[...10x as many small arms being fired at them as this game portrays...]
Yes, I agree that to have two or three light AAA guns be so deadly is a little unrealistic, but I think that EAW is trying to replicate the general lethality of the German airfield defenses (at least late in the war). To really model this exactly as it was would require what, 20 or 30 flak guns per airfield? It's a lot easier (and perhaps less system-intensive?) to use 3 or 4 super accurate ones! Obviously if one reads the stories of American and British pilots, airfield strafing and ground attack was less and less popular as the war went on specifically because of the high loss rate to light automatic flak. So the deadly effectiveness of the handful of light AAA's at EAW airfields may not be so unrealistic if you take it to simulate the effect of 30 of them! Still, there ARE problems: I don't think that even 30 light flak guns would be QUITE as lethal as EAW's defenses, especially in terms of trying to track you, nor the range in which they can do it. On the other hand, 30 light AAA's saturating an area would, in theory, be even harder to survive than 3 of them aiming for you: in the first case there is simply NO way to avoid it----your survival is purely luck. In the second, at least it is somewhat possible to induce them to miss !
[So how do I fix this?]
I don't know of any way to adjust the effectiveness of the AAA gunners at the present. Of course the dispersion of fire from bomber gunners can be increased with EAW Aircraft Edit (or the earlier Gun Edit), but to the best of my knowledge nobody has found the code for the light AAA guns. So, until we can downgrade these gunners' super-accuracy, what can be done tactics-wise? Well, here's what I do:
1) When "freelancing", any prospective ground attack (whether against airfields or any other targets) should be carefully considered, especially in career mode. My primary motivation in attacking ground targets now is mostly to win medals, as opposed to doing my bit "for God and country". I always try to take a circuit NEAR the target (but out of light AAA range) and try to spot all the light AAA's that I can. It may be possible to attack from a direction that allows me to destroy the target without exposing myself to light AAA fire. If I cannot find a way in, I'll have to weigh the prospects of getting shot down vs. the values of the targets that are present. If the target is too well-defended, I usually pass it up: there are always "softer" ones out there! (by the same reasoning, if the potential targets' point value does not justify the ammunition spent on it, I will usually pass it up as well--------for a look at point values, see Reese's excellent piece on winning the Medal of Honor found in Major Lee's Aerodrome in the "EAW Flight Training" section) I must say that the longer my career has lasted, the less likely I am to take risks!
2) If I have decided to attack a defended target (or in some cases, such as on an attack mission vs. radar sites, I might not have any choice since the ASSIGNED target may be well-defended!), I always try to set up the attack so that I can avoid flying "down the throat" of a light AAA. That is, when I pass the closest to one of them, I want my flight path to be at a right angle to the flak's line of fire. This forces the flak gunners to use maximum lead and thus any evasive action I take (jinking, barrel rolls, etc.) SHOULD result in the best chance of their missing me. Unfortunately, the ability to set up an attack path this way can vary; this IS possible against some targets, but others have really nasty "flak traps" where it is IMPOSSIBLE to attack without giving a light AAA a zero deflection shot! These latter super-defended targets are best left alone if at all posssible. If you must attack such a target, the only advice I can give is to keep your speed up, jink a lot, and try to form up as many friendly planes as possible. Adopt a loose formation (trying to avoid those nasty mid-air collisions!) but keep your unit together. Hopefully, all those airplanes together will give the gunners somebody else to shoot at , so they aren't all taking potshots at YOU!
3) You already know this, but 'slow speed=quick death'! Keep speed up!
4) Sometimes it is possible to remove the offending flak guns if you REALLY need too. Dueling with light AAA's is NOT the way to have a long and prosperous career (!), but if there is no other choice.... Here the trick is to be able to hit the light AAA gun from about 2000 feet range on down to 1500, which is probably the minimum before breaking off (obviously requires good shooting!). YOU MUST RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO KILL IT IN ONE PASS if you don't get that light AAA quickly. If you've missed and the range is dropping, NOW is time to break (HARD!) and jink like mad! You can always come back again. It might not be necessary to destroy all of them at a site, if you can take out one carefully selected AAA you may be able to get in and destroy the target without exposing yourself to other light AAA's. At the very least taking out one flak gun can help you set up an attack like I describe in #2. Attacking light AAA's is something I only do when the target value warrants it. This is the one time that it might not pay to be going TOO fast. You want to be slow enough on the way in to have a good chance at making minute corrections in order to aim properly (remember, you're shooting at a small target from a long range) and kill the light AAA. Likewise, if you have to break off, a high speed will prevent you from turning quickly and will carry you perilously close to the hostile flak. But you can still be TOO SLOW: give yourself enough speed to still get out of there! In general, then, to attack a light AAA successfully requires more moderate speeds. The exact best speed for this will vary depending on your aircraft, your shooting ability, and how well you've set up your approach.
The only other time I'll go for the light AAA's is when they are on trains (flatbed guns). Here the same rules apply as above: the train must have a point total that justifies the risk vs. the number of flatbed guns. A heavily defended trainful of boxcars just aren't worth it. A lot of oil tankers and flatbed tanks, on the other hand, are mighty tempting. Take out the guns first, then you are in business. This is also where I violate the rule about not letting the gunners get a zero deflection shot. It's actually pretty easy to hit the flatbed guns since you can use the entire train to line up your attack. I come in from the back of the train and target the first flatbed gun car, aiming just ahead of it, then walk my fire back into it and any other flatbed guns. I next break off the attack and view the results. Hopefully I will have destroyed most of the guns. Also, when you destroy a flatbed gun, it normally cuts the train right there: all the cars farther back will be separated from the engine and will be stopped motionless on the tracks.
5) You know this too, but jinking and rolling helps some. Barrel rolls can be effective (sometimes) because the lead solution is always changing (remember the advice about passing by the flak guns at 90 degrees).
6) Some aircraft are better-suited to ground attack than others. In general, avoid flak as much as possible if you are in a Spitfire or a Mustang-----neither one holds up to ground fire very well and you're really asking for an "Engine Damaged/Destroyed" message! The Thunderbolt seems to be the toughest flak-catcher in the game, followed by the Tempest and the Lightning (the P-38 has the HUGE advantage of being able to bring you home on one engine!).
7) If you've been ordered to attack an airfield with bombs (you'll probably get some of these missions in a British Tempest or maybe Typhoon campaign), send in your most expendable AI pilots first (don't make your squadron's leading AI aces do this!). Attacking airfields is perhaps the ONLY type of ground attack that friendly AI does fairly well. They may take out the airfield (and brave the flak) before you have too!
[This message has been edited by JWC (edited 01-22-2000).]