In recent memory I haven’t had that many air battles that were an absolute edge of the envelope tense back and forth exchange. But the other day while flying on Wings of Liberty I had one of those. It was just a little tense…. and incredibly satisfying!
Wings of Liberty always seems to be running Stalingrad maps when I log in. It’s probably just me but that’s how it seems to go. This time, however, I was overjoyed to see a Kuban scenario with the fighting taking place over the Kerch Strait.
The Kerch Strait, Taman Peninsula, and surrounding area I’ve flown over many times in the original IL-2 and a little bit here and there since the Kuban map was released with patch 2.012. I know the terrain and the geography of the area well.
The server scenario sets the stage for a series of battles back and forth across the strait with ships transiting through the waterway and a series of targets on both sides taking up both teams attention.
Taking to the skies with a Yak-1B Series 127, easily one of my favourite fighters, and a capable performer, I climbed for altitude over one of the Blue team’s targets: A small port receiving a series of cargo ships.
The cloud base was at approximately 4000 meters and its about here where I leveled off flying in and out of light clouds and looking for enemy fighters and bombers. For about 10 minutes I periodically would spot a dot on the horizon also flying about 4000 meters in the cloud layer. I could never close the distance but I kept on trying to ID this dot.
Finally, after a game of cat and mouse and losing the contact a few times, I found him above me and seemingly un-aware. I know now that I’m dealing with a FW190.
We’re back over the strait at this point and about halfway between both friendly and hostile bases. But things don’t start right away…
I find him again, on my six
Losing him in the clouds again and again I finally head back towards the harbour near Kerch. And this is when I notice the dot closing rapidly.
It’s the FW190 and he’s on my six.
Queue a series of evasive maneuvers starting with a half roll and a tight turn. FW190s have excellent turn at high speeds (and we’re both flying 450kph IAS at the least) though they can’t prolong that turn so my thinking is to break into a turn early enough to get inside of his circle but not so early as to enable him to compensate too much.
Success! He fires but the shots go wide and we both exceed our stall angles and stall briefly. Queue my chance to gain the initiative and I’m back trying to get a good angle on his six and close enough to be effective with my guns.
The tension is extreme!
We ended up flying back and forth for about 15 minutes dodging shots, performing rolling scissors, flying at high and near stall speeds.
I’d close in and fire a quick burst and he’d evade going fast, high, and over using his roll rate against me while I’d cut into his circles. Both seemingly were using the advantages of our aircraft to the best of our abilities.
The first back and forth part of the battle ends when A second FW190 joins the party.
Things are suddenly much more complicated. I had the advantage at the end of the fight but suddenly the situation has changed and I’m on the defensive.
Both FW190s fly the same attack profile so that gives me a short window of opportunity. Once again I draw them in close enough but not too close and try and cut the turn.
It works mostly but this time a few machine gun bullets hit my Yak. No damage or systems issues that I can see so the fight is still on! But one that I now want to get out of.
The fight goes lower and I switch back to first stage supercharger trying to get my maximum low altitude speed. The difference between the FW190 and Yak-1B is surprisingly small (3 km/h difference in favour of the FW190A-5) so with our dive down to low altitudes the distance between us stays approximately the same.
The Yak-1 Series 69 would have been toast here as the Yak-1Bs superior aerodynamics and better propeller give me enough of an edge. That and my earlier tactic to delay their dive give me enough separation to get away.
But it’s not enough… Two FW190s are just outside of effective gun range but close enough that a luck 20mm shell could cause some serious damage. And this is where they get me. Using slight changes in my direction I try and throw off the long range shots and that works for a while but then I get hit. And now my Yak-1B has a damaged engine and a pair of fuel leaks.
Now closing in more quickly I’m working hard to doge by throwing them into a barrel roll. A move that shouldn’t work against a 190 but I guess neither of them were ready for it as I’m still able to pull a tighter circle and get away from their gunsights.
My speed now is lower and I’m in real trouble.
A sudden twist
Allies to the rescue. Suddenly a FW190 falls from the sky as a trio of friendly fighters drop in unannounced. So focused were the two FW190s on me that they didn’t see the attack coming.
This is just the opportunity I need to escape.
I have two choices: I can try and land at the nearby airbase and potentially get hit by falling bombs (itself a target) or try and fly about 35km to my home base. I go with the later.
And I made it within 10-11 kilometers of the base too before the engine quits. Trailing oil, fuel, and with a dozen holes in me… my Yak isn’t in such great shape and I aim to try and find the nearest clearing.
A beach looks appealing… but my ditching maneuver doesn’t go exactly as planned and my Yak-1B ends up overturned in the sand.
I’d like to think my virtual pilot survived that ordeal.
Not exactly a win, not ultimately a loss, but a very compelling experience
Some air battles seem lost to memory while others are always memorable. This one will stick in my memory for a long time. The combination of the beautiful Kuban map, the challenging opposition, and the incredible scale of the battle from high altitudes down to the deck and with surprises at every turn make this an incredible experience for me.
This is yet another reason why we fly flight sims like these.
It got the adrenaline going and for someone who almost never has sweaty palms… I had sweaty palms. I’m so glad that it was a battle I could fight in my preferred aircraft as well. I like to challenge myself to fly in difficult situations and with aircraft that maybe aren’t the best or are ones that I don’t normally fly. This time around I’m glad it was in a type that I know well and have flown for a very long time.
I’m also glad that I was able to fly against an enemy that seemed to be every bit my equal. The first FW190 that I fought against, and I wish I had wrote down his name, got everything he could out of that FW190. He made mistakes, I made mistakes, but I felt it was an equal battle of wits. One that both of us I think walked away from being very satisfied.
Well fought, whoever you are!
Thanks too for reading to the end. This was a long one!