There’s a lot of small details in the mechanics of the game that can give you an advantage if used correctly. This guide covers a wide variety of such tricks ranging from utilizing the map border to safely dispatching AAA.
Air to Air
Every plane in the game besides the A-10 and Su-25 come equipped with these, so knowing how to best use them is valuable. An important detail is that unlike SARH missiles, heatseekers can be fired without acquiring a lock first. The missile will then attempt to gain a lock mid-flight and start tracking once it has done so. Provided that you have enough distance to the target, this saves quite a bit of time normally spent waiting for a lock. Additionally, this can be used to attack targets outside of your lock-on range. Just be sure that the target is heading away from you, so the missile has a heat source to track.
Missiles only briefly inherit your speed. They travel at around 500 to 550 kts. If you are flying faster than that, they will keep pace for a little while before decelerating to their normal speed. As such, firing after planes running away at full afterburner is difficult and heatseekers are better used at close ranges.
Close range is where heatseekers do their best work and in Sky Knights the quote “He’s too close for missiles Goose, I’m switching to guns” is backwards. Your gun has a fairly narrow firing arc and the natural variation in altitude between planes makes nearby targets impossible to hit at times. However, the wide lock-on cone lets your heatseekers work where your guns can’t. Additionally, the short travel time to the target gives them less time to react and drop flares.
Unlike SARHs, heatseekers provide no visual indication of an enemy searching for lock. The only evidence of one being employed against you is the missile launch sound and the missile’s model itself. As it is difficult to focus visually on everything at once, that audio cue is especially useful. It’s not a terrible habit to drop a flare or two when you hear that sound and enemies are nearby.
Dodging heatseekers used against you can be a bit tricky. Dropping flares will force the heatseeker to immediately change its target. However, once it has flown passed the flare, it can potentially reacquire you as a target. Generally, you want to maintain your speed, drop a flare or two, and turn away. Slow targets are much easier for heatseekers to hit and using too many countermeasures can actually help guide a missile back towards you.
The bane of every CAS player, these missiles can be tricky to use but are very dangerous. Managing your radar locks is key with SARHs and so it is important to know that the aircraft targeted for the lock acquisition process is based on distance and proximity to the centerline of your targeting cone. This can let you pick out targets in a group if you are careful enough and is important to keep in mind when enemies attempt to break the lock.
Your enemies will receive an RWR warning as soon as they enter the targeting cone. The threat of suddenly taking over 100 damage can be used to force them to maneuver against a SARH without launching one.
The PiP camera for missiles will display an extra overlay for SARHs that can be used to keep your target on the centerline or in the cone in general.
SARH locks are maintained briefly after death, allowing for the occasional posthumous kill.
Ideal Turn Speed
Your aircraft does not actually apply the same amount of turning force at every speed. Instead, it is scaled to a curve. Flying too fast or too slow can hurt your turn rate significantly. Each aircraft has an ideal turn speed where the full amount of turn force will be applied. In general, the lower this speed the better as you will be closer to it in an extended turn fight.
If you are at 0% throttle and continue to throttle down, the aircraft’s speed brake will engage. This slows you down more rapidly but does not lower your idle speed. Using it in a turn fight can give you the extra angle of attack you need to get a firing solution at the cost of speed. Additionally, this can be useful when trying to intercept at high speed in order to drop down to your ideal turn speed. This mechanic has a lot of potential, so experiment with it and find where it can benefit you.
While unguided air to ground munitions will not detonate on contact with an enemy aircraft, their splash damage can still affect them provided they are flying low enough. Due to the small splash radius, this is rather hard to achieve with rockets, but is far more possible with bombs.
Air to Ground
Anti-Aircraft Artillery are primary targets for air-to-ground attacks and can be extremely deadly when not handled correctly. Destroying them is rather easy. A single bomb or anti-radiation missile will always take them out and anti-tank missiles can hit AAA outside of their range if you fly slowly. However, there are some tricks when it comes to how they determine their target and deal damage.
The accuracy of anti-aircraft fire improves the closer you are flying to them. As such, avoid flying over them on bombing runs and instead turn to the side after releasing your ordinance. A little extra health can be saved by relying on the bomb’s splash damage for the kill or by gaining altitude with a maneuver prior to approaching.
Fast bomb carrying aircraft can use their afterburners to slightly extend how far a bomb will travel. This in combination with a well-timed maneuver can eliminate AAA while minimizing time within range.
You can take damage from friendly anti-aircraft fire. However, the angles involved makes this very rare.
Anti-Aircraft Artillery target the first enemy that enters their range until they leave. This means that a plane with more health like an air superiority fighter can tank the damage while a lighter bomb-equipped aircraft goes in for the kill. Additionally, by sticking to the edge of the AAA’s range, the tanking aircraft can greatly minimize the damage they receive.
Bombs are very powerful and versatile weapons. They inflict their full damage on any target within their splash radius, reducing the need for precise aiming against single targets or the potential to wipe out large clusters of creeps. This also makes them potentially lethal for low-flying aircraft.
The bombing pipper is not perfectly accurate. While it works well when flying straight at cruising speeds, it loses accuracy in turns, especially at high speeds.
The two relevant upgrades, Bomber Loadout and 1000 lb. Bombs, play an important role in how these weapons are used. Bomber Loadout is almost always a better first pick as it increases the total damage carried and allows for more AAA or creep kills. However, the one minor use of picking 1000 lb. Bombs first is that they one-shot MBTs 100% of the time.
Exclusive to the Viggen and Fitter, rockets can be tricky to use, but are very powerful and efficient in the right hands. Rockets travel on a fixed angle relative to your plane. This means that altitude and attitude can greatly affect their range and how that range changes. While flying level, the impact zone of your rockets travels along with you. However, if you are descending, it will stay roughly in place. As such, using the aircraft’s impressive speed, you can climb to a high altitude and hit a target like a forward operating base from a greater range and without slowing down.
These missiles granted by the SEAD Loadout upgrade are not only great for safely taking out AAA but can eliminate recon vehicles without getting spotted on radar. However, they travel relatively slowly which makes them less ideal for high speed attacks in strike aircraft.
This is probably the most important mechanical interaction between teammates. It keeps the team grouped together and gets them into the fight faster. However, be wary when buddyspawning. It leaves newly spawned players at high altitude with very little speed. Even with the brief spawn invulnerabiltiy, they can still be an easy target for pursuing aircraft. That being said, suddenly gaining an ally at your tail can also save you.
Buddyspawned players inherit altitude and attitude of the player they spawned off of but are at 0% throttle and very low on speed. This is especially true when buddyspawning mid-maneuver as the plane will need to level out first before achieving any meaningful acceleration. Additionally, a newly spawned player can use speedbrakes to descend nearly vertically and put themselves in unexpected positions in a dogfight.
Buddyspawning seems to occur off of the forward-most player within the valid range who is near the runways.
Because the radar screen uses a single color to display aircraft of the same team, flying in close formation makes it harder for the enemy to distinguish how many players are there and what they are flying. When done carefully, this can even hide smaller planes like light fighters underneath the radar image of a large plane like a CAS aircraft.
Because these missiles are dependent on the lock being maintained all (or most) of the way to the target, any disruption of this lock can waste them. The easiest way of doing this is exploiting the logic used to determine which aircraft to lock onto. After getting radar warnings, alternate flying in front of a teammate and them doing the same to force the missile to have to repeatedly restart the lock acquisition process.
Assist credit for the destruction of vehicles or aircraft is granted to any allies even remotely nearby if they are still alive. As such, sticking together greatly increases the income your team will receive. Additionally, the credits gained from an aircraft kill assist obeys the same limits as an aircraft kill. It will not drop below 50 or exceed 300 and is roughly half the value of a kill. However, the value it is based on is still tracked beyond those limits, so killing a very poorly or very greatly performing player grants equal rewards for the kill and the assist.
Assist credit for FOBs is only granted to allies that recently deal damage to the base and is worth quite a lot. Therefore, try to get your whole team to strafe a base right before finishing it off for maximum credit gain.
This map element does not often present itself as an issue in combat, but rather importantly influences how your plane flies and can deal damage. Straying into this area for an extended, continuous period will start dealing damage in 30 damage chunks, finishing off injured planes and making short work of even a full health one if you are not careful. So, avoid running into it at full afterburner and low stamina.
While in the border’s red zone, you lose some degree of control over your plane. It will force you to turn away from a heading perpendicular to the map edge and restricts you to at most a 45-degree deviation from heading straight back. This forced turning does not drain stamina and you can begin to recover it while in the red zone. Additionally, you cannot start a maneuver, but can still continue one started within the map. However, due to the restraints on heading and forced turns, this is rather difficult to control. That being said, the same issues plague any pursuing aircraft and can keep them from lining up their guns. So, temporary relief can be achieved by escaping here, but it can often put you in a bad situation once you return to the map.
Keep in mind that the zones over enemy airfields only apply to your team and as such are very dangerous.
These offer full repairs and resupplying as well as 25 credits on a perfect landing. However, the perfect landing bonus is applied as soon as you touch down, allowing you to throttle up, abort the landing, and come around again. There is no limit on how often or how many times you receive this bonus, so it can be farmed to get the last couple credits necessary for a big upgrade. However, you will only receive repairs and rearm if you come to a complete stop.
Weapons can achieve locks but cannot be fired while on the runway. This can rarely prove useful if a dogfight breaks out near your airfield. However, it is more useful on the angled runway of Coldsnap.
You are not invulnerable on the runway. While air-to-air missiles might not be able to achieve lock, strafing and bombing can still potentially kill you. However, this is very difficult for enemies to achieve.
Mods, Traits, and Upgrades
The effects of all of these stack in a particularly useful order. First the additive modifiers of any mods are applied, then the multiplicative modifiers of traits and upgrades are applied. This lets you get a little bit of extra mileage out of certain mods by equipping relevant traits and upgrades.
The HUD elements of the anti-radiation missile granted by this upgrade can be used to help line up difficult shots, especially while maneuvering.
When considering maximum speed while afterburning, the afterburner power mod provides more of a benefit than the top speed mod unless you are using the Speed Freak trait and have the Tuned Engine upgrade in which case it barely comes out on top.
The overview camera (the one with the mountain symbol) that can be selected while waiting to respawn has some strategic usefulness. It can show enemy aircraft not visible to your teammates’ radar, allowing you to perform a limited AWACS role if you have a good method of communicating with your team. Additionally, it can be used to determine if you should wait a little bit for a buddyspawn or go head and spawn in normally.
If you pay attention to detail, the other two cameras can also be used to check how much external ordinance enemy aircraft are carrying. Note that the anti-radiation missile granted by SEAD Loadout is not rendered on the aircraft and that the number of rockets in a pod cannot be determined.
Clouds can obscure details like the glow of missile launches, so you might want to consider turning them off.
The HUD color can be changed away from the default green to improve contrast against the bright green ground of Woodlands or the blinding white of Coldsnap. Fortunately, this can be done in a match while waiting for the initial countdown to end.
You can control what events trigger the PiP camera. This is especially useful for limiting it down to just the missile camera for better SARH control.