The Wings of Liberty server is a popular one with IL-2 multiplayer pilots attracting relatively large numbers of players on a regular basis. In my experience it is the most consistently filled server available. Attracting large numbers of players, a wide variety of skills, and hosting hundreds of matches a month keeps things pretty exciting for players flying for both Red and Blue teams. So, why is it that Red team wins more consistently than Blue?
A disparity in stats
If you look at the stats for Wings of Liberty you’ll notice a trend. Over the last 6 months, Red team has won more missions consistently than Blue team. In fact, Blue team has not been able to win out over Red in more than half of the matches since March of 2016.
While the overall mission outcomes are in favour of Red, there are more conflicting stats for individual pilots. Both Red and Blue teams have pilots in the top 10 overall rankings. When it comes to kill to death ratios, Blue and Red are again fairly evenly matched when looking at the top 10. In the kills per hour stat, Blue team cleans up with most of the top 10 spaces. Even when we look at ground kills (the activity that actually wins missions in Wings of Liberty) both teams have top scorers.
Is it the aircraft?
When IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad came out, it seemed to me that the Blue team had a slight advantage in fighters while the Red team had a slight advantage in attackers. When Battle of Moscow came out, things in my mind began to even out.
In the fighter category, Red team has never been better with a range of options available. The Yak-1B Series 127 and the La-5 Series 8 are the top two in terms of overall performance and they challenge Blue team in the maneuvering fight and in the high speed dash game. Yet, the Bf109 series remains ascendant and the majority of the top scorers in the fighter game are still Bf109 pilots typically flying the F-4 model. The MC.202 is rarely seen but it works fairly well as a fighter with similar performance advantages and disadvantages to the Bf109.
For me fighters versus fighters is a wash – both Blue and Red team have excellent aircraft with an edge to Blue at high altitude and a similarly slight edge to Red at lower altitudes.
In the attacker category there are a couple of options for Blue and Red. The IL-2 is ubiquitous for Red team being a low level striker of immense capability. Blue team answers with the Ju87 dive bomber and the Bf110E-2.
The IL-2 is arguably the best specialized attacker at low altitude for both light targets and for armored targets and tanks. The Ju87 is better at placing larger bombs on a pinpoint target and the Bf110 works reasonably well as an attacker and as a heavy fighter and bomber interceptor. The E-2 model does specialize in ground attack but it has fewer tank busting options than the later IL-2 model. The Bf110G-2 that was just added may change that. Tank busting can also be done with the Ju87 fitted with BK3,7 cannons that can sometimes take out a tank in a single hit.
What about bombers? Red team once again has a single option right now: Pe-2 light bombers are excellent at bomb level bombing and dive bombing. For Blue, the Ju88A-4 and He111H-6 are two very good medium bombers – the Ju88 even works well as a dive bomber.
The more I look at the list the more I see plenty of options both for fighting and for attacking and bombing targets. Red team and Blue team have different strengths and weaknesses here but also a lot of flexibility both in terms of play styles (dive bomber pilots versus level bombers versus low level mud movers).
Though most ground targets are on the lighter side, the addition of the Hs129B-2 to the series sometime in October or November this year may give Blue even more armored vehicle busting options but it does it with a stable of aircraft that already include some of the same capabilities.
While Blue fighter pilots seem to collect huge scores (not unlike World War II), the tactics that give them the advantage may also weaken their team effort. Red fighter pilots are forced to fly at low and medium altitudes mostly as all but one Red fighter is best suited to the low level.
Blue pilots have favoured flying at higher altitudes where the Bf109 goes from highly competitive to superior and pouncing on targets of opportunity. This works well for hunting fighter pilots but it works less well when Blue attackers need cover at medium altitude. A small formation of Bf110s flying at 2000 meters to target may be damaged or shot down by Red fighters before high flying Bf109s can pounce – assuming they are even in the same area.
Assuming this is even the problem, what might change this situation? A conscious effort by Blue fighter pilots to cover bombers might be one option. Flying low can certainly help those under low level attack by Russian fighters but it also puts Bf109 pilots into a tougher spot.
The revised FW190 flight model may help. This will make it both a more capable fighter-bomber and a better fighter. The FW190 always fought better at medium altitude so this might fill in the middle for Blue team. With the even more capable FW190A-5 fighter-bomber coming soon it may also add to the mix of attackers that Blue needs to win more matches.
Is there a conclusion?
I don’t have a single conclusion.
The aircraft and their capabilities are expanding all the time while Blue team’s overall performance remains the same. Pilots of superb talent are flying on both teams and they are flying a variety of types that can all perform different roles. Taking out targets, destroying bombers, and eliminating the enemy are abilities bestowed to both sides in very good amounts.
It is a mystery that probably does not have a single answer. Have some ideas? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
IL-2 YouTuber Bismarck did a video about a year ago about this issue and its an interesting commentary on teams, tactics, aircraft and why he thinks this is happening.