Back on January 2nd of this year, I set out some goals to try some new things. I wanted to fly more helicopters. Done! Learn the basics of airliner flying. Done! Fly some level bombers in at least one of the combat sims that I own. Not done! So, with just a couple of weeks left I want to try and achieve that goal that I set out for myself and I’m going to document a few of my missions.
River crossing raid
I’ve recently been re-reading Osprey Combat Aircraft No 79 Junkers Ju 88 Kampfgeschwader on the Russian Front and the current chapter I’m on is the efforts of the various bomber groups in support of the Stalingrad offensive, defensive and ultimate defeat. So, I thought I’d pick this aircraft over that classic battle in the Sturmovik series original map to fly for this Flight Journal series.
I’ve set the campaign up as an Iron Man campaign (so when it’s over, it’s over) and I put myself as squadron leader because I want to be able to guide the squadron to the target and do the bomb targeting myself as part of the learning (or re-learning) process. It’s been a while since I did this kind of flying so I might as well jump into the deep end.
Our first mission was to fly to a target near Kalach – to the west of Stalingrad itself. The target was a bridge crossing with vehicles arrayed on either side and some light flak defenses. Our attacking force was a group of nine Ju88A-4s armed with SC50 and SC250 bombs.
Before long I was in the cockpit with the green flare launched and nine Ju88’s trundling along the airstrip and into the air for our mission.
Bombing the target
Flying a more or less route, we setup at a cruise altitude of about 900-1000 meters. This put us just under the heavy cloud deck and provided us with ample opportunity to spot the target. The new, larger, clouds dominated the scenes and we occasionally flew through light snow flurries as we approached the target. I love these new localized weather effects!
With strong winds, I put in the calculated speed, altitude, and angle offset to accommodate for the winds. With my formation aligned on my right side, I also needed to make sure that I myself aimed for the left side of the target zone so that bombs would fall from the group onto the target.
Approaching I target I ordered the squadron to “Do as I do” (which tells the AI to open bomb doors and drop on my order). Then I made several corrections both left and right trying to zero in the sights just right. The target came up quickly and I hurriedly released all bombs. I ended up releasing the internal load first, however, in the future I will probably do the opposite.
With the target hit and our mission accomplished, I swung the flight around in a near 180 turn and headed for home base. But our sortie was not quite over yet.
Gunners began calling out that bandits had been sighted and our Bf109 escort broke to attack the interceptors. Out of the clouds emerged a flight of La-5s hell bent on making us pay for the bridge attack.
While the 109s kept some of the fighters away from us, two more broke through the screen and challenged the formation directly. The first La-5 engaged a bomber in the middle of the formation causing crippling damage with his twin 20mm cannons. The Ju88 fell away and crashed.
The next La-5 went after me.
I started a gentle weave trying to keep the gunnery solution fluid while not disturbing the formation too much. This first La-5 was not that lucky and his engine received a full burst of machine gun fire from the ventral gunner position. MG 81Z twin machine gun rounds caused his engine to burst into flames and fall away.
The second La-5 got a little more lucky hitting me with several 20mm shells before that La-5 was hit by both gunners and the escorting Bf109s. That La-5 fell away and into the snow covered ground. We were safe… so long as my engines kept going.
Fortunately, those engines did keep on going and with a little bit of trouble I was able to set the Ju88 back down at base without any more damage. Phew!
A successful mission, returned with some battle damage, and pilot and crew ready for the next challenge? I’d say that was a good sortie! On with the next one.