are ready) to jump into the skies of WWIIOL. Many pilots who may be familiar with "AI" simulations flying versus drones and even some who do a lot of Head-to-Head versus a human opponent often come into the game with some deadly assumptions on what they are going to run into.  Both types of flying concentrate on the dogfight, either one-on-one or with a few planes only.  Flying versus AI drones in any number of simulations builds assumptions as to what multi-plane air combat is all about. AI simulations generally are mission based where a few planes tangle. Dogfights develop, but they are in essence scripted; the numbers of planes, their altitude, and other factors are closely controlled.  Pilots familiar with dog fighting simulations versus live opponents also labor with similar preconceptions.

The first thing to remember about the WWIIOL arena is that it is totally unscripted. Also there is absolutely no "fairness" designed into the whole procedure. In fact, most successful pilots succeed by making sure it's as unfair as possible - in their favor.  They will look for and press every advantage they have.  Altitude, numbers, and superior plane type - no edge is ever too big, and mercy is a strange word that was left out of their vocabulary at birth. They were born with a killer instinct to end all killer instincts, and it never wore off.
For example: you just shot down a pilot after a long duel on the deck. You are pretty proud of yourself.  Do you get a notice from the PC "Well done, mission complete?" No. You are low, slow and low on ammo and fuel.  A flight of five enemy planes appears above you and you are totally alone with no help in sight. You are as good as dead.  Life just isn't fair. Of course that's an example, but ask any long time pilot if that scenario has happened to him. Chances are the answer will be "yes." And it probably happened more than once.

Any pilot who comes into WWIIOL thinking its a Dogfighting/Dueling simulation is in for a surprise. The main point I'm trying to drive home here is that the WWIIOL is not a dogfighting arena.
Anyone who comes to the game thinking he can jump into a fight with the first enemy plane he sees at any and all times in for a short life span.
The First Rule of multi-plane combat is that Energy and Numbers rule.  This subtle fact is what often eludes the uninitiated - to their everlasting regret. Dogfighting skills are by no means useless skills by any stretch of the imagination. They are very important and sometimes even critical skills, but I want to emphasize that they are not the most important skills that need to be developed. As a general rule the less that you have to dogfight the more successful you will be.
What keeps you alive to fly again is SA, astute engagement tactics, and energy management. Learning the fine arts of when to engage and when not to are among the first skills you want to develop.  That means you use numbers and altitude to your advantage whenever possible, and avoid fights when you are at a clear disadvantage.
What shoots down enemy planes is a keen gunner's eye and establishing surprise. ACM (dogfighting) skills are extremely useful, but as an Ace-in-the-Hole not as the card you play first.


The Tyranny of Numbers: The sad fact of war is that skill is useful but numbers usually decide. This is especially true in WWIIOL where the qualitative differences among warring sides are usually fairly small.  So, my advise to the fledging pilot is to avoid outnumbered fights and join in fights where your side has the numerical advantage whenever possible. The second part of this rule is that the lower you are in the altitude the more eager you should be to avoid outnumbered combats. You can furball to your hearts delight on the deck if your side has a 2-1 advantage in numbers, but woe be to you if the situation is reversed.  Don't be adverse to running from a fight which is beyond calculated risk and approaches suicide.  Living to fight again another day is a perfectly acceptable strategy. The beginner however must also not fall into the Trap of Caution. Fighting from advantage is all well and good, but don't avoid fights because of over caution. The mindset of a successful pilot includes liberal doses of aggression and a manifest killer instinct. A fighter pilot choked with caution will hardly ever bring home the bacon. The key to success is to engage with an acceptable level of calculated risk.

The Mastery of Energy: Numbers rules the sky, but Energy can temporarily negate the advantage of numbers. The general rule is: If you don't have numbers you better have energy, and the bigger your numerical disadvantage the bigger your energy advantage should be. Consider the following scenario: I'm alone in my BF109 2000 m above an enemy flight of Spitfires.  I'm outnumbered badly but temporarily safe from attack. They would have to climb 2000 m up to get me and that takes about over a minute in a Spit. That's an eternity in Air Combat. I can disengage at will, or even try a pass or two to break up their formation, but I had better judge their energy accurately, and still keep enough energy in reserve to effectively disengage.  Now if I'm the low pigeon and large enemy flight is 2,000 m above me, I'm in serious and probably fatal trouble. My best bet is to run like hell and hope they consider me not worth killing.


Training for Success
Being successful on WWIIOL takes bit of practice, and some degree of dedication. There are two main ingredients to success: practice and theory.  To become the hunter and not the hunted the pilot has to learn some ACM and Air Combat Theory - there is no question about it.  He or she must also then apply that theory in practice. A lot of practice! The key to moving above mediocrity is to learn theory and then practice it until the correct move comes as second nature, rather than a calculated response. Knowing theory is great, but air combat is not chess. You don't have minutes to consider your strategy; you must react and react correctly and quickly. Many skills can only be learned from hard experience, but others can be practiced off-line or via many head-to-head duels.  Many readers who have read through this entire essay where I downgrade the importance of ACM, may be surprised to know that I strongly recommend dueling as training mechanism.  I dueled almost daily with an old friend back lo many moons ago when Air Warrior was the only game in town. The experience taught me a lot, and more importantly I was able to put all that "theory" to use and drive it into my brain to the point where the process became second nature. My flying philosophy does not discount the importance of dogfighting skills - I only discount its importance in relation to other skills which I view as having more immediate importance for the beginner pilot.  Many people come into WWIIOL and view it as dueling simulation - just on a large scale. This misconception usually results in them being shot down many times before they realize that WWIIOL is a game with a different set of rules.

 

 
 

Last update on March 27, 2005