From: Germany - still
dunno, but my understanding is, that the Zero Bonus is a more or less crude „vehicle“ to cover a number of factors in an air war, not accounted for by the game engine. Call it a „generalization“ or a „simplification“.
Anyway. For the first 6 to 12 months the Japanese are on the offensive, while the allies are either defending or retreating. And fighting a defensive air war is quite a different animal than being on the attack.
In general, the defender has a much bigger problem than the attacker. (Even though a basic understanding of how to use bombers in a attack is essential as well – disregarding the need for fighter escort – like the AAF and to some extend the RAF did – does not help).
Looking at the „Battle of Britain“ reveals (imho), that it was not the quality of the airplanes nor the bravery and skill of the „few“ which won it for the RAF. It was a - for the time - very modern and highly integrated fighter control system including radar, the observer corps and a elaborated radio system, which enabled the ground commanders to direct the fighters to the raids and give them a chance to attack out of a favourable position.
Where these ground control systems existed in the Pacific, a defensive could be successful (like the AVG) or would fail completely – like in the PI or PH for that matter. That is to say, while Chennault managed to organize a – rudimentary – oberserver and ground control system giving his pilots a chance to be „there“ at the right time and the right place, the Philipines and most other places had non of it.
Later on the Japanese faced the same problem – and as soon as the allies had the fighters to escort the bomber strikes (plus better aircraft and better trained pilots) the Japanes got very much disadvantaged,
That is to say: In a defensive air war it is much more a tactical and/or doctrinal issue than a technical or training one.
To underline my point: There is an early 1942 AAF manual on aircraft recognition (War Department Basic Field Manual, FM 30-38, Military Intelligence. Identification of Japanese Aircraft, March 16, 1942. ) with an almost blank page for the „Zero“ (wich wasnt called that way). What the manual tells is , that the Japanese pilots characteristically used the Zero as a „boom and zoom“ fighter, i.e. using an altitude/speed advantage against the allied aircraft trying to intercept. Which in the light of the above says more about a tactical situation, than the performance characteristics of the AC.
In this light the „Zero Bonus“ makes some sense as far as land combats go. And should probaly include the Oscar or even Nates and Claudes. Unless something else can be devised to „factor in“ on the offensive/defensive problem. Like presense or absense of Air Hqs and things like that ?
While I think, the „Zero Bonus“ does make some sense within the game as it is now for the „land combat“, I am not sure about carrier based air combat – or land based AC attacking a carrier TF for that matter.
As far as relative experience levels go, lets not forget that the AAF was just gearing up for a very rapid expansion at the outbreak of war and had any amount of problems getting pilots and planes. Many of the AAF pilots going to the Pacific where green as grass just out of training with very limited (if any) flying hours on the combat types. And a good number had never had any shooting training till they joined their squadrons.
As to relative performance of allied planes versus the Zero: Yes there was some flight testing done with captured Zeros, either in the „field“ and by NACA. The interesting part of the NACA report was, that only the P-39 finished all the tests (while for instance the P-40 developed mechanical trouble) – and the test concluded, that the P-39 could combat the Zero successfully, given the right circumstances. Trouble was, the pilots flying the bird did for the most part not believe in it and used to be more concerned with some of the stability and stall charactersitics of this plane.
Someone in this thread has quoted the numbers these tests indicate as best suited to take on the Zero. A close look at them reveals, that the aircraft types would need a very early warning to get to the indicated altitudes and airspeeds. Which in a way underlines my argument.
Unless a more „detailed“ implementation of offensive/defensive air combat can be found and implemented, I would rather like to keep the „Zero Bonus“, extend it to the other Japanese fighters and to compensate for the overall effect by reducing the experience/morale levels of the Japanese second line air units (like the units in Japan itself) to much lower levels – probably levels slightly higher than those „Training“ Chuties (SP?).
Just my 2c.
Remember that the first law of motion is to look where you're going. A man with a stiff neck has no place in an airplane.
Technical Manual No. 1-210, Elementary Flying, War Department, Washington,