It’s time for some editorializing on a subject that is the talk of the IL-2 community right now. IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte has one of the most exciting line-ups for aircraft in a flight sim product in a very long time. For a great many players, the 10 aircraft represent some of the most sought after and requested types since the series started and from long before that. However, for some players who typically fly bombers, there isn’t much to grasp on to with this latest title. So, where are the bombers and how might we add some to the aircraft set?
In the later stages of WWII, tactical air forces began using large numbers of fighter bombers. These were almost always aircraft originally designed as fighters but were increasingly pressed into use for ground attack and close air support operations.
In 1942 and 1943, the Western allies began to hone their close air support tactics via the use of Forward Air Controllers. These precursors to the modern JTAC were able to call in close air support via radio and with the use of smoke. Tank platoons often had at least one tank equipped with a VHF set with which to contact nearby aircraft and the RAF began using their Typhoons in the support role rather than as a fighter. Pilots perfected the Cab Rank where Typhoon (and other types) pairs would attack a target and move on making room for the next attacker and keeping constant pressure on target.
The Russians made enormous use of the IL-2 in the attack role and the Luftwaffe had their various experiences with the Ju87 Stuka, Hs123 and Hs129, and then later with FW190s that were modified for fighter-bomber roles.
Compared to the 100kg or 250lb bombs carried by earlier fighters, late war FW190F-8s were able to carry a 500kg bomb under the fuselage and sometimes were able to carry a pair of 250kg bombs (one under each wing). The Typhoon was modified to handle 500lb or 1000lb bombs or a set of eight under-wing 80lb rockets. The rocket attack was considered equivalent to the broadside of a destroyer firing its guns.
In the USAAF, it was the P-47 that developed a sterling reputation as a rough and tough fighter-bomber with 500lb and 1000lb bombs under the fuselage and wings and were sometimes fitted with the triple-tube M8 4.5in high explosive “Bazooka” rockets. The P-38L had a tree-like pylon that could be fitted to either wing each capable of holding up to five HVAR rockets each for a total of 10.
IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte aircraft set offers up a wide variety of ground attack options. Nearly every aircraft offered in the set has some sort of fighter-bomber role available and nearly all of these aircraft were able to carry the at least as much firepower as light and medium bombers from earlier in the war.
One type that is often missed in this discussion is the Me262. The Me262 in the context of the late 1944 and 1945 battle were also often focused on the ground attack role. Two of the three units in the region depicted by IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte were bomber squadrons (from KG 51) converted from other bomber types to the Me262A-2a – a bomber oriented variant of the Me262 jet fighter.
This time in history, so far as tactical air forces like the Luftwaffe in 1944 and 1945, USAAF’s 9th Air Force, and the RAF’s 2nd Tactical Air Force (TAF) were concerned, were dominated by the low flying fighter-bomber. That’s what IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte is focused on. Yet, not everyone wants to fly those mission types.
So what about the bombers then?
Here is where history, flight sim gameplay, and developer resources collide into a bit of a conundrum.
WWII on the Western Front, as far as public consciousness is concerned, was dominated by massed formations of day and night bombers launching attacks against Nazi-controlled Germany. This was certainly true as outfits like the RAF’s Bomber Command USAAF’s 8th Air Force waged a day and night air war through to the end of the conflict.
Plenty of sim pilots have desired to see heavy bombers recreated in a flight sim and a few sims have managed to do that over the years. Technologically, it is difficult to pull these formations off without compromise or without higher system requirements.
These aircraft types are also difficult for developers to make as well. Multiple crew stations are required to make these behemoths work to the point where one heavy bomber could take as much time as 9 or 10 single engine fighters. The end result would be a golden product for many but also a limited niche for others and financially it could be dangerous for a small studio like 1CGS to take on.
So, heavy bombers are, for now, out of the question in this flight sim. How about medium and light bombers? Now we’re on to something.
The medium and light allied bombers
The 2nd Tactical Air Force and 9th Air Force both used light and medium bombers for tactical operations in large numbers. The A-20G and J (Boston Mark IV), A-26 Invader, B-25C (Mitchel Mark II) and B-26 Marauder were all extensively used. One of these, the B-25/Mitchell Mark II, is already planned as an AI plane for IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte.
The Mitchel Mark II is an interesting aircraft as it is the same as the B-25C in USAAF service and it is an aircraft that saw service from 1942 through to the end of the war on nearly every front from east and west Europe to the Pacific flying with a half dozen different air forces.
IL-2’s Lead Producer, Jason Williams, has even suggested during one of the Q&A sessions hosted last year that they picked the B-25C/Mitchell Mark II AI aircraft, in part, because it could be made flyable later and be useful in many different future products. Smart forward thinking.
What about the Luftwaffe’s bombers?
Here, the situation from a historical point of view is challenging.
The Ju88, Ju188. He111, Do217, and He177 were all disappearing from service for one reason or another. Some were still around but in small numbers. Some bomber units even converted to fighters so that they could participate in the Defence of Reich missions.
Finding a bomber aircraft type and a bomber unit within the Bodenplatte’s large map area has proven difficult in my research so far but there are are a few exceptions. I./KG 51 and II./KG 51 flew the Me262A-2s in the bomber role and III./KG 76 used their Ar234s for reconnaissance and bomber missions. The Ar234 was famously used during repeated attacks against the Ludendorf rail bridge at Remagen ultimately causing the bridge to collapse although not before Allied forces were able to span the gap anyways.
What can 1CGS as IL-2’s developers do about adding more bombers then?
Pretty much this entire article has been directed at getting to this one key point. A good number of vocal flight sim pilots prefer to fly their combat flight sim missions in larger aircraft – primarily bombers and mostly of the level bombing kind. They are far fewer in number, in my estimation anyways, than the fighter pilots but its still a role that should be paid attention to.
One way for 1CGS to try and approach this situation is via Collector Planes. These extra aircraft fit in the gaps between major project development and add in some extra options to help fill out existing titles. The Yak-1B, La-5FN, Bf109G-6 and Ju52 are all examples of this type of Collector Plane.
Could 1CGS then make a couple of bomber related Collector Planes?
I think it’s possible for 1CGS to develop light and medium bombers outside of the main development cycle. But it wouldn’t be easy either. Still, there are some options to consider.
The B-25/Mitchell II is a possibility given that its external geometry and flight model will already be complete for Bodenplatte. It would take time to develop as the Mitchell has a complex cockpit, top gunner station, retractable lower gunner station and waist gunner positions which all take lots of time to develop.
The B-26 Marauder is a very interesting aircraft that primarily saw service with the USAAF in Europe. These fast, twin-engined, medium bombers had teething troubles early on but were formed into very effective tactical bombers. The one mark against them is their limited use outside of Western Europe.
I’ve already mentioned the Ar234 before. It’s mark on history makes it interesting enough to potentially make into a Collector Plane. The Ar234 as a bomber both fits the Bodenplatte time period, operates in the role that many players want, utilizes the same engines as the Me262 (and thus benefits from the flight and system modeling that will go into that plane), and unlike many other bombers has a single pilot station. It was popular choice in IL-2: 1946 multiplayer which does help!
To finish my suggestions up, I think another solid contender is the A-20. We’ve already got the A-20B which 1CGS put a lot of effort into building. Limited research on my part suggests that we could actually get two more versions of the A-20 out of a potential Collector Plane.
The A-20G, a solid nose attacker version of this light bomber, had six .50cal machine guns in the nose along with excellent bomb and rocket options making it an excellent attacker. These aircraft were heavily used by the 9th Air Force and by the Soviet Union where the A-20G was the most numerous of type to see service there. There’s also the A-20J (or the Boston Mark IV), which was essentially an A-20G except with a glazed nose and a Norden bombsight which was used by the USAAF and RAF.
The A-20G-25-DO and A-20J-1-DO are essentially the same aircraft with all of the same systems and features with the exception of the glazed nose. The G flew as an attacker while the J version functioned as level bomber. Both types flew missions together with the A-20J leading the bombing attack with its Norden bombsight and releasing bombs on command.
Featuring the same engines and overall airframe, the A-20G/J would need a slightly modified cockpit, new Martin powered turret, slight changes to the rear fuselage to accommodate the turret, and a .50cal instead of a .30cal in the ventral gunner station. Although it would take some doing, developing the A-20B into the G and J variations wouldn’t be the same as building a new aircraft and that makes me think its a strong possibility.
Is it all worthwhile?
While the lack of bombers is a bit of a disappointment for some, many more are definitely sold on the Bodenplatte title and aircraft set. There are some fan favourites in there that have people excited. There is also no lack of attack aircraft options with most of the set doubling as fighter-bombers. The thing that is lacking are aircraft for the people who prefer to fly their high altitude, formation bombing raids.
Could a third party team supplement 1CGS efforts here? Possible, although 1CGS already has a full plate bringing three titles within the next year to two years and so that may be too much.
A Collector Plane also has to sell outside of a “Battle of” package where vital but sometimes less popular planes are located. Until everyone learned what a gem the Yak-7B was, nobody was paying any attention to that aircraft and probably wouldn’t buy it as a Collector Plane.
That leaves us with an important question: Would an A-20G/J sell? More than say a Spitfire Mark XIV? Would an Ar234 sell more than a Ta152H? Would it still be worth it to do them and could 1CGS double down and do them all before moving to their next project in 2019/20? These are questions with no answers but I’m curious to hear your thoughts in the comments.