IL-2 Air Combat Tips and Tactics

by Len "Viking1" Hjalmarson

Article Type: Strategy Guide
Article Date: July 31, 2002

Product Info

Product Name: IL-2 Sturmovik
Category: WWII Air Combat Simulation
Developer: Maddox Games
Publisher: Ubi Soft
Release Date: Released (Nov. 2001)
Min. Spec: PII 400 (or equiv.), 128 MB RAM, 3D Accelerator
Rec'd. Spec: PIII 600 or better, 256 MB RAM, 32 bit 3D accelerator with 32 MB RAM or better
Files & Links: Click Here

Fighting the Luftwaffe with the Big Guns

It’s another online battle, and those pesky Germans with their Bf 109s and Fw 190s are all over the sky.

Never fear, the Russians are here. Your team is flying Yaks and MiGs. The Yak 3 is a great turn fighter, as is the MiG 3U. Against the Bf 109 a Yak or MiG can do quite well.

But those Focke-Wulfs are another problem entirely. In the hands of a capable pilot they are deadly and can make great use of boom 'n' zoom technique. Getting in front of a Focke-Wulf, even for only a split second, is not a good idea.

The problem is that getting on the tail of an FW doesn’t seem to do a lot of good. You need a great many hits to do much damage, and you really need an angle off the tail to make good hits. That’s tough to do given the way the FW builds speed in a dive, and tougher still when you are flying the MiG or the early Yaks, which have at the most a pair of 20mm cannon. Even the La5 doesn’t do a lot better, though at least it can keep up with the Fw 190.

What to do?

Flying the Big Guns

P39 with custom skin

Have you ever been on line against a Bf 109, when suddenly he gets a snap shot and with a single shell you go BOOM? That is the mighty 30mm nose cannon making an appearance.

This got me thinking about a fact that is terribly obvious to some of you: the way to kill an FW is with a big nose cannon.

There are quite a bunch of Russian aircraft available that mount such cannon. There are the lend-lease P39s, and the home built Yaks. A total of five aircraft sport big cannon. Let’s look at the list.
  • P39N-1
  • P39Q-1
  • P39Q-10
  • Yak-9K
  • Yak-9T

The question now becomes, which to choose? Each has its own strengths and advantages.

P39 Cockpit

I have been an FW pilot for some time now, and I also enjoy the La5 and the MiG 3U. For some reason I have had very little stick time with the Yaks and the P39s.

Yak 9T Cockpit

So I went to a friend of mine who flies online as #410-TFS>Canada with my questions. We flew some missions together and I observed his technique. Then I flew alongside him for a few more missions. Finally, he went online on “badbernie’s” server to generate some hard data flying against some aggressive German pilots.

After 85 minutes of online competition, and with only four weeks experience in the Yak series, “Canada” was in the top six ranking on badbernie’s server.

Badbernie's online ranking

How did he manage it? I watched for twenty minutes as he fought online.

“Canada” flew the Yak 9T. He comments,

This is the one to fly. It has the best climb rate of the two Yaks with the heavy nose cannon. It also has a great turn rate, better than the 9K and it will even outturn the 9U (the 9U has that heavy engine).

Yak charts from IL-2

You can’t fly the 9T like a fighter, however. It’s a tank buster and the climb rate, compared to the 109 series, is terrible. You have to get above the fight and then choose your target.

I like FW 190 busting. In the first place, most other pilots have a hard time making that kill. In the second place, I know that if I get into a turn fight with an FW after my first pass, I am going to win.

But really my goal is to only make a single pass. Since the FWs are normally trying to run away, I can make a high speed dive without too high a closure rate. If I get him in my sights for a second or two, it’s all over.

The stats you see from badbernie’s server show the results of an hour and a half of fighting. My four kills represent three FWs and an unlucky 109.

Yak 9 with RAF markings

I flew alongside “Canada” in another Yak 9T. Compared to my usual mount it felt sluggish but stable. Firing the big gun has the feeling of hurling a shotput with a cannon … BOOM, BOOM, BOOM … The rate of fire must be around 5 rounds per second.

It’s actually not a bad thing that the rate of fire is so low. You only have 32 rounds to work with. Once those are gone, you will be looking for a place to land.

It takes a while to get up to fighting altitude. This isn’t the La5. I figure it took us about eight minutes to get where we needed to be before we headed toward the fight. This method of fighting requires patience, but it pays off. You have to be careful not to engage on equal terms, though I was forced to engage a Bf 109 head-to-head. It was an equal outcome, since he took off my wing and I saw a huge explosion as he passed me. A 37mm shell doesn’t leave much doubt of the outcome.

The P39 Series
While the Yaks are very popular online, the P39s are seen less frequently. The Yak seems to be a pilot’s airplane—predictable and a great guns platform. The P39 is not as stable, making it a worse choice for the novice and tricky for more experienced pilots.

I spoke to a number of pilots about the P39 before hopping into one to try my luck. Two of them told me they really enjoy the N-1 model. I found it far too prone to spinning, however. When I observed one of the pilots, who seemed to be doing fairly well, I saw him twice auger in and make a hole. Hmmm…

P39 charts from IL-2

I took a careful look at the information presented in IL-2s object viewer. It’s obvious that the Q series improved the P39 substantially, primarily by making it a stronger aircraft. But that’s not all—five forward firing guns can’t hurt either!

The P39 Q-1 actually sports a 37mm nose cannon, two Browning 50 caliber guns, and a pair of Browning .303s in the wings. Get behind anything with this much weaponry and you ought to get a result

The P39 Q10 is even more interesting. It loses the small caliber wing guns and greatly improves climb rate. When you have to “get out of Dodge” or when you are climbing to fighting altitude, it really is nice to have a greater rate of climb.

Even more important, the Q-10 has reduced inclination to enter a spin. When you are flying a highly maneuverable aircraft like the P39, you really don’t want to deal with spins any more than you have to.

After examining this information, the Q-10 was the obvious choice. If I fly on a server where the Q-10 isn’t available, I fly the Q-1.

Like the Yak 9T, you only carry 32 rounds of 37mm ordnance. But unlike the 9T, you still have weapons that can do some damage when you run out of ammo.

While the turn rate at 1000m is the same for both aircraft, according to the object viewer in IL-2, I find that I can turn the P39 more quickly than I can the Yak 9T. But while I find spin recovery in the Yak quite easy, it seems to be much harder in the P39.

I also find it odd that the WEP rating of the P39 Q-10 is 1420 HP, but the increased horsepower seems to make only a small difference in climb rate.

In the fight the Yak is a more stable gun platform. The P39 has a slightly twitchy feel when making slight adjustments, while the Yak seems more stable. Both pack a strong punch when on the tail of an enemy, however, and the extra guns on the P39 are nice to have when the cannon is exhausted.

There are also a great variety of custom skins out there, and some nice ones included with IL-2. Here are images from some of the skins you can grab:

Custom P39 skin

P39 custom skin

P39 custom skin

Yak custom skin

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