I have been running some simple tests with fighters, fighter bombers, attack bombers and medium bombers at low altitudes, mainly to see if strafing works and if it is worth it to go in low. I ran multiple tests with various planes at both 100 feet and then ranging from 1000 to 6,000 feet. One series of tests were on a Japanese tank regiment in open terrain, one series vs an airbase with no AA, one series vs an airfield with a small AA unit and the last series against a small cargo convoy consisting of 3 DDs and a few AKLs. Below are my observations. Admittedly these tests are simple and fairly basic. I invite all comments and suggestions-or corrections.
First and foremost is that strafing does work. I was not so sure but test attacks with hellcat fighters with no bombs show some damage to all three target types. Not much but some.
Some basics. I used the editor to set the plane types and all squadrons had a base exp skill of 70. The various skill sets randomly assigned by the editor differ with plane type. Fighters and fighter bombers will have an average of 70 skills in air and staffing-all other skills will be in the 30s. Attack bombers come with low bombing, low nav, high bombing and strafing skills “all” in the 70 range, and medium bombers come with only high bombing skills in the 70 range. The tank unit was set to “combat” and had no AA to speak of. The airbase had 56 betty bombers and five zeros sitting on the tarmac. The AA unit there had 16-18 75mm AA guns and about a dozen MGs. The small convoy had the expected AA for mid 1942-not to great.
It is important to note that fighters and fighter bombers will drop to 100 feet to strafe and bomb when set to 1,000 feet and below. They will bomb at between 3-5,000 feet regardless of any other setting below 6,000 feet. Medium bombers will go in at the altitude that you set. Attack bombers always drop down to attack at 100 feet whenever set to attack below 6,000 feet- above that altitude they act like medium bombers.
Don’t expect a whole lot from pure strafing. The beaufighter, B25H and G models have impressive armament but won’t win the war by throwing lead. Even the 75mm of the G model slamming a few hits into a DD left only moderate sys damage.
In low level attacks (100ft) it is the bombs that do damage not the MGs, and as my wife keeps telling me “size does matter”. The lovely beaufighter with its bank of 20mm cannons is a strafing pig due to the weak effect of its 250 lb bomb. Results vs ground units and airfields are so poor that I would not recommend using the plane at all for this purpose. I don’t recommend low attack with any 1st generation fighters except those few that carry 500lb bombs. Results gradually increased with bomb load. The P39 was much better due the 500 pound bomb, and the best results came not from the medium bombers but from the late war P38s and thunderbolts with their 1,000 lb bombs (although the mediums with multiple 500 pound bombs do just fine).
I really saw no variation between the medium B25-C and the B25H at 100 feet. Versus unprotected tanks and unprotected airbases they both seem to do the same amount of damage. However once you throw in a little flak then the equation changes dramatically. Basically flak, even a little flak, matters. Any aircraft attacking at 100 feet is going to get punished. In my tests, I did ten consecutive passes vs the target (usually taking about 12 days due to weather) and looked over the results. No matter the plane, it is not unusual for a squadron to lose 3-6 aircraft over the course of the test-usually to flak but with the occasional op loss. The only difference is that at 100 feet the B25 C begins to also take a severe morale hit while the attack bombers and fighters really never dropped below 90.
If you move the fighter and fighter bombers up to the 3-5,000 foot range then their bombs begin to become ineffective (as it should be). Basically, if you are going to bomb with fighters then 100 feet is the only way to go for bases and ground units. There is no sense bombing from any other altitude. With the B25-C, you are still very effective at any low altitude taking fewer flak and morale hits as you get higher. The attack bombers always drop down so you don’t have much choice here.
There is not much experience gained when the stats are in the 70 range but fighter and fighter bombers do gain low ground exp due to them starting in the 30 range. I really saw no difference between the attack bombers with 70 strafing and low bombing skills over fighters and mediums that only had the 70 skills in the strafing sector. At 100 feet the strafing skill seems to be the most important.
Here is the rub though. As a test I moved the B25s up to 7,000 feet and tried them out on the tanks and the airfield. To my surprise, both the mediums and attack bombers were virtually as effective at this altitude and the defending AA left them virtually untouched! They were still fairly good at 15,000 feet too. So, I question why anyone would bother going low at all with any sort of medium bomber? I don’t really see any benefit to it and so would have to say that the only real skill necessary with a medium bomber is high bombing when hitting land targets. It is best to just use them at 7,000 feet or higher.
Now naval bombing is a different story. Versus my small convoy, attacking at 100 feet with all types was very effective. Against the seven smaller ships even the beaufighters were able to do some serious damage. Results varied as some days there were two strikes but basically beaufighters, P39s, B25 C, H and G versions, lightings and thunderbolts all did very well. The bombers and beaus had 16 plane squadrons and the fighters 24. At 100 feet they strafed and bombed with plenty of hits usually sinking about 3-4 ships per attack. The mediums with multiple bomb loads scored a few more hits but basically all were successful. The only difference is that the H and G mitchells would attack in 2 plane sections rather than 4 and I frequently got the message that they were suppressing flak. It was hard to determine if it was effective as the convoy did not really have much AA anyways and no plane type suffered heavily from flak. One thing to note is that fighters and fighter bombers (beaufighters anyone?) never suppress flak only attack bombers do. I like this suppression but I think it really should apply to all low flying planes with forward firing weapons. Also, at no point did I ever see attack bombers suppressing ground based flak. Nor did I ever see a skip bombing attack but this test is set in mid 42 and I don’t know if there is a time trigger for skip bombing. It did not matter. The bombs hurt no matter how they hit.
As a test, I dropped the skill levels down to 50 for a few units and ran them vs. the ships. With average skills in the 50 the planes attacked and still did a nice job of hacking up the ships. I would say that the common belief that you need to train them up to 70 in strafing and low nav is a myth. The fighter bombers went in with 70 strafing skills and low nav in the 30 and still made a fine mess of things. As expected the DDs were much harder to hit with bombs. For reference a flight of Mitchell Gs hit a DD on a few occasions while strafing and landed a few 75mm hits. While not dramatic, they usually left the DDs with 15-20 sys damage. I never saw any reference to the 75s while attacking tanks or airbases. They were not that accurate so I would not expect much there. Versus barges-even a few MG hits will quickly kill a barge.
One quirk, Aircraft set to low will rarely attack a TF located at a base under CAP-even with good escorts available. Place the TF one hex away and CAP it with the same number of fighters on LRCP and the opposing bombers will almost always attack. So if you are running barges and small AKLs try to get them to a port every turn with some fighters overhead to reduce the risk of attack. Or leave them one hex out with a fat LRCP to set a trap-depending.
I have yet to try tests vs ships in port but will get to that as well has TFs with heavier AA loads.
Now a few notes on weather. As far as I can see weather is just about as screwed up as can be. There seems to be no relationship between the weather in a hex during an attack and the effect of the attack. That is, if the attack goes in-it seems to be just as likely to be effective in a severe storm as on the rare clear day. And, there seems to be about a zero % chance the projected weather in a hex will actually be the weather for that day. In WWII weather forecasting was usually right about 60% of the time. For this reason, I would recommend that you pay no attention to the weather forecast when planning to fly your aircraft. My little test platform was in N. Oz where the weather is usually clear and dry (yes, we all now know that they have a rainy season). I would say that in the combat reports, I was seeing clear or part cloudy weather about 20% of the time. However, it did not matter as the type of weather made no difference anyways. In order to get ten days of attacks I had to run tests for about 12-14 days on average. Bomber missions were scrubbed due to weather but I could not see any relationship between bad weather and a mission getting scrubbed. It just seems to be random.
And interesting enough, if you turn off the advanced weather effects in the settings before starting a game, you will always get a weather forecast of “partial clouds” each and every day, but the combat report will still give you all types of weather in the attacked hex!!! What is going on here? I suspect that nobody has ever played a game with weather effects turned off and this has been missed. So , from my tests it does seem that weather will affect spotting but once spotted and attacked the type of weather in the hex has no effect on the outcome to the attack.
That’s it for now. I plan on doing some more tests and will report back what I find.
I am the Holy Roman Emperor and am above grammar.
Sigismund of Luxemburg