Ju-88 Gunnery in Battle of Britain
by Len "Viking1" Hjalmarson
Game: Battle of Britain
Version: UK Release
Category: Air Combat Simulation (WWII)
Developer: Rowan Software
Publisher: Empire Interactive
Release Date: North America - January 2001, UK - Released
Links: | Playable Demo | First Look | Preview | Pilot Career How-To | Flight Models in BoB | The Strategic Side of BoB | Creating Aircraft Skins in BoB |
Article Date: January 25th, 2001
Article Type: Training
In addition to flying the fighters or playing the strategic game, Battle of Britain allows you to fly the Ju-87 Stuka, or crew as gunner in the Ju-88, He-111 or Do-17. This article is a tour of the gunner experience in the Ju-88, where like the Dornier you can man three different positions.
There are two modes of entry into the bomber battle. One can fly and fight in the campaign mode, which allows an ongoing sense of the larger war. If the player is killed while manning the guns in one bomber, he finds himself back in the Operations Room and can then jump into another bomber in the same mission.
Quick Shot Historical Mission
The other mode, used for the purpose of this article, is the Quick Shot mission mode. I chose to fly the Eagle Day mission from the Historic mission selection. I flew first in the attack on Portland Naval Base, then later in the attack on the Southampton Docks. In both missions I encountered heavy resistance from RAF fighters as well as flak.
Many players have noted the complexity of configuration in Battle of Britain. Rowan prefers to give players the game the way they want it. I don’t believe there are any simulations which are as highly configurable as those designed by the UK firm.
Inevitably, this means that it takes some tinkering to get the simulation working the way you want it. Unless you spend some time with experimenting with the settings, you will find yourself frustrated at the way things work.
A rewarding moment in the gut-wrenching career of a belly gunner.
For the best experience as a gunner, I recommend choosing a LOW or MINIMUM setting on force feedback for GUN FIRE. Experiment with your stick for the best dead zone setting. With my Logitech Wingman Strike Force 3D a SMALL dead zone works well, with a MEDIUM resistance mode. I have the gun positions toggled on the wheel on the base of the stick (nose gun is UP, dorsal (top) gun is PUSH and belly gun is BACK). I chose joystick control for the gun, though some will prefer to use their mouse.
Ju-88 Image from Kaplan, BOMBERS
If you have flown B-17 Flying Fortress: The Mighty 8th!, you already have an idea of what the bomber experience is like. If you haven’t, you are in for a treat! Er . . . I recommend adult diapers for best protection.
August 12th, 1940. Eagle Day
The Ju-88 was called the Wonder Bomber in 1938 when it set a world speed record just under 300 mph. It could carry two tons of bombs. Eventually over 16,000 would be built, though the Battle of Britain was to expose their weaknesses.
When you enter the Adler Tag mission and choose your bomber flight you will then find yourself in the nose gunner position. Use CTL – (KP) if you prefer a wider field of view. The incoming fighters will not be any smaller if you widen the FOV.
You will find yourself at 12,000 feet over the ocean in a partly cloudy sky. You are only about two minutes away from bombs-away at this point.
One of the variables in this mission is how quickly your Me-110 escort will engage the Spitfires, and which group they will engage first. It is wise to jump immediately to the dorsal, rear-facing tail gunner (KP5) or belly (KP2) position. If the near group of Hurricanes or Spitfires are engaged first then you will have a slight breathing space.
View from the nose gunner position
Flak bursts smudge the sky
The bomber missions are atmospheric to say the least. You will hear the drone of the engines, and the calls of the flight leaders as they spot bandits or spot the target. You will also be encouraged by the other gunners when you make a hit or a kill. Comments range from “That’s a hit!” to “You’ve given him something to think about!” I’ll give describe my first mission.
“We are just over 12,000 feet. The ocean is sparkling far below us. Up here the puffy clouds are beautiful, giving the lie to the deadly skies we inhabit. The mission has been routine so far, but we know we are now within the range of the Hurricanes and Spitfires. With over 100 bombers in the air and even more fighters, we are confident but edgy.
Junkers over the English Channel
“Now the Oberleutnant is calling that he has spotted the target, and the Gruppe begins a turn. In the distance, parallel to the coast and at the same altitude we fly, I see the flash from a canopy. I am doubtful that these are German escort since they should be above us.
“A moment later I catch something in the corner of my eye, and then a squadron of twelve RAF fighters spin into view. I release the safety catch on my gun, and fire a short burst to test it again. I call out the fighters to the top tail gunner, but he is already tracking them as I am.
Tracking enemy fighters from the rear-facing dorsal (top) gunner position
“They are closing fast as the flak guns below begin to sing out. Puffs of deadly flak flower around our Gruppen.
“Suddenly the pilot calls out “Schloss!” and the aircraft is four thousand pounds lighter. We lurch upward and a moment later the Oberleutnant calls out a new vector. The Gruppen lean into a turn as the first fighters come in range. I am surprised to see they are Spitfires.
“I am opening up on a closing trio when two other Spitfires come slashing through the Gruppe. One nearly collides with the aircraft flying next to us. He is hit! His starboard engine is streaming smoke. But now I am concentrating on the closing fighters.
“I hit the port most fighter and his wing breaks off at the tip. He almost loses control but then dives away. I concentrate on the next fighter.
An RAF fighter closes in for the kill
“Suddenly Jurgen in the dorsal gun gets a hit on the other fighter. His engine catches fire and he rolls away.
“The other fighter is closing fast but I am on him. My next burst cuts through his tail and he dives away out of control.
My fellow gunners and I turn the tables on that RAF fighter
“Now there are fighters everywhere. The distant Hurricanes have closed the gap and tracers are flying all around us. Where is our escort?
“As I am lining up my next shot I see three or four 110’s come slashing through the Hurricane formation. Immediately two are trailing smoke and two others dive away. At least half a dozen continue to close on our Gruppen.
“Suddenly I hear a nasty pinging sound and I see holes in our starboard wing. It looks like the fuel tanks were hit, but they are self sealing and there is no fire.
Wings have taken some hits. Thank goodness for self-sealing fuel tanks
A wounded Hurricane fights on
“I have one of the Hurricanes in my sights and a short burst gets a direct hit. I see him trailing smoke but he continues to come on. Another burst and his port wing fails. The wing drifts lazily in circles as the stricken aircraft plummets out of control. We pass through a cloud and I lose sight of the pursuers.
“Now there is another slashing attack through the Gruppe. Again we are hit, and this time Jurgen cries out. His gun is silent. I try to raise him on the intercom but he doesn’t answer. We break out of the cloud and a moment later two Hurricanes break out within 200 meters behind us.
“Immediately I fire three bursts at the nearest aircraft. I see the hits on his fuselage and engine. He begins to drift lazily to the side. I think the pilot has been hit.
A fellow Heinkel bomber loses an engine (viewed from belly gun position)
“Now I hear an explosion and the Heinkel on our port side is badly damaged. One engine quits and the aircraft lurches sideways and careens away. The pilot may be dead or his controls shot away.
“More pings on our airframe. I spot a pair of fighters diving on us, but there are two 110's on their tails and they break away.
“Then a strange drama plays out before me. Most of the distant pursuers are turning back. I watch as a 110 comes into view, weaving and dodging with an RAF fighter on his tail. I can see the flash on his fuselage and engines as he is hit then hit again. Then he pulls into a steep climb and the canopy is off. I watch as a single airman jumps out. A moment later his chute blossoms and he is gliding to the freezing waters far below.
“We are well out over the ocean now and I have barely 100 rounds left. I can now take the time to check on Jurgen, but I fear the worst.”
Reflections on Gunning the He-111
During this narrative I actually fought mostly from the belly gun position. I began to use the dorsal tailgun more about halfway through the fight. But when I went back to visit the belly gunner I could not access the station. I checked the outside view and I found holes in the airframe above the position. My belly gunner had been killed!
If you are hit or killed while you are in a position you will see the screen gradually or suddenly turn red. You may be able to fire for a short while more, or you may not be able to fire at all.
There are some techniques worth learning as you operate the guns. First, remember ballistics. Aim above incoming aircraft slightly, dropping toward a dead on aim as they close. If they are angling across your path, remember to lead them.
Second, use the corner icons to spot aircraft. These represent your peripheral vision. When you see an RAF symbol pop up on the side of the screen, you know you will find a fighter there.
Note the RAF symbol along the upper-left-edge of the screen
Third, the tail gun position is capable of aiming up about 75 degrees. You can follow an aircraft from a high dive, or into a zoom climb. I have nailed a couple of fighters this way.
Finally, beware of shooting trailing aircraft if you aren’t sure of their identity. If you are running at 1024x768 or higher it is quite easy to identify a 110 from a long way off, but the 109's can look a lot like Spitfires.
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