IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte

After the failure of Operation Market Garden, the Western Front stabilized for several months stretching from the fall of 1944 through to the spring of 1945. Heavy fighting continued, however, the rapid advance of the previous months was nowhere to be found for the Western Allies.

In an effort to cripple Allied air support, the Luftwaffe hatched a scheme to attack 16 Allied airbases across the front all at once in one combined operation. The operation’s codename was “Baseplate.” Though surprise was achieved, Allied forces recovered from the attacks quickly and the Luftwaffe lost many of its remaining experienced pilots.

Spitfire Mk IXe (LF and HF)

The early Spitfire IX was a modified Spitfire V designed as an interim stopgap model that could handle the increased power of the Merlin 60 series engines. The Spitfire IX transcended its own initial purposes by going on to be one of the most produced and successful models of Spitfire. By mid 1944, Spitfire IXe models were rolling off the production lines and into active service squadrons. The ‘E’ indicates a revised twin Hispano Mark II 20mm and Browning .50cal armament. Various refinements to the design and the re-tuned Merlin 66 engine combined to make a fearsome opponent. Some specialized versions of the fighter also flew with the Merlin 70 series which increased power and performance at higher altitudes while sacrificing lower altitude performance.

Pros

  • An ideal combination of speed, firepower, and agility
  • Outstanding turn rate and elevator effectiveness
  • Optional Mark IIGGS gyro gunsight allows for precision gunnery

Cons

  • Non-clipped wing variants have reduced roll rate
  • Aircraft is highly vulnerable to ground fire
  • Though speed is good, the Spitfire IX is slower than some of its opponents in 1944/45

Tempest Mk V (Series 2)

Starting out life as an improved Typhoon, the Tempest Mark V was the result of a competitive process trialing various engine types and configurations until the quickest to production Sabre II was selected over higher performing but more risky configurations. The Tempest V boasts superb visibility, speed and firepower with its four Hispano Mark V cannons possessing impressive firepower.

Tempests were used first as V-1 chasers before seeing extensive use with the RAF’s 2nd Tactical Air Force in the autumn of 1944 and seeing active service as a tactical fighter through to the end of the war. Tempests were frequently used at medium and low altitudes performing fighter sweeps and attacking targets of opportunity. Some Tempests late in the war were armed with bombs but most Tempests were used in the fighter role and providing support for squadrons flying Typhoons.

Pros

  • One of the fastest low and medium altitude fighters of WWII
  • High cruise speed
  • Excellent visibility
  • Excellent firepower

Cons

  • Poor high altitude performance relative to opposition
  • Engine can be sensitive to combat damage

P-47D-28 Thunderbolt

Designed according to a USAAF specification for a high altitude fighter intended to intercept enemy bombers, the P-47 was designed around a powerful R-2800 2,000hp engine and a sophisticated turbosupercharging system that ran through the fuselage and helped give the P-47 it’s famous milk jug appearance.

Larger and heavier than other fighters flying in Europe, the P-47 made a name for itself with it’s high altitude speed, impressive dive performance and robust airframe able to absorb damage. The P-47 was also comfortable to fly and extremely well liked by its pilots with few bad habits and surprisingly light controls. Roll rates are often espoused as a strength for the fighter and are consistent across the speed range but aren’t exceptional according to published data.

The legend of the P-47 is one of an aircraft that help to bring the Luftwaffe to it’s knees in the west. That said, no aircraft is perfect and the P-47’s weight is only partially mitigated by the enormous power of it’s engine. Low altitude performance is average and climb rate is decent but not outstanding. In IL-2 the P-47 also suffers from an engine that seems a bit too easy to knock out – somethings surely to be fixed in future patches.

Pros

  • Powerful and fast at high altitudes
  • Incredible firepower thanks to eight .50cal machine guns and a wide variety of bombs and rockets
  • Great visibility thanks to the bubble canopy

Cons

  • Climb and agility at low altitudes is average
  • In IL-2 the damage model surrounding the engine seems problematic

P-51D-15 Mustang

Widely regarded as one of the best fighters of WWII, the P-51D Mustang started life as a counter proposal by North American aviation to license build P-40’s for Britain. Early versions were great at low altitudes but had poor high altitude performance, however, the installation of a British (and then licensed built) Rolls Royce Merlin engine turned the P-51 into an aircraft of legend.

Fast, relatively agile, and able to fly 2,000 miles with external fuel tanks, the P-51D was the escort fighter that the USAAF desperately needed in the skies of Europe making the Luftwaffe’s attempts at bomber interception even more hazardous. In the sim, the IL-2 is a dream to fly with few bad habits, great visibility, and excellent performance all around.

Pros

  • Fast at all altitudes
  • Excellent range
  • Great visibility thanks to a bubble canopy

Cons

  • Engine sensitive to battle damage
  • Performance suffers in prolonged turn fights

P-38J-25 Lightning (Collector Plane)

The P-38J solved a lot of the earlier P-38’s problems with an improved cooling system, attempts to solve engine reliability issues, and numerous revisions to improve the ergonomics of the cockpit. Despite these issues, the P-38 had impressive capabilities being the only successful twin-engine heavy fighter of WWII as well as one of the longest range fighters in the USAAF arsenal.

By late 1944 and early 1945, most P-38’s in Europe were serving with the 9th Air Force operating in the tactical role. In this the P-38 also performed well with its two engines providing some measure of reliability when hit by ground fire. It also had the ability to carry impressive bomb and rocket loads to target. While the P-38’s reputation as a fighter was made more over the jungles of New Guinea, the late model P-38J still made a mark on the European theatre.

Pros

  • Excellent high speed
  • Very good agility for a large twin engine fighter
  • High roll rate at high speeds thanks to boosted ailerons
  • Good over the nose visibility and excellent concentrated firepower

Cons

  • Controls stiffen up in high speed dives, use of dive brakes to prevent compressibility problems required
  • Presents as a large target for enemy fighters

B-25D Mitchell II (RAF) (AI)

The B-25 Mitchell served in nearly every theatre of WWII from the Eastern Front to the skies of the Pacific and over north western Europe. In Europe, it was the RAF that operated the B-25 Mitchell primarily as a tactical bomber supporting the advance of Allied troops into Germany and through to the end of the war.

It was a well packaged aircraft that was highly adaptable including field modified as well as factory built gunships with eight .50cal machine guns or in some cases – a 75mm anti-ship cannon. These were more typical in the Pacific.

B-25’s were robust, generally easy to fly, and could carry a reasonable bombload. At the moment, the B-25 is available in IL-2 as an AI only aircraft. It may become flyable later.

Bf109G-14

The G-14 variant of the Bf109 was meant to standardize the Bf109 production line as dozens of different variations to the basic Bf109G-6 emerged. Numerous refinements to the design aimed at increasing power and performance helped boost the earlier G-6s capabilities though the G-14 still lagged behind in some aspects. Optionally armed with MK108 30mm cannon and 21cm rockets, the Bf109 was a fearsome bomber hunter.

The Bf109G-14 has slightly better handling than the Bf109G-6 series as well as the successor Bf109K-4 representing something of a sweet spot for late series Bf109’s (though it isn’t as sweet to fly as say the Bf109F-4).

Pros

  • One of the best Bf109 models around with competitive speed and climb performance
  • Flexible armament with MK108 30mm and 21cm rockets available as options

Cons

  • Opponents have caught up to the Bf109’s performance and is sometimes outclassed by other fighters

Bf109K-4

The “Kurfurst” or Bf109K series was the last of the Bf109 line before the end of the war and represents the peak and pinnacle of the aircraft series. Boasting impressive climb and speed specifications, the Bf109K-4 is one of the fastest piston engine fighters of the WWII era and one of the fastest in the game.

In addition to impressive performance specs, the Bf109K comes armed with twin MG131 machine guns and the MK108 30mm cannon is fitted by default. A special DB605AC engine modification adds even more performance although this modification was rare. The biggest issue with the Bf109K-4 is that handling is somewhat less impressive than the earlier more responsive Bf109’s and a more careful approach to air combat utilizing climb and dive techniques is recommended.

Pros

  • Extreme speed and climb performance
  • Heavy firepower
  • One of the cleanest Bf109 late series fighters thanks to aerodynamic refinements and retracting tail wheel

Cons

  • Handling further compromised by weight

FW190A-8 (F-8/G-8)

The FW190A-8 boasts increased engine power over its preceding versions, however, its also a much heavier aircraft that continued to add firepower making it a powerful bomber hunter and fighter. Retaining its characteristic roll rate, the FW190 is an ideal boom and zoom fighter. It’s also a flexible ground attacker as the F-8 and G-8 variants remove the outer MG151/20 cannons and the nose mounted MG131 machine guns (in the G-8) to make way for increased loadouts and armor plate aimed at protecting the pilot and engine from AAA fire. The G-8 can even carry the massive SC1000 bomb.

Pros

  • Extremely well armed especially with optional MK108 30mm wing guns
  • Excellent visibility except over the nose
  • Very flexible with A-8, F-8 and G-8 modifications available allowing dedicated fighter and fighter-bomber ops including carriage of SC1000 bomb or three SC250 bombs

Cons

  • Heavier and somewhat less responsive than earlier versions
  • Not as agile as opposition fighters in most respects except roll rate

Fw190D-9 (Collector Plane)

Putting the Jumo 213 turbocharged engine into the Fw190 required some serious changes to the design of the aircraft. A longer nose, an extra section in the back fuselage to maintain the stability of the aircraft, and a host of smaller changes produced one of the best performing Fw190 models ever – the Dora 9.

Used late in 1944 through to the end of the war, the D-9 was one of the best piston engine fighters of WWII with impressive top speeds at low, medium and even into the higher altitudes, and a very well balanced flying character that wasn’t quite as nimble as the early Fw190’s but one that went quite a ways towards redressing the heavy character that late A-series versions of the fighter had developed.

To maintain performance, the outer 20mm cannons were reduced which brought firepower down to a reasonable two MG151/20 cannons firing through the propeller arc just out from the wings and two MG131 12.7mm heavy machine guns in the nose decking also firing through the propeller.

Visibility was generally extremely good, roll rate was fast, and speed impressive. There were few marks against this version of the Fw190.

Pros

  • Fast at most altitudes and able to keep up with the best Allied fighters of the time
  • Great visibility, especially to the side and rear
  • Adequate armament and ammunition supply

Cons

  • Not a turn fighter

Me262

The Messerschmitt Me 262 was a revolution to the aviation world being the first jet powered combat aircraft to go beyond prototype and see regular service. The Jumo 004 jet engine had a notoriously short lifespan before needing overhaul, regularly flamed out, and required an extremely sensitive touch on the throttle. When they did work correctly, however, they pushed the Me262 to speeds not possible with conventional propeller driven aircraft of the era.

Me262’s had two primary roles in active service. First, they were used as bomber interceptors intercepting the mass bomber streams of heavy and medium bombers flying over Germany in the late stages of the war. Second, most bomber squadrons in the later part of 1944 were re-equipped with bomb laden Me262’s and used at low and medium altitude as a strike aircraft.

Me262’s were often most vulnerable at takeoff and landing and many jet bases were the target of repeated Allied attacks.

Pros

  • Extremely fast at all altitudes
  • Better armed than any other fighter (four MK108 30mm cannons)

Cons

  • Throttles require a sensitive touch
  • Poor agility in turns and engines are sensitive to high angles of attack