Managing the Air: Swaps, Upgrades and Replacements Part II
This is part of an occasional series on the details of managing the air arm in response to a request by Zorch. More detail is being given than normal here, those wishing for a casual read of the AAR may want to skip over this post.
In addition to the 16 fighter air group swaps described there were 70 other air group swaps up to turn 37. We have also followed the same principles as we have for fighters to minimise the number of exports/conversions and withdrawals we do not want.
GERMAN FIGHTER BOMBERS AND DIVE BOMBERS
As we started this game in v.1.10 there was no separate category of dive bombers - but with the updates all tactical bombers have been categorised as dive bombers. Seven full airgroups and three stabs arrived with Stukas - although initially with the very short range Ju87B. There is a very small production of Stukas so this can potentially be a choke point. We soon received production of the slightly less short range Stukas upgrade Ju87D-1. However it was a while before there are enough in the pool for a Ju87B airgroup to upgrade to it. So we had an upgrade bridging gap where there were Ju87D-1s left in the pool, but not enough to swap an airgroup of them, while there were not enough Ju87Bs to fill the replacement need. As a result we only left all but the most experienced full Stukas groups and all of the Stukas stabs on manual upgrade only. Eventually though we have got four of our best full Stukas groups to upgrade for free automatically and the bridging gap between the two types has eased.
We also started the game with two other tac/dive bomber airgroups both of which withdraw on turn 40 and a third one which arrived and withdraws later
I assumed probably wrongly that the "Sch" was short for something like school and this was a group of of tac bomber trainers temporarily seconded to the front-lines for the immediate invasion. I have since been corrected that they were like a demonstration air group. Whatever the case they have for long been known to me as the "old men in the biplanes" airgroup. I have a special place for them in my solo games turn 1 airbase bombing campaigns and hold them back to the very end. Once the panzers have moved forward I move forward an airbase right up behind them - in this case typically 2LW on the north side of the Daugava - and air transfer this air group there. This airgroup is then usually able to make 100-200 more kills by bombing airbases on turn 1 using vitually no fuel or ammo from an airbase. And so on through the game when I want some ground support, but have no bases with ammo stocks or fuel in them, these are the guys to do the job. This airgroup as a result gets experience and morale in the 90s which means, so long as it is not left unescorted or undefended on its base, virtually none of them get lost after turn 20. So even with replacements off I am bound to see this airgroup leave with about six to ten planes - and about one or two in the pool that got left behind for repair and cannot be swapped for anybody else either . So in this game they have been left with replacements on and used just about everywhere possible, even through the blizzard, and now with three turns to go regardless of fatigue levels.
Again in other games this airgroup has for me a very special use on turn 1 - it is the only tac/dive bomber that can reach as far as the airbase north of Zhitomir (73,76). In this game it has been left without replacements and through the blizzard too. It has similarly reached high experience and morale levels to the point that it simply does not lose aircraft any more from operational use while there was no Soviet air force on the map. Indeed in one turn we swapped this out of Bf 109E-7/U1 and swapped two stabs of Stukas to Bf 109E-7/U1 before swapping this airgroup back to Bf 109E-7/U1 the next turn - spending four points just to save eight of these aircraft from withdrawing. Admittedly swapping the stabs of Stukas out of Stukas helped with the bridging problem they had from upgrading from one type to the next. But it is open to debate whether spending 2 or 4 points to keep 8 Bf 109E-7/U1 from withdrawing was a good spend. As it is it is likely to leave in three turns with close to 18 aircraft.
The final member of our German dive/tac bomber family only arrived on turn 16 - and having missed out on the big kill totals when the soviet airforce was on the map its inexperience shows. Originally it arrived as a Bf 109E-4B single seat fighter bomber - but as I prefer the Bf 109E-7/U1 tac/dive bomber the Bf109E-4B converts to it made more send to swap this fighter bomber group out of Bf 109E-4B and into being a dive bomber. This was the only point we spent on single seater fighter bomber swaps. The Bf109E-4Bs in the pool have since converted to Bf 109E-7/U1. However unlikes Stukas, Bf 109E-7/U1 or the biplanes we now have a small production run of the Hs 129B which will export to other allies. And so as we are likely to be short of tac and dive bombers, especially as we have kept all the Bf109E3 fighters from converting to them, we will want to keep German all the dive bombers and tac bombers we have. Hence this was swapped to the small pool of Hs 129B we had which was just enough for it at the time. Its sister squadron 15./JG 27 (Span) also arrived on turn 13 with Bf109E-4B but as it disbanded on turn 37 and all its aircraft went to the pool it was not even worth the point to swap it to anything else. Instead it was relegated to rear area fighter cover after being changed to fighter missions until it left.
When it comes to twin engine fighter bombers the Luftwaffe has the reverse problem to everywhere else. It produces far more Bf110s than it can ever use. The air groups that can use them are few in number and usually disband or withdraw after a few turns. Given that they are not constrained arguably you could even let withdrawing airgroups keep replacements on and upgrade to have a fuller OOB on the map until they do leave. A different treatment is in order for the Me210A-1 - we swapped IIZG26 to it as we know as a disbanding group we will get them back to the pool when it goes. This was the only point we spent on manual swaps of twin engine fighter bombers. Far fewer of these are produced and this is the only German aircraft that can provide fighters at a greater range than its single seat fighters. Interestingly some german fighter bombers can convert to Me210A-1 and then convert to single seat fighters - so having a pool of these is a way to get more single seat fighter air groups.
GERMAN LEVEL BOMBERS
The flip side to the lack of single seat fighter production has been the abundance of level bomber production. German air doctrine had overemphasised these - but luckily for the 8MP game we have successfully shifted the focus of the air war from our fighters to our level bombers anyway - principally by having the key battle point being when our bombers bomb their fighter airbases or fighter factories. Our German Bombers come in three families
-Ju86E-2: our worst bomber with a small payload and range less than our fighters and many of our tac bombers. More often than not it has been used alongside our tac and dive bombers rather then with other level bombers. We started with no airgroups using these and 220 in the pool but swapped them into all of our withdrawing bomber groups. We now have only 6 left in the pool, with all the level bomber groups that used them withdrawn.
-Ju88A: has been the workhorse level bomber with the largest production. But is has a slightly inferior range and effectiveness compared to the Heinkels. As it does not export we have been slowly building up the pool of Ju88As knowing they will always be there if we need them, and only as and when the pools of other types allows us to.
-Ju88A-4: has replaced the production of Ju88A in 1942 and any left in the pool will eventually export to Finland, Hungary and Rumania, but so far we only have four airgroups of them - and mostly because they were arrivals which had them already.
-He111H-3/4: both these types have exactly the same stats and indeed the He111H-3 in the pool convert slowly to He111H-4 at no arms cost anyway. At the start of the game we had no He111H-3 airgroups but 220 of them in the pool. By contrast the He111H-4 airgroups we do start the game with are short of replacements and will need to catch up. So in the short run it may even make sense to manually downgrade them to He111H-3 - when there are enough He111H-4 in the pool they can be set to upgrade only and will eventually upgrade for free back to He111H-4 again. Instead in this game many were left on autoswap and eventually swapped for free to Ju88A in 1941 as we had so many of them in the pool. Now that production has caught up and given a surplus we face another problem in 1942 - He111H-4s left in the pool will convert to Hungarian recon. Yuck. As if we did not have enough recon already, we would be making more by losing some of our best level bombers. This is definitely worth spending points on stopping.
-He111H-6: has replaced production of He111H-4 - and at least any of these in the pool will not convert to those damned Hungarian recon planes, they will only convert to Rumanian bombers. While our preference would still be to keep these German, for reasons we will come to there is less reason to worry if some go Rumanian.
-Do 17Z-2: clearly an inferior bomber to the Ju88A and Heinkels in range and payload, but I feel deprecated by other players too much. At least I have found them effective enough, and even swapped some airgroups that had them and were withdrawing early to Ju86E-2. However with only 6 Ju86E-2 left in the pool this has become the bomber type we swap any newly arriving airgroup to if they are withdrawing soon. Any left in the pool will eventually export to Finland, but only if there are more than 10 or so in the pool. In this 8MP game in particular our Finnish bombers have a much narrower range of opportunities and have their own surplus of bombers. So we have found it worthwhile to keep enough of this aircraft in our airgroups to prevent any from being exported.
-Do 217E-2/4: the Do 217E-2 were never used in any of our airgroups, but the ones left in the pool are being converted to the Do 217E-4 which has also replaced its production. Its production is much smaller than that of the Heinkels and Junkers, but has a slightly longer range and significantly larger payload. It will also not convert or export so is being kept back for special purposes later.
In addition to any free swaps we could get we have spent 35 points on swapping German level bomber types. 16 of these points were spent on swapping withdrawing airgroups to older types of bombers, principally Ju86E-2 during the summer of 1941 but also some to Do 17Z-2 and for arriving airgroups later in the game. 18 points have been spent principally during the blizzard to accelerate the conversion of the bomber force to being almost exclusively Heinkels which also meant none were in the pools to convert to Hungarian recon planes.
When I say I spend points on manually swapping German recon groups I usually either get a quizzical look or the words femto manager usually get said. However in this game we have successfully shifted the focus of the air war off air types which are constrained, such as fighters, and on to air types in abundance such as bombers and recon. So I think it is worth taking care of them.
As we started this game in v1.10.00 there was no separate strategic recon category - big heavy recon planes such as the Ju88D-1 could be freely swapped to light as a butterfly types such as the Storks. Our family of recon planes consisted of
Ju 88D-1: Our longest range and heaviest recon plane of which we have many in the pools and in airgroups. Eventually these will also export to Rumania and Hungary - but given the abundance of these there seems little need to spend actual points stopping this.
Do 17P-1: Our next longest range recon aircraft which is out of production from the beginning of the game, eventually if there are enough in the pool some might export to Rumania. But for now as numbers of these have been used up some airgroups have been set to upgrade only which swaps them to Ju 88D-1 for free. So it seems our numbers of Do 17P-1 are being gently run down along with the number of airgroups using them.
Bf 110C-5/Bf 110E-3: the Bf 110C-5 and the Bf 110E-3 it upgrades to are perhaps better called middle range German recon. They are few in number and can be left in the pool and never export. But at least when we have them available on the map and they are in range we have used them as they are more fuel economical than the longer range types.
Hs 126B-1: was our most numerous short range recon at the start of the game and effectively our workhorse however we have been upgrading a few automatically to Fw189 for free. Unusually later in the war any of these in the pool will convert to dive bombers - not very effective ones probably but given the abundance of recon we have anyway a few more dive bombers even if not very good would still be a welcome addition.
Fw189: is now our preferred short range reconnaissance aircraft and is preferred to the others above because of its fuel efficiency. After a certain point in the game and above a certain number in the pool this will be exported to Hungary and Slovakia. Given that Slovakia will for the rest of the game have no airgroups at all any that go to its pool are effectively lost for ever. To stop this it might alone be worth spending points to manually swap HS126B-1 airgroups to FW189 to keep them out of the pool as it will also potentially add more to the dive bomber pool from the HS126B-1s. However the heavy use of this aircraft so far has meant this has not usually never be a needed.
Fi156c: the "Stork" is perhaps better described as an ultra short range recon plane- and historically was as much a commanders taxi and medical evac plane as recon. If the Ju88D-1 is the heavy duty lorry of reconnaissance, the Fi156c is the light weight fold up bicycle. And it shows in fuel use- only about 1 tonne of fuel even when it has flown 100% of its air miles. Logisitically it is probably far more efficient on an airbase far from rails than any other recon plane on an airbase on repaired rail. It is also famous for its backward take offs in high winds. Its short range however means it is far more restricted in use than any other recon, and should always be used in preference to any other recon plane when it can be. We start of with 220 of these in the pools on turn 1 and no air groups with them. It is not an upgrade for any other airgroup, but we know any recon autoswaps early on in the game will be to this aircraft. Hence all the soon withdrawing groups of other types are set to autoswap and a great number of these have swapped automatically for free during the logistics phase. When there are more than ten or so of these in the pool now we know they will export to Slovakia (and so lost),Rumania or Finland; and some have done so already. But again heavy use of this aircraft as recon has meant for a long while there has not been enough in the pool and indeed now if it looked like they would we can always turn on replacements for one of the Fi156c airgroups that has a withdrawal date a long way in the future to stop it.
Overall almost all swaps of recon have been free but we have spent on seven manual swaps. Three were on swapping HS126B-1 airgroups to mid range type Bf 110C-5s when we had a lack of these, and four on creating more Fi156Cs and Fw189As when we wanted to prevent exports of these.
More than any other category of aircraft we have been successful in avoiding airgroups withdrawing with any aircraft in them. The abundance of recon air groups means we can keep replacements off not just for airgroups withdrawing sooner, but for long into the future. So not only are recon airgroups withdrawing with no aircraft in them, but also aircraft withdrawing in the distant future have no aircraft in them and we know they will not be needed before then.
A final mention should be made of German transports. These have been much less used in this game. Partly this was a choice to leave them in the reserve and release more vehicles from airbases to prioritise having vehicles in the pool and minimising any vehicle deficit penalty. But it has also been the result of a lack of emergencies requiring them, and the few operations requiring them were either small (Dumbo Drop) or cancelled (Reindeer). Hence we have had a buildup of these in the pool. Frequently the only transport airgroups we have kept on the map are withdrawing ones, the others have been in reserve for many turns now. Although all this could change in 1942. As a consequence the large numbers of Ju52/3ms that could be exported to Rumania and Hungary have done so. We spent only one point manually swapping one airgroup from another type of transport to Ju52/3m. But apart from this there has been no other swaps, manual or automatic. And while the withdrawing airgroups have had replacements off and been operationally prioritised, little else could be done to prevent a number of them withdrawing as airgroups withdrew.
The Finns start off with too few G50 and Gladiator fighters for the airgroups that use them - but by setting some of these to autoswap we eventually got four swaps for free to other types of fighters of which we had ample numbers in the pool. Similarly a Blenheim bomber, of which we had too few at the start, was set to autoswap and eventually did to the only other possibility the SB-2(F). The same process also led to two auto swaps of recon groups. Overall we have been able to carry out seven autoswaps on the Finnish airforce filling out its OOB and not had to spend any points on manual swaps.
The entire Italian air force consists of seven airgroups that withdraw on turn 46 soon to be replaced by others.
The Italian recon air groups have not only used up almost all of their aircraft, but all of the Libreccio pool as well. Loosing them instead of Germans will mean our pool of German recon is larger later
On the other hand the Italian fighter bombers have barely been used at all. Without a bomber airgroup in the Italian airforce it is not possible to do any manual missions with them such as fighter sweeps. So the only possibility has been auto missions such as interception, of which there have been few because of the absence of the Soviet air force. So in anticipation of a more active Italian air force in 1942 for the next group of Italian air groups to arrive, we have decided to swap out all the Italian fighter groups of their modern Seatta fighter bombers and swap them to older aircraft in the pool such as these biplanes before they leave on turn 46. However we will only find out if this spend of four points on manual swaps is worthwhile if the future Italian airforce groups get so heavily used that they need to use the pool of Saettas that has been left behind.
With no withdrawing groups there is no need to reduce the numbers withdrawing. But Rumania does have nine fighter groups and two dive bomber groups frozen in airbases within Rumania. So 4 points have been spent redistributing fighters between frozen home defence and the front line fighters.
The dive bombers frozen in Rumania however are an absolute waste. So at the very least we want to swap these to the very worst type (IAR 37) and only the minimum necessary to swap that air group for. Both the home dive bomber groups are IAR39 and we have one IAR 37 airgroup on the front lines and one other will be arriving later. The immediate problem was we had no other aircraft in the pool the front-line IAR37 group could be swapped for. So from turn 1 all Rumanian tac/dive IAR39 bomber groups have had replacements switched off so that the Rumanian production run of one a turn would build up a sufficient pool of IAR39 to swap into. When this happened we were finally able to swap the front-line IAR37 air group to the more up to date IAR39, but did this manually as we could not wait for the AI to do this with the upgrade only option switched on. The IAR37 in the pool will convert one a turn to IAR39 (at a cost of some arms points), so we left them in the pool until there were only just enough to swap one of the home command airgroups with. Later with the arrival of another IAR 37 airgroup to active duty we will do the same with the other home airgroup. Finally having started with two Rumanian tac/dive bomber groups equipped with the very long range Potez bomber for which there were no replacements, we had to build up a large enough pool for one of them to swap to IAR39 so that the remaining Potez could concentrate on one airgroup. Once this occurred we did leave one of the Potez on autoswap hoping to get this for free, knowing that IAR39 was the only aircraft it could convert to. But even with the pool in double figures it looked like this would still be a long wait, and so decided to do this with a manual swap during blizzard so that there was lots of time to train up again afterwards. The end consequence of all this manoeuvring is that we will end up with two half size home tac/dive bomber groups of IAR37, one front-line Potez group, and all the others with the most up to date IAR 39. But it also meant for many turns no front-line Rumanian group received any replacements whatsoever. Overall this has cost us three points in manual swaps so far and we would expect to spend another two when the other IAR37 air group arrives.
The Rumanian level bomber force has consisted of 6 different types of aircraft in 9 airgroups. A particular mention should be made of the Polish made PZL 37B(R) that they use. It is still the longest range Axis bomber of all in airgroups at the moment. It was able to bomb the Saratov Yak-1 factories and Stalingrad factories choking their expansion turns before the Luftwaffe had the range to do so. It many other ways they have provided, with their long range, invaluable service. But there are no replacements and we have done everything possible to extend their life span. At the end of every turn so far (and until we upgrade to v1.11.02) they were turned to night missions whenever they were not being used for our hand picked manual missions - so they were not used in ground support or interdiction say. Similarly when a Rumanian airgroup arrived equipped with this bomber but low experience one of our first acts was to swap it to a shorter range aircraft and swap one of our other highest experience airgroups to these aircraft left in the pool. So far we have spent only four points on manual swaps of the Rumanian air force - but for the service they have given they would have easily be worth spending many times more.
It is worth noting that in this 8MP game we have got many of our Rumanian tac/dive bombers and level bombers to exceptionally high levels of morale and experience. Some of this comes from being in the fight from turn one with a large mass of these aircraft unlike the Hungarians with their one or two later. Some of it of course also comes from riding the coat tails of the successful air war of the Luftwaffe. But a great deal of it also comes from the successful strategic bombing campaign of industry. As well as the first strike capability of the PZL 37B(R), Rumania has been the only ally able to also prosecute industry bombing. Given the rule of no more then two bombings per hex you want each one to be with as many bomber groups as possible and only Rumania has had a significant number of bombers of any type to do this with apart from the Germans. The corollary to this is they have also been in continuous bombardment of industry over many turns and in recent versions industry bombing also contributes to experience gain, especially as they for many turns have been unopposed by a Soviet air force. Our Rumanian bombers now would be the equivalent of very good Luftwaffe bombers in many other games. Whether we can sustain this given the use of national morale from v.1.11.02 we will have to see. But otherwise the export of He111H-6s to Rumania would not now be a bad thing.
Having come late to the party the Hungarians never picked the kill totals of the Rumanians, and had too small a bomber force to effectively participate in industry bombing. Having only a couple of on map Hungarian ground units for most of 1941 meant the chance to provide ground support was rare. And once the Soviet air force left they were not even needed for fighter cover. So in an attempt to give them something to do many Hungarian fighters were downgraded to biplane fighter bombers and changed to a bomber role - and airgroups frozen in Hungary equipped with fighter bombers had to be swapped to fighters to allow the release of the fighter bombers to the pool. Overall this cost five points.
Having at least one bomber group meant the Hungarians, unlike the Italians, could at least do bombing missions with their fighter bombers also. This "spam ground bombing" probably only inflicted small damage on the Soviet side, but at least to those Hungarian airgroups it has further boosted their kill totals. At the end of each turn they have been switched back to fighter missions just in case they are needed for the Soviet action phase and eventually we would expect these air groups to be switched back to their fighter role with modern aeroplanes.
< Message edited by Telemecus -- 8/16/2018 9:42:13 AM >