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Aircraft Combat Guide
A comprehensive overview of the game's jet plane features, tactics, types, and units.
This guide is meant to act as an accessible overview of aircraft available within Wargame: AirLand Battle; though I have attempted to make it as accessible as possible, by its specialized nature this guide is not meant to function as an introduction to Wargame. If you are in need of a basic introduction (indeed, before you even think of reading this guide) please see SandyGunfox's extremely detailed "176 Page Comprehensive Guide to All Things Waregame ALB". This guide will instead attempt to, first, introduce new players to the Wargame airgame; and second, provide a detailed review of each of the game's fixed-wing air assets.
This guide represents my own experiences with this game, and so some of my advice may differ from yours. Any additions or suggestions for otherwise changes can be sent to a yet-to-be-determined place.
Basics: Aircraft Mechanics
Aircraft are deployed along aerial corridors, demarcated by red or blue lines flanking the basal unit entry corridors and usually only present in important or home control points. If the CV present in that control point moves, or if it is lost, so is the aerial corridor; if all aerial corridors are lost, no aircraft can be brought into the game.
Aircraft function off-map, from an abstract airport under your exclusive control. When you buy an air asset your Airport tab opens up, displaying the aircraft you have at your disposal; there is hard maximum of nine air units at a time per player, plenty enough for all but the most dedicated of air spammers. You can control airplanes in flight the same way you control ground units, by clicking on them or dragging over their box then selecting a command. You can also select aircraft off of the airport panel - this is useful because they fly fast and far, and can be difficult to hit (with your mouse button) in the air.
To call in an aircraft, press on its button in the airport, and then right click on where you want it go (or on a valid target you want it to attack). Airplanes fly in on a straight vector and arrow for your point of designation. If they reach that point and no further commands are given they will circle around that point. Like other vehicles airplanes have a certain amount of fuel and a certain autonomy, but unlike other vehicles they cannon refuel in-game: if they are left in the zone of combat long enough to run out of fuel they will immediately Evac Bingo and return to base. You know a plane is close to running out because it will start flashing a white fuel canister status icon next to its unit bar.
When a plane evacuates it maintains its current heading whilst climbing up and away from the battlefield; once it has reached a sufficient altitude, it will disappear off-map and be re-placed into your airport. The time that it takes a plane to evac is dependent on its elevation at evac time (higher if it was chasing another fleeing aircraft, lower if it was making a ground attack) and the aircraft's speed, a statistic that will be discussed in the next section of this guide. There are three types of evac states: the already-discussed Evac Bingo, which occurs automatically when a plane runs out of fuel; Evac Winchester, which occurs after a plane empties its air-to-ground payload; and Evac Ordered, which occurs when you yourself - logically - order it immediately evac.
Once back at the airport the plane is refueled and restocked before being made available for service again. The length of time the asset is stuck in the airport depends on the amount of work that must be done to get it back to fighting condition, ranging between a few seconds for a refuel and rearm on a Skyhawk, to two minutes to restock a F-117 Paveway. Refueling a plane that merely loitered on the map takes only a few seconds and the aircraft is soon again available for service; various weapons systems take more or less time to cumulatively restock and rearm, with the armament's relative value roughly affecting the length of time needed. If your plane took damage, however, get ready for a long repair cycle: it takes a while for the airframe to be repaired, and if the damage was significant bordering on lethal it can be stuck repairing for a full minute or more. The best solution to such woes is, of course, to avoid having to repair in the first place.
There are some other small things to note as to controls before we move on to armament. Planes ordered to attack a specific target will turn off and start doing circles over their present condition if that target hides or friendly units otherwise lose sight on it; you can avoid this problem and attack unseen foes by making use of the Attack Pos command, with valid weapons systems of course. If a plane cannot engage a unit at all - say, if you want your air-to-air only MiG-25PD to attack a Kiowa Warrior recon helicopter - you will not be able to attack-select that unit at all.
Basics: Aircraft Arnaments
There is great diversity in airplane armament, and different planes bring different air-to-air and air-to-ground solutions to the battlefield. Planes can mount up to three different weapons systems. Planes dedicated to specific tasks usually have a cannon and their primary mission armament - a bomb, rocket pods, air-to-ground missiles, and so on. So-called "multirole" aircraft carry a cannon, a primary mission armament, and a secondary load of short-range air-to-air missiles, allowing them to defend themselves from attack, or engage other aircraft in air-to-air combat. Medium air superiority fighters also have three weapon systems: their cannon, their short air-to-air missiles, and their medium air-to-air missiles. The more heavily armed the plane (ae. the more and the better its armament), the greater its price. Multiroles in particular pay a "tax" for their flexibility in the form of higher cost.
These rules are not hard and fast, of course; the American Phantom series of bombers carry two short air-to-air missiles in place of a cannon, for instance, and the Soviet MiG-29 series multiroles carry medium air-to-air missiles instead of short ones. Armament, alongside airframe (next), is what ultimately determines cost.
All weapon systems have a "priming time" during which they are being readied for fire, but not yet off the docket. Priming occurs before entering the weapon's effective range (if possible), and is an automatic process. If a plane is not able to fully prime a weapon because it makes an attack, it will not attack at all. Take care with your last-minute target selection; make sure you give your aircraft adequate time to respond to mission changes.
Rocket Pods With good strike range, a fast fire-rate, and focused cone of fire, folding-fin unguided aerial rockets provide an exceedingly cheap and cost-effective way of weakening (or, in larger volumes, atomizing) infantry and light vehicles caught exposed by the fire.
Rockets Pods can be divided into two types, high-spread, high-range ones that do relatively unfocused damage over a small range (a la Skyhawk and MiG-21SM, and the same rockets used by attack helicopters), and heavier, low-spread, lower-range rocket packets that basically act as HE "nukes".
Cannon Ranging from the puny N-37 to the mighty GAU-8 Avenger, an aircraft's machine gun(s) or autocannon (I use the terminology "cannon" throughout this guide) can attack any target and functions as your primary knife-fighting armament. Although de-gunned aircraft aren't exactly unheard of, most of the game's aircraft pack a cannon of one sort or another - some obviously better than others.
Most cannons are capable of doing reasonable HE damage to targets between ranges of 1400 and 2800 meters in all combat spheres - air, ground, and fixed-wing alike. Some of the heaviest cannons are also able to do AP damage, near-instantly destroying unarmored targets and chipping meat off of armored ones.
Long-Range Air-to-Air Missiles Kit issued to only three of the units present in the game: the Soviet Mig-31 and Mig-31M, and the American F-14 Tomcat. These missiles boast extreme range, able to reach almost twelve kilometers clear across the map, and high damage - but very low overall accuracy.
These missiles are the epitome of luck-based and due to their high damage are even capable of performing positively infuriating critical hit "instakills" if the dice rolls heavily in your favor.
Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles Missiles of medium range, 4900 to 7000 meters, generally issued to sufficiently advanced (and therefore designated) medium air superiority fighters. These missiles provide equipped aircraft with first-strike capacity against lesser-armed aircraft and significantly extend their engagement envelope.
Medium AAMs come in two flavors: fire and forget (F&F) missiles that can be left to fly on their own, and semi-active (SEMACT) ones that are guided by onboard radar systems.
Short-Range Air-to-Air Missiles The most common air-to-air armament, issued to most so-called multirole strike aircraft and, obviously, to all dedicated air superiority fighters. These are fired off almost at cannon range (2800 to 3500 meters) and are generally quite lethal; being infrared missiles, they can also target helicopters, but only at very close distances. They are also the only missiles that are capable of attacking helicopters.
All shorts are fire and forget, infrared-guided affairs.
Air-to-Air Rockets A Swedish and Czech oddity, these unguided air-to-air rockets offer low damage and low accuracy, but are very affordable. They're mainly useful for suicide-running expensive, low-health recon helicopters - the Kiowa Warrior in particular.
Air-to-Ground Missiles AGMs adapted for penetrating armor, as a class these weapons tend to feature extreme damage outputs (26 to 30 AP) and great standoff range, but moderately troublesome accuracy. Aircraft so equipped are tank hunter-killers almost unmatched by ground units in the game.
Like medium AAMs AGMs come in two flavors: F&F ones that are generally fired twice simultaneously and SA ones that are fired one at a time and must be guided to target.
Air-to-Ground HE Missiles There is exact one such missile in the game, the Rb 05A used by the Swedes. The Nighthawk's bomb, though presented in-game in a category of one, is treated by the engine in a similar matter and has similar flight characteristics. These missiles are brutally effective when used with manual fire, compensating for their low autonomous accuracy.
SEAD Missiles adapted for the suppression of enemy air defense. These missiles auto-target radar-equipped ground units with their radars turned on - revealing them to you if you were not already aware of their presence - and hunt them down at distances of 3500 to 4900 meters. SEAD weaponry salts the ground for future air assaults and makes life easier for other aircraft coming in for the kill.
Unguided HE Bomb So-called "iron bombs", these are unguided munitions meant to deal death to soft (non-armor) targets. A direct hit will kill anything that isn't sufficiently armored caught in the blast radius, and so these weapons represent a step up from cheaper but less effective rocket pods. These bombs range from 227 kilograms to 1000 kilograms, with explosions ranging from "knock over this tree in particular" to "flatten this patch of forest...in particular".
Napalm Bomb Napalm bombs set the patch of ground or cover they hit on fire, dealing strong morale damage, slowly sapping through the strength of armored units, and very quickly burning through soft ones. The fires napalm starts burn down cover, obscure sight lines, and rout infantry. They can also be used in a tactical or strategic manner, blocking avenues of advance or retreat you opponent can safely take and flushing out units throughout.
Cluster Bomb Cluster bombs carpet the target area in a wide swatch of armor-plinking HEAT bomblets. These can't really be expected to kill any armor worth writing home about - use air-to-ground missiles for that - but it will stun, panic, and appreciably damage concentrated armor, and outright destroy unarmored vehicles caught in the blast.
Now that we've discussed armament, we're ready to look at the other side of an airplane's cost: its airframe. Where an airplane's variant determines its armament (the F/A-18C, for instance, is better armed but more expensive than its A variant), its base airframe determines its tactical ruggedness. Airframes range from basic, 60 point and under degunned bombers like the East German MiG-17 series and the Czech L series, to the advanced contours of the American F-15 and Soviet MiG-29 series. Some airframes service aircraft operating under highly variable price-armament conditions: the American AV-8 Harrier series serves a role ranging from 55 point multirole rocket striker to 120 point multirole tank hunter-killer. Being one and the same aircraft, just upgraded, the airframe nonetheless remains the same.
Let's try evaluating an airframe: in this case the Soviet MiG-29, off of the unit card of the MiG-29K (we'll look at unit cards more closely in the next section). The MiG-29K is a top-of-the-line multirole cluster bomber with a catch - it comes armed with medium, not short, air-to-air missiles. Very nice!
First, strength. This statistic does not vary for airplanes: large or small, A-10 or MiG-17, it is always 10. You should take strength to be a measure of how much and how many anti-air missiles and gun hits the plane can take before it is destroyed. Most ground-based air defense systems do four of five damage; particularly high-end systems may be do six or more, and the mighty BUK does eight or nine a hit. What does this mean? Planes are not very survivable. We'll discuss this in greater depth later.
Strength is not the only measure of the plane's survivability: since it's always the same, the more important statistic is ECM. ECM, or electronic countermeasures, ranges between N/A or None - these planes will take every missile that lands a shot - and Exceptional - such planes are very, very hard to hit. In this screenshot our MiG-29M has Medium ECM. This is better than None or Poor, but worse than Good, Very Good, or Exceptional. The latter two categories of ECM are reserved for SEAD aircraft; the best a normal plane can do is "Good", and since the MiG-29M is a close third to the F-15E and Su-25T for most expensive aircraft in the game, it not having fully Good ECM is a bit disappointing. This weakness is counterbalanced by the relative merit that - as mentioned as an exception in the "Armament" section - the MiG-29K gets medium, not short, air-to-air missiles. And damn good ones at that! ECM is the one airframe category that varies between iterations of that plane.
Optics are bad for all aircraft, but this is a good opportunity to say a few words about aircraft sight. Aircraft can see a few things: units almost directly beneath them that aren't Small or hidden; other aircraft and helicopters within a certain wide radius; and ground-based air defense systems actively shooting at them. The moral of the story here is that aircraft can rarely spot their targets, so you must make use of recon units and/or the "Fire Pos" command when attacking.
Next is Speed. This is the plane's airspeed; the faster the plane, the faster it gets to its target and the faster it evacuates. Airspeeds vary from 500kph to 1100kph, with most jets being tiered to 1000, 900, or 600. Since this is a top-end airframe 900kph is again, a bit disappointing, another tweak to counterbalance the raw power of the plane's missile armament. Airspeeds are very important for planes, like this one, that you want to come back from their jobs, and though 900kph isn't much of a drop it's still noticeable when you're evacing off of a ground attack or trying to outrun an enemy F-15C.
Next is Stealth. Most planes get Poor stealth: this is a category made of use of only by SEAD planes and by the special F-117 Nighthawk bomber. Stealthy planes are harder to see, thus reducing response times for your foes and allowing you, with good management, to attack targets unmolested by enemy air superiority fighters not already present on the battlefield.
Fuel Capacity is not important, but Autonomy is. Autonomy tells you over what distance that aircraft can loiter: not the loiter time per se, as this is also affected by the plane's speed, but the higher the Autonomy, the longer the plane can stay on the map before it has to Evac Bingo. There is not much variance in this category; ground-attack planes generally have significantly longer loiter times, and cheaper aircraft, shorter ones. If you want to rate the plane's fuel consumption, divide Autonomy by Fuel Capacity...not that it matters you eco-hippie.
Stabilizer has no effect on gameplay (it's "Very Good" for all gun-armed planes that don't have a Gsh-21, which is only "Medium" for some reason).
The remaining general statistics are important for deck-building. The MiG-29K entered service in 1989, according to its Year, and so qualifies as a Prototype unit, one that can be used only in Soviet national decks. The Type tells you what type of decks the plane can be slotted into, and which types it is not available for. Deck-building may be covered in a future section of this guide.
To discuss the final element of aircraft airframes, let's jump ship to the American A-10 Thunderbolt II.
If you examine the unit card for the A-10 you will see that it is armored, with 2 armor in front and back, and 1 on the sides and on top. Only two airframes in the game carry armor: the American A-10, and the Soviet (and Czech-exported) Su-25/25T. Armor works differently in the air than it does on the ground: the armor value is subtracted from the HE of an impacting missile, and then debuffed another point of damage. Weapon systems doing 3 damage or less - R60 Molniya short air-to-air missiles, SPRAAGs, and the vast majority of airplane cannons - won't even effect the Thunderbolt, and anti-air weapons with an HE value of 4 or 5 - the most common values - will be debuffed to 1 and 2 damage, respectively (2 and 3 on side-hits). A huge increase in survivability, but if you pay attention to the A-10's statistics (and cost) you'll see the airframe cost of such good shielding and armament.
There are also a couple of hidden statistics. If you brought out an A-10 and a Corsair and had them both make a sharp turn, for instance, you'd find that the Corsair has a much larger turning circle than the A-10 does. Turning ratio, not displayed on the card, is dependent on the quality and, to a lesser extent, airspeed, of the airframe, and is an important element of asset micromanagement. The second hidden statistic is air radar. This is a lot more fuzzy, but basically, well-armed and higher-end aircraft can spot threats from significantly farther away than mere bomb taxis can, and medium ASFs and interceptors have the best air sight in the game, able to see unstealthed airbourne units out to perhaps two kilometers of distance. This is why, say, your Skyhawk II can't see the MiG-25PD that was sent out to deal with it before the latter is almost in shooting range.
One more thing to note: in terms of armament, with some variance all planes in a series tend to be armed with the same cannon, and this holds true for the MiG-29. All three versions - the Soviet MiG-29 and MiG-29K multirole cluster bombers, and the East German MiG-29 9-13 medium air superiority fighter - sport a Gsh-301 cannon, a meh cannon with good accuracy and extended air-to-air range but a low firerate. We'll put all these observations together in the next section.
In order to understand the relative worth of an aircraft you need to understand not just the general gist of its armament but examine, in detail, what will at first be the most confusing part of the game: the unit's unit card. In this section we will go over what means what in this game - at least as far as aircraft go.
Here you can see the unit card for the F-4F ICE, a West German medium air superiority fighter of some prominence. This is, in other words, a plane well adapted for shooting down other planes: but to see this you must examine the unit card, and to see the relative merits of this fighter in particular you must compare and contrast it with the game's many other options. Let's break down the statistics a bit, then.
The first to note is the plane's cost. Although cost doesn't give the whole picture it's a fairly accurate measure of that plane's value: the higher costed the plane, logically, the more powerful it will be at whatever it is meant to do. At 135 points the F-4F ICE is a tad highly costed for a medium air superiority fighter, but just a tad: the overall average leans towards 130 or 125.
Before we start examining the plane's armament let's go to the bottom and look at our airframe. Our F-4F ICE has Medium ECM; this is better than None or Poor, but worse than Good, Very Good, or Exceptional. Medium is about average for a medium air superiority fighter: some, such as the Tornado ADV F3, have "Good" ECM, and others, such as the MIG 29-9-13, have merely "Bad". These planes are more or less survivable than the ICE, respectively - but balances are made in other areas. It should be noted that only anti-anti-air SEAD planes can get the highest ECM ratings of Exceptional and/or Very Good. Next, speed. Medium air superiority fighters all have either 900kph or 1000kph of speed, with the latter obviously being marginally better; as you can see here, the ICE is tied to the lower speed, marginally hampering its chase and scramble response times, but allowing it to turn in slightly tighter circles.
In deck building terms since the F-4 ICE came into service in 1992, according to its Year, and so qualifies as a Prototype unit, one that can be used only in West German-only decks.
Now let's talk about the plane's armament. The first item is the M61A1 Vulcan, an extremely powerful cannon that, like all machine guns, can take on assets in any sphere. However against a base Range of 2100 meters (for machine guns) it has lesser range against helicopters, but more against other aircraft; it has an Accuracy of 8. Each unit of accuracy corresponds to a 5% hit chance, so this cannon with hit 40% of the time before applying Veterancy modifiers. This is actually a very good shot chance for a machine gun, and it's very comfortably upmodded by veterancy. The gun has 1 HE Power - it will do 1 damage per hit, standard for aircraft machine guns - but no AP Power, meaning that it cannot do actual damage to armored vehicles. It has decent Suppression as well: an adequately suppressed enemy will lose morale, becoming less accurate and slower-firing, and easier to stun, panic, and rout. Finally the gun is rated for 4028 rounds per minute - an insanely fast ammo dump rate that translates to near-certain death for anything caught by the gun for more than a few tenths of a second.
The next item on the list is the AIM-9L Sidewinder missile; if you hover over the weapon image you will get its weapon class, short AAM. The ICE carries four of these short-range air-to-air missiles, which can engage aircraft and, to a lesser extent, helicopters. Notice that these missiles have 10 accuracy, fairly accurate as missiles go; 4 HE power, which knocks off a sizable chunk of health; and a rate of fire of 30 rounds per minute, which translates to another missile downrange every two seconds. These are fairly standard statistics, overall: this the mid-tier NATO short AAM, between the AIM-9J and the AIM-9M in terms of effectiveness. Notice the [F&F] tag under the weapon description? This tells you that the weapon is fire and forget; once the missile leaves the plane it requires no further input on the plane's part, and will continue to the target, or miss, regardless of the health or even presence of the firing pilot. It also has the [AoE] tag: don't fly planes really, really close to one another for this reason.
Finally there is the AIM-120A AMRAAM fire and forget medium AAM, of which the ICE carries two. It's maximally accurate, at 12, and has medium-standard 6300 meter range; with 5 HE, if both missiles hit, which they have a decent chance of doing, any non-armored air target is roasted. With a 30 RPM fire-rate this is a pretty standard armament for a medium air superiority fighter; the fire and forget nature of the missiles is a nice touch missing on many competitors. Many other medium AAMs have the [SA] tag, indicating that they are semi-active, and must be guided to the target by the pilot - if the target exits his cone of vision, or if the pilot is killed, the missiles will miss.
Basics: Flight Paths
SandyGunfox does an excellent job of explaining this aspect of the game, so for an introduction to aircraft movement management I direct you to the Basics: Aircraft Maneuvering section of the 176 page guide.
Using Air Superiority Fighters
A Su-27S pairing intercepts a doomed F-16A Block 1.
Air superiority fighters, or ASFs for short, can be divided into two categories based on their weaponry: lower end ones equipped solely with a cannon (or two!) and/or short-range AAMs, hereafter "short air superiority fighters"; and higher-tier ASFs armed with canons and a compliment of both short and medium-range AAMs, hereafter "medium air superiority fighters".
Short air superiority fighters range in cost from 40 point J35D Drakens to the 90 point Polish MiG-21bis, and so logically fall into a much cheaper tier of aircraft than higher-grade medium cousins. They are adequate response aircraft, with their effectiveness obviously being tied very directly to their armament and cost: Drakens cannot shoot down much of anything, functioning more as Kiowa spoilers, but a 21bis that gets in range of a fleeing bomber can be relied on to lay down some serious hurt. The trouble with short ASFs is twofold. First, their range: on many maps short AAMs are simply too range-limited to mount an effective air defense without all but the very best of infiltrative reconnaissance work. Second, their firepower: a MiG-29 9-13 will chew through an unpaired F-8E Crusader without even breaking a sweat; if you fly short ASFs unpaired you will often see yourself forced back by superior firepower. These reasons combined make them rather rare overall on the battlefield, planes usually tasked with plinking low-tier choppers and filling gaps in your air-to-air coverage rather than serious contenders for air control.
Medium air superiority fighter range from 80 point MiG-25Bs to 170 point F-15C Eagles, and are the planes primarily tasked with air control, carrying not only short AAMs and cannons but also medium-range kit, extending their range out to as far as 7000 meters: with careful management, enough to reliably shove at least one medium AAM up a fleeing bomber's tailpipe and enough to chew down any bomber that dares enter short range. Those mid-range missiles really are crucial: they greatly increase the aircraft's engagement envelope, allowing them to catch shots at targets that would otherwise easily slip away; in air-to-air engagements they allow you to circle beyond the range of and kill inferior planes from a distance, or to come in guns blazing well in advance of them.
Do you need air superiority planes at all? They're relatively expensive, and like all air assets, nail-bitingly fragile. After all, a strong enough ground-based air defense network can neutralize anything that comes running. But ASFs prove themselves again and again when your air defense begins deteriorating; they cannot be deconstructed by air-to-ground spam and they always constitute an actionable threat, where lone air defense pieces tend to die to waves of otherwise difficult to counter air-to-ground spam. Most importantly they can be deployed anywhere; if you can see it coming you can shoot it. Nothing shuts down rocket and cheap bomber spam faster than a well managed air superiority fighter.
I encourage always bringing at least one air superiority fighter to start, for reasons that will be discussed later.
It should be noted that 6300 to 7000 meter AAMs can stand in for interceptors' long AAMs to a certain extent, losing half the range but greatly increasing in accuracy. Such a deployment becomes more difficult, however, when the opposing player is running interceptors of their own. We will discuss the details in a later section of this guide.
There are just three planes in the game equipped with long-range AAMs: the American F-14 Tomcat and the Soviet Mig-31 and Mig-31M. These are relatively expensive planes that are not equipped for close range dogfighting with adequately equipped opponents. They should instead be left behind your battle line (and your anti-air curtain), allowed to circle about and peel off their highly damaging but very inaccurate missiles at faraway targets - quite often your opponent won't know what hit them! On smaller maps they can even line up shots across the entire map from damn near any position, and can be brought in on a reactionary basis to enemy air assets - just be sure to manage them well, because they are expensive and they are fragile at close range.
Interceptors serve overall as an extremely long-ranged air-based extension of your air defenses, and should be used as such. They will not help you too greatly if your ground air defense network isn't up to task; the missiles may do a great deal of damage, sure, but they take so long to get to target that any smart player will evac on impact and live to fight another day.
One of the most annoying things in the game (usually occurring in 10v10s) is the so-called Tomcat/Mig "wheel", a hawkish circle of interceptors moving around a point that can and will shoot down anything that dares contest airspace within 11 kilometers. The only counter is focusing on your ground assets (that is a lot of points, after all, going to waste if there's nothing to shoot down), bringing your assets in only when they bug out...or making your own wheel.
When should you use Interceptors and when should you opt for Medium Air Superiority Fighters? In situations when you're well and away outgunned in the air anyway planes that can loiter far behind the front line are pretty obviously superior; in situations where you're having difficult responding fast enough as well. Interceptors are great for locking down the map, forcing other air assets to stay in the hanger lest they get a 7 HE missile smashed through their tailpipe and be forced in for some long repairs, and they do wonders for holding-to with adequate but overwhelming air defense (only one other thing has to hit that target for the missile to be lethal) and keeping enemy medium ASFs at bay. However they cannot be relied on to shoot down air assets alone: the missiles are in transit for too long, and they fire too slowly. They won't do much to save air defense that begins to buckle, and can't stop lone-target attacks in poorly defended sectors, only (maybe) delaying the re-entry of the aircraft responsible - a costly shortcoming when that MiG-27K shreds that shiny new Leopard 2A4.
Using Rocket Aircraft
A pair of Polish LIM-6Ms go in hot on some exposed infantry units.
Unguided rocket pods are a fairly primitive weapon dating back to the waning years of World War II, and so rocket aircraft are among the cheapest (read: cost-effective) in the game. For a fairly small point investment you get an extremely mobile and pinpoint accurate but, like all aircraft, fragile, infantry-killer. Rocket aircraft are best used in one of two roles: tearing down infantry caught away from anti-air cover (because they reliably stun on hit they can be used to assault lone anti-air infantries); and assassinating unarmored jeep control vehicles.
A rocket strike (or a pair of them) can additionally destroy any unarmored target in the game, and they're so cheap that they can (and often are) used as a screening force ahead of more substantial bombing runs. Because of their low cost and rapid reload rate rocket-wielding aircraft tend to be the spam of choice when air superiority is secured, and are fantastic at brushing down flanking units on those maps in which secondary forests provide a CV sniping route for sufficiently determined units.
When the local air defense network begins to buckle these are the units you order in bulk to finish off the remnants so that your heavier air assets can start charging in and start liquidating the remaining defenses unperturbed. It's godly effective, but no fun for whoever's on the ground; one the reasons that keeping air superiority in the stable is so useful.
An EF-111A Raven tests out the waters near an infantry hardpoint, finding the anti-air tepid at best.
SEAD stands for "Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses" and is a tag applied to the 3500 to 4900 meter range radar-seeking missiles carried by certain aircraft specialized at neutralizing enemy air defenses. SEAD planes combine high-end ECM, moderate stealth, and excellent range to safely engage radar-enabled anti-air ground vehicles. SEAD missiles can spot and fire at enemy air defense at range whether or can see them from the ground, and so can scout out the location of enemy air defenses.
They are nonetheless limited by the fact that they cannot see or engage radar targets which have turned their radar weapons off; sufficiently experienced players know to "flicker" their air defenses on and off as needed when met with a SEAD threat, putting missiles up your tailpipe while denying you the chance to fire back as you circle about. Additionally SEAD is completely ineffectual against non-radar anti-air systems: though these tend to have shorter range and lower accuracy than radar equivalents their anti-radar immunity alone often often justifies their use.
To use SEAD effectively, call in your unit and have it circle within maximum strike distance of the outskirts of your opponent's radar air defenses. This minimizes the chances that your opponent will get a lucky one-two strike on your plane - if you're hit in a pass, evac immediately and you'll live to tell the tale.
If your foes are smart enough to cool off their anti-air, start thinking about timing. Tail bombers with your SEAD plane; maybe even consider flying by other aircraft as bait. Forcing your foes to keep anti-air off by default is tactically useful anyway, as it requires careful management on the part of your foes in response to allied bombers and targets of opportunities. It's especially useful on the NATO side: with its long strike range and exceptional stealth a well-managed (and ever-popular) F-117 Nighthawk stays in range of anti-air for a mere second at most, and so can strike with near impunity when your foe is forced to keep their long-range air defenses off for fear of SEAD attacks.
Because of their great ECM you can also use SEAD planes to "test the skies" near a point, checking to make sure that it's safe to fly there for other, more fragile craft. Just don't think you're invincible, because you're not. I once saw a 20-point OSA two-hit an Exceptional ECM Raven...remember that when it comes to the air game, it's all a roll of the dice.
A Su-22M4 under heavy air escort lands a blow on an opening vehicular column.
in the Wargame world, bombers are easy to understand. They come in; they drop their payload on a target; they leave. What can be simpler? Using bombers is less about micromanaging them than it is about knowing when and where to use them. You should always be aware of enemy air defenses and of enemy air-to-air defenses; bombers, and multiroles being used as bombers, will immediately Evac Winchister after they drop their payload. Though they drop it from a reasonable distance of 3500 meters they generally entreat a far closer envelope of fire from the target zone as they begin to climb away. Whether or not your bomber will survive is a function of the local air defense network, and of their own sturdiness, ECM-wise.
Many chipper bombers aren't even really meant to survive: a MiG 17F can wipe weakly armored units or a CV present within a known area even without actually seeing it, an ability that's very cost effective for the 40 point "toll" you've paid for your bomb taxi. On the opposite end of the spectrum are multi-use aircraft like the F-111F Aardvark or the F-117 Nighthawk; planes that are expensive and drop seriously damaging payloads, and that, generally, you really want to see make it home.
There are two types of bombers, HE bombers that drop so-called "iron bombs" (high explosive) highly lethal to infantry and unarmored targets; and AP bombs that drop so-called "cluster bombs" which are highly lethal to unarmored and underarmored targets, but will not have any effect on infantry. AP bombers have a notably larger zone of effect relative to cost, but otherwise their use is dictated by their payload, cost, and so on.
Multirole bombers have the additional benefit of being able to switch targets to air-to-air engagements if necessary, but are of course are more expensive per-payload.
A Su-7BKL napalm drop buys time for infantry to get into defensive positions.
Napalm bombs cause a heavy fire to develop where they are dropped, near-immediately panicking units in the drop zone, forcing them off of the burning ground, and slowly gouging their health. Although infantry are the most vulnerable units, even armor suffers damage under napalm attack, and all units caught in the blast will flush out to the nearest exit. What makes napalm so effective is its morale damage and its ability to cast hidden units out in the open in a panicked state, where they can be attacked, and killed, by other units.
However, even moreso than it is a way to flush a forest napalm is a way to block movement over a piece of territory. Napalm placed over a road will render that road unusable for the duration that it burns, forcing any units going down it that aren't either very fast or very armored to the shoulders. Indeed, much of the utility of the napalm plane comes in the opening stages of the game, allowing you to block off enemy movement into a point so that your men can embed there unopposed. Even helicopters suffer damage if they fly over napalm! The use of napalm as an opening move of a round is discussed in more depth in the Tactics: Openings section of this guide.
That being said, it is important to note that napalm is rarely explicitly cost-effective. An embedded point or path to block that's valuable enough to be worth hitting with napalm is also probably valuable enough to be under heavy anti-air defense; put more simply, napalm planes rarely get the luxury of coming back. Make sure that the value of flushing the target or of taking the hardpoint or stalling the attack is worth the loss of the plane, because the way napalm is used in many pubs doesn't cut it.
Using Air-to-Ground Missile Strikers
A Thunderbolt II comes in for a gun run.
With some variance based on AP power, air-to-ground missiles instantly liquidate weak to medium armor targets, and can lay down serious hurt on even the highest-end of tanks - unlike ground-based equivalents, air-to-ground missiles as a class don't dip below 26 AP in power. This gives them vastly more stopping power than AP cluster bombs, but on the other hand they require the target to be sighted, which is a big requirement on maps full of forests; in the worst cases your planes will be rendered impotent by tanks that come out, shoot, and then just retreat into cover when you try to respond. Rude.
Still, nothing stops an open-terrain tank rush like a good missile striker or two; and there's no more cost-effective way to snipe a weakened T-80U or M1A1 than splashing a Super Entendard or Su-22M4. The threat that one F/A-18C or MiG-27K poses can freeze action on a sector entirely, forcing their foe's tanks to hide in the treelines, immobile and impotent. One MiG-27K can thus freeze enemy movement across the entirety of the field on open maps like Hedmark, not generating you very many points, yes, but contributing greatly to the field operations of your team. Where a similarly priced high end tank can freeze action in a single sector, a missile striker can replicate this effect across the entire map.
What you want to avoid doing, generally is using the gun - unless you're going all-in on a suicide run. Most air-to-ground strikers get a gun that does AP damage, liquidating unarmored or underamored targets; but this requires you to line up your shot and brings you not as much near as right on top of enemy air defense. Better to circle in, peel off a couple of tank-killers, and then roll out; repeat if you're not scared of their air-to-air defense and haven't taken any hits, or evac if you are or have. Rise; repeat. The gun is there for targets of opportunity.
Air-to-ground missile planes can be roughly divided into two categories. First, disposable air-to-ground airplanes, cheap, 90ish point planes that you throw at a weakened heavy tank to finally kill it off in a cost-effective manner and that can instantly kill heavy armor with a shot in the side. If it manages to come back - well, power to you. On these planes, the power and accuracy of the armament and the airspeed is all that matters; ECM is sauce. Then there are the more expensive planes that you generally want to come back, or that can otherwise be relied upon to trade with a T-80U or Challenger Mk. 2 on your terms (and just wipe them out completely if they foolishly get out of range of their air defenses). Because you're the one with the strike capacity you can chose when to trade the assets, creating important tactical flexibility and bringing much of the use of such planes to light.
Nation Availability Chart
Now that we've sorted our planes into distinct categories let's chart out who gets what.
Unlike ground units fixed wing assets cannot be seen by your team until you choose to deploy them, meaning intra-team communication in the setup phrase critical to the airgame on all but the very largest of maps. Buying an aircraft at start? Tell the team. Confer with your teammates; confirm what aircraft who will be sending where, and make sure that you do not neglect ground assets with too many points spent on shiny planes - but don't leave yourself defenseless, either.
In the current metagame it is extremely important to bring at least one medium air superiority fighter or interceptor to the start of the match, and generally a good idea to hold enough points to buy at least one more. These aircraft need to sent out as the middle of the map to act as "spoilers". Air fighters are equipped with sharp eyes and even sharper radars of extremely long range, and can for obvious reasons get much closer to incoming enemy assets much more quickly than ground sight can. Air superiority spoiling is necessary for three reasons.
A Czech MiG-21bis harasses a helicopter infantry drop in the opening stages of the game.
First, it allows you to sight incoming helicopters and helicopter infantry rushes, and too discourage them from going too far afield in the absence of ground-based air defense systems. The primary utility of helicopters and of helicopter landings is in their speed, allowing you to get to points and secure critical towns and accumulations of buildings ahead of your opponent. True, heavier helicopters will mostly shrug off your blows if you decide to come in and take a swipe; but in the absence of anti-air and with the helicopters far enough ahead of their home sector you can extoll a significant tax on your opponent, especially if you use those points you stocked to bring in other quick-reaction planes. Especially target weak recon choppers like the Mi-9 and the Kiowa series; these are a giant pain in the behind, easy to pop, and very rewarding in terms of points.
Even if you can't attack incoming helicopters directly, merely being able to see them is an important strategic asset: you want to know the infantry is there before your troop-bearing trucks ram right into the building. And though it may not be safe for your air superiority fighter to charge any planes, it'll open up a giant opportunity for friendly HE and AP bombers. If you're flying one of these planes - especially a F-117 Nighthawk - you'll know who to thank when the gauntlet comes down and you pull out with an easy helicopter wipe.
Second, it allows you to sight incoming helicopter control vehicles. These are obviously worth buying a cheap rocket striker for and killing outright, and the ease with which they can be shot down in the early game is a big part of why I strongly recommend against anyone thinking of using them.
Third, it allows you to sight and stop incoming bombers, generally well before they can strike. Strategically placed napalm at the very beginning of the game can be ruinously effective, forcing your units to wait it out on the sideline of a major arterial road or otherwise force themselves through adverse road...conditions. Needless to say, trucks will die pretty quickly in napalm, and anything forcing its way through will be damaged, stunned, and panicked - making for a very ineffective fighting force. Don't allow that to happen. Take out that Phantom before it gets to you. Sometimes players even try to rush a Nighthawk or SEAD! Terminally stupid. Make sure you're in a position to punish such foolishness.
An opening napalm run is intercepted, but too late, despite my urgings, to keep it from dropping its payload.
The same sector, a little while later. This attack ultimately failed, but not by much, and the delay in our point income alone from having to properly secure this point made the attack worthwhile.
A conditional fourth is the protection of your own rotary-winged air assets. If your buddy is taking an advance position with Komandoski-mounted Mi-24Ds, be a bro and keep an air superiority fighter close - if they have air sight infantry dropships landing units are sitting ducks for Nighthawks, cluster bombers, et cetera.
Now, what happens when your foe is wise enough to also come in with an air superiority fighter? Things get...dicey. If the planes are flying in at a sufficiently equal vector, as described in the section "Tactics: Micromanaging Air Superiority Fighters" the plane that attempts to turn away will risk entering medium air-to-air missile range, especially if your foe is sporting one of the 7000 meter models, but stands a good chance of evacuating away anyway, perhaps with a chip on the shoulder, perhaps not - to pursue into close air range would get well inside the candy range of other air fighters. If you feel that the random number gods are smiling upon you today, really want to get air superiority, or have what you wager is the better air-to-air fighter, you can charge forward; if your foe does the same, expect what I describe in Micromanaging Air Superiority as a "line engagement", in which both planes may get shot down, one may get shot down, or neither may get shot down - all a roll of the dice. Needless to say, if you have the advantage of numbers, use it - two Mirage 2000C RDIs will usually overwhelm a Su-27S (there are, however, no guarantees in Wargame).
On your own side, napalm rushing is a high-risk, high-reward activity. Properly placed napalm can be an extremely effective retardant on the enemy team's development and a good demonstration of the fact that cost-effectiveness is not the only metric of gameplay; but it's very easily countered by the heavily recommended tactics I describe in depth above. If you do do it, remember that cheaper is better: any amount of napalm will do to stop troop trucks, and three Albatrosses are much harder to shoot down than a lone Phantom by force of numbers alone (they can also attack multiple area targets).
No other aircraft need be deployed at the beginning of the game. Even if you want to buy a multirole, and someone else has bought and knows how to use an air superiority fighter, just hold the points; maybe that F/A-18C won't be as useful as you wagered, after all, and what you really need right now is a Nighthawk. The only exception that should be made is for short air superiority fighters, which can act as an escort wing-man to your medium fighters.
Tactics: Air Interception (1)
Air superiority management can be divided into engagements with two different types of targets: bombers or ground-attack planes making attack runs, and engagements with other air superiority fighters. Against enemy bombers proper micromanagement of your air-to-air assets will lower their ground response risk and maximize your defensive strike range; against enemy air superiority you may win the battle before it even begins.
When you are facing enemy attack aircraft you are on interception duty; you wish to lend your airborne firepower to air defense already present on the ground, but you are not your combatant's primary target. Unless your target is another medium air superiority fighter making a cannon run (a move rarely pulled against a respondable position - unless your foe is being stupid), you out-arm them in the air-to-air sphere; once the plane has dropped its payload and is evac winchester, it's completely exposed to attack.
Make note of yourair defense situation on the ground. Is that a high-end bomber striking a poorly defended zone, or a rocket plane making an attack on a heavily defended point? In the first scenario you are the team's only defensive hope; in the latter, merely an and-also, there to ensure that if the plane somehow dodges the ground anti-air dragnet it still won't be able to get away.
Make note of their air defense situation on the ground. If you have the luxury of doing so, can you rush forward a little further, perhaps shooting down the opposing asset before it can so much as get a bomb off? If the zones of control and defense over the position are terse this may not be possible; if doing so pushes you extremely close to the opposing team's air corridor, this should not be attempted without extreme caution. Or is their long air defense and air-to-air superiority so menacing, and response time so short, that you cannot even enter short air-to-air range without risking your plane? In military jargon, do you have air control, air superiority, air parity, air denial, or air incapability over the point under attack? Don't just blindly rush an incoming attacker - pick and chose on which part of its flight path you want to strike.
This MiG-21bis over-committed to its target and was subsequently cut down by a responsive F-15C.
The most conservative response is to fly into medium air-to-air missile range, fire off, and tack away. Unless an escort medium fighter is right on top of your target - possible if your air defense has degenerated that far - this will add a free missile to your air response without putting your fighter at any appreciable degree of risk. The idea here is to use your air sight: as long as the target remains within your cone of vision air-to-air armaments will continue to fire, and as long as they remain in radar range semi-active kit will continue to home, but instead of facing directly forward and having to swoop backwards over contested enemy territory you will be pulling back within the confines your own air defense network or, at least, into neutral territory. Fire and forget missiles beat semi-active ones on this type of job because of their naturally higher rate of fire - you don't have to guide each missile to target.
A Su-27S demonstrates a perfect intermediate response - one medium AAM and one short take out the target while the pilot stays well away from enemy held territory.
An intermediate response useful for appreciable, but not overwhelming, air defense (and when trying to minimize the response envelope of enemy air superiority) is what I call "swiping". Target the aircraft you're responding to, enter medium air-to-air range and fire, then enter short air-to-air range and fire, but don't pursue any further - tack off to one side or other instead. You will not get to sweep your target with your cannon (except perhaps briefly), but you'll greatly reduce the risk your aircraft suffers from the engagement. A double hit from a sufficiently armed medium air superiority fighter will knock the plane out; a single one will prostate it for your ground defenses. If the plane is sufficiently slow, or its pilot sufficiently inattentive (or nonchalant), you can swing around and make another, more proper attack run, this time heading towards your own front and thus suffering much less risk in your rundown. Note that the rate of fire buff on fire and forget missiles often makes the difference between sending two and sending three missiles downrange in this scenario.
With its Exceptional ECM and high speed an EF-111A Raven is an extremely tough aircraft to shoot down, but a here a MiG-29 9-13 close interception gun run finally clips its wings.
The strongest commitment an air superiority fighter can make against a target is a direct attack: vector right for it and engage it guns blazing. Such an attack will engage all of your weaponry - the cannon being particularly important - and is thus the likeliest to result in the kill; but it also requires the most time-on-target (and thus the swiftest response), and is the riskiest in terms of where your plane is once all is said and done. Since planes like to occasionally evacuate into unnerving directions I recommend you make a hard backwards turn before you evac from such an attack, unless an enemy escort has already gotten into medium air-to-air range and isn't likely to fear charging any closer - in which case, evacuate immediately and pray that your ECM saves you.
Tactics: Air Interception (2)
Assuming competence on your foe's part in tense situations knocking out the bomber before it gets off its load with close air fire won't win you much besides a dead fighter. A smart and attentive player may respond by breaking their plane off from engagement, circling them away but not evacuating them, betting that you'll order an evacuation or have to evac bingo and they will be free to hit the target. Well...as a class air superiority have better loiter times than anything else in the game bar ground attack aircraft, so out-waiting won't work unless you already had your plane on the field when the bomber came in for a run. It also gives your ground forces and allies time to respond to the threat - tanks can hide, infantry can scatter, and missiles can be prepped. So the advantage is still yours.
On air interception duty near the edge of your responsive envelope, fire and forget medium air-to-air missiles are vastly superior to semi-active ones, because semi-active missiles must be individually guided to the target, where fire and forget ones simply let loose. In other words fire-and-forget missiles maintain their "true" rate of fire - 30 RPM - in all situations, where the "true" rate of fire of semi-active missiles decays linearly with range. Though higher-end semi-active missiles like the Skyflash Super Temp and the R-72A Vympel compensate with a boost to 7000m range, this quite often translates into the difference between being able to send two missiles down the line and being limited to just one - in other words, between merely damaging a plane, and killing it dead.
Interception with interceptors is much simpler - you've got your primary weapon, your long-range air-to-air missiles, and if you're flying a Tomcat or a base MiG-31, a secondary cannon. The MiG-31 is actually a bit unique in this regard because it has semi-active missiles where those of its peers are fully fire-and-forget, requiring that you actively vector towards your target (a bit of micro-intensive tacking can slightly lengthen the amount of time you can spend flying forward). The others just need to get into range, fire, and then cycle off until another missile is readied. You can use the cannon in much the same way as that of medium air superiority fighters - indeed, both planes so equipped get good cannons - but since your primary armament has five digits of range, it's simply not necessary against all but the safest of targets, and you'll usually lose against an opposing medium air superiority fighter.
One final thing to note. When it comes to air interception, distance is your foe and air recon is your friend. Special forces that manage to sneak into and sight over enemy basal sectors can silently mark the register and heading of incoming aircraft right as they're called in, allowing you to mount a response at your own leisure; on the other hand, with large maps and sufficient distances, it becomes impossible to scramble in time to get inside of your engagement envelope. If air support is critical there - if your buddy needs protection from that MiG-27K as he advances on an enemy basal sector, and has a sufficient number of anti-air pieces on the ground - you can keep your medium air superiority circling behind that point. The advantage is near-instant response time; the disadvantage is that you can't respond to attacks on any other sector and that they'll probably know when your air superiority is on-map and when it has cleared off. With interceptors the principle is again simplified - get sufficiently closer to be able to respond at range, but you need not ever approach any closer.
Note that the contents of this section are applicable to multiroles as well as dedicated air superiority fighters.
A F-15C and a MiG-25PD engage in a line battle.
The simplest form of dogfight is the line battle: each of the offending planes charges the other in a direct flight path. Winning or losing comes down to a roll of the dice (and the air-to-air parity of the planes). First, medium air-to-air missiles engage; then about as they impact the shorts flare off; and about as they impact the guns bang off against one another. Assuming no one has a leg up in the fight, anything can happen: a Su-27S can clip the F-15C with a Vympel short just as it gets nailed by the Vulcan; or perhaps it will stun-and-gun the F-15C while dodging it's foe's medium, escaping damage completely with a hearty chunk of points under its belt. Weapon firemodes doesn't matter, nor speed, and range beyond the obvious have-and-have-not is only arbitrarily useful; this fight is pure damage, accuracy, and ECM. It's not even necessarily true that a clear winner emerges - often the planes will trade blows but not neither will score a kill, and both will evac away to fight another day. If two planes enter radar range of one another head-on over neutral space this is what will tend to happen, unless one or the other, or perhaps both, has the luxury of turning back into their own air defense network (or otherwise chooses to bug out).
An F-15C lobs a standoff medium AAM at an opposing interceptor.
Often before you have the dogfight, you have the standoff. Air superiority fighters that don't immediately gun for one another, but don't want to give up space either, can circle hawkishly, in the comfort of their air defense network or in neutral territory, waiting for an opportunity to present itself or a ♥♥♥♥♥ to expose itself in the enemy's movements. The goal is to get into medium air-to-air range of you foe whilst staying outside of their own engagement and ground-based defensive envelope. Depending on the standoff distance between the planes the edge between their engagement ranges can be razor thin, perhaps even a matter of stepping out of pattern by a few hundred meters. In these scenarios, fire-and-forget medium anti-air missiles are a premium commodity. However, these sorts of slugging matches are rarely realized; usually the two planes just carefully stand their ground, not wishing to be dragged into enemy air defense networks with a committed attack. Be careful about engaging in standoffs if your fighter is a necessary part and parcel of your air defense network in a sector; by committing yourself to a staring match you're giving up your ability to intercept attacks that aren't close to your loiter space.
Standoffs can made made against not just enemy air superiority fighters but against enemy bombers or ground attack planes as well, denying them a venue of attack. Players will obviously tend to not want to feed their planes, especially their expensive planes, to your fighters, and so will pull away from an attack on a target a fighter suddenly scrambles to defend and has a reasonable chance of getting into range and shooting down their asset. If they're a suicide rusher and the player decides that the risk is low enough or otherwise worth the reward (fif a Skyhawk is coming in hard for a Ural CV), they might ignore your fighter in favor of a target of opportunity; you need to take this into account. Is it better to let that bomber drop its payload and get knocked down whilst evacuating, or to arrive early and scare it off, forfeiting the points on both accounts? In each case you have to do the mental arithmetic, and you don't always have the luxury of that first option (or sometimes even of the second).
Next: the value of loitering. Scrambling your jet every time an enemy fast-mover pops up is great, but airplanes can also loiter on the map for some periods of time, and you can use that to your advantage. A loitering air superiority fighter is closer to its response sectors, lends its radar coverage to your air sight, and allows you to temporarily lock down an area against all but the most determined of ground-attack planes. Loitering allows you to greatly shorten the distance to your targets, and often, on fronts that get away from the center, to mount a response in the first place, and it also allows you to temporarily lock down active fronts against non-spam level enemy air-to-ground activity - covering infantry advances from Nighthawks, for instance, or a hard tank push from carnivorous air-to-ground missile strikers. Air coverage of this sort is a great idea if a particular sector is about get heated - if your friend is organizing a breakout over a sector and has a reasonable expectation of getting hammered from the air, keeping an ASF close is a neat idea.
On the other hand, if your plane is making a turn while an attack is inbound you could lose precious seconds of response time while it completes that turn, perhaps negating the usefulness of deploying it in that fashion at all. Planes that are close to one sector may be relatively further away from others, thus reducing their response times for attacks there, perhaps even to ineffectual levels - while Sector Charlie might be a no-fly zone, Sector Alpha might become a veritable air corridor. And if you're showing your hand, expect your foe to take advantage of it: the moment that MiG-25PD flies off, those bombers it was holding off fly in. Use your judgement; anticipate attacks. If everything is quiet across the fronts and suddenly your teammate pushes forward a T-80BV to make a probing attack, back it up with air fighters to prevent the air answers it will almost certainly generate.
A pair of Lynx cannons came in off the edge of the map and eradicated a CV parked in the base; alas, the Su-27S hadn't been deployed recently, and didn't catch out the encroaching attack.
Finally, reconnaissance. On those maps susceptible to helicopter infantry and backyard special forces insertion, every once in a while you might want to pull up a high-end fighter or interceptor or multirole and just run a loop of your front yard, checking for the presence of helicopters in transit. There's nothing more annoying than having your base CV killed by a bunch of random Hueys that just hugged the edge of the map to avoid your air sight. You can also trawl the front to check the locations of enemy helicopters parked behind the immediate front line; if there's an Apache somewhere on the map but your team doesn't know where, this can be very helpful.
A SuperCobra without its missiles is a nice snack for the maximally-armed MiG-29 9-13. Situational snipes like these can be a good part of an air superiority fighter's utility - just don't overdo it and get your plane shot down alongside its target, and know your damage values.
Tactics: Neutralizing Air Defense Networks
Air defense networking is the reason that air power is so aggravating in the hands of new players. Aircraft are very, very fragile, and new players have a tendancy to bring them in as contact responses to threats with no reasoning as to cost-effectiveness or the survivability of the airframe, to obviously poor effect. There are four types of ground-based anti-air: heavy, medium, light/infantry, and SPRAAGs. Let's start by discussing how to differentiate them.
NATO may get Nighthawks but PACT gets this monster to counter it. A BUK-M1 parked and ready to fire.
Heavy anti-air pieces have high damage, high accuracy, and very long range; the better pieces also tend to have some armor and durability to them. However they suffer from small magazines, low maneuverability, and high resupply cost. Heavy anti-air pieces like the BUK M1 or the I-Hawk will (some more reliably than others) peg oncoming attacks for very high (6 to 9 HE) damage from very long range (up to 4550m), and so represent individual attacking aircraft's most dangerous opponents. They can be distinguished from lighter pieces by the visual size of their missile (huge - IRL these things would disintegrate aircraft on impact) and their low rate of fire - generally you won't see more than one missile fired per attack. All are radar-guided.
When you're trying to deconstruct an air defense zone heavy anti-air is generally your first target. They're hard to attack from the air, however - anything that comes close tends to get stunned, then popped in short order. They are the number one target for SEAD aircraft; given their high damage output and high accuracy oftentimes you can't even count on having your Exceptional ECM aircraft evade fire, so make maximal use of your weapon's range when assaulting them. If your foe is using an I-Hawk and you can come in from an unsighted side you can even take it out with a sacrificial rocket striker, since it only has four health and no armor. BUKs on the other hand are much harder to kill in this manner. Clearing an area of heavy anti-air will render it a safe operating zone for your longest-ranged aircraft, and will ensure that sacrificial strikes make it through to drop their payload.
Next are medium anti-air pieces, sporting medium damage (4 to 6 HE), medium range (up to 3150m), a good rate of fire, and variable accuracy. These pieces generally carry a good stockpile of missiles and have some measure of off-road speed and maneuverability, but are also less powerful than their heavier cousins. They can be distinguished from other pieces by the moderate size of their missiles and their relatively rapid of fire. They cost less than comparable heavy pieces, but can provide a reasonably good insurance policy against all but the longest-ranged of air attacks (air-to-ground missile planes and Nighthawks are especial exceptions). Most, but not all, are radar-guided.
In terms of defeating them, SEAD aircraft are again a good match; as these units never have any armor if you can get recon on their positions, or just mark their positions after they've fired, you can take them out with mortars or artillery or, possibly (if the model is a low-health one), a sacrificial rocket striker or (on heavier examples) a sacrificial cluster bomber. Once you've disabled heavy anti-air systems you can start going to work on the medium air defense pieces with rockets, mortars, artillery, SEAD, and (shiver) Nighthawks. Cleaning an area of medium anti-air will render an area a safe place of operation for bomber trains.
Light anti-air pieces sport the lowest damage (3 to 4 HE), the lightest frames, and have their anti-air range cut short to around 1820m - too short to protect against all but the nearest of attacks by the lightest and slowest of airframes. On the other hand they tend to be extremely maneuverable, have high missile availability, and feature extremely fast rates of fire. They aren't really meant to attack aircraft, which can easily dodge them; rather, they tend to feature extremely long anti-helicopter ranges (the anti-helicopter capacities of heavier pieces are generally cut short). Still they can contribute defensive fire to nearby strikes, and can be distinguished by the lightness of their missiles and their fast rate of fire. They are almost never radar-guided.
These anti-air pieces cannot be targeted by SEAD, but are easily popped by mortars or artillery or unguided rocket attacks. Because of their low effective range they can also often be avoided entirely. They're mainly a threat to friendly helicopters, which may find themselves taking fire as far as 3150m away - a very unpleasant experience.
Anti-air infantry - man-portable air defense systems, or MAPADS for short - is the last category. Anti-air infantry have the advantage of being infantry - they can embed into towns (very difficult to fish out) and blend in well in forest; they can go into areas other units can't reach; and they can sneak up on and surprise parked helicopters or aircraft flying in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like all infantry, however, they're highly vulnerable attack. MANPADs feature low range, low rates of fire beyond an initial battery, and are variably damaging, but are cheap and very spammable. MANPADs alone can hold off air attacks in an area without any vehicular assistance - assuming that the attacker isn't longer-ranged than they are. They can be distinguished from other forms of air defense by where they're firing from, the small size of their missiles, their low fire-rate, the fact that they often come in pair or sets, and the fact that there's no launching sound as they're ejected out to seek their target.
Infantry anti-air tends to be your last ADN obstacle; some deck archetypes are even restricted to them and a few light pieces, making these units the backbone of the air defense system. Assuming the area has been cleared of all other defenses you can take them out any way you wish; iron bombers, rocket strikers, napalm planes all work well on these two-man infantry formations. You can also mostly ignore them by putting a sacrificial target at the front of a bomber train - man-portable launchers take what seems like years to reload.
Kill of that stubborn anti-air infantry and the area is rendered safe for air-to-ground demolishment; indeed, taking out the ADN is the easiest way to clean off a stubbornly defended point. If you can manage it, of course.
Oh, yeah? What about SPRAAGs? Well..unless your foe is using three or more anti-air artillery pieces in close formation, anti-air guns simply can't shoot an aircraft down - they lack the range and the damage output that missile-based air defense offers. A formation of Vulcans may ruin a slow bomber's day but otherwise they're not there to deal with your aircraft they're there to poke at helicopters whilst providing secondary anti-aircraft and anti-infantry capacity. The best are radar-guided, and so can be targeted with SEAD, but unless you're shooting at a 50-point Flakpanzer these are not usually high-priority units for such a job.
This is of a very general overview of this process; in reality peeling away an opponent's air defense network takes a dedicated effort and a lot of finesse, the use of combined arms of tactics in a manner that I can't really go into depth on in a guide of this nature. Indeed, if you only or try to only use aircraft in a cost-effective sacrificial manner you don't really even need bother, and it's not always otherwise worth it to concentrate on destroying an anti-air net - only when the situation is stubbornly gridlocked on the ground and you don't see a way to easily get an attack rolling again.
Tactics: Bomber Trains
A sophisticated bomber train. Three Skyhawks assist infantry engaged with enemy units with another Skyhawk and an EF-111A Raven hang back, ready to attack anti-air that tries to respond.
When attacking from the air into a zone protected by slow-firing anti-air defenses, a great tactic to employ to maximize damage and minimize losses is the bomber train. The basic idea goes thusly: send in one Skyhawk onto a target, and it might get a shot off, but it's not very likely to come back. Send in two and the missiles eaten by the first one will be ones effectively dodged by the second - and if all goes well, you've just gotten an attack in effectively for free. Repeat ad infintium.
One effective use of the bomber train is to send in a rocket aircraft to directly attack a visible target, then trail it with a number of similar aircraft. Your first aircraft will come in and strike, lighting up enemy air defenses in the process, allowing your tail aircraft to follow up by directly attacking previously hidden air defense points, without the threat of response from infantry and heavy anti-air systems. This is often referred to as "overwhelming" your foe's air defense system - there's simply too much plane to shoot and too many rockets going in for fragile, easily stunned air defense hard-points to mount an effective response. You can then follow up with artillery and mortar fire on these positions, forcing your foe to shuffle his air defenses, perhaps in visible range, or suffer the consequences.
You can make your attack even more sophisticated by mixing and matching the units you're using. Have a Harrier GR. 1 absorb fire in front while your tail Jaguar GR. 1 cluster bomber seeks out and kills that BUK-M1 that's been giving your aircraft a hard time on the point. You might not even bother with making a formal attack - just bait fire and evacuate while your backup zooms in for the kill. Against experienced players (outside of spam scenarios) baiting is the only way to force on radar systems long enough for you to get an anti-radar shot at them.
Of course it's also important to know when bomber trains are an appropriate tool and when they'll just end up with even more of your aircraft getting milled down. Any amount of spam can be defeated by a heavy enough defensive network, and unless you have at least one aircraft specifically target and kill or at least stun a medium air defense unit, you're very likely to suffer severe losses from such an attack (doubly so if they have two, and so on...). Long trains also tend to attract the attention of your foe's airforce; if they didn't respond to a solitary bomber they'll certainly be motivated to attack an entire column, and though maybe they couldn't get a lethal shot in at that first Skyhawk off of a scramble the last one in the line will be easy prey. You really have to weigh the benefits and costs of such arrangements. Bomber training with other players takes a lot of coordination - but also, obviously, tends to be maximally powerful.
Tactics: Cost Effectiveness
A trap or perhaps trope that Wargamers often fall into is thinking of their actions only in terms of cost effectiveness. And indeed, cost effectiveness and the application of force in a rocket-paper-shotgun manner is at the root of effective play. New players tend to perform actions, such as driving tanks into woods or attacking supply trucks with air superiority fighters, that experienced players scoff at as poorly calculated command point risks. It's not possible to win a game in Wargame, long-term, without paying overwhelming mind to cost effectively: this is true. But such overly tactical thinking also tends to lead to close-mindedness and poor strategic brinksmanship.
Aircraft and the use of aircraft are a case in point. Airplanes are much maligned for being shiny knee-jerk toys, ways to means to instant gratification that new players use and abuse to the limits of absurdity. I would be the first one to become mad at poor air asset management: every time someone loses their air superiority fighter to poor play in a pub I grind my teeth and more often than not write out a chiving condensation. But their status as buy-lose-quit enablers doesn't mean, necessarily, that aircraft as a class cannot be cost effective; nor is cost effectiveness really even what air power is about.
Air power is about force projection. Yes, aircraft can be and often are easily shot down by ground units of much lesser cost. But those ground units cannot be everywhere, and everywhere they are not represents a hole in their air defenses, a corridor through which you can deploy your firepower. The presence of aircraft forces your foe to bring their anti-air network with them wherever they go, and allowing easy cleaning up after units left exposed - flank actors, say, or recon units spotted precipitously far forward of the main opfor. By deploying an aircraft you're forcing your foe to respond to you, giving you important first-strike capacity: you choose when to trade in your Su-22M4 for a Leopard 2A1, not your opponent.
That being said, let's examine the concept of a cost-effective air attack - one where, on the balance, you killed more than you lost in points. The classic example of a cost-effective attack would be a Skyhawk attacking a UAZ Jeep CV - it'll get shot down, sure, but you're taking out a 100 point command unit with a rinky dink 35 or 45 point plane! Obviously very neat. When you know that your opponent's air defenses are too great to attack into without getting shot down (and really if they're doing a competent job this is the case), you need to start thinking in terms of the value of your target, the likelihood that you will hit it, and the value of your plane. Again it's a bad idea to think strictly in these terms - sacrificing a Nighthawk to take out a simple command vehicle may well be worth it, especially early in the game - but it's an important rule of thumb to follow.
Cost effectiveness can be derived from the value of your aircraft, the likelihood that it will be shot down before it can get to its target, the likelihood that the payload will destroy the target, and the likelihood that your plane will be able to evacuate away to live another day. Knowing when an attack is worthwhile and when it is not is a fine art. For instance, areas protected by even a single accurate heavy anti-air defense system will render payloads inoperable for low-speed air-to-ground airplanes, especially bombers, but you might still be able to sneak in air-to-ground missiles or fast rocket attacks. A Super Entendard is almost certain to do five damage to a T-80U. A Jaguar GR. 1A is very likely to do five damage to a T-80U, and could possibly do ten. A MiG-27K is almost certain to do 6.5 damage to an M1A1, and very likely do 10. These are all planes at different points on the cost pyramid; knowing when they're operable and when attacking is worth it is an important contextual skill to have that's difficult to explore in depth in a textual guide such as this one.
Tactics: Air Direction and Evacuation
Left to their own devices aircraft have a way of evacuating in the wrong direction - towards an oncoming air superiority fighter or right over an enemy ADN. An effective air player is one that knows how to control his aircraft's evacuations, and knows when to evacuate, and when to just turn around and fly the other way.
USA - Air Superiority and Interceptors
In need of !!FREEDOM!!, friend?
Medium Air Superiority
F-15A Eagle 140pt
The F-15A is armed with a powerful M61A1 Vulcan main cannon, four AIM-7 Sparrow medium AAMs, and four AIM-9L Sidewinder short AAMs. With 1000kph speed and medium ECM the F-15A is a rock solid medium air superiority fighter, benefiting from a top-class cannon and an overload of medium AAMs (two is the typical number), benefiting it with high staying power. It is, however, relatively expensive, and only comes with relatively low veterancy. The F-15A is a more economically sound choice than its successor F-15C when chasing down fleeing bombers, but not as commanding in the air; it mixes well with the other faction's medium air superiority.
F-15C Eagle 170pt [Prototype]
With a 30 point bump the F-15A becomes the F-15C, gaining upgraded fire and forget AIM-120A AMRAAM medium AAMs, upgraded AIM-9M Sidewinders, and an upgrade to Good ECM. The F-15C's armament is a little more precise and powerful than the F-15A's but the difference is marginal; more important is the increased survivability of the ECM upgrade and especially the fire and forget nature of the AMRAAMs. Overall the F-15C is the better choice when engaging other well-armed ASFs but the F-15A makes more sense when mowing down bombers and inferior fighter aircraft. The F-15C is the distaff counterpart of the Soviet Su-27S, also a dedicated high-end ASF and also carrying a 170 point price tag.
Although it's the most heavily armed and sheathed air-to-air fighter in the game the F-15C does, however, suffer from low available veterancy.
F-14 Tomcat 145pt
The Tomcat is armed with six AIM-54 Phoenix fire and forget long-range AAMs with the maximum, 11.9km missile range and 8 HE power, but a low 6 accuracy and a rate of fire of just 10 r/m. This is complimented by medium ECM and a M61A1 Vulcan cannon that can be used with good effect up close, making the Tomcat is the near-perfect attacker of opportunity. Though it does have a helluva cannon there's not a terrible amount of reason to rush it forward towards a target unless it's a cheap (or evacing) bomber and you're absolutely certain it's safe - better to circle it behind your line and have it add its extremely powerful missiles to your air defenses at near-maximum range. With some luck on its missiles, the F-14 can destroy a dedicated air superiority fighter in a line battle; however this should never be your first choice in a battle.
Elite Tomcats available in a US Marine deck have almost a 50 percent hit chance before ECM, a large part of the appeal of such a deck.
USA - Bombers
F-111F Aardvark 120pt
The F-111F is the bomber's bomber, carrying twelve Mk 20 Rockeye II Cluster Bombs - and nothing else. It goes the full 1000kph, has good ECM, and produces the longest swatch of cluster-bomb destruction over its target zone in the game; as the heaviest bomber in the NATO arsenal the F-111F is the bomber of choice for carpet clearing large sawtches of forest in the hunt for CVs or other high-value unarmored (or merely bulletproofed) units. To be cost-effective, however, you must have reasonable control of the air, eliminate, suppress, surprise, or otherwise occupy local heavy air defenses (lest you get stunned and lose your plane for naught), and be relatively certain of the extent of destroyables in the splash zone.
A-6A Intruder 60pt
A cheap (but still a tier above the cheapest) bomber that drops a sizable cluster of eight Mk 82 Snakeye bombs; however it has bad ECM and a slowish 750kph speed, so don't use it on the front line and expect it to come back. Overall for such a decently low cost this is a very economical bomb taxi. An important note to make about the Intruder is that it drops its payload in a near-straight line; this can be good or bad, depending on what you're using it for, but makes this an aircraft with a very specific, hedgerow centric job. Because the bombs are lined up reliably you can also use it to attack and destroy immobile or movement-impaired (such as in forest) lightly armored vehicles with greater reliability than more conventional bombers.
A-6E Tram 80pt
A pretty basic upgrade on the base Intruder: you pay 20pt more and you get 4 more bombs (read: 33% increase in kill power), up to 12, and an ECM upgrade to Medium. Given this aircraft's special bomb pattern the additional drops aren't adding as much value to the equation as they might appear to at first; I'd say that the Intruder is adequate for most of the situations you'd use this plane for.
F-111E Aardvark 110pt
The F-111E is the HE F-111F equivalent, carrying eight Mk 20 Rockeye II Cluster Bombs - and nothing else. It produces a series of explosions on its target that will wipe out concentrated pockets of infantry with ease; additionally the Aardvark is 1000kph fluid, but has only bad ECM. This is overall not a bad high-end bomber, but it doesn't really have much of a role in the game, being awkwardly placed between the weaker but more cost effective A-6 series and our next option. It's also clearly inferior to the Soviet equivalent, the Su-24M, and coming in one per card really doesn't help its case.
F-117 Nighthawk 150pt [Prototype]
This plane is considered NATO's secret sauce, and with good reason. The Nighthawk drops a single perfectly accurate thousand-pound GBU-10 Paveway II guided bomb which absolutely levels any unarmored target caught in the blast radius. The best part of this aircraft, however, is its Exceptional stealth; if well-managed it will expose itself to counter-fire for a fraction of a second before evacing the field, making it by far the most survivable bomber in your armory. Nighthawks are surgical death to anything insufficiently padded caught in the blast, and though expensive their stealthy survivability makes them more than worth it in most player's eyes.
It should be noted that Nighthawks work much, much better when they are paired with air superiority and SEAD. They have no ECM, relying entirely on their stealth to survive anti-aircraft fire; if you can force your opponent to keep their anti-air off by default the chances that your Nighthawk comes back increases magnanimously. Do not fly Nighthawks when your foe has air superiority decently close afield, and know your response times.
Half of the PACT anti-air metagame. Not even a joke.
A-7E Corsair II 45pt
The Corsair is a very good package for its price. It comes armed with two Mk 77 napalm bombs, enough to decimate any infantry caught by the flames but not enough to do the cover damage some of the more bomb-loaded, higher-tier aircraft can do. It compliments this payload with an M61A1 Vulcan - the same chain gun with the exact same stats used by much higher-end American planes, including the harbinger F-15C. This makes the Corsair very good at shooting down other bombers, means that it can do real damage to actual ASFs if they've run out of missiles, and makes the plane useful for taking out deep insertion helicopters. However since infantry caught in a sector blaze can teleport to houses in the sector that aren't burning, the Corsair struggles somewhat in larger sectors - that is to say, in towns.
F-4J Phantom II 80pt
The F-4J Phantom II carries twice the napalm of the Corsair II, giving it a quite sizable strike area better at burning down concentrated infantry. At 900kph it's also significantly faster, but still doesn't have any ECM. It also carries two AIM-9J Sidewinder missiles for air-to-air combat, but because it lacks a cannon the missiles can only reasonably be used against targets of opportunity (and helicopters caught by surprise). It is overall a good throwaway for napalming roads at the beginning of the game and prepping sectors throughout, delivering enough napalm to reliably discourage pushes, but its secondary armament is not very useful (it can only do up to eight damage, not enough to take out other aircraft air-to-air).
F-4S Phantom II 105pt
The F-4S still doesn't have any ECM, kind of weak for a plane this expensive. What it does have is a whole eight napalm bombs, enough to create the maximum-range napalm fire you can get. It also gains AIM-9L Sidewinders, marginally more ranged and more accurate than the F-4J's and enough to grab a kill assuming both missiles hit, but still, without a cannon, not a real multirole. Because of the lack of ECM anything large enough to be worth hitting with so much napalm will unfortunately often be a suicide mission for this aircraft. The F-4S is a useful upgrade over the F-4J and though in my mind neither are quite their PACT bomb taxi equivalents the differences between them strikes the right balance to make them generally competitive with one another. There's no arguing with the Corsair II's higher cost-effectiveness, however, post-facto.
USA - SEAD
EA-6B Prowler 100pt
The EA-6B is a rock-solid SEAD aircraft for its 100 point cost, carrying four 4200 meter range AGM-78B Standard fire and forget SEAD missiles with 8 accuracy, Exceptional ECM, and Medium Stealth. Really the only thing the Prowler is lacking in is speed - when using it be careful about response aircraft, as it leaves the field at a slowish 750kph. Because you get two per card where the Raven is limited to one this option should get preferential treatment wherever bulk ordering matters.
EF-111A Raven 135pt
The Raven is without qualification the best SEAD aircraft in the game. The Raven bumps up its Stealth to Good and its Speed to the full 1000kph, and carries two fire and forget AGM-88 HARM SEAD missiles with a 4900 meter range, easily out-ranging even the mighty BUK (though with the missiles' priming time you'll still need to close to within the BUK's firing range to get a shot). A well-managed Raven is every air defense network's worst nightmare, hard to see, hard to hit, and extremely difficult to retaliate against. This is the most difficult aircraft in the game to shoot down and the distaff counterpart of the Soviet MIG-25BM.
The F-4G Wild Weasel V is covered in the Multirole section.
USA - Ground Attack
A-4F Skyhawk II 30pt
The most over-deployed aircraft in the game, coming armored with a weak cannon and, more importantly, a set of eight 127mm Mk24 Zuni rockets. It shouldn't be used on your front-line unless you're willingly suiciding them, or their anti-air really does suck that much - it has no ECM and a lethargic 600kph speed (what more did you expect for such a low cost?). The Skyhawk is great for striking infantry caught in the open far from their air defense network, for dealing with infiltrations down your flanks in those maps with flanking forests, and for wearing down air defense networks with suicidal gall, bringing all of the advantages of a rocket aircraft on a cheap, exceptionally spammable frame. Effective but cheesy as balls would be my overall assessment.
A-4M Skyhawk II 40pt
This aircraft is exactly the same as its 30pt cousin, except that the extra ten points buy you double the rockets, to 16. You're paying ten more points to effectively double your firepower, with the M gaining the ability to more reliably destroy ten and perhaps fifteen point infantry squads. There isn't too much reason to pick the A-4F over the A-4M if you have both available (the latter is restricted to Marine decks if you're type-specializing; only the A-4F is available in Category B and C decks), as a mere 10 points are well and away worth the increase in utility.
A-10 Thunderbolt II 155pt
The most common topic of discussion in Wargame chat is World War II tank effectiveness - but Thunderbolts make a strong second showing. The Thunderbolt II is the only armored NATO aircraft in the game (the counterpart of the PACT Su-25/25T), with 2 armor in front and back and 1 on the sides and top. Armor on aircraft differs in implementation from armor on the ground: strikes on the Thunderbolt will actually do one fewer damage than their normal damage minus armor, so it effectively gets 3 front and back armor and 2 side and top - an important hidden buff.
The Thunderbolt's gunnery armament is the harbinger GAU-8 Avenger, the most powerful air-to-ground cannon in the game with 6 AP, extended range, a high rate of fire, and a long firing window (it's a slow plane). This cannon will reliably panic and chip big chunks off of high end armor, and outright incinerate infantry and helicopters, and is complimented by an armament of six fire and forget AGM-65B Maverick missiles. The missiles are firerate-boosted and fired two at a time, but suffer from questionable accuracy because of their low natural accuracy and the Thunderbolt's low veterancy. Still, you get six of them: expect to cut deep gashes in even the highest-end tanks if you can get some quality time with your target. But they're still not an elite F/A-18C's AGM-65Ds, pound-for-pound.
The bad is a complete lack of ECM and the slowest speed in the game - the Thunderbolt II will go no faster than 500kph. By the time the aircraft gets to the target your foe will have scrambled his entire air superiority airforce to stop it; by the time it leaves the local air defense network will have peppered it with shots. The Thunderbolt II is a really impressive plane on paper that falls apart a bit on the field - hence the perennial discussion.
The secret to using the Thunderbolt effectively in less-than-overwhelmingly, but significantly, contested areas is, as with other such assets, to not use or turn off the gun. When the Thunderbolt attacks a target it first fires its missiles, then swoops down low to deposit rounds in downrange; this brings it extremely close to the target and gives air defense ample time to pepper it with shots. The Thunderbolt should be used instead as an extremely sturdy fire and forget anti-tank missile carrier: have it swoop into maximum range of a target and peel off a couple, then retreat, or come back around, as necessary. Do not use Thunderbolts if your foe has good air-to-air superiority. Sure the big ugly can tank hits - but a well-managed MiG 29 9-13 will still eat its lunch. If you're flying it within your own air defense network, however, you shouldn't fear any of the weaker short-range air superiority fighters.
Overall the Thunderbolt II is a heavily armored jet effective at striking hard targets in appreciable, but not overwhelming, air-defense situations. It pairs well with a SEAD striker and/or an air superiority fighter to discourage its counters. The MIG-25P in particular is a hard counter to be wary of, thanks to its low cost and high missile damage.
USA - Multirole
Multirole Rocket Strikers
AV-8A Harrier 55pt
The AV-8A Harrier is the first Harrier on our list and I'll just say outright that Harriers are as a class of aircraft practically useless. It has a price-effective 19x CRV7 rocket battery, a moderately good Twin ADEN 30 autocannon, and two appreciable fire and forget AIM-9J Sidewinder short air-to-air missiles. The problem is that it's♥♥♥♥♥♥out of luck when it comes to speed, managing just 600kph, and has no ECM. The slow speed is really what gets it, almost totally preventing its use as an air-to-air option and making strikes on targets substantially more dangerous than they ought be. It can spar with enemy air assets below medium-range AAM fighters, but it takes forever to evac and even longer to get to someplace useful, and is easily avoided avoided and easily evac-stabbed because of its slow speed. Basically an inferior Soviet MiG-21M; you have dedicated rocket aircraft in the Skyhawks, use those instead.
AV-8C Harrier 70pt
The AV-8C doubles the rocket count to 38x CRV7, enough to reliably destroy ten-health light armor units, touches up the missiles to AIM-9Ls with better accuracy and range (and the capacity to kill alone on a double hit), and increases ECM to Bad. This is a very worthwhile fifteen point upgrade, but 70 points is enough to make it painful when it gets shot down, and its lethargic speed still really cuts into its usefulness.
Multirole Missile Strikers
AV-8E Harrier II 120pt
The AV-8E is a large improvement over its predecessor aircraft, upchanging the Twin Aden for a heftier GAU-12 Equalizer, carrying the latest and greatest AIM-9M Sidewinder fire and forget short AAMs, turning in the rockets for a pair of AGM-65E Maverick ATGMs, and going up to Medium ECM. Its main shortcoming, however, is the same: its slow speed. The ease with which this 120 point plane will get overtaken and shot down by a 90 point Polish Mig-21Bis is staggering; a further shortcoming is the semi-active nature of its ATGMs which, though maximally powerful at 30 AP (if both missiles hit they will take out anything in the game, even a T-80U), requires its firer to actively vector towards the target to hit and, therefore, wade into more anti-air fire. While it is definitely usable the AV-8E is overall a difficult aircraft to recommend; the F/A-18A is blatantly vastly superior.
F/A-18A Hornet 135pt
Compared to the slightly cheaper AV-8E the F/A-18A offers an armament of slightly worse air-to-air missiles, the same AIM-9Ls used by the AV-8C, the better full M6A1 Vulcan cannon, and four copies (two passes worth) of the same AGM-65E semi active Mavericks. Additionally the F/A-18A gets to be multirole in more than name: it clocks in at a full 1000kph. This means that the F/A-18A is slightly tricky to use: vector it towards a target, wait for the missiles to impact, and immediately break it off, as it has missiles to spare and so will not automatically evac Winchester. The semi-active nature of the missiles is still, overall, a pain - you honestly won't get to use that second compliment terribly often, and when compared to the more economical PACT semi-active missile strikers its high cost of operation falls flat on the face. It's still a sizably better plane than the AV-8E at just 15 points more, but I would make a general recommendation that outside of niche the C's fire-and-forget capacity is more than worth the higher cost.
F/A-18C Hornet 170pt [Prototype]
The F/A-18C upgrades to top-shelf AIM-9M Sidewinders, Good ECM, and, critically, AGM-65F Maverick fire and forget ATGMs. Though expensive the F/A-18C is an aircraft that can circle in, peel off a couple tank killers, and then either keep going or flee the field as needed. Combined with the upgraded ECM the fire and forget nature of these missiles allow the F/A-18C to be a great deal more survivable than the F/A-18A on ground missions, but the points are invested mainly in this ground attack capacity: the C is only marginally better than the A at the air game. This is NATO's top-of-the-line air-to-ground missile aircraft, offering deep punishment for any tanks that get ahead of themselves on the battlefield, and is quite heavily deployed - and with good reason.
Multirole Mud Pounders
F-15E Strike Eagle 180pt [Prototype]
As the most expensive NATO aircraft in the game, tied with the Su-25T as most expensive aircraft, period, the F-15E is a ferocious plane. It carries four top-shelf AIM-9M Sidewinders, two more than the F/A-18C, the same Vulcan cannon, the same Good ECM, and an incredible four Mk 84 thousand kilo bombs. A well-placed thousand-point bomb can liquidate two sectors' worth of infantry - and the F-15E carries four of them! It is, nonetheless, a relatively rare sight, a product of its high cost and somewhat throwaway nature of bombs as an air-to-ground package, however many of them you get - a F/A-18C is a comparatively safe bet.
Multirole Cluster Bombers
F-16A Fighting Falcon 100pt
Besides its Vulcan cannon the Fighting Falcon carries four Mk 20 Rockeye II cluster bombs and twin AIM-9J Sidewinders, and although it only has bad ECM at 100 points it is extremely economical, getting all of the aspects of a multirole you want and getting them right. Though you can't particularly expect it wade into contested areas and come back it'll do fine work against targets of opportunity, and it carries a battery of fire sufficient to chase down and chew down enemy bombers with reliability. However, I personally believe that cluster bombs aren't that great a multirole option, and that the F-4G Wild Weasel V is a better option at this price point - though that's in large part a function of the Weasel's ludicrously poor balancing.
F-16C Fighting Falcon 135pt
The F-16C goes up to Medium ECM, adds two bombs to its payload, and upchanges for two top-shelf AIM-9M Sidewinders. This makes it directly comprable to the F/A-18A Hornet, against which it features better missiles and a different ground-attack payload. The F-16C is better for attacking clustered groups of low-armor targets while the F/A-18A is better for striking at individual hardened armor targets, and it's marginally better at intercepting enemy bombers. Against the F-16A the F-16C is a notable, but not overwhelming, improvement; feel free to use either.
F-4G Wild Weasel V 105pt
The F-4G gets a Vulcan, two mid-tier AIM-9L Sidewinder fire and forget short AAMs, and the AGM-45 Shrike, a semi-active SEAD missile with 3500 meter range and somewhat problematic accuracy. It has a top speed of 900kph. This makes it, overall, a top-grade short air superiority fighter that can maybe do SEAD, too. If you want SEAD, take a Prowler; if you need an air superiority fighter, take an F-15A. But if you need maximum flexibility, take a Wild Weasel - it certainly won't often be stuck hanging around in your hanger doing nothing! Because of its overly good ECM this is a great aircraft for intercepting bombers over contested airspace.
The Wild Weasel, though rarely used, is highly overpowered for its asking price: you can actually win fights against dedicated PACT air superiority fighters significantly more expensive than this plane, as it carries very good short AAMs, a full Vulcan cannon, and ECM a full grade above that of even the best dedicated air superiority fighters...the SEAD missiles are just flavoring on a poorly balanced cake.
Britian - Air Superiority
Silly Polan; put down your weapons, my toilet needs unclogging!
Short Air Superiority
Sea Harrier FRS.1 75pt
The Sea Harrier carries a decent Twin ADEN autocannon and second-best AIM-9L Sidewinder short AAMs, but like its American cousins at 600kph it's just too slow to function as a proper air superiority fighter: the aircraft it's meant to dog will simply loop circles around it. Its job is limited to punishing transport helicopter overreaches and gap-filling your proper air defense curtain.
Medium Air Superiority
Tornado ADV F2 110pt
The Tornado provides the Brits a full medium-range air superiority package at just 110 points in cost. It welds a Mauser BK 27 (vastly inferior to the American Vulcans), four Skyflash semi active 6300 meter medium AAMs, and two AIM-9Ls on a medium ECM body. Because of the inferiority of its gun you should avoid direct engagements with better-armed air superiority fighters, but overall it's an economical package for flinging missiles at distant objects and for taking down bombers. However its low veterancy leaves room to be desired.
Tornado ADV F3 135pt [Prototype]
The ADV F3 really eclipses the F2 - it's a much better plane for just 15 points more. The ADV F3 carries two more AIM-9Ls and upgrades to Skyflash Super TEMPs, still semi active but with the medium AAM maximum 7000 meter range. Importantly it also bumps up the ECM from Medium to Good, greatly enhancing survivability. The ADV F3 is a very competitive medium air superiority fighter, with better ECM, medium AAM range, and medium AAM availability than the rest of the pack - but in return its cannon is quite bad and it is only available in relatively low veterancy.
Britain - Ground Attack and Multirole
Harrier GR.1 55pt
This base Harrier gets Twin ADEN 30s and two MC/GP Mk 10 500kg bombs. It has no ECM and, as always, is quite lethargic. Overall lackluster, but comparable to the other nation's cheap HE bombers.
Jaguar GR.1 55pt
Though it costs the same and has an AP, not an HE, payload, the Jaguar is a pretty clearly superior bomb taxi relative to the Harrier because though it doesn't have any ECM, it moves at a full 1000kph. The payload is two BL-755 450kg cluster bombs and yet another Twin ADEN cannon.
Jaguar GR.1A 90pt
The GR.1A carries the Twin ADEN and two AJ 168 semi-active air-to-ground missiles.The missiles have good range and the maximum damage value, but troubling accuracy. The plane also has no ECM. Overall this is a reasonable air-to-ground missile striker that can be relied on to go tank hunting for the Brits.
Multirole Mud Pounders
Harrier GR.3 80pt
Twin ADEN, AIM-9L Sidewinder short AAMs, a two MC/GP Mk. 10 500kg iron bomb drop package, and bad ECM. The bomb package isn't too shabby but its speed still is...
Harrier GR.5 [Prototype] 100pt
Wierdly this plane gets a worse cannon - a single ADEN this time. It has the same AIM-9Ls as the GR.3, but adds two more bombs to its payload and bumps up ECM to Medium. This means that overall it's a slightly worse figher but significantly better bomber than the GR.3, but the trouble with using it is, again, the same. It's also limited to British-only decks.
Multirole Cluster Bombers
Tornado GR1 IDS [Prototype] 120pt
The GR1 IDS welds four IBL-755 450 kilogram cluster bombs, an ok twin Mauser cannon, and two AIM-9Ls to a medium ECM, fully 1000kph body. The cannon kind of sucks but overall this is a pretty package and compares well against the F-16A/C - all variations on a common theme.
France - Air Superiority
Why do French tanks have rear-view mirrors?
Short Air Superiority Fighters
F-8E Crusader 65pt
The F-8E is a dedicated air superiority fighter on the cheap. It carries two French-made R.550 Magic short AAMs, comparable to but slightly more accurate than American-made AIM-9J Sidewinders, and a Quad Colt Mk 10. It has bad ECM and moves at a quite reasonable 900kph. Overall this is a plane that's perfectly good at chasing down fleeing bombers if you can spot them really early, but not one that can be expected to stand against more serious opposition. It's probably the best "bomber scrapper" of any of the nations, overall, and the perfect counter for expensive but fragile recon helicopter.
Medium Air Superiority Fighters
Mirage F1 C 90pt
For 25 points more you get this first iteration of the Mirage, carrying a Twin DEFA autocannon comparable to the Crusader's gun but with a larger engagement envelope, the same R.550 Magics, and, importantly, two Super 530 F semi active medium AAMs (ECM and speed is the same). These missiles are semi-active, requiring that the Mirage actively vector towards its target, and have a very short (borderline short AAM short) 4900 meter range for this class of kit - but they're coming, with good accuracy and power, on a 90 point fighter.
Mirage F1 200 105pt
For a mere 15 points you can upgrade your Mirage to this iteration, gaining improved ECM (up to Medium) and R.550 Magic IIs with marginally better range and accuracy (equivalent to the second-best American AIM-9L Sidewinder).
Mirage 2000C RDI 115pt [Prototype]
And for a mere 10 points on top a French specialist gets the Mirage 2000C RDI, the French best-of medium air superiority fighter. The 2000C RDI offers a reasonable cannon for a medium air superiority fighter, no Vulcan but no Mauser either, but Good ECM, the full 1000kph speed, two R.550 Magic IIs, and two semi-active Super 530 D medium AAMs with relatively better, but still short, 5600 meters of range. Its shortcoming in this category is its low staying power, carrying just two of each missile, and the short medium range of those Supers. Its ECM, however, is fantastic for the price. Overall the Mirage 2000C RDI is very good at shooting individual targets down and then running away, and with four missiles you'll often automatically evac Winchester on your attacks...very French.
The RDI (and the Mirage line in general) benefits from high availability, but also suffers from low veterancy.
France - Ground Attack and SEAD
Etendard IVM 50pt
A cheap bomber very nearly equivalent to the 55 point British Harrier GR.1 in all respects except for having an arguably inferior payload (more, but weaker, bombs). Like the Harrier it's difficult to keep alive but decently cost-effective wherever there isn't much anti-air.
Super Entendard 80pt
The most cost-effective ground attack plane NATO gets. The Super Entendard carries a single AS30L semi-active air-to-ground missile with near-perfect accuracy, the maximum AP value of 30 and good 3150 meter range. Although it's slow, at 750kph, it gets medium ECM - so it might, maybe, come back. For 80 points this plane will instantly KO medium tanks and weaker craft and eat giant holes in heavier armor - the missile will take half the health off a T-80U! Use it to snipe high-value armor targets in a cost-effective manner, especially from the sides, and with medium ECM who knows - you might just come back. Compare and contrasts to other similarly-priced tank hunter-killers, like the Su-22M4 and Jaguar GR.5, which offer two missiles but are worse in other respects - none the least, accuracy.
Jaguar A 95pt
The Jaguar A is unique in that it welds two AS-37 Martel AR missiles with the SEAD-maximum 4900 meters of range and good accuracy almost equivalent to the American Raven and Soviet Mig-25BM payloads to a mere 95 point plane. It hits hard, and also carries the acceptable Twin DEFA 550 cannon. The downside? Like most of France's stuff this plane is superbly powerful but fragile: it has only Bad ECM, and so cannot fly when your foe has good air-to-air superiority on the field. But if you use the range well it's quite difficult to shoot down from the ground, poor ECM notwithstanding. It's comparable to but more risky and harder-hitting than the Soviet Su-24.
France - Multirole
Mirage IIIC 105pt
The Mirage IIIC is a multirole napalm bomber directly comprable to the American F-4S Phanton (the reason I think this multirole and the F-4S not is because this has a cannon and the F-4S doesn't). It carries the Twin DEFA (noticing a theme here?) and two R.550 Magic short AAMs for dogfighting, and has the same 900kph speed and lack of ECM. As a consequence of having a cannon, though, its bomb payload is worse, and the plane carries a mere four oddly named French napalm bombs with coverage effectively equal to that of lesser F-4J. It is, on the other hand, fully equipped for interception duty. Overall this is not a plane I would recommend too highly, as it goes in the exact opposite direction, in terms of cost-effectiveness, from the "bomb taxi" model napalm should be tied to. The situations in which napalm is most useful tend to be the ones in which air defense is heaviest, and thus ECM-less multiroles most questionable - hard points and embedded infantry that can't be forced out or beaten down any other way.
Mirage 5F 130pt
This plane is the Mirage IIIC but with the napalm load swapped out for eight SAMP T200 400kg HE bombs. Not bad overall but probably a bit overpriced - the Danish F-16A Block I is probably a better plane for 15 points cheaper, but by the power of baguettes the 5F's availability is much sweeter.
Mirage F1CT 140pt [Prototype]
This on the other hand is right on the money. The Mirage F1CT offers a single DEFA (odd downgrade in line with the British Harrier II), two R.550 Magic IIs, and six 450kg BLG 66 cluster bombs. What really makes this plane is its "Good" ECM: for ten points more and a change of payload, you're looking at a plane quite clearly far and away superior to the Mirage 5F. The F1CT is comfortably comparable to the American F-16C - another good variation on the multirole cluster bomber theme.
West Germany - All
West Germany best Germany.
Alpha Jet A 50pt
This is the German entry in the cheap fifty-point hole puncher category. It carries a weak Masuer BK-27 and two BL-755 450kg cluster bombs, and lacks ECM like the other competitors for this slot, but at 600kph is clearly inferior to the 1000kph British 55pt Jaguar GR.1. Not recommended outside of a nation-specific deck.
F-104G Starfighter 60pt
Making up for that, this aircraft is clearly superior to the British Harrier GR.1 equivalent. Though it has no ECM and at 750kph is quite slow (but much faster than the 600kph Harrier) the F-104G carries a full Vulcan cannon, a useful niche item, and a set of four Mk 82 227kg bombs. Compared to the bomb-only American A-6A Intruder the Starfighter gets half the payload and worse ECM, but the addition of the cannon (the differences in bombing pattern notwithstanding).
Air Superiority Fighters
The F-4F is a pretty model short-range interceptor, with a low cost and an armament of four AIM-9F Sidewinder short AAMs (the oldest model) with good punching power but lamentable accuracy and a full Vulcan cannon. It also has Bad ECM, and is serviceably fast at 900kph. It's hugely better than the French Crusader as a bomber response vehicle, but like the Crusader is near useless in the face of more serious air superiority. However this plane doesn't compare too well against the best-in-class Polish Mig-21Bis, which, though with a vastly inferior cannon and 10 points more expensive, gets vastly superior missiles and 1000kph of speed.
F-4F ICE 135pt [Prototype]
The F-4F ICE is a fully fledged medium air superiority fighter, carrying a Vulcan, four second-best AIM-9L Sidewinder short AAMs, and two fully fire and forget 6300 meter AIM-120A AMRAAM medium AAMs; it's also 900kph and gets medium ECM. The ICE is the most balanced medium air superiority fighter in the game, with average ECM, a great cannon, slightly downgraded speed, good and sufficiently numerous short AAMs, and fire-and-forget capacity on its medium AAMs. This aircraft wants for nothing!
Tornado IDS 160pt
The Tornado IDS carries a Twin Mauser BK-27, four AGM-65D Maverick fire and forget air to ground missiles, and two AIM-9L Sidewinder short AAMs. It has full speed and medium ECM. The F/A-18C is on an individual basis a substantially better plane, but the Tornado benefits from higher availability.
Canada - All
Air Superiority Fighters
CF-116 Freedom Figher 70pt
A cheap short air superiority fighter armed with an acceptable main cannon and six (six!) cheap AIM-9J short AAMs. It has no ECM and could be a decent (mostly throwaway) bomb-run interceptor, but the 750kph speed and the short range of its armaments will definitely get in its way.
CF-188 Hornet 155pt
The CF-188 carries a Vulcan, four top-of-the-line AIM-9M Sidewinder short AAMs, and two AIM-7M Sparrow semi-active medium AAMs; it has medium ECM and is the full 1000kph in speed. It differs from the 15 point cheaper F-15A in having better short AAMs but two fewer medium missiles, and by benefiting from higher veterancy (but also lower availability). This is overall a very accurate but quite expensive aircraft.
CF-104 Starfighter 60pt
This Canadian multirole Starfighter is - an exception to the rule - less expensive than its comparative dedicated air superiority fighter. It comes armed with a Vulcan, two AIM-9J Sidewinders (the ones with not so great accuracy), and a 38 CRV-7 77mm rockets for ground strikes. This is overall a decent airframe for pinging infantry and catching bombers, and probably significantly better, comparatively, than the similar American AV-8C Harrier - not the least because it gets a full Vulcan cannon. Comparable to the Soviet MiG-21SM, sporting a much better air-to-air profile but much lower speed and slightly worse air-to-ground power.
CF-188 Hornet 165pt
This multirole version of the Canadian air superiority fighter exchanges the medium AAMs for eight Mk 20 Rockeye II 245kg cluster bombs. It carries two more bombs and two more missiles than the otherwise comparable F-16C, but costs 30 points more; again, a bit pricey.
Denmark - All
Yes, we are the land of the Danish people. No, you cannot have a danish.
Medium Air Superiority
F-16A Block 15 120pt [Prototype]
This is Denmark's medium air superiority fighter of choice. It's less expensive than the average, which is good, and carries better than average short AAMs (latest-model AIM-9Ms); on the other hand its ECM is merely bad, and it's underloaded with just two short AAMs, which tends to lead to the same uncomfortable Evac Winchester problems suffered by the French RDI 2000. It also carries two semi-active AIM 7M Sparrows and, of course, the trusty old Vulcan cannon. A cheap and competitive air superiority fighter, overall, but the Vulcan is less useful than it otherwise might be because of Block 15's desire to quit the field after blowing off its missiles.
The original. This plane packs four 450kg BL-755 cluster bombs and a full Vulcan cannon onto an ECM-less, 750kph airframe. Very pricey for what it does, not terribly recommendable.
Multirole Mud Pounders
F-16A Block 1 115pt
An excellent multirole fighter, this unit has no ECM and Sidewinder short AAMs a generation behind those of its 120 point cousin, but compensates with a very powerful 12x Mark 82 227kg iron bomb air-to-ground payload. If you can take out your opponent's air defense network this plane will function well as both a bomb-catcher and a infantry-killer, but its complete lack of ECM nonetheless gimps its dog-fighting ability.
Multirole Missile Strikers
This funny looking plane packs a Twin ADEN cannon and four AIM-9J Sidewinder short AAMs onto a 900kph, ECM-less airframe, alongside two AGM-12 Bullpup semi-active air to ground missiles. Overall I don't particularly recommend this plane because of the low accuracy of its air-to-ground missiles - they'll hit just thirty percent of the time before veterancy modifiers.
Sweden - All
At least we're not Denmark.
Air Superiority Fighters
J 35D Draken 40pt
The J 35D is a wierd little plane. It's armed with a Twin ADEN cannon and Jacktracket m/57 air-to-air unguided missiles with abysmal 2 HE power and abysmal 6 accuracy. However though it has no ECM it does go 900kph...I don't recommend it, the missiles are always missing (be better if they were faster-firing) and this plane can't reliably shoot down much of anything alone, kind of the reason you want an air superiority fighter in the first place. However, this unit can plink weak or weakened choppers with some reliability, which may be cost-effective if you can get them in the firing line.
J 35F Draken 55pt
In exchange for a decrease to a pea-shooter single ADEN cannon the J 35F gets two Rb 28 Falcon short range AAMs, greatly increasing the J 35D's dimunitive firepower (it still has rockets). However there missiles have such bad accuracy that, really, they still can't be relied on to do their job all of the time; the 65 point French F-8E Crusader does a much better job on this front. Though it can chew down weak choppers with some measure of reliability, its use is gimped by the fact that it will automatically evac once its two missiles are spent, guns and rockets notwithstanding.
J 35J Draken 80pt
Bad ECM (finally), this plane (finally) trades in the air-to-air rockets for a pair of Rb 24Js, equivalent to the lowest-tier American AIM-9Js. This plane can finally be relied upon to shoot down opposing bombers and, thanks do the double load of missiles, is quite good at plinking choppers. Overall, however, not a plane you want to be using much.
JA-37 Viggen 120pt
The JA-37 Viggen is the Swedish medium air superiority option, offering the pretty crappy Akan m/75, two Rb 71 semi-active medium air-to-air missiles, and four Rb 24J short air-to-air missiles (equivalent to AIM-9J Sidewinders). It's...ok. With 900 kph, medium ECM, and meh veterancy there's nothing outstanding about this aircraft, but it does its job.
SK O5B 50pt
This plane is unique in that it carries a pair of semi-active air to ground missiles which do HE, not AP, damage. The trick to the missiles is to never fire on any specific unit but at positions: this negates the accuracy penalty (but you have to be quite good at micromanagement). The missiles make for impressive explosions and are pretty effective, but the lack of ECM and 600kph makes it a one-hit-wonder if your foe is packing heat.
AJ-37 Viggen 110pt
Four Rb 75 fire-and-forget air-to-ground missiles, plus a secondary armament of twin Rb 28 Falcons for self-defense. Bad ECM, 900kph speed. The AJ-37 is the cheapest fire-and-forget air-to-ground missile platform in the game, offering four fairly inaccurate and slightly less than top-off powerful missiles (clones of the A-10's missiles, in fact) for 110 points. Though its Bad ECM hurts it this plane is, overall, a very nice platform for slamming exposed armor, and probably Sweden's best overall plane. Its air-to-air armament, however, is useless.
ASJ 37 Viggen 125pt [Prototype]
Another entry in Sweden's line of interesting planes that do things...differently. The Viggen offers two BK90 Mjolner 450kg cluster bombs, two Rb 74 short AAMs (equivalent to AIM-9Ls), medium ECM and 900kph. At first glance the British multirole Tornado GR1 IDS looks like a vastly superior plane for five points less but...those Mjolners have 8 AP, much more than the 4 or 5 typical of such bomb loads. However...at the end of the day this extra power is, at best, of niche use. Seriously not recommended.
Norway - All
At least we're not Sweden.
F-5A Freedom Fighter 35pt
Basically a clone of the American A4-F Skyhawk II. Five points more expensive but with a marginally better gun and marginally better speed. Rocket spammers love using these, of course.
Multirole Cluster Bombers
F-104G Starfighter 80pt
M61A1 Vulcan cannon, two AIM-9J Sidewinder short AAMs, and a payload of two BL-755 450kg cluster bombs. This would be a decent multirole overall, mostly because of the strength of its cannon, but it's gimped by a lack of ECM and a lethargic 750kph speed.
Multirole Mud Pounders
F-16A Fighting Falcon 125pt
An American import and the only Norwegian plane worth talking about (sorry, Nords). This plane marries a Vulcan and two AIM-9L Sidewinder short AAMs to a payload of two Mk 82 1000kg (that's a thousand, folks!) bombs. It completely lacks ECM, however, to compensate for that price at this payload. It's 1000kph and can shoot down bombers with some reliability; overall a powerful workhorse aircraft that will return rewards in spades when used right. Often compared with the Danish F-16 Block 1, which offers the same airframe but with twelve Mk 84 227kg bombs.
USSR - Air Superiority and Interceptors
In need of !!PROGRESS!!, comrade?
Short Air Superiority
The cheapest air superiority the USSR fields and the price equivalent of the French F-8E Crusader, this plane takes a slightly different tack - a weak gun and weak missiles and no ECM, but a whole six R-60 Molniyas to spam at twice the normal rate of fire for a short air-to-air missile. It's ok, but as with other short interceptors it suffers from range problems and will wither and die in the face or more serious air superiority.
An upgraded MiG-23M carrying the same number of maximum-class R-73A Vympel short AAMs, but losing the firerate buff. This plane is...alright...it suffers from the same range problem and, more importantly, is in between the price points of generally superior MiG-25 family, next.
Medium Air Superiority
The MiG-25P is the cheapest full-suite medium air superiority fighter in the game, and a bit unique at that. Besides an absolutely fantastic looking plane - no, really - the MiG-25P offers two semi-active R40-R medium AAMs with 5600 meter range, and two fire and forget R-40T something-less-than-medium-but-not-quite-short AAMs with 4200 meter range (700 meters more than the top-class Sidewinder or Vympel). These missiles have huge HE power - each one knocks off seven chunks of power - but are somewhat less accurate than average. With the MiG-25P you never have a reason to close past 4200 meters range - allowing you knock out enemy bombers hitting advance targets from a safe distance. And though it has no ECM (its greatest shortcoming, but look at the price!) it is 1000kph speedy and thus more than pound-for-pound with more expensive air superiority fighters when it comes to interception duty.
The MiG-25PD bumps the plane's ECM way up to Good - better than average for a medium air superiority fighter - while maintaining its great low cost. While it's no better or worse than the MiG-25P at intercepting things the huge improvement in ECM makes it vastly more surivivable and useable; this plane can spar with Tornado ADV 3s any day and, quite possibly, win.
It should noted that the MiG-25P/PD line is armed only with radar missiles and lacks infrared missiles or a cannon, so cannot engage helicopters.
And of course the Soviets, being the Soviets, get their own "cut above" medium air superiority fighter, the fighting equivalent of the F-15C, the Su-27S. It's armed with a Gsh-301 cannon, six R-73A Vympel fire and forget short AAMs (equivalent to American AIM-9Ms), and four R-27R semi-active Vympel medium AAMs. The cannon is weak and the medium AAMs, though 700 meters longer in range than typical mediums, are semi-active - an important short coming - and, to add to that, the plane is only 900kph fast. It is, overall, inferior; what gives?
These differences are buffed out in veterancy. The Su-27S comes in at near-elite veterancy while the F-15C is near-rookie, and as a result where the Su-27S is almost pinpoint accurate - if it fires it will hit - and hard to panic the F-15C will miss, a lot, and panic, a lot. The overall effect is achieved: both planes are top-class for shooting other things down, and can be expected to trump other air superiority fighters if properly managed. The only thing a Su-27S is really scared of is a F-15C - and vice versa.
The MiG-31 is another good looking - and huge - plane armed with a Gsh 6-23 -a very good gun, but still worse than the Vulcan - and four R-33E Vympel semi-active long range AAMs. These missiles are 900 meters inferior in range to the Tomcat's, and semi-active of course, but they're perfectly comparable at enter-intercepting bombers (and remember, this plane is 30 points cheaper). The MIG-31 offers only Bad ECM, but compensates with the fastest speed of any plane in the game: 1100kph! Enemy air superiority need not even try - they'll simply fall behind.
MiG-31M 130pt [Prototype]
More equivalent to the Tomcat, both in role suited for and in price (but still 15 points cheaper), the MiG-31M has no cannon but upgrades to the Tomcat's Medium ECM and carries six R-37 Vympel fire-and-forget long-range AAMs with slightly better accuracy, the same availability, and the same range as the Tomcat's AIM-5 Pheonix. Comparatively it lacks the Tomcat's excellent cannon, but is ten points cheaper, slightly more accurate, and 100kph faster. NATO strike aircraft, beware!
It should be noted that these planes are initialed number 42. Just saying.
USSR - Bombers
The MiG-25S is the base Soviet bomber, offering a payload of two Rbk-500 500kg cluster bombs. It has no ECM, but goes a full 1000kph. Overall, not much to say here that hasn't been said of other bombers: it does its job and, by virtue of not even having a cannon, does it well. Compare it to the West German Alpha Jet A, for instance, which gets a weak Mauser cannon but as a result has lower-gain 450kg bombs and is much, much slower at 600kph.
The basic Soviet HE bomber, with a four FAB 500 500kg iron bomb payload and nothing else. It has no ECM and is lethargic at 600kph, but delivers a powerful blast for the price that's significantly stronger than that of American A-6A Intruder.
The Su-24M delivers a heavy load of twelve FAB-250 250kg iron bombs, enough to carpet-wipe anything in the drop zone. It also comes armed with the decent Gsh-6-23 cannon for opportunistic attacks, and for 40 points more than the Yak-38M gets a bump to 900kph and Bad ECM. Overall, however, the bumps to survivability, cannon, and bomb load isn't terribly worthwhile for the price. It is, however, very clearly comparatively superior to the F-111E Aardvark.
A powerful specialized napalm delivery vehicle at an excellent price, the Yak-38 delivers a payload of four ZB500 500kg napalm bombs and, again, nothing else. For twenty points more it delivers nearly four times the payload volume of the American Corsair; for fifteen less, one that's nearly twice as good as the F-4J Phantom. It's slow, at 600kph, and has no ECM, but in situations where you're going to really need napalm (againstly heavily embedded targets) the bomb-to-price ration matters more than the plane's survivability. And this one has it, in spades.
USSR - Ground Attack
The MiG-27 is a cheap but powerful ground striker armed with the top-class Soviet cannon, the Gsh-6-30, and four Kh-23 semi-active air-to-ground missiles. Though it's not quite the (much more expensive) American A-10 Thunderbolt II's GAU-8 Avenger the cannon will easily melt weak armor, and is only slightly worse at stressing, panicking, and chunking foes. This plane's trouble, however, is that its air-to-ground missiles, though slightly more powerful than the A-10's, are very inaccurate (not to mention are semi-active and low-ranged); on the other hand they fire and empty out at a much faster rate, and while the MiG-27 still doesn't have any ECM, it does go a full 900kph. Overall this is a cheap air-to-ground option that is extremely potent against any armor on the field, but being unarmored and semi-active and electronically exposed, one that cannot easily operate inside of air defense networks. Use it primarily as a throwaway hard counter to any heavy armor your enemy might put out.
The 27M trades in the Kh-23s for Kh-25MLs, still semi-active but with better range (3150 meters) and greatly increased accuracy. It also gains bad ECM. Overall a powerful ground-attack plane that is, again, a good value for its price, but one that suffers in face of enemy air defense.
The Soviet direct price competitor with the A-10 and, in opinion, the better plane. The MiG-27K has no armor but gets medium ECM and, at 900kph, is almost twice as fast as the A-10, allowing it to far more easily quit the field in case of trouble - overall just as if not more survivable. The Gsh-6-30 still isn't quite the GAU-8 but it's still a great autocannon; and on the air-to-ground missile front the MiG-27K gets four fire-and-forget Kh-29Ds, an exact equivalent of the American AGM-65F Maverick missile and statistically the best air-to-ground missile in the game. They have the best range (3325 meters, versus the A-10's 3150), the best accuracy (two more than the A-10's), and, with 30 AP, the highest possible damage (Mavericks do only 26). The MiG-27K will crush any armor that it meets, and can more or less pay itself off with one M1A1 Abrams pickup.
In armament the Su-25 is strict inferior to the MiG-27M. It has a comparatively worse cannon - a much slower-firing Twin Gsh-30-2 - the same Kh-25L semi-active air to ground missile armament, and an additional two R-60 Molniya short AAMs for air-to-air deterrence. It also has no ECM, and is 150kph slower at 750kph (but still much faster than the Thunderbolt). However, comparative to the MiG-27 family the Su-25 is armored - 2 in front and back, 1 elsewhere - and can take a much greater beating from air defense networks.
The Su-25 and the MiG-27K are fairly competitive options; I'd say that the 27K is the better plane for the job, but it's also more expensive, so which you chose is up to you.
Su-25T 180pot [Prototype]
The Su-25T is the most expensive Soviet plane and tied with the American F-18E Strike Eagle for most expensive plane, period. It has the same weak Twin Gsh-30-2, but upgrades the Molniyas to top-class (and, to intercepting aircraft, extremely dangerous) R-73A Vympels. It also gains Bad ECM. The most important change, however, is to the missile armament: the Su-25T is ridiculously soaked in air-to-ground fire, carrying sixteen 9K121 Vikhr semi-active air to ground missiles with maximum range (3325 meters), accuracy (10), and a ridiculous 150rpm rate of fire, albeit less-than-maximum 26 AP.
However. The way the Su-25T is implemented into the game, it is only able to fire and guide to target its missiles one at a time, meaning that it will get at most two per pass, no better than any other air-to-ground attack plane. This would make sense if it could attack multiple targets, but no - the plane has to guide its solitary missile to a single target each time before it can load in a new one (that is how SA works, after all). The question then becomes...why bother? The Thunderbolt, MiG-27K, and F/A-18C all do roughly the same job for less, and I have to ask how such an underpowered plane remains so expensive so late in the game's life cycle. This would be a great plane if it could multi-attack - but as it's currently implemented the vanilla Su-25 will do almost exactly the same job for 50 points less.
One thing's for certain, you won't run out of missiles anytime soon.
USSR - SEAD
The cheapest SEAD plane in the game, with no real price equivalent. While the Su-24 has only medium ECM it has the pretty good Gsh 9-13 cannon and packs two Kh-28 4200 meter range fire and forget SEAD missiles. It also gets medium stealth and is 900kph fast. The mid-tier ECM and less-than-maximum range on the missiles makes it a bit dicey to use, but with good management and a little luck it'll satisfy all of your SEAD needs at a very nice price. Just try to keep it out of the firing path of enemy air superiority.
MiG-25BM 135pt [Prototype]
The Soviet EF-111A Raven equivalent. This plane offers two equivalent Kh-58U 4900 meter range SEAD missiles, Exceptional ECM, and a full 1000kph speed. However it has comparatively worse stealth, downgraded from Good to Medium, but tacks on two weak R-60 Molniya short AAMs for defensive purposes. You shouldn't do anything but evac with such a plane when threatened with enemy fire, so the downgrade in stealth for weak short AAMs isn't terrifically useful. But it does the same job just as supremely effectively. It should be noted, however, that for 15 points more you can get a pair of Su-24s...
USSR - Multirole
Multirole Rocket Strikers
Overall one of the most densely deployed PACT planes, the MiG-21SM provides a great value for its cost. It's armed with a weak but at this price acceptable Gsh-23 cannon, two R-60 Molniya short AAMs, and powerful packet of 64 S-5 57mm rockets significantly superior to those carries by the 30 point Skyhawks. It's unequivocally superior to its American counterpart, the AV-8A Harrier, because of one thing more than anything else: its full 1000kph speed. This is a plane that can come in in response to a bombing run, help the local air defense network deal with the threat, and then turn around and destroy a soft target, all at a great low cost - no wonder it sees so much use.
Multirole Cluster Bombers
The Soviet MiG-29 series is unique and uniquely useful in the world of multiroles because of its armament. The MiG-29S is armed with an ok Gsh-301 cannon, a payload of four RBK-500 500kg cluster bombs (twice that of the 50 point dedicated MiG 21S), and, importantly, four R-27R Vympel semi-active 7000 meter range medium - not short - AAMs. This is all married to a 900kph, medium ECM frame. The MiG-29S therefore serves to shore up your air defense network, adding its extended-range medium AAMs when they're needed, and a powerful cluster bomb payload when they're not. However I personally do not much like the MiG-29S: in part because it's outclasses by its successor aircraft, and in part because oftentimes it feels like merely an expensive medium AAM platform. Cluster bombs are useful against medium-skinned targets in large groups, the kinds that are protected most fiercely by air defense networks; throwing the MiG-29S with its Bad ECM at such a target will usually be suicidal, and why bother when you can get the same effect with an actual throwaway bomber? The same argument can be made for the American F-15E Strike Eagle, perhaps, but that plane benefits from Good ECM, better speed, and the most powerful HE drop package in the game, making its air-to-ground armament much more usable. I'd rather get two medium AAMs instead of four, and exchange that for a bump up in ECM.
MiG-29M 175pt [Prototype]
A pretty significant 15 point improvement, the MiG-29M gains Medium ECM and exchanges its medium AAMs for four R-77 Vympels fully fire-and-forget (but only normally raged) medium AAMs. It's a very large improvement for a very low cost - its only deficiency is its still nerve-racking ECM, made up for by the presence of multirole medium AAMs. There isn't much reason, in my mind, to chose the MiG-29S over the MiG-29M if both are an option.
East Germany - Air Superiority
East Germany beast Germany.
Short Air Superiority
MiG-21Bis Lazur 80pt
The East German short air superiority option and a well-adopted plane for that role, though I think the Polish version edges it out in this contest it's also 10 points more expensive. Armed with a Gsh-23 cannon (meh), four firerate-boosted R-60 Molniya short AAMs, and two K-13M short AAMs; it has Bad ECM and is fully 1000kph capable. On most maps the MiG-23MF or ML should get the nod over this, to be honest; the East Germans certainly aren't slow on air superiority options.
Medium Air Superiority
Wow! A medium air superiority fighter for a mere 70 points! The MiG-23MF is armed with a bad Gsh-23 cannon, two very bad R-60 Molniya short AAMs, and two normally strong but unfortunately not terrifically accurate (and short on range) semi-active R-23R Vympels. It has no ECM, and goes 900kph. What's amazing about this plane is the price at which East Germany gets to spit out medium air-to-air missiles, but beyond that it's kind of underwhelming. Still, at this price point a better response option for destroying bombers than, say the French F-8E Crusader, just by nature of having those missiles at all.
This iteration upchanges to four Molniyas and adds Bad ECM. It still won't stand in a fight against a superior air superiority fighter, but functions just fine as a bomber-getter. It's sizable better than the MiG-23MF, and may shoot planes down even if both of its medium AAMs miss.
MiG-29 9-13 130pt [Prototype]
The East German fully featured medium air superiority fighter, my favorite air superiority fighter, and my second favorite looking plane in general after the MiG-25P/PD (and perhaps the Tomcat). The MiG-29 features only Bad ECM, is only 900kph in speed, and gets a fairly weak cannon, but features the most powerful missile armament of any medium air superiority fighter short of the fully-featured F-15C and Su-27S: two fire-and-forget R-77 Vympel medium AAMs with standard range (6300 meters), maximum accuracy (12), and maximum stopping power (6 HE); and four top-class R-73A Vympel short AAMs, equivalent to NATO AIM-9M Sidewinders. Overall this plane is a glass cannon: because its ECM is worse than most and because it's slightly slower than usual, it's not as survivable as the other air superiority fighters, and so should be carefully kept away from anti-air nets. But boy is it powerful! Its survivability is less problematic if you keep it away from ground defense networks, but up in the air it will quite comfortably tear apart bombers, and it gets the stand-off capabilities of full fire-and-forget integration. I love it!
East Germany - Bombers and SEAD
A basic, no-frills throwaway iron bomber with twin NR-23s and a NR-37 machine gun, weapons of the immediate post World War II era, and a bomb load of two FAB 250 250kg HE bombs. No ECM, 750kph speed, overall a good package for its price.
A heavier version of the the MiG-17F, with the same armament and speed but double the bomb load. A worthy upgrade for 15 points, but not always really a necessary one, since it's not going to have any easier a time surviving its drops.
A Gsh-23 cannon and two RBK-500 500kg cluster bombs; a solidly built and solidly priced throwaway armor chipper that gets no ECM but goes fully 1000kph.
This is a very solid and very solidly costed SEAD option. A twin NR-23 cannon (ew) and two R-60 Molniyas make it one of the few SEAD planes that can multitask to shooting down incursions reasonably well, but most important here is its other armament: two Kh-58 SEAD missiles with second-best 4200 meter range and a solid 8 accuracy. On the structural front it offers Good ECM, Medium stealth, and a somewhat slow 750kph speed. Overall a solid SEAD option; it's not the best at dealing with difficult radar nests, but not the worst, and may well see some secondary use as well.
East Germany - Multirole
Multirole Rocket Strikers
A clone of the Russian MiG-21S, and just as good. For a discussion on why I like this plane in particular, see that entry in this guide.
Multirole Mud Pounders
An air-to-air payload of a weakish Gsh-23 and a pair of weak fast-firing R-60 Molniya short AAMs; an air-to-ground load of four RBK-500 500kg bombs. No ECM, but it does 900kph. Overall a decent package for the price but nothing to write home about and not a plane that's often seen on the battlefield.
Multirole Missile Strikers
Another nicely costed East German asset, this 90 point plane offers a Twin NR-23 and two R-60 Molniya short AAMs as an air-to-air armament (again, cheap and weak), and two Kh-29L semi-active air-to-ground missiles with maximum AP and good accuracy - enough to reliably put down 6.5 points of damage on an M1A1 and more often enough to kill it outright. This plane is a well-costed hard counter to enemy heavy armor that can add to your short-range air-to-air defenses in a pinch, and though it's fairly slow and fairly fragile it's a great value for its price.
Poland - Air Superiority and SEAD
Short Air Superiority
MiG-19 PM 60pt
Armed with quadruple R-55 short AAMs, which might be notable for being the earliest model of air-to-air missile included in the game: they came into being in 1957, having begun development in 1951. The missiles are very short range, even for an AAM, and less accurate than normal, but do do five damage a hit. Still without a cannon, ECM, or a decent speed (it manages just 750kph), this plane is a no-go, and not in the least competitive with, say, the French F-8E Crusader. Of course - why are you even using these things in the first place?
A top-end...short...air to air superiority fighter. Meh Gsh-23 cannon, and bad ECM but 1000kph and four R-73 Vympel short AAMs make this plane better than its competition. If you're Poland unfortunately this is the best air superiority you can get. Polan cannot into control airspace.
The Polish SEAD option and a competitive variant of the East German Su-22M4P. Overall...inferior. You lose your Molniyas and you go from 4200 meters in range on your missiles to 3500, but gain two more of them. Not worth it; the survivability that comes with greater range is always better than the number of missiles carried. If you ever get to empty all four missiles on this plane, your enemy is an idiot.
Poland - Ground Attack and Bombers
Twin NR-23, singe N-37 cannons, and a rocket packet of 32 S-5 57mm rockets; 150kph faster than the American Skyhawk, at 750kph. Yes please! This is to PACT what Skyhawk is to NATO, and overall I honestly prefer it.
Armed with a twin Gsh-23 and a packet of four S-24 240mm rockets, the 23BN is a high-end unguided rocket striker. Its primary advantage over the LIM-6M is its 900kph speed and the gargantuan stopping power of those rocket packets (which always one-hit KO), making this a powerful but not quite so disposable dedicated rocket attack aircraft. The LIM-6M is generally regarded as being the more cost-effective long-run choice, however.
A Twin NR cannon and a payload of two FAB 500 iron bombs; no ECM and 750kph of speed. The Su-7B doesn't compare too well against the Yak-38M, which has double the payload for 10 points more (this is slightly faster and has a gun), but is still a reasonably good hard HE attacker that definitely has a place in the Polish arsenal.
For five points more this aircraft gives you the same airframe as the Su-7B above, but changes in the twin FAB 500s for eight FAB 250s. Otherwise the planes are comparable, and if you're stuck choosing one over the other ask yourself what you need most, precision power, or payload coverage. Generally I find this to be the superior bomber because of the large difference in payload coverage.
Poland's counterpart to the Phantom and a top-class plane. The Su-7BKL comes armed with the maximum eight ZB500 napalm bombs, enough napalm to set an entire forest on fire, and it does so, unlike the Phantom, on a cost-effective airframe, dropping the same payload as the F-4S Phantom II for 20 points less. Remember, napalm bombers are high-risk, high reward, and the cost-to-payload ratio matters much more than secondary arnament, rendering this plane the PACT heavy napalm bomber of choice.
Don't even bother. Check the next option, which has better ECM, better missile range, and accuracy worth a damn for 10 points more. This is not where you pinch pennies.
The Polish 90 point cheap missile striker, the 22M3 offers the Twin NR-23, K-13M short AAMs, and two Kh-25ML semi-active air-to-ground missiles with standard accuracy but slightly-below-maximum damage (28 a pop). 750kph, bad ECM. It compares poorly with the East German 22M4, however: very marginally better short AAMs (arguably worse, even, because of the halved fire-rate) at the cost of a lesser-ranged and lower-damaged primary armament? It's still a decent plane and can still pop a M1A1 with a double hit, but it's distinctly the lesser craft of the two.
Czechoslovakia - Air Superiority and Ground Attack
Short Air Superiority
Avia S-105 40pt
To PACT what the Swedish J 35D Draken is to NATO. This ultra-light plane is armed with a triple NR-30 main cannon and sixteen ARS-57 air-to-air unguided rockets; it has no ECM and goes 750kph. The J 35D is pretty much strictly better except for when you're doing the only thing this plane could really ever be used for: shooting down lightly armored helicopters (probably Kiowas, to be cost-effective). Other than that? No.
Medium Air Superiority
The 21bis is armed with really, really good R-27R Vympel semi-active medium AAMs, the same powerful kickers used by the Su-27S; it's also 1000kph fast, and extremely economical. On the other hand it has merely bad ECM, an only acceptable Gsh-23 cannon, and an extremely weak air-to-air short AAM armament of double R-60 Molniyas. As such the bis cannot reasonably be expected to win a fight with other, more expensive air superiority up close, but it has a very good medium armament for you to peruse and is full-speed, making it a great and very economical bomber response vehicle, though not the most reliable one. It's best to think of the 21bis as a pair of bootstrapped R-27R Vympels: cheap and powerful, but vulnerable up close.
The Su-25 swaps out the Soviet Su's Kh-25MLs for eight S-24 unguided air-to-ground rockets powerful enough to nuke, effectively, whatever stands in its rather small zone of fire. This is easily the most powerful, most expensive, and most beefy air-to-ground rocket striker in the game; when it comes to attacking soft targets there's nothing better than this behemoth's striking power and heavy armor. Though it'll probably take you quite a few attack runs to pay back the cost of the airframe, the rockets reload very quickly; if you can keep the airframe from taking significant damage on its attacks, you'll find the Su-25 pays itself off very quickly. It's a pretty rare sight on the battlefield, but is still a really cool and quite useful addition to the Czech air arsenal. The best part is that it keeps enough rockets on hand to attack twice!
Czechoslavakia - Bombers and Multirole
L-29R Delfin 30pt
An extremely cheap delivery vehicle for a pair of FAB 250kg HE bombs - nothing else to it. 600kph, no ECM, and no secondary armament, but it's coming at such a low cost that you don't need any of that stuff anyway.
L-39 Albatross 45pt
Another bomb taxi, the Albatross like the Delfin deploys a bomb payload at the cheapest possible price: this one, two FAB 500kg bombs at 45 points. This plane is perfect for taking out high value splash targets or to deploy against flank infantry; however, tactically I prefer the L-29R, as on such a low-grade airframe price is more important than bomb load.
Keeping in line with other NWSP Su-22M4 acquisitions, the Czech variant of this airframe gets a Twin NR-23, Good ECM, 750 speed - and a payload of two 1000kg bombs. The Su-22M4 is a high-end dedicated bomber that solidly outclasses the American F-111E and is very comparable to the Soviet Su-24MP. However, like other heavy bombers it suffers perhaps from a lack of niche.
The MiG-23BN is a multirole air-to-ground strike aircraft, but at 100 points you're simply not going to get a very good aircraft for such a demanding task. There's nothing good about the MiG-23BN, really. The cannon, a Twin Gsh-23, is merely a weak air-to-air arnament with no AP damage; the missiles, a pair of Kh-23s, are semi-active, hit for an ok 28 damage but have a terrible 6 accuracy; and the air-to-air missiles are four firerate-boosted R-60 Molniyas, fairly innaccuate and very low power - you're not going to be able to reliably shoot anything down, unlike, say, the 135 point F/A-18A. It has no ECM, and goes 900kph. Unfortunately because of the weakness of this plane, the Czech thus do not have any real missile-based air-to-ground options that isn't a roll of the dice.
L-29RS Delfin 35pt
Two ZB500 250kg napalm bombs; an incredibly cost-effective plane that can block off an enemy route in the early game for next to nothing down, and functions as a throwaway tactical crutch for forcing out really annoying embedded infantry at any point in the game. As the cheapest napalm delivery vehicle in the game this plane rightfully gets a lot of action in Czech and all-PACT decks.
Comparisons: Medium Air Superiority Fighters
Medium air superiority fighters are the one aspect universal to every deck in the game, save the poor Polish, who cannot into control airspace, and the Norwegians. Everyone has their favorite: let's break down and compare.
F-15A (140pt) [USA] + Better than average cannon (Vulcan). + Better than average medium AAM availability (carries four). - Relatively expensive. - Medium AAMs are semi-active.
Tornado ADV F3 (140pt) [Britain] + Better than average ECM (Good). + Better than average medium AAM availability (carries four). + Better than average medium AAM range (7000m). - Relatively expensive. - Medium AAMs are semi-active. - Bad cannon.
Mirage 2000C RDI (115pt) [France] + Better than average ECM (Good). + Significantly less expensive than average. + Slightly more accurate than average medium AAMs. - Medium AAMs are semi-active. - Shorter than average medium AAM range (5600m). - Lighter than average short AAM availability (carries two).
F-4F ICE (135pt) [West Germany] + Better than average cannon (Vulcan). - Slightly slower than average (900kph).
CF-18 Hornet (155pt) [Canada] + Better than average cannon (Vulcan). + Better than average short AAMs (AIM-9Ms). - Significantly more expensive than average. - Medium AAMs are semi-active.
F-16A Block I5 (120pt) [Denmark] + Better than average cannon (Vulcan). + Better than average short AAMs (AIM-9Ms). + Less expensive than average. - Worse than average ECM (Bad). - Lighter than average short AAM availability (carries two). - Medium AAMs are semi-active.
JA 37 Viggen (120pt) [Sweden] + Less expensive than average. - Slower than average (900kph). - Worse than average short AAMs (Rb 24Js). - Medium AAMs are semi-active. - Worthless cannon.
MiG 29 9-13 (130pt) [East Germany] + Better than average short AAMs (R-73A Vympels). + Better than average medium AAMs (R-77 Vympels). - Worse than average ECM (Bad). - Slightly slower than average (900kph). - Worthless cannon.
MiG 25PD (100pt) [USSR] + Much less expensive than average. + Better than average ECM (Good). + Short-range AAMs aren't actually very short (4200 meter range). + Both AAMs much more powerful than average (7 HE). - Shorter than average medium-range AAM range (5600m). - Medium-range AAMs are semi-active. - Both AAMs slightly less accurate than average. - Underloaded short AAM availability (only carries two). - No cannon whatsoever.
MiG 21Bis (100pt) [Czechoslovakia] + Much less expensive than average. + Better than average medium AAM range (7000m). - Medium-range AAMs are semi-active. - Worse than average ECM (Bad). - Worse than average short AAMs (R-60 Molniyas). - Worthless cannon.
And of course the two reining champions.
F-15C (170pt) [USA] + Better ECM (Good). + Better cannon (Vulcan). + Better medium AAM availability (carries four). + Better short AAMs (AIM-9Ms). - Poor accuracy and easily shaken due to low veterancy.
Su 27S (170pt) [USSR] + Better ECM (Good). + Better medium AAM range (7000m). + Better medium AAM availability (carries four). + Better short AAM availability (carries six). + Better short AAMs (R-73A Vympels). + Near-perfect accuracy and difficult to panic due to high veterancy. - Medium AAMs are semi-active. - Slightly slower speed (900kph). - Bad cannon.