So I'm trying to better understand how to use the air system beyond just clicking to bomb a somewhat random bunch of units/airbases and having it automatically select which air groups then moving my air bases and HQs forward like regular units with the air groups still in them (yes I'm sure all the experts gasp and cringe now). So after reading the updated manual a few times, I think I have a sense of "what" you can do but its very dense and doesn't really give any direction on "how" or "why" to do things.
So I tried to collect up a few of the tips/references folks have provided me and what I could find on the forum. Hopefully this can help consolidate the information for the next person who struggles through the air system learning curve. I admit that I'm really just gathering information from other experts and will try to give credit to those especially for long detailed references (if I miss crediting anyone please just PM me).
- Axis turn 1 air example (Telemecus): http://www.matrixgames.com/forums/fb.asp?m=4640414
- Axis turn 1 air example (eskuche): http://www.matrixgames.com/forums/fb.asp?m=4774148
- Air overview (tyronec): http://www.matrixgames.com/forums/fb.asp?m=4372048
- 8MP air war review (Telemecus): http://www.matrixgames.com/forums/fb.asp?m=4610152
- Kabuki dance diagram (Telemecus): http://www.matrixgames.com/forums/fb.asp?m=4493996
- Training game air overview and kabuki dance explanation (thedoctorking): https://www.matrixgames.com/forums/tm.asp?m=4589517
- Kabuki dance example (Crackaces): http://www.matrixgames.com/forums/fb.asp?m=4389394
- Managing air swaps, upgrades, and replacements (Telemecus): http://www.matrixgames.com/forums/fb.asp?m=4515266
- Air doctrine and national reserve (Telemecus): http://www.matrixgames.com/forums/fb.asp?m=4702001
- Aircraft types and usage (Dinglir): https://www.matrixgames.com/forums/tm.asp?m=4785370
- The strategic purpose of any air force is solely to impact ground operations, either directly (bombing, recon etc) or indirectly (by preventing the other side's primary efforts). Many players have a tendency to get caught up in a separate air war, where they squander their resources trying to shoot down one more enemy fighter instead of using those resources to kill off a few more enemy ground units. Always consider how to use your air forces and what air units to assign for a specific mission.
- Bomb units with highest detection levels, lowest fortification levels, the better enemy units first (guards/elite/motorized) and best of all bomb units before they retreat due to one of your ground attacks - the enemy your air disrupted can become loses if they then have to retreat.
- Ground support (which happens automatically with your ground unit battles) is three times more effective than ground bombing. So do not do so much ground bombing that they are too fatigued to give ground support.
- To avoid air groups from flying ground support if you want to save them for other missions, you can set their aircraft ranges to one hex.
- Manually selecting which air units for various missions can make them much more effective.
- Usually air force missions are more effective with the use of a staging airbase as near the target as possible. So bombing at full range is not the best option.
- Send airbases forward into newly-captured territory and then transfer air groups to them. This allows strikes against those more remote enemy airbases.
- Bombing airfields can only be done with the first 33% of an air group's air miles.
- Try to earmark vulnerable enemy airbases and pre-allocate about 1.5 fighter per bomber going on the mission. Limit of 14 air groups I think per manual attack. Decide whether to bomb airbases before or after ground moves depending on airbase placement, ground support need, and enemy ground support.
- Run air recon missions to look for enemy units. The Soviets have very few recon planes, so be economical. Also, if you want to find out the identity of German units that you can see but donít have high enough det levels on to get a unit ID (det levels 1-4), you can do ďrecon by fireĒ ground bombing missions to increase detection level (this used to also show named ground units that were targeted if info level set to 7 but that was fixed in v1.12).
- Axis recon spam is where the enormous stock of short-range recon aircraft fly many missions in an attempt to draw Soviet fighters up, expending fuel and ammo and raising fatigue. At the same time, from looking at the Soviet reaction to these observation missions, the Axis player can assess the readiness of Soviet air defenses and the location of anti-aircraft guns. When interceptions get less common, the Axis can then begin to fly bombing missions secure in the knowledge that the Soviet fighter force has shot its wad. Soviet fighters are getting plenty of experience and morale in the process of shooting at (and sometimes shooting down) the recon planes, but this tactic can give the Axis a couple of months effectively free of Soviet air defenses at the front.
- Some settings are only used during your turn and don't matter for manual air missions as long as they aren't set to 0 (Ground Attack, Ground Attack Escort, Airfield Attack, Airfield Attack Escort, City Attack, City Attack Escort)
- Some only during your opponents turn so set these at the end of your turn (Interdiction Attack, Interdiction Attack Escort)
- Some during both (Ground Support, Ground Support Escort, Fighter Intercept, Night-Fighter Intercept)
- Percentage required to fly: 0% is a good safe default to choose - your fighters will never sit on the ground doing nothing while they are bombed with that. Some use it to control fatigue of your fighters from doing interceptions. But I would say you are (usually) better off controlling that by moving them back if they are overused.
- On the other settings remember HIGHER NUMBERS MEANS LESS OF IT. If you want more then make those numbers smaller not larger! If you are happy with the number of missions you get there, increase the number to get more aircraft in each. So rather than giving a set number for these doctrines I would say just change them as needed - each time decide if you want more or less and change the numbers until you start to get what you want.
- Similarly on escort numbers do look at the state of your fighters and other aircraft. If you are losing too many bombers by being shot down by the enemy fighters, then increase escort (which will mean fewer missions performed). If your fighters are exhausted and you are not losing too many bombers, then reduce.
- In general, Axis should keep recon escort off and Soviets recon escort on.
Optimizing Airbase Movement (aka Kabuki Dance)
- The goal is to use air transfer to avoid moving airbases with air groups in them.
- This minimizes air miles used and fatigue to air groups when moving airbases. When airbases are moved overground, the air groups in them arrive to their destination with often 15+% miles flown. When air groups are air transferred to another airbase, air groups arrive at their destination with around 1% air miles flown. The air miles when it would have flown missions most effectively in effect would be wasted on driving.
- An air transfer mission can only be conducted as an air group unit's first mission of the phase (air transferring to another airbase in the same hex allows additional an air transfer).
- When 2 airbases are on the same hex, you can transfer planes from lower to higher unit ID (right click unit panel, top right number is unit ID) because units are stacked in order of their number, and when you transfer aircraft into a hex they automatically are put on the airbase on top of the stack. This can be used to free up an airbase to move.
- Move preferably an empty airbase to its new location, and transfer the planes normally.
- NOTE: As of patch v1.12, the fuel/ammo levels available in an airbase don't matter anymore as airbases get their fuel/ammo directly from the supply grid now, but before this you needed to ensure the airbases that were moved forward had enough fuel/ammo to fly the necessary missions.
Air Supply and Air Base Limits
- Air bases can have a max of 9 air groups
- Air bases have "air support" elements (most Axis airbases have around 230 I think) and you want to try to only station air groups up to that limit (see the airbase detail window and look at the supply needed where it specifies "AV" which is the total needed by the currently stationed air groups)
- Having more air support than "AV" increases repair rate and fatigue reduction, so it's worth not crowding bases. In general for Axis, something around 4 level bombers or 7 fighter groups should be about the ideal max (or some combination of those).
- Generally bombers take up more air support than fighters
- Airbases loaded on trains do work for all intents and purposes and railing them makes it so support groups won't be fatigued on arrival to new locations
National Reserve (NR) and Fatigue/Morale/Experience/Damaged
- Start a turn by first doing all the air administration that you need to do. This includes moving air groups to National Reserve if they are low on morale (below about 40 for the Soviets, 50 for the Axis), high on fatigue (above 25 or so for the Soviets, 40 for the Axis), or low on ready planes (below about 33% of maximum).
- NR has infinite supply and support so is very good for air groups with lots of damaged and reserved planes to repair them.
- NR gives a boost to morale while there and also a one off boost each time it is moved to reserve so should be good for low morale groups.
- NR reduces fatigue which is usually the number one problem for German fighters.
- As long as your morale is at NR, flying heavily fatigued and damaged air groups to unused rear airbases only costs one turn of inaction whereas NR incurs 2.5 turns gone. Well supplied and non overloaded airbases can easily bring down 25-30 fatigue and that many damaged planes a turn.
- The one-off morale gain is the big thing, but also because it makes more space each turn for optimizing airbase movement - airbases alone can get clogged with air groups without cycling to NR.
- Air units moving from NR use 100% air miles, so they are sitting ducks waiting for bombs. Having 100% air miles flown means it will not fly during your turn, but it will still fly during your opponents air turn. Some have argued that because air miles are not reset to 0% until your logistics they should not be able to fly. But in repeated testing it has been found that aircraft on 100% air miles flown at the end of your turn will fly during your opponents air turn. Indeed it seems there is no air miles limit at all for your air groups during your opponents turn, the only limit is what the AI will choose to do with them then.
-Recon. The Axis have a lot of recon. Are you going to use all of it? If not then why are you leaving them in airbases needing supplies and vehicles to service them. If you send half of your recon or more to reserve I bet you will barely notice it. So here you may be wanting to just keep rotating low morale groups in and out of national reserve and leave recon air groups on their base morale in the National Reserve simply to avoid the logistics of keeping aircraft in the field you do not use. You will probably use less than 1/3 of your recon all the time as a beginner so no need to keep out more than you need.
- Can use fighters thirds cycle: 1/3 sent to NR (best done at start of turn, and usually they go first to transit and only appear in NR the next turn), 1/3 stay on the map during the turn and can be used for air missions during the turn, 1/3 that get assigned back from NR (best done at the end of the turn)
- Some Soviet players send their entire air force to their NR on turn 1. If so consider sending more than 1/3 of your fighters to NR as they will not be needed on turn 2 at all, and in a future turn when they are back you can afford to rotate less than a third. For you bombers you have a decision. You can send more to NR as the ones that stay will have an easy time of it. Or you can say its party time, there is no Soviet air force to oppose you so let us do mass unescorted daylight bombing of everything!
- If you foresee in a few turns you will have some critical battles coming up (Leningrad, Moscow) you may want to rotate more than 1/3 off the map now so they come back fresh for those key battles and rotate less then 1/3 off the map then. Similarly if you are very close to the mud or blizzard when planes do not fly very well, then keep more planes on the map for the last hurrah of clear weather but keep more off the map during the bad weather.
Air Command Structure and Leaders
- Get air ratings up as much as possible by assigning all working airbases to the best air leaders (Kesselring-Richthofen for Germany, 5 and 6 rating air leaders for Soviets).
- Germany is most effective with 8-8 Fliegerkorps and Luftflotte, meaning you get 16 airbases with air checks at 80-88%. It's best if possible to make these airbases #1-16, as #17-24 are freed up to allow transfers and to act as rear bases for re-basing from NR and for fixing up heavily damaged and fatigued air groups. I am not sure how/if air rating affects transport planes at this point. Further, AMA and especially Romanian airbases can function as holding airbases for German planes (as opposed to Germany army airbases) while your main airbases move forward. Note that you'll need one or two staging airbases from the 16, bonus points if you can use them as forward fighter bases AFTER their staging role.
Axis Aircraft Types and Usage
- Bf 109E: Bomber destroyer. Pretty heavily armed so good against enemy bombers. Use it for protecting your airfields. It also has an upgrade path going Bf 109E-3 to B9 109E-4B to Bf 109E- 7/U1, the last being a tactical bomber with brilliant fighter capabilities. If fighter losses allow, consider changing out all Bf 109E-3ís so that you can get the other aircraft into your pool.
- Bf 109F: Dogfighter. At the beginning of the war, you have more than enough to protect your Ju-87ís. Can use the remainder as protection for He-111ís doing daytime attacks if feasible, as the Soviets will not yet be entrenched and HE-111ís can prepare the ground attacks very well.
- BF 110E: Fighter Bomber. Heavily armed so good against enemy bombers. Can carry 2 x 500kg bombs.
- Ju-87B: Dive bomber. Not that great, but it will soon upgrade to the Ju87-D1, which is a VERY substantial upgrade. Very good for ground support, but need to ensure that no enemy fighters get close to it.
- He-111: Ground support. Good for bombing units with a low fortification and minimal cover with its 8 x 250kg bombs. As long as they fly with fighter cover, they can do alright during the day. Once fighter cover is missing, they will get slaughtered by the Soviets and should shift to night flying. Good for preparing ground attacks.
- Ju-88: Heavy ground support. Good for bombing heavily entrenched units with its 2 x 1000kg bombs. I personally dislike this aircraft very much, as I have found no good use for it. Historically, it was very effective in the early Barbarossa period, but in this game it simply cannot fly alone. I usually despair at some point and shift it to night flying.
Soviet Aircraft Types and Usage
- The "prime quality" Soviet fighters at the beginning of the war are the Yak-1, the LaGG-3, and the MiG-3. These aircraft are VERY different and should be used for what they are good at.
- MIG-3: Bomber and transport escort. Long range, fast but very lightly armed.
- Yak-1: Dogfighter. Best early war Soviet dogfighter and should be used primarily during Soviet turns to minimize loses (due to low production and a need to keep them operating). Use these to guard some of your best bombers like the IL-2ís or Hurricane IIBís, using about 4-5 Yak-1 Regiments to 4 bomber regiments on an airbase.
- LaGG-3: Bomber destroyer. Heavily armed so good at shooting down enemy bombers. Use these as interceptors against deep German bombing raids. Usually deploy them as airfield defenders during the first few turns and then use them to supplement Yak-1ís as more are produced.
- I-15 types: Weak air support. Worthless in a dogfight, the I-153 has a couple of 100kg GP bombs, which is pretty standard for Soviet Fighter Bombers. The I-15bis version is pretty much useless. I prefer using these aircraft in bomber trained ShaP units (youíll have a few by turn two) and using them together with I-16ís as Air Support during the Axis turn. They will get blown from the skies, but you do have 2,500 of them and they will not grow less obsolete as time goes by.
- I-16 types: Weak air support. A little better than I-15ís in a dogfight, these are still the aircraft I use as fighters during the German turn. I tend to set up something like 3 I-15ís and 5-6 I-16ís on an airfield and setting them to fly 8-10 hexes. They will drop from the sky as flies, but hopefully, they will buy you a little time to get your production of better aircraft going. You have close to 5,000 of these aircraft, so the Germans should spend some time chewing through them.
- P-40B (lend lease): Bomber and transport escort. A great escort fighter. Itís long range will ensure that enough stay with the bombers to ensure that less Germans will get through.
- I-153BS, SU-2 and IL-2: During the early game, you will not have many of these. Especially if you choose to evacuate the IL-2 factories early. Usually set them up with Yak-1ís or LaGG-3ís escorts and usually avoid flying them during the German turn in order to minimize loses.
- U-2VS: Weak, cheap bomber. Usually best to mass them 8 or 9 groups on an airfield close to the front and start night bombing everything within range. Given how cheap they are, losses aren't a big deal.
- SB-2: Have zero survivability and so best to set them up for night flying and use them to bring supplies to encircled Soviet formations. Production is 0 and they will slowly get supplanted by Pe-2ís
- Pe-2: A decent, early war bomber, but not one you should use as combat support. I prefer using them for bombing German Infantry. The main aim is causing disruption which will translate into fatigue which will translate into fewer MP and a slower advance.
- DB-3B, IL-4: Heavy load, long range bombers. I use them at night for partisan support and flying supplies to encircled units.
- Hurricane IIB (lead lease): Ground support. Armed with 2 500lbs GP bombs and 12 machine guns making it perfect for bombing soft ground targets in the open. Once they and Yak-1í are available, I set them up together and at some point start using them for ground support.
Axis Turn 1
- Bombers: The first turn has special rules giving a bonus to bombing enemy airfields. So in this turn you are better off squeezing every drop of use out of even the worst condition bomber group. However, if all enemy aircraft are destroyed in stuka range, or in stuka range of where stukas could be transferred to, it can make sense to send some shorter range bombers to NR.
- Fighters: Bombers don't need escorts for bombing on turn 1, so this is a good turn NOT to use fighters. Yes, you can use them to add to the kill total. And giving easy kills and wins to your fighters now is a great way of training them up to higher experience and morale. But as you will always be trying to keep your fatigue down, resting them for one turn when you do not really need them is a good thing. This does not necessarily mean move them to a rear airbase or reserve, but just make sure they do not fly in your action phase.
- Transports: Your panzers and other units start off with the fuel tanks full for two turns - if you deliver fuel or supplies to them in turn 1 they will just need more fuel to carry the supplies with them on turn 2 as they probably will not use it. There is some use to delivering supplies to your furthest flung panzers at the end of turn 2. But if you are not going to be using a transport group for turn 1 and 2 again ask yourself why you are keeping it there?
- NR: Contrary to the intuition that all the air groups are fresh and motivated on turn 1 there are some pretty beat up air groups there. Some have barely half of their aircraft ready and some are newly formed and yet to gain morale or experience. Given the bonuses to Axis air on turn 1 you will usually not notice it. But there are air groups on turn 1 that are candidates for morale and repair recycling through NR or fatigue recovery through a rear airbase. So if you find some air groups are surplus to requirements on turn 1 you should consider it. Consider possibly some stukas and especially a lot of transports. This is only for air groups that are really surplus to requirements - turn 1 is still a great turn for getting wins and building experience and morale for the air groups that do participate.
1. Air Doctrine: Ground support off. Interception up. Recon escort off.
2. Set all air groups to 1 range. Unlock 1 non-withdrawing fighter group at a not-forward most airbase (the ones with the Ju-52/m transports are a good candidate).
3. Make as many guaranteed ground attacks as possible. Fighters will intercept for free experience due to turn 1 Soviet maluses. Change out fighters when the first groups reach ~25-30 fatigue.
4. When approaching a Soviet airbase you can't leave alone, move forward (starting from the back) an airbase. Transfer tactical bombers and another fighter squad to it (two Stab flights are probably okay). Bomb airbase. Dive bombers will decimate planes (about one group per 3-4 airbases within 11 range).
5. Repeat across all fronts. When done with turn, move forward most airbases as far forward as possible under protection of another unit. Move level bombers to them. Bomb far away airbases.
Axis Specific Tips
- Usually long term, the Luftwaffe will not be able to defeat the Soviet Air Forces if the Soviets manage their air force effectively. Axis air strategy should reflect this. By all means take out as much as you can on turn 1, but then you should start focusing on ground support.
- Prioritize which Soviet air units to bomb. Prefer bombing modern Soviet fighter types, recon, Il-2s and very long range bombers over I15s/I16s.
- The Soviets only produce six good recon aircraft a turn so if you destroy enough and you can leave them blind.
- A major challenge can be finding a good way to use all the level bombers, especially when playing the Axis. You will have too few fighters to escort then properly, and the multitude of Soviet fighters will chew through them in insane numbers dropping Morale and Experience. So what to do? Accept insane losses and Soviet Experience by flying unprotected at day or setting to night flying and then watching your reserve pools climbing like mad? Usually the latter is better, to avoid building the effectiveness of the Soviet Air Force.
- Get withdrawing groups down to 21 bf 109e3s if possible. Easiest way is to use all of them then 2 then for every 40 planes in the pool take away as many as possible using combinations of the homegroup staffels and Stab groups. A bit finicky but can get you 100-200 fighters for a couple dozen AP. Also with your rear frozen air groups. Those fighter air groups in Germany should only be 7 fighters strong each. The Romanian frozen groups should not have more than just over half their aircraft etc. etc.
- Keeping fatigue levels down is the number one issue for German fighters - or the number one way to make them ineffective is when the Soviets keep them high.
- Generally avoid bombing Soviet air bases after turn 1 if they have fighter cover. Better to do fighter sweeps.
- Try to bomb airbases with minimal Soviet flak with overwhelming force. But a good Soviet air commanders will concentrate his airbases, fill them with flak, and your air groups will get butchered for poor results if you bomb them.
Soviet Specific Tips
- In the early war, the Soviet main aim is to gather their strength while blunting the Axis advance as much as possible. In order to do this, the Soviets will need to build their own strength, keep the German fighters busy (and hopefully shooting down a few), while also helping to slow down the German advance as much as possible.
- Building strength means that the Soviets should build more high quality aircraft than they lose but they also need to build morale and experience in their air groups which means that throwing low morale air groups against the German Luftwaffe is generally a bad idea. I try to keep only air groups with a morale of at least 45 at the front. A round of combat with the Germans usually mean that several air groups has a lot less morale than this, meaning an instant withdrawal to the National Reserve followed by a regroup to an airbase well behind the front and then an air transfer forward.
- Keeping the German fighters busy means that they should be engaged from the very start of the game with the eventual aim being to wrest air supremacy from the Luftwaffe. This needs to be balanced against the section above. Blunting the German advance is usually more effectively done by bombing the German infantry than the German Panzers.
- Soviet Air Groups in early game will often have VERY low morale after fighting through the German turn. Sending them to National Reserve will get them more or less back to National Morale in one go.
- A "triangular" approach to sending aircraft to the front can be used. If morale goes low, send air groups to the NR. From there, deploy them to airbases well behind the front, and then transfer them forward. This avoids the use of Soviet low morale aircraft as "cannon fodder" that will just get chewed up with no effect whatsoever on the Germans.
To be continued...
If you have good references or tips please post them here in the thread and I'll look to incorporate them into this first post. Its also a great place to discuss recent 1.11 and 1.12 changes that potentially impact some of the older references.
< Message edited by redrum68 -- 7/18/2020 5:16:39 PM >