One theater of the air war in WWII that has been given the least amount of attention in games and movies is the war in North Africa and the Mediterranean.
A multi-year struggle along the northern coast of Africa, this air war starts with British and Italian bi-planes and leads all the way to some of the most advanced mid-war aircraft making an appearance by the middle of 1943 and the fall of Axis forces in Tunisia.
The geography is varied and with harsh desert landscapes, river deltas, to mountains and sand dunes. If we include Malta, Sicily, and the coast of Italy then we even more dramatically expand the varied landscapes and spaces for air combat.
The types of missions flown in this air war also greatly vary. Torpedo bombing, convoy attack, anti-tank missions, and your more typical air superiority fighter patrols and bomber intercepts are all things that round out this theater. Let’s do a couple of hypothetical scenarios and see what makes the most sense.
Air Defense of Malta
This is a popular idea in the IL-2 forums. Malta was besieged by a two year air campaign launched by the Italian and German air forces. The bombing campaign was meant to be a prelude to invasion but the RAF defenders and a steady supply of ships and new aircraft was able to stave off the invasion before it was able to begin.
Royal Air Force for the Allied Side
- Hurricane Mark II
- Spitfire Mark V
- Beaufighter Mark IC
- Beaufort Mark II
- Gladiator Mark II
Comments: For the British side of the equation my choices were fairly easy in the fighter department. The Hurricane Mark II represents the earlier efforts to defend the island and could easily come with some of the bomb and cannon options (such as the Hurricane Mark IIc or the 12 Browning .303 IIb). Likewise for the Spitfire, multiple versions of Spitfire Mark V defended Malta including the rare four 20mm cannon armed Mark Vc, the modified Vc with two cannons and four machine guns, and the drum fed Mark Vb with two 20mm cannons.
With the strike and bomber types I picked the Beaufighter Mark IC, which saw service as a fighter-bomber and escort fighter at Malta and the related Beaufort which saw service primarily as a torpedo bomber striking against Italian and German shipping.
Regia Aeronautica for the Axis Side
- Ju87B-2 (Picchiatelli)
Comments: The Italian side of the battle was an interesting one to choose. Admittedly my knowledge of the specific sub variants of the Italian aircraft is less than that of the British and German forces. I picked the extremely well used MC.200 and MC.202 fighters as the primary types representing Italy and the iconic tri-engined SM.79 bomber and torpedo bomber that saw extensive service in the theatre. I also picked the Italian version of the Stuka dive-bomber which saw use over Malta as well. Seeing as the MC.202 is already a flyable type in Battle of Moscow it also makes an easy transition to this version.
Luftwaffe for the Axis Side
Comments: For Germany my choices are a retreat on some types that we know well. With the most modest of efforts each of these could be given their desert modifications (usually consisting of air filters) and released with no additional effort. This would expand the scope of the product with nearly no additional effort. Although the Ju87B-2 isn’t yet in the game, it would have been needed for both Italian and German forces thus saving time and effort.
North Africa Campaign
This could be done so many ways but I’ll propose one that is an interesting option and that is the run up to the end of the campaign in Tunisia. By 1943, Allied forces both from the eastern and western deserts were pushing towards the last areas of Axis resistance in Tunisia and some familiar and interesting types of aircraft were seriously used here.
- Spitfire Vc
- Spitfire F.IX
- A-20C/Boston III
- Bf109G-4 (Trop)
A mix of classic fighters like the Spitfire, Focke Wulf, and A-20 are on the list here with two iconic twin engine heavy fighters available as Premium types. The P-38 joins up with the P-40 as a USAAF type featured heavily in the campaign. The tank busting and ground troop attacking Hs129B-2 is also one that I wanted to see here as it was so much fun when it was finally made available in IL-2 1946.
Finally the Me323 transport aircraft, one of the largest in the world at the time, featured significantly in efforts to try and resupply Axis forces. Shooting down large formations of these aircraft were classic moments from the history books and a key turning point in the campaign.
I hope these two scenarios sound like fun to some of you. What are you interested in? An earlier scenario with RAF Tomahawks in the desert? That could be equally fun. Leave your thoughts in the comments.