Yesterday was a really big day for the IL-2 series as we learned about the future of the series and what they would be working on next. I don’t think any of us expected the scale or scope of the offering coming at us but now that we know their plans I thought its a good time to go in-depth and really look more closely at the content coming at us in 2018 and 2019. This will be the first of three in-depth articles.
Baseplate and the legend of Y-29
With the Battle of the Bulge on, German planners were hoping to cripple Allied air forces in one concentrated lighting strike code-named “Bodenplatte” or Baseplate. The goal was to tip the scales in the battle of the Ardennes forest pushing Allied armies back across the low-countries and hopefully setting conditions up for a reversal so that German armies could then turn and fight the Soviets in the east. Nothing went to plan.
Lacking training and faced with overwhelming opposition, the Luftwaffe attack failed to return the results required though several allied airfields were temporarily knocked out of action and the resulting aerial battles were among the most intense of the war in the West.
At an airfield designated Y-29 in Asch Belgium, pilots of the 352nd Fighter Group were on takeoff for their first mission of the day when German fighters appeared over the field. Famously, a P-51 on takeoff shot a FW190 down even before the landing gear had a chance to fully retract. The ensuing fight became known as the “Legend of Y-29.”
The aircraft of Bodenplatte
I am really happy with the composition of the aircraft laid out for this next installment of IL-2. Getting the right mix is difficult and even more-so with so many great options. 1CGS is focused on the tactical air war with the flyable aircraft line-up being entirely fighters and fighter-bombers of the Luftwaffe, USAAF 9th Air Force, and RAF 2nd Tactical Air Force.
The Mustang is possibly the most iconic American fighter of World War II (I think it edges out the P-40). It’s an aircraft of legend and one with an immense reputation.
The D version was primarily used as a long-range escort fighter, however, several fighter squadrons flew the P-51D in operations flying from the continent ranging both short and long on tactical missions. P-51D’s would often strafe enemy targets returning from a mission to use up their ammunition. Fast and capable at higher altitudes, the Mustang was still dangerous even at lower altitudes.
Another classic aircraft of World War II, the enormous ‘Jug’ became one of the best fighter-bombers used by the Allied air forces with its 8x.50cal armament and a growing capacity to carry large bombs and rockets. Its payload options included carrying up to 2500lbs of bombs – larger than most bombers of the early war period and only 1000lb less than the Pe-2 frequently flown in current versions of the game.
The Thunderbolt also had a reputation of being one of the toughest single engine fighters of the war being able to absorb incredible damage.
P-38L Lightning (Collector)
Completing the trio of classic WWII American fighters, we have the P-38L Lightning. The final definitive iteration of the twin engine, twin boom fighter, the P-38 was used less and less in Western Europe, however, some groups were still flying it through to the end of the war.
Capable of fighting agile single engine fighters on a one to one basis, the P-38L was used as a powerful ground attacker with the ability to carry a pair of 2000lb bombs or lighter bombs and ten powerful HVAR rockets on “trees” under the wings.
Spitfire Mark LF.IX
One of the most prolific fighters in the RAF’s 2nd Tactical Air Force was the Spitfire Mark IX. The Mark IX and its Mark XVI Packard Merlin powered equivalent were prolific in late 1944 and 1945 as fighters and even used as fighter bombers equipped with bombs and rockets.
Though overshadowed by the Spitfire Mark XIV (not currently planned), the Mark IX was still a competitive performer thanks to high quality aviation gas and a high boost Merlin 66 at +25lb. This late war IX featuring screaming low and medium altitude performance and I’m sure we’ll be seeing some variation of that Spitfire LF.IX in Bodenplatte. We’ll hopefully also see clipped wings and both C and E type armament options.
Tempest Mark V
Hawker’s ultimate World War II fighter came in the form of the Tempest Mark V. Fitted with the 2,400 horsepower Sabre IIB and low drag laminar flow wings, the Tempest was best used at low and medium altitudes as a tactical fighter and was an even match with the FW190D-9 and Bf109K-4.
Most Tempest’s projected their gunsight piper right on to the windscreen and came armed with four Hispano Mark V cannons, a more reliable and faster firing version of the earlier Mark II Hispano.
B-25 Mitchell II (AI)
The RAF’s 2nd TAF also had several attack and bomber squadrons in the area during this battle and some of them were flying the B-25 Mitchell. In RAF designation it was called the Mitchell II and this roughly corresponded to the USAAF B-25C. Used throughout the war, the Mitchell was tough and well defended from fighter attacks thanks to numerous .50cal gun turrets and waste stations. Developers of the IL-2 series tend not to leave aircraft in AI only status for long – I expect one day they may make this a flyable Collector Plane.
A follow on version of the Bf109G-6, the G-14 incorporated a year worth of minor modifications and variations to the basic G-6 version into a comprehensive refit. The clear-view Erla Haube canopy offering better visibility and MW50 water-methanol injection boosted power. MK108 30mm cannons were frequently fitted in the nose and some G-14s were specialized fighter-bombers with bomb attachment points and dive angle markings painted on the windows for more precise bombing.
The definitive late war Bf109, the K-4 was the highest performing Bf109 of the war with a 440mph maximum air speed and one of the fastest climb rates of any piston engined aircraft. Reportedly the agility of the fighter suffered. Its armament was extremely heavy with a MK108 30mm cannon in the nose and MG131 heavy machine guns in the upper decking – MK108 cannons could be placed in underwing gondolas.
The FW190A-8 was an update of earlier A-5, A-6 and A-7 versions. The A-8 was armed as standard with four MG151/20 cannons and twin MG131 heavy machine guns. MK108 cannons could be fitted in the outer wing gun stations for extra heavy firepower while retaining roughly the same speed and performance as earlier FW190s. The A-8 was also the basis of the F-8 fighter bomber version – one I expect to see optionally in the modification screen similar to the U17 modification for the FW190A-5.
With a powerful Jumo in-line engine replacing the BMW radial, the FW190D-9 was one of the highest performing FW190s of the series regaining some of the agility lost in earlier versions. It was also one of the longest with a stretched nose and tail section. D-9s lost some of their armament flexibility in the name of performance with only two MG151/20 cannons standard and a pair of MG131 heavy machine guns in the nose.
The first jet entry into the second gen IL-2 series, the Me-262 was an example of forward thinking engineering and represented a leap in fighter design beyond the conventional piston engined fighters of the time. Mustangs, Tempests and Thunderbolts struggled to keep up with Me262’s which were frequently used on fighter-bomber missions. Armed with a pair of bombs or with four MK108 30mm cannons the Me262 was flown by elite pilots due to its sensitive jet engines. Flown by an elite pilot, the Me262 is the ultimate fighter of the series.
Slow to accelerate, the Me262 is most vulnerable in low speed states such as during take-off and landing.
What about other aircraft?
A West Front scenario like this brings in a whole diverse array of aircraft. What about the heavy bombers like the B-17, B-24 or Lancaster? What about the Mosquito and the Typhoon? Or the A-20 Boston/Havoc? What about the Me410, Ar234 or the Do217?
Its tough for the developers to choose but it looks like they intended to keep the focus on the tactical air war and from there decisions had to be made to pick the aircraft that they had the most resources on, could build the quickest, and get into our hands. Large bombers take much more time than single engine, single position fighters.
With the A-20B already being complete, how hard would the A-20G be? You’d need a new gunner station/turret and dozens of smaller cockpit changes. But that would be less even than the B-25 Mitchell II which would need a cockpit and multiple gunner stations.
Almost any of these smaller types are possible given enough time and resources. Maybe we’ll see a couple more Collector Planes at the end of the schedule just like we have with the La-5FN and Bf109G-6. It’s been a long time since a sim has done a Spitfire XIV – maybe that will materialize at the end.
I had wondered just days earlier if the series would take a turn towards doing the Western Front before going for the Pacific at some later date. The series lead is still intending to do the Pacific but in the meantime we have a scenario that I know many people, myself included, are excited to see. These aircraft are the ones I’m most excited to fly from the Tempest V and Spitfire IX to the P-38, P-47 and P-51 to the FW190D-9 and the Bf109K-4. The Me262 is also a really special gem that I intend to put some serious time into at some point.
We are lacking in bombers in this iteration but I think that’s ok. The late war Western Front battles were fought by strategic bombers against factories and other big resources but when it came to the frontline combat that the IL-2 series so excells at – its the fighter-bombers that get the job done. Big aircraft like the P-47, P-38 and Tempest V all were capable of carrying large bomb and rocket loadouts that are only marginally lower in overall weight to the loads of other bombers in the series.
Will that planned B-25 AI bomber eventually become flyable? I’d be surprised if it didn’t. The B-25C/Mitchell II is useful in just about every theater of the war including on the Eastern Front so I can see that becoming a flyable type in some future iteration.
The developers have announced both summer and winter versions of the Western Europe/Low-Countries map. We don’t know what will exactly be covered on this map yet but we’ll find out more later on. Given that there are at least two seasons coming, its clear that the developers intend to offer more than just the Bodenplatte scenario and may intend to offer the preceding fall or following spring campaigns as part of the pack too.
I’m extremely excited by the aircraft line-up and by the scenario. Fast paced aerial warfare will dominate these scenarios and the developers have given us a fan-favourite lineup of aircraft for both sides. It doesn’t have much for the dedicated bomber pilot (though the Ju88A-4 still fits into this scenario) but for everyone else is has all kinds of great options.