To answer the question that was posed a few posts ago, how to determine when Sweep altitude is approaching silliness: The answer can be found in the stats.
As I have said before, and will again...Aircraft perform differently at different altitudes. Without a long discussion of Aerodynamics, it essentially comes down to where the Power of the Engine(s), the aerodynamic efficiency of the Design, the topspeed is reached, and the weight of the Aircraft are in harmony. This place is called Critical altitude, and most commonly is used in the context of relating the point where the Engine begins to suffer oxygen starvation. It manifests on paper where Topspeed begins to drop off. To the pilot is may just feel like the plane is bahaving a little sluggishly. There are many ways to forestall this sad loss of performance. Modulating fuel mixture, Reducing drag, supercharging or turbocharging (ie. increasing manifold pressure) desiging broader propellers, or just using 2200 Horsepower and a 14 ft Prop. The list goes on.
In the Game this point can be discerned in the Maneuver stats. When MVR begins to decrease you are starting exceed the design limits of the aircraft in question.
Aircraft in general do not fly well above 20k'. Even modern Jets. It's all relative of course, but the air up there is thin. It impacts EVERYTHING about an airplane. ALL Airplanes like LOTS of Air molecules to fly through.
An EXCELLENT variation of my original rule to deal with the exploit of the altitude system can be found here
Simply: no fighter sweeps higher then the ALT with the second best MVR value
I credit Vettim89 with this great rule, though it may have been his opponent.
When looking at the stats Max ceiling is just that. Some Test pilot (they are good for some things...) got into a prototype version of said Airplane with half a bag of gas, no weapon systems, on a cold COLD Day in the middle of a high pressure system and flew as high as he could possibly fly. They may have attempted this a handful of times, and noted the altitude. That is what you see in the stats. Why? Because it is an innocently accurate factual stat.
Why did we not limit this in the game to some more realistic Combat Ceiling? Well as players (the designers) we felt that giving the players the latitude was more important than hard coding. We also felt (hoped), due to the niche nature of this subject matter, players would play historically. And accordingly the same people who lament the current code would likely lament that Aircraft "so and so" could fly higher than "X" altitude and we'd be wrong again...I might be projecting here, but you decide...
Unfortunately as someone has already said maxing out ceiling on every occasion is gaming the system because
the game does not model all of the drawbacks of this altitude. It's not gaming the system pruely because of some loophole, it is gaming the system because those who do it usually know that they shouldn't. That it is historically wrong, inaccurate, unfair, etc. But they choose to do it. There WERE real drawbacks to Hi altitude operations. One of them IS represented in the game, and it is the most important one....pay attention here CT.
any edge in performance of one aircraft over another, typically was magnified as combat increased in altitude.
So if you are facing an enemy with a superior plane it is not a good idea to try to outperform that enemy at a higher altitude. Human nature being what it is however, this situation leads to altitude brinksmanship, or an Altitude race. Then end of the race occurs withn the A/C with the highest max ceiling owning the other.
with the above mentioned hr for sweeps, I guess this would imply for Cap too then? And would this lead to the Cap being higher then most of the time due to them being sent higher to intercept and it therefore would only reverse the effect of alt and giving the defender the dive instead of the attacker? Or is the chance for the Cap lower to get the ongoing dive like the attacker gets it when you send them in higher than the defender can go?