War Thunder

War Thunder

322 ratings
War Thunder Aviation Basics
By Thick Borgus and 1 collaborators
Covering controls, game modes, nation selection and combat tactics! Still a work in progress but I figured it was close enough to functional that I could release it.
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New Player FAQ
I'm not even going to install this I don't have a joystick...
This game is extremely mouse friendly in all but the strictest simulation mode. You point your mouse where you want to go and the plane will go there. If you do want to fly with a stick there is a simulation mode which is essentially a lighter version of IL-2. Everyone will be stuck in cockpit view and have to use either a real bad form of mouse input or a stick, so you won't be at a disadvantage. Otherwise you should definitely use a mouse.

What is even going on with this launcher?
It's a big piece of ♥♥♥♥ and you might need to actively change settings to make it work and sometimes it destroys your network if you have an old wireless router. Also weirdly it will sometimes go (much) faster if you set your language to Russian and then restart so try that if you're having problems. If you still can't fix it many people suggest using Peer Block[forums.peerblock.com] to limit connections and just complete their updating overnight.

Free to play? More like pay to win!
Despite really encouraging you to spend money, this game is surprisingly free of that sort of ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥. Paid options allow you to either reduce or bypass the grind entirely, and paid vehicles are either reskins of other nations or weird gimmick planes and prototypes that are generally evenly matched with their free counterparts and often not especially functional outside their niche. There are no premium-only upgrades / ammunition or anything like that and when you lose it will probably be because you did something dumb, not because you didn't pay an extra five dollars.

But what if I do want to spend money?
I put a lot more information in the "Research and Currencies" section but in short you should probably limit yourself only to buying premium aircraft and premium time, unless you absolutely MUST have a pin-up decal or one of the thirty camouflages for the P-40. If you want to spend a good amount of money and get a great deal, this pack on Steam gives you a good amount of premium time, a ton of premium currency and a couple solid planes.

World War 2 MMO? What does that even mean?
That's probably not the most accurate way to describe it. In nearly every mode this is an arena shooter with fixed teams, like Counter Strike or Overwatch. You pick a vehicle or group of vehicles and get tossed into a match with up to 31 other strangers flying roughly comparable aircraft. There is also a stupid experience point based system that unlocks new things, just like every game since Call of Duty 4.

What's the best nation / plane?
Seriously every nation has several great planes, and every plane works really well so long as it is behind another plane and shooting bullets into them. Figure out what you like to do (shoot planes, drop bombs, whatever) and unlock planes that do that. Try to play every nation a little just to get a feel for them, but never be afraid to research and unlock things simply because they look cool.

How are you guys doing all these crazy maneuvers?
Bind controls to the keyboard and use that so your camera doesn't go crazy and you can do exactly what you want rather than what the instructor thinks you want.

Also, in case you're coming from one of those other games, please note:
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO FLY THE PREVIOUS PLANE TO UNLOCK THE NEXT ONE. FLY YOUR FAVORITE PLANE(S). UNLOCK ALL THE PLANES.
Starting Nation
When you first log into War Thunder you will be prompted to choose a starting nation out of the five available; United States, Germany, USSR, UK / Commonwealth, and Japan. The only impact this choice has is which nation's starting premium vehicle you receive. Russia's premium "Zhukovsky's I-153-M62" is the "best" due to its broken tiering but is by no means a requirement. Each of the starter premiums can also be purchased for less than $2.00 of premium currency if you decide you want a different one.
Basic Setup
Controls
Unless you're planning to fly in simulator mode (discussed later) you should leave your control type and mouse usage set to "Mouse Aim". Modifications I suggest you make to the default scheme include:

Aircraft Control
Main Control Axes
  • Rebind the throttle axis away from W/S. Shift and control are good alternatives.
  • Set "Hold Throttle for WEP" to no.
  • Set pitch axis to W/S.
Mechanization
  • Consider binding keys to control flaps up / flaps down, instead of using toggle flaps. This will give you finer control at the expense on an additional key. I use F/V respectively and rebind toggle flaps to a distant key since I no longer use it.
  • Ensure you have a reachable key for air brakes if you plan to dive bomb, especially in realistic battles.
Camera Control
  • Ensure keys are bound for external view, virtual cockpit, gunner view and bomber view.
  • Tracking Camera: Enemy locks your view to an enemy while held and is extremely important - I use it so much it's bound to right click, but anything accessible that still allows you to fly with keyboard controls will work.
  • You may find it convenient to bind a key to look back / look down.
  • Sense of flight should be at least 50%, more at your preference. This will create a rocking / buffeting effect when your plane begins to stall or overspeed, helpful if you aren't focused on your speedometer.
Miscellaneous
  • Aerobatics smoke is important to troll your opponents, make sure you bind it.
Instructor
  • Turn every option off here.

Mouse Aim
  • Adjust aim control sensitivity and aim sensitivity to your own personal preference and mouse sensitivity. I use 35% and 25% respectively but differences in mouse DPI, system settings and your own preference may result in wildly different numbers here.
  • Ensure mouse smoothing is off.

Common Controls
Basic
  • Bind keys to tactical map and statistics to help you navigate and metagame, respectively.
  • Binding a key to leave the vehicle allows you to graciously quit in RB, avoid watching your aircraft flat spin to the earth for 45 seconds, and give people team kills whenever they nick you with light machine gun fire.
  • Lock Target is important if you listened to me and bound a key to "Tracking Camera", as you will track whatever target is locked. Middle mouse is convenient for this.
View Controls
  • Since I've already used right mouse for tracking camera, I assign zoom to Z, where I can reach it while still flying with the keyboard.
  • Mouse look activation should also be accessible - hold it down to look around you without making your plane have a small seizure.
Voice Messages
  • You don't need a control to message your squad, only your team.
  • Setting four favorite radio messages will make them available in the quick selection dialogue - I recommend "Attack my target" for callouts, "I'm attacking my target!" so you can accuse people of killstealing later, "Follow me" to report your own position, and "Cover me" so your teammates will continue to ignore your plight.

You may also wish to proceed through the individual controls and verify they are to your liking. Some options which are by no means critical but may be nice to have at some point are separate fire bindings for cannons and MGs (along with a "fire everything" button), an easy to access rocket binding, and if you enjoy bombing then keys for opening bomb bay doors and "drop bomb series" to dump everything explosive out of the aircraft.

Other Game Options
Main Parameters
  • Guns targeting distance (m) is a global default convergence range (discussed later!) and can be modified on a per aircraft basis. In general 300 meters is a safe setting which you can extend outward for specific aircraft or with more experience.
  • Vertical targeting is also a global default and in general should be off. It will also be discussed with convergence later and you can make the decision to modify it.
  • Aerobatics smoke type is an important setting since the default white is not very good for trolling. Wingtip purple is an excellent choice, or with your friends you may decide to fly red, white and blue or some other combination. Let your creativity run wild!
  • Autopilot for gunner and bomb sight modes should be set to "always".
  • Automatic aircraft rearmament on the airfield should be on.
  • Units are up to you, but this guide will typically use km/h, meters, kilometers, m/s, and °C.
  • Join already going battles is optional - it will place you in games with less waiting but will rarely bring you into matches at a disadvantage due to starting late. This is usually only a problem in ground forces games as you have many more options when flying. In general it's safe to leave this on until you're frustrated by it.
Graphics
This is not a tweak guide! Play with the settings or find someone to help you if you're worried about every last FPS. This game is very well optimized though so you shouldn't have many issues even at higher settings with older or less powerful video cards.

PostFX Settings
Not a tab but a button in the lower left of the game options window, PostFX can be adjusted to increase contrast, helpful for spotting undetected targets in realistic and simulator battles. Adjust until you find a setting that looks and plays well for you.

Interface
  • Crosshair is personal preference but something with a focal point can be helpful for aiming and a shape that isn't a circle will help you to distinguish your point of aim from your mouse aiming cursor.
  • Crosshair color should be as highly contrasting against blue skies and brown and green terrain as possible.
  • Indicated air speed should be on.
  • Maximize the damage indicator scale unless you have a small monitor / resolution, to allow you to easily identify damaged components.
  • Show leading should be on.
  • Show indicators should be on and set to "for all"
  • Indicators nick (player name), enginery (vehicle type), and distance should be set to on. Title is optional.
  • Fuel, ammo, and temperature indication should be set to always.
  • Enemy nameplates should be as contrasting as possible, often a neon pink works better than the default red.
  • Display aircraft damage should be set to yes.
Sound
  • Ensure that engine and gunfire volume are prominent however you set up your mix. This will help you hear unnoticed enemy planes approaching and firing on you.
  • Consider muting radio chat volume to avoid hearing the radio spam that is common in many matches.


Arcade Battles
Arcade battles (AB) are a relaxed or cartoonish approach to War Thunder, depending on who you ask. AB mode uses a less realistic flight and physics model which generally allows for greater maneuverability and energy retention, and allows all control types. Maps are also smaller and feature closer spawns, resulting in fast action and chaotic merges. Both teams can be composed of planes from any nation, allowing for fights between allied or even same-nation aircraft.

Other features of AB include:
  • Air spawns allow a player to get into action almost immediately.
  • Unlimited ammunition through use of in-air reloading. At player discretion or when emptied or jammed, weapons will enter a reloading state. Smaller caliber weapons like machine guns reload faster than large cannons, and bombs and rockets take even longer. When the countdown is complete, the weapon is reloaded.
  • All views allowed.
  • Players can fly out as many aircraft as they bring to the match.
  • No risk of damaging the aircraft or its components through excessive speeds or G-forces.
  • Enemies are highly visible even from long ranges and will show indicators when detected.
  • Enemy aircraft will display lead indicators within 700 meters, showing a rough estimate of wear to aim.
A few mission types (with several maps for each) are available in AB. Ground strike requires aircraft to destroy ground targets like armored cars, tanks, and pillboxes in order to drain enemy tickets and secure a win. Domination maps have one or more uncontrolled airfields which are captured when an aircraft touches down on them. The team with the most controlled airfields will drain the enemy's tickets. Air domination is almost a pure team death match experience, and features a single airborne control point in the center of the map that can only be captured once all enemy forces are destroyed or driven away.
Realistic Battles
Realistic battles (RB) are a combination of simulator's more rigorous flight model and many of the quality of life features found in arcade, set in historical battles with restricted teams. This mode has largely become the most competitive as it has a decent learning curve while still being accessible to pilots without flight sticks or other accessories. Most missions have one or more objectives that are usually ignored in favor of attempting to eliminate all enemy aircraft, which ends the game immediately.

Features of RB include:
  • Most missions require most planes to take off from the runway, and there is a lead time of several minutes as both teams climb and get into position.
  • All views allowed.
  • Only one aircraft spawn is allowed per match. You select your aircraft by choosing it in the hangar view before queuing. Damaged aircraft can be landed on friendly airfields or carriers to repair and rearm.
  • Limited fuel and ammunition. You must return to base for more.
  • Flying too fast (usually as a result of a steep dive) or pulling back too hard on the stick will cause your wings to rapidly abandon the rest of your aircraft. You will often have a brief warning before this occurs.
  • Lowering your flaps or gear at high speeds may also result in the rapid shedding of said modules.
  • More advanced engine management. War Emergency Power (WEP) can be used indefinitely, but engine overheating is now possible and will damage your aircraft.
  • Enemies will often remain undetected (visible as "dots" but not highlighted or on the map) until they are much closer.
  • No lead indicator.
Combined Arms Realistic Battles
Accessible through realistic tank battles, combined arms matches allow players who do well in their tank battle to then use aircraft from another hangar slot. All the features of RB are still present but indicators are completely eliminated for enemy aircraft, requiring players to spot dots and chase them down. Allows for high level griefing when you unleash multiple tons of high explosives on players in heavy tanks.
Simulator Battles
Unlike AB and RB there is no "standard" way to access simulator battles. Missions must be accessed from the events menu and are usually one of the following game types:

Enduring Confrontation
Enduring Confrontation (EC) is one of two constantly running simulator battle modes. Games are typically multiple hours long and allow join and drop in progress. Unlike other modes which have a singular set of objectives at mission start, EC presents a dynamic battlefield with shifting front lines, multiple airfields, and a number of changing objectives. Fighters may be called on to attack or defend AI bomber formations or reconnaissance aircraft, and of course engage aircraft flown by enemy players. Bombers and attackers will be able to attack strategic points, aid ground forces attacking or defending objectives, or strafe convoys behind enemy lines. Achieving several objectives may push enemy lines further back and allow the seizure or destruction of one or more of their airfields.

EC is divided into five different eras of aircraft to keep match-ups fair and prevent post-war jets from bouncing interwar biplane designs. This mode is exclusive to aircraft and has a unique spawn system allowing for infinite respawns of all aircraft so long as you can afford to pay their repair fee up front, with some caveats based on their battle rating. Aircraft with low battle ratings for the match can spawn without a point cost while aircraft at the higher end of the bracket will need to be paid for with spawn points, earned through battle activity, and may also be restricted on a timer. Because of the match requirements, there will never be a situation where you cannot spawn at least one plane.

This mode is often considered the more difficult of the two, as all players will be flying and focused primarily on threats in the air. The larger map and lack of focal point may make locating enemies frustrating, and it is less likely you'll be able to ambush a player focused on ground targets.

Tank Simulator Battles
Similar to CARB, tank simulator battles allow player controlled aircraft and tanks to fight on the same map. This mode has a small zone for tanks to battle and a much larger map for the aircraft to use. Airfields are often some distance from the battle area, allowing ground forces to disperse and avoid being bombed in their own spawn area. Due to the focal tank battle area, aircraft are usually easier to find and engage, and are often focused on ground attack missions so can be a good target for beginning simulation players. The major downside to flying in tank simulator battles is they are first and foremost missions for tanks. Some games you will fly for the entire match and not see another aircraft.

Unlike Enduring Confrontation, spawns are restricted

Features of SB include:
  • Most missions require most planes to take off from the runway. Because of prominent engine torque and joystick control, takeoff can be very difficult for new players. Most players elect to remain closer to the ground (<3 km altitude) to help detect enemy aircraft, but there is still a substantial lead time before meeting enemy forces.
  • View is restricted to cockpit only once aircraft is in motion.
  • Controls are restricted to a physical joystick or a highly unintuitive mouse control.
  • Spawn limits are based on match type. Enduring confrontation allows unlimited spawns of multiple planes while tank simulator battles restrict the player to a single spawn of any allowed aircraft.
  • Limited fuel and ammunition.
  • Same flight model as RB, but without the game's virtual instructor feature to stabilize the aircraft. This results in far more stalls, spins, and other departures from controlled flight.
  • Enemy aircraft do not show any indicators and friendly aircraft will only display indicators at extremely short range (<900 meters), either on screen or the tactical map.
Matchmaking
Matchmaking Basics
Battle Rating
Every vehicle in the game has a battle rating (BR) which determines the vehicles it is able to encounter. BRs are calculated as a combination of the vehicle's flight performance, armament, payload, and some questionable statistical analysis by Gaijin. BRs may be different depending on the mode - for example an excellent aircraft with a small ammunition load may be highly rated in arcade, where in flight reloading is possible but several ratings lower in realistic battle.

In arcade and realistic battles a match is composed of vehicles within one battle rating of each other. For example a player with a BR 4.0 vehicle could find himself facing up to BR 5.0 aircraft or as low as BR 3.0 aircraft, but never both at once. This usually isn't a problem in most games as even underpowered vehicles have specific niches they can exploit, even against a more advanced aircraft.

Eras
Aircraft are also divided into eras, roughly representing their date of introduction. Era I is pre-war and very early war aircraft, Era V is post-war jet aircraft, and so on. Era has no effect on what opponents you may face, only battle rating.

Calculating Battle Ratings
Arcade Battles
Arcade BR is an average of your three highest rated aircraft, weighted toward the top rated vehicle. It is calculated as:

(A/2)+(B/4)+(C/4)
Where A is your highest BR and B and C are you next two highest BRs. Note that you can only decrease your BR by a single step by using inferior vehicles, and that "B" and "C" must be within 1.0 BR for the game to count them. Battle ratings are rounded to the nearest BR step.

Some examples of this:
Aircraft "A"
Aircraft "B"
Aircraft "C"
Calculated BR
Notes
4.0
3.7
3.7
4.0
Calculated BR rounds up to 4.0
4.0
3.3
3.3
3.7
4.0
1.0
1.0
4.0
1.0 is too low to be considered, ignored

Practically speaking, simply keeping your hangar filled with aircraft relatively close in battle rating will serve you well and save you from having to calculate anything!

Realistic Battles
Realistic battles simply use the BR of whatever aircraft you bring to the fight. Since you're only allowed to queue with a single plane, calculating your BR is as simple as looking at it.

Simulator Battles
Simulator battles either have a predefined BR range (Enduring Confrontation) or a predefined list of allowed aircraft (tank simulator battles). In the former, bring a decent mix of vehicles on the lower end of the battle rating bracket to minimize costs and allow easy spawning, while in the latter simply pick your favorite vehicle from those available!
Research and Currencies
Research Points
Research Points (RP) are the currency used to unlock new vehicles in a tree as well as for upgrading components on individual vehicles. RP is acquired from nearly every action in the game, including successfully taking off, engaging targets and even being near enemy aircraft or taking hits. Research income can be increased with a premium account, using a premium or talismanned vehicle, or by using boosters. In general the most efficient method of earning RP is destroying enemy player-controlled aircraft when possible or destroying bases and ground targets otherwise. Currently only kills are well-rewarded, with even significant assists granting only a small fraction of a kill's value. This can lead to a swarm of friendly aircraft chasing a flaming, disabled aircraft to the ground attempting to get the last hit, or even pilots with hurt feelings attempting to team kill due to a perceived kill steal. Also note that winning the match will increase RP received, but it's probably better to score an extra kill or two and lose the game rather than die attempting to salvage a bad match.

Research income scales with game mode. RB has twice the income of AB, and SB has 2.5x the income of AB. In most cases this balances out as RB and SB games usually take much longer to complete, but in some cases in may be preferable to abuse this for rapid research gains. For example playing AB and recklessly engaging in headons with a hangar full of planes may allow you to get several kills in just a few minutes, which would be far more profitable than a single kill over twenty minutes of RB. Meanwhile, bombing in RB may allow you to quickly dive to enemy base, unload your entire payload and possibly shoot an enemy fighter down in about the same amount of time as it would take in AB, but with twice the income. Try different game modes to find optimum RP gains, or simply fly what you enjoy and let the unlocks come at their own pace!

Modifications Research
Modification research is your flat research income, modified by any active boosts. It is used for unlocking aircraft modifications like engine upgrades or new types of ammunition. You can only research modifications for the aircraft you are flying, so there is no way to unlock a new bomb payload on one of your bombers by flying one of your fighters.

Vehicle Research
Vehicle research is used to unlock new vehicles in the tree. You can research and unlock any vehicle by flying any other, so there is no requirement to fly an aircraft you hate in order to unlock the next one in the line. Just to emphasize the previous statement - you can fly anything and research any other vehicle in the same nation. Vehicle research is earned at the same rate as modification research, but can be modified up or down based on position in the tech tree.

If you fly the aircraft directly preceding the vehicle you're research (for example, research the P-36C with the P-36A) you will receive a bonus. Conversely, using a plane that is several eras apart from the vehicle you are researching will impose a bonus. Check an aircraft's stat card and look for "Max vehicle research efficiency" or simply avoiding researching anything more than one era above or below what you're currently flying. For example, an era III aircraft could effectively research anything in eras II-IV, while an era I biplane could only research era I-II without penalty.

Free Research
Free or convertible research points are earned with every mission but can only be applied toward vehicle research through use of premium currency, normally at an atrocious conversion rate. It is suggested you just let these collect and pretend they aren't there.

Silver Lions
The non-premium currency of the game. Silver lions are awarded for nearly everything in the game, much like RP, but can also be earned for accomplishing certain achievements each game like "First Strike" or "Survivor". Silver lion income also increases with boosters, premium accounts and by flying premium aircraft. Silver lions are also deducted at the end of the match for vehicle repair, ammunition expended, and team kills, but in almost every case you will end up with a positive balance with even poor performance.

Silver lions are spent to purchase new vehicles, purchase modifications for those vehicles, train crews to use those vehicles, and to upgrade crews to expert status once sufficient crew points have been acquired. Silver lions can also be used to purchase your fourth and fifth hangar slots, something which should be done as soon as possible especially if you plan to play AB, CARB, or Sim EC modes.

Golden Eagles
Golden eagles are the game's premium currency. A small number can be earned through completing tutorials or accomplishing rare battle wagers, but in general you need to spend real money on them. They can be used for a number of purposes in game, including:
  • Purchasing premium account time
  • Purchasing premium aircraft
  • Converting "free" RP into regular tree unlocks
  • Unlocking modules on purchased vehicles
  • Purchasing talisman and backup vehicle upgrades for regular tree vehicles
  • Purchasing crew points
  • Unlocking skins and decals without meeting requirements.
  • Unlocking additional (6+) hangar slots
  • Forming clans
Of these, only premium time, premium aircraft and talismans are a good value, though ultimately it's up to you how to spend your money! If you do want to throw money at this game, one of the most cost-effective methods is to purchase packs on Steam, which include vehicles, golden eagles and premium time and will occasionally go on sale. Gaijin also offers regular holiday sales and intermittent discounts at other times of the year, so if you're trying to be frugal those can be excellent times to purchase discounted premium time or aircraft.
Hangars, Crew and Training
Hangar Slots
Once you've unlocked a vehicle through research and purchased it with silver lions, you will then need to select which hangar slot to place it in. This requires training a crew to use the vehicle, which also costs silver lions. Once a crew has been trained on a vehicle you will always be able to freely place that vehicle in that hangar slot, even if you place other vehicles there after. You can also train multiple crews on the same vehicle, if you wanted to use a premium aircraft to gain crew points quickly on multiple crews.

You can save a given hangar as a quick selection, useful if you have a few lineups you enjoy using or want to have a hangar for every BR bracket.

In general you should come up with some sort of system for placing aircraft - have a dedicated bomber slot so you don't need to spend an inordinate amount of crew points improving your gunners, for example. This will make slotting new aircraft in easier, especially if you have difficulty remembering to use the hangar preset options.

Crew Skills
Crew skills are divided into several categories, each containing skills of varied utility.
Pilot
  • Keen Vision: Determines when enemy aircraft shift from black dots to identified, marked targets in the direction the camera is pointed. More prominent in realistic battles, especially for aircraft in the clouds, against ground clutter, or coming out of the sun. Does not apply to SB.
  • Awareness: As keen vision but in the directions the camera isn't looking. Does not apply to SB.
  • G-Tolerance: When you pull hard maneuvers your pilot will begin to black out, causing your screen to dim. If you continue experiencing high G-forces your pilot will eventually lose consciousness, resulting in losing control of the aircraft for several seconds. This skill improves both how many G's your pilot can experience and for how long they can be sustained without blacking out. Highly recommended for both boom and zoom and turn fighting tactics.
  • Stamina: As you fly and sustain G-forces your pilot will begin to suffer reduced G-Tolerance and consequently flight accuracy in mouse aim mode. Increasing stamina will reduce this effect.
  • Vitality: Very important skill, this will increase the survivability of your pilot should he take hits. With no vitality the pilot will die (become "knocked out" this game is T for Teen okay?) from a single .30-caliber impact or equivalent shrapnel. At maximum vitality the pilot will be able to sustain up to a single .50-caliber bullet or equivalent shrapnel impact. While you should try not to get shot, this will help you when you are.
Gunners
  • Experienced Gunners: If you have more turrets than experienced gunners, all gunner skills will be reduced proportionally. On an aircraft with max gunner skill, two turrets and one experienced gunner, both gunners will act as if they only had half their skills. Look down the tech tree and figure out how many turrets are on the biggest bomber you plan to fly and eventually purchase that many experienced gunners and no more.
  • Fire Accuracy: Effects the accuracy of fire when the AI controls your gunners.
  • Fire Precision: Effects the spread / bloom of fire when the AI controls your gunners.
  • G-Tolerance: Same as the pilot skill. Higher levels allow your gunners to engage during high G maneuvers.
  • Stamina: Same as the pilot skill.
  • Vitality: Same as the pilot skill. Gunners are often more protected than pilots and you don't automatically lose when they're killed so this can be of lower priority than many other skills.
Logistical Services
  • Repair Speed: This skill determines how quickly your plane is repaired on the runway during a match, and is also responsible for how long "free repairs" take in the hangar. By unchecking "auto-repair" in the hangar, damaged vehicles can be slowly (hours to days) repaired at no cost. This is useful if to use for the last round of the night to obtain a small discount if you're short on silver lions.
  • Repair Rank: The repair speed skill only affects aircraft at era equal to or less than the repair rank. Increase this if you want your repair speed skill to apply to later era vehicles.
  • Reload Speed: Reload speed affects both AB's in-flight reloading as well as reloading on the runway in RB and SB. In general your reloads will less time than your repairs so if you don't plan to fly AB this skill is unneeded. If you do fly AB, this skill will let you engage targets more frequently and really lay on the guns without having to worry and should be one of your priorities.
  • Weapon Maintenance: This reduces the spread of bombs and rockets and allows you to fire longer and more frequent bursts without jamming. Useful and relatively cheap.
Aircraft Types
War Thunder categorizes aircraft by applying one or more tags to every vehicle, broadly classifying them as fighters / heavy fighters / attackers / bombers. Other traits may also be specified, some important like "dive bomber" or "naval fighter", and others less relevant like "air defense fighter" or "long-range bomber" which only apply to spawn locations on some maps in some game modes.

Fighter
These are single engine aircraft with a primary purpose of destroying enemy aircraft. They can be divided into "turn fighters", "energy fighters", and "boom and zoomers". These categories are not mutually exclusive and can often be relative - a turnfighter like a Spitfire should pursue boom and zoom techniques against a biplane due to their relative strengths. These traits and how to best use them will be covered in greater detail in the tactics section of the guide.

In general these are the "go-to" vehicles, especially in realistic battles where games are won or lost from elimination of the enemy team more often than from completion of objectives. Single engine fighters are generally more agile and often have equal or better climb rates and acceleration compared to heavy fighters, while still packing enough forward armament to accomplish their goals.

Light Fighter
This tag doesn't mean much - some very light aircraft like the Nimrod-series biplanes lack it, while even mid-war monoplanes like the Ki-43-III Otsu have it as their only tag. In general refers to a more agile aircraft but should probably be ignored.

Interceptor
Aircraft with good speed and high rates of climb usually are tagged as interceptors, though many aircraft designed specifically for interception work lack this tag.

Strike Fighter
This tag is reserved for aircraft that can serve as ground attack platforms in addition to their normal role. These aircraft usually have options for heavy rocket or bombloads, making them excellent for later stage realistic battles or in combined arms against player-controlled ground vehicles.

Heavy Fighter
Heavy fighters are twin-engine fighter aircraft with a focus on forward firepower and defensive turrets and ground attack munitions are often an afterthought, if present at all, though this is by no means a rule. Performance varies significantly - pure heavy fighters like the P-38 Lightning and the F7F-1 Tigercat are fast, have high rates of climb and good performance in a dive. Others like the Do-217 and Bf-110 can be somewhat sluggish but still viable against ground targets and less agile aircraft like bombers, attackers and other heavy fighters. Finally some models like the Pe-3 combine lackluster flight performance with poor armament and should be reserved almost exclusively for ground attack work.

In general, heavy fighters don't perform well in the metagame of realistic battles, as their flight performance prevents them from getting their ample forward firepower on target or avoiding enemy attacks. Models with good rates of climb can circumvent these issues by restricting themselves to boom and zoom attacks, preferably against targets already engaged with friendlies. In arcade the more generous flight models and greater overall chaos often allows for some kills, and their higher stability and visibility makes them a good choice in simulator modes as well.

Attacker
Attacker's primary role is to engage enemy ground targets with a combination of guns, rockets and bombs. Some may be equipped with defensive guns and flight performance varies wildly with aircraft. The Hs 129B is slow and sluggish and the Ju 87G can barely stay in the air, while the Su-2 has almost biplane-like agility and the F-82E has outlandish dive performance.

Attackers should focus on targets best suited to their combination of performance and weapons. The PBJ-1J series is not at all agile but contains devastating forward firing guns, making it exceptional at hitting convoys of light vehicles or widely spaced emplacements. Meanwhile the Hs 129B-2 should focus on attacking medium and heavy tanks with 30mm HVAP fire to allow other attack aircraft to focus on lighter or more stationary ground targets.

Bomber
This tag is used to describe all manner of aircraft, from small single engine dive bombers to the massive six engine BV 238 V1 flying boat, so long as their primary role is the destruction of enemy ground targets through use of bombs.

Light / Medium / Heavy Bomber
This designation is usually a combination of aircraft size and engines, payload options and defensive armament, and should be considered purely descriptive.

Dive Bomber
These aircraft drop their bombs in a steep dive toward their target. This often allows greater precision but requires the bomber to shed altitude and expose themselves to ground fire. In arcade battles the bombing sight will only appear in a dive and accuracy will increase at lower altitudes and in steeper dives.

Torpedo Bomber
These vehicles are capable of equipping anti-ship torpedoes, either exclusively (Beaufighter Mk VIc) or in addition to other payload options. Torpedoes are highly effective against ships and usually easier to employ, but force aircraft into low-altitude, often low-speed attack runs and expose them to both fighter screens and defensive AA fire. They are also completely ineffective against ground targets, even with direct hits.

Spawn Related Tags
Air Defense Fighter
These aircraft will often spawn at an altitude between 1000 and 3000 meters.

Front Line Bomber
Unlike most bombers models equipped with this tag will often spawn on the airfield with fighters and attackers.

Long Range Bomber
These models will spawn at a high altitude (usually around 4000 meters) but further back from the battlefield compared to other bombers.

Naval Fighter / Naval Bomber
These aircraft have tailhooks enabling them to easily land on aircraft carriers. They also feature ruggedized airframes which often make them heavier and thus less agile and slower to accelerate and climb compared to similar ground based vehicles. In naval maps these aircraft will usually spawn on the carrier. Aircraft WITHOUT the naval tag will either spawn at a forward airfield or in the air over the carrier fleet.

Supplementary Tags
Biplane
An aircraft built with two wings stacked on top of each other instead of the typical monoplane construction. These aircraft are usually highly maneuverable but slower and lacking dive performance due to their excessive drag.

Hydroplane
Smaller aircraft models equipped with pontoons to allow for water landings are described as hydroplanes. Examples include the A6M2-N, He-51 B-2/Hydroplane, and OS2U-1 Kingfisher.

Flying Boat
Larger hydroplanes that land directly on their fuselage like the H6K4, Sunderland or PBY-5a Catalina are considered flying boats.

Jet Fighter / Jet Bomber
This tag is simply to indicate jet propulsion.



Nations Overview
United States
American aircraft are very similar to many Americans in that they are extremely heavy.

Their fighters are characterized by powerful engines, excellent durability, large fuel and ammunition reserves, and an excess of wing mounted .50-caliber heavy machine guns. These features limit their acceleration, climb, roll, and turn rates but also grant them excellent energy retention, high top speeds and the ability to deliver large volumes of fire and take shots at longer ranges to harass or even destroy fleeing targets.

American bombers continue this trend, featuring solid armor and robust designs, a plethora of defensive turrets with good coverage also equipped with powerful heavy machine guns, and reasonable bomb loads. American forces lack dedicated ground attack aircraft outside of a few naval dive bombers, and instead impress fighter or bomber airframes into the role. This creates monstrosities like the P-47D, which is an excellent high altitude fighter that can also be equipped with 2,500 lbs. of bombs and ten rockets, or the PBJ-1H, a navalized B-25 which retains all the defensive guns and a 2,000 lbs. bombload but also incorporates eight forward firing fixed heavy machine guns and a 75mm cannon in the nose.

The United States also has arguably the best premium aircraft tree in the game and features iconic aircraft from most nations. The German Fw 190 and Bf 109, the British Spitfire and the Japanese A6M Zero are all present along with a collection of prototype designs like the pusher propeller equipped XP-55 or the twin-engine Grumman XP-50 which lives up to its name of "Skyrocket".

Germany
The German fighter tree has a heavy emphasis on boom and zoom and energy fighting tactics, making them ideal for players who like to fly high, go fast and swoop in to destroy targets at their leisure with some of the most effective cannons in the game. Germany also has several heavy fighters which are challenging to use against other aircraft but can be effective improvised ground attack platforms. Like the United States, German fighters are not terribly agile, though their lighter construction and center-mounted armament generally allow them better acceleration, climb, and roll rate.

German bombers and attackers are not terribly effective - generally every airframe has at least some glaring defect with its defensive layout which can be easily exploited and most aircraft are relatively underpowered, restricting their top speed, acceleration and maneuverability. If left alone however, German bombers can do serious damage. Even the lowly Ju 87 R-2 can bring a 1000 kg bomb, and the He-111 H-3 can bring twice that payload, both at a BR of only 1.7 (AB)!

German ground attack is somewhat better than its bomber fleet but still has many questionable options. For example, the Ju 87G series for omits bombs for two wing-mounted 37mm cannons with only 12 rounds per gun. The combination of an underpowered engine, low ammunition capacity and convergence issues associated with outboard weapons make this Stuka almost useless. Meanwhile, the Me410 B-6/R3 is a capable airframe that brings two 30mm cannons with 120 rounds per gun capable of nearly the same penetration as the 37mm at typical engagement ranges, along with two 20mm offensive guns and two 13mm defensive turrets.

Soviet Union
The Soviet Union is a generalist nation with two distinct fighter lines throughout most of the game. Compared to each other, the Yak series is slightly more agile and the LaGG / La series is slightly faster, but both must play against their opponent's weakness to do well. In general Soviet fighters have acceptable armament, usually one or more nose mounted cannons but suffer from low ammunition capacity and thus demand good marksmanship and fire discipline. The benefit of this is lowered weight, especially in the wings, allowed for good climb and roll rates and excellent acceleration. Soviet fighters tend to suffer more in the late game as the aircraft they face become more specialized and pilots play to their strengths, but early to mid game a good pilot can dominate in Soviet aircraft.

Early Soviet bombers are not very effective. The SB 2M series suffers from a small payload and poor defensive weapons, the Ar-2 is too heavy for precise dive bombing and its bombs are too small for anything else, the IL-4 brings a better payload but retains the terrible defensive situation, and the Pe-2 is a strange combination of ground attack aircraft, dive bomber and conventional bomber that does none of these things particularly well and is actually best served by eschewing bombs altogether in favor of rockets. The Pe-8 is the first bright spot in the Soviet lineup, capable of a massive bombload (including a single 5000 kg bomb), good defensive coverage and excellent durability. The Yer-2 ACh-30B (E and L) is also excellent for its ability to scream past enemy interceptors in a dive and release up 500 kg of ordnance on a target.

Soviet ground attack is a sore point as well. The near legendary IL-2 is not very effective in game due to the lack of shaped charge bomblets for antitank use or sufficient lighter targets for strafing with cannons and machine guns. Both it and the Pe-3 are best used for rocket attacks over other methods of engagement. The BB-1 and Su-2 are acceptable for their BR, acting more as light fighter-bombers than ground attackers, but their small payload still hampers their efficacy against armored targets. Most Soviet fighters are also of limited value against against ground targets, with most carry no bombs or very limited payloads.
Nations Overview, continued
United Kingdom
The British fighter tree contains one of the most versatile turnfighters in the entire game, the beautiful Supermarine Spitfire. A variety of models are available, from the prewar Mk Ia all the way to Griffon engine equipped postwar Spitfires like the Mk 22 and 24. Hurricanes are somewhat slow but acceptably agile gun platforms, mounting up to a dozen .303 machine guns in the wings, Typhoons are heavy but powerful energy fighters also capable of competent ground attack, and their successors are just as useful in that role but even more effective in the air. The British also have access to the Beaufighter, a twin-engine heavy fighter adapted from a bomber airframe packing four nose mounted 20mm Hispano cannons at a surprisingly low battle rating, and later the Mosquito and Brigand, potent ground attackers. Overall the British tree has aircraft that fill nearly every niche, but unlike generalist Soviet aircraft British vehicles are far more specialized for their roles and when played to their strengths very dominant.

The British also have an acceptable lineup of bombers, though most lack any sort of real defensive armament due to the lower risk of enemy air attack during their historical mission of night bombing operations. However most of their bombers do come with impressive payload options - the Hampden can bring 4,000 lbs. of bombs at BR 1.7, even the earliest Wellington can equip the impressive 4,000 lb. "Cookie", excellent in CARB matches to completely obliterate a capture point, and the Halifax, Stirling and Lancaster can bring up to 12,000, 13,500, and 14,000 lbs. of bombs respectively. If you can avoid enemy fighter attention these bombers are more than capable of clearing every strategic point off the map in a single run.

The British premium tree is a collection of aircraft including the American F6F Hellcat, P-51 Mustang and PBY-5a Catalina, Australian designs including the very agile Boomerang, even more Spitfires, and the Wyvern, a turboprop powered contra-rotating propeller equipped ground attack aircraft mounting an arsenal including four 20mm cannons and options for 16 rockets or 3,000 lbs. of bombs.

Japan
The Japanese aviation tree is somehow one of the best kept secrets in the War Thunder community, and it contains some of the best aircraft in the game. Japanese vehicles in general are lightweight and highly agile, able to climb quickly and outturn anything that isn't a biplane. In exchange for this they are very fragile and early variants are undergunned or lack significant ammunition reserves. Japanese battle rating assignment and repair costs are also questionable for some planes, both far too high in some cases and surprisingly low in others. Japanese teams attract some of the more experienced players in the game and you can usually expect more support and success when flying with them.

Japanese fighters are dominant in RB and more than hold their own elsewhere. Their excellent climb rate allows them to have an altitude parity or advantage over most of their opponents, preventing them from being bounced with impunity, and their turn rate allows them to easily destroy any enemy who finds themselves low on energy nearby. Most players are too impatient to outclimb the Japanese aircraft or to extend from a bad situation, and will often foolishly engage in a turnfight. Some of the best examples of Japanese fighters include the iconic A6M2 Zero, the faster and better armed Ki-100, or the amazingly nimble Ki-43, especially the -III otsu model.

Japanese heavy fighters are more limited by comparison but there are still a number of good choices. The Ki-45 lineup has one of the earliest "bloop" guns in the game on the Ki-45 otsu, which sports a nose mounted 37mm at a BR of 2.3 (AB). The Ki-45 tei is one of the few fighters to be equipped with "Schräge Musik", upward firing angled cannons that allow it to engage in surprising circumstances. Later models continue the trend of powerful centrally mounted cannons, high speeds, good energy retention and surprising agility but are still a definite second-best when compared to Japanese single-engine fighters.

Japan has only a few dedicated ground attack aircraft. Early options are slow and lack significant payloads but are highly agile. The B5N2 is the first aircraft with appreciable bombs, but it isn't particularly fast or agile and has pitiful defensive weapons and no offensive armament at all. The B7A2 is a significant improvement, agile enough to dogfight even many dedicated fighters with its dual 20mm, fast enough to not spend the entire mission getting to the target, and equipped with a bomb sight and dive brakes.

Japan does have a tremendous advantage in torpedo bombing over other nations. Many of their attackers (B5N2, B7A2) and larger seaplane bombers (H6K4, H8K2) are equipped with one or more powerful torpedoes, which can be dropped from higher altitudes and at higher speeds than their allied counterparts, while still retaining good speed in the water, an appreciable two kilometer range and solid damage.

Japan's level bombers are more numerous but the line itself is hit or miss. Early examples include the unimpressive Ki-21 but also the monstrous four-engine H6K4 seaplane, a highly durable aircraft with impressive defensive armament (including a 20mm turret) capable of delivering 1600 kg of bombs at BR 2.3 (AB). This is followed by the G4M1 and a string of Ki-49s, remarkably average medium bombers with limited payload for their battle rating. Finally the G5N1 is capable of hefting a respectable 3200 kg and the G8N1 can manage 2400 kg but also comes with a defensive armament of six 20mm cannons and four 13mm heavy machine guns across six well-placed turrets. In general Japan is a much more rewarding nation if you choose to pursue their fighter aircraft instead of attempting to conduct ground attack.

Japan's premium tree has a mashup of American and German aircraft, including the a B-17, F4U, Fw 190 and Bf 109, along with prototype or limited production runs of their own aircraft, like the A7M1 and Ki-100-II.


Combat Basics

Basics of Flight
Aircraft operate on a balance of four forces - lift and weight are paired and thrust and drag are paired. Without getting into excessive technical detail, increasing lift improves low-speed handling and turn performance, but limits top speed. Reducing weigh effectively increases lift and also improves climb rate and acceleration, but reduces energy retention and dive performance. Every pilot must be aware of their vehicle's particular attributes and how to use them to their advantage while minimizing their opponent's strengths.

There are three main types of aircraft that result from this balancing act of forces: turn fighters, boom and zoomers, and energy fighters. Turn fighters are generally lightweight aircraft with high rates of turn and climb, but poor energy retention and dive performance. Boom and zoomers are the opposite, heavy planes which hold energy through the dive and low drag wings which impair turning performance but allow for much higher top speeds. Energy fighters are often somewhere between the two, lighter aircraft with powerful engines and intermediate lift / drag profiles, granting good acceleration and adequate overall performance.

Energy
Energy management is the most important aspect of surviving air combat. Total energy is a combination of your potential energy and kinetic energy. An aircraft at high altitude and very low speed may have less total energy than one lower but faster, and the heavier of two aircraft at identical speeds and altitudes will have the higher energy state. Evaluating enemy energy states at a glance is important to know if you're at an absolute advantage, even footing, or fighting defensively.

Banking energy is important the reason why many players elect to climb to high altitudes at the start of a realistic battle. Energy is often described as a currency - climbing earns more potential energy, while making abrupt maneuvers to defend against attacks or pursue an evading enemy spends it. Using economical techniques like boom and zoom attack runs, not turning with a lower energy opponent and focusing maneuvers in the vertical help to conserve energy, and appropriate management will force your opponent to "outspend" you, giving you the win even if you started at a disadvantage.

Aircraft Strengths
Knowing how your aircraft compares to others is important. Unfortunately this is a process of rote memorization and trial and error, with many variables involved. For example the F4F-3 Wildcat is not normally a very agile aircraft relative to the A6M2 Zero, but at high speeds compression will lock the Zero's controls, allowing the Wildcat to outroll the Zero. Below is a very generalized chart showing relative turn performance.

(There are a ton of exceptions to this chart please stop telling me)

When facing an aircraft which turns better, ONLY attack with energy fighting and boom and zoom techniques. If you're more maneuverable, you should still use those techniques (though they will often be less effective) until at an even energy level, and then fall back on turn fighting techniques.

Fighting Styles
Turnfighting / Turn and Burn
The "classic" approach to dogfighting, this mode is favored by new players and is arguably the easiest to understand. Turn the aircraft until a gun solution is available and then fire. Repeat until the target is dead. This approach has a few problems associated with it. First, if facing a more agile aircraft, they simply need to do the same thing and not only will they be able to avoid your fire, given enough circling you'll find yourself in front of their guns. Second, any turning depletes some of your energy, and tight circling and constant maneuvering will rapidly slow your aircraft. When fighting against a single enemy this isn't such a huge issue, after all you're behind him and he's not much of a threat, but if he has any wingmen anywhere in the area they'll find you to be an incredibly easy target without the energy reserves necessary to pull a hard defensive maneuver.

You should do your best to avoid these types of engagements unless you're absolute sure there are no enemy nearby and you can outturn your target. Even better if you have friends nearby to cover you from attack or exploit your target's lowered energy state. Biplanes, some Japanese fighters (A6M, Ki-43) and British Spitfires all excel at these types of fights so be extremely careful engaging them in this way. If engaged in a turnfight, especially against a more agile opponent, you should attempt to dive away, preferably toward friendly lines. If you know you can outmaneuver them AND no enemies are nearby consider breaking hard to either destroy them or drive them away. Your best defense against getting trapped in a turnfight is situational awareness and a good energy reserve.

Boom and Zoom
Boom and zoom (BnZ) is an opportunistic style of attack that is particularly effective with a wingman. The approach is simple - approach your enemy from a higher altitude, make a shallow dive on them, firing when in range and then, regardless of the outcome, speed away, either in flat escape followed by a shallow climb or in a steep "zoom climb". If your opponent evades, do not follow them in their turn, simply abort your run and climb back up to altitude, preserving your energy while wasting their own. If you have a wingmate, alternating booms can rapidly deplete your opponent's energy, forcing them to either dive lower or be destroyed.

These attacks are best made by heavy, fast aircraft, for improved dive performance and recovery. Heavy hitting, long-ranged weapons with good ammunition reserves are also ideal, to allow a stream of fire to be laid down in front of the target and to ensure heavy damage without the need for follow up shots. American .50-caliber batteries, and German and Russian centrally mounted cannons are ideal, but most weapon systems can be made to work.

If targeted by a boom and zoom attack, your options are limited. Keep an eye on your opponent and break toward them as they begin their run. Breaking too early will waste your energy, too late will give them a guns solution, so be careful. If they commit to the run you'll have a brief moment as they fly past to get guns on target. If you're unsure of your marksmanship another alternative is to dive away from your enemy, preferably toward friendly fighters, and then reset by climbing back to altitude away from your enemy. If you're being bounced on the deck you don't have many options but to flee to friendly AA or, in extreme circumstances, hug the deck and turn under your opponent, hoping they overcommit and crash, though this is very unlikely against experienced players.

Energy Fighting
Energy fighting can be considered a hybrid style, relying on maintaining energy and maneuvering in a manner that forces your opponent to squander their own. Unlike boom and zoom techniques, energy fighting offers less reprieve from constant attacks, and unlike turn fighting, it avoids trying to match an opponent turn for turn and instead elects to cut them off using vertical maneuvers, preserving energy while still staying on target. The actual maneuvers and techniques used in energy will be discussed in greater detail in [[b]Advanced Maneuvers[/b]].
Intermediate Dogfighting
Principles
Specific Energy

Turn Performance

Pursuit Curves

Out-of-Plane Maneuvers

Positioning

Concepts
Turn Circle

Overshoots

Circle Flow
Maneuvering Concepts

Simple Maneuvers
Flat Turn
The most basic method of changing direction. From level flight, roll 90° and pull back on the stick until the desired heading is reached. Acceptable for navigation purposes, flat turns in combat result in a loss of speed and energy and are usually easier to predict and fire on.

Pitchback / Slice
Similar to a flat turn but involving either a ~45° or 135° roll before turning. The pitchback uses a 45° roll to cause the aircraft to gain altitude and lose speed, useful if coming out of a boom to reduce compression effects and reduce the size of the turning circle while banking energy, but dangerous if being directly pursued as lower airspeed will result in an easier firing solution. The slice is preceded by a 135° roll, which causes the aircraft to gain speed and lose altitude, useful as a defensive maneuver to turn under an attacking aircraft and extend while increasing the difficulty of obtaining a firing solution, but the increased airspeed will also widen the turning circle.

These types of turns are more useful in combat, especially defensive flying, as they vary the aircraft's position in two axis while also resulting in a change in speed.




Immelman / Split S
Essentially a flat turn 90° out of plane, the Immelman and Split S both result in a 180° change in direction with either a gain in altitude or airspeed at the expense of the other. The Immelman is a half roll executed from level flight - pull back on the stick until inverted and then roll back to level flight, gaining altitude but bleeding speed. The Split S is the opposite - roll inverted and then pull back until level. In both cases, ensure airspeed and altitude are sufficient to execute the maneuver without stalling or crashing.



The Immelman is useful when you have an existing energy advantage over an opponent you want to stay close to - for example coming out of a boom. If your opponent tries to follow your maneuver at their lower energy state there is a good chance they will stall, allowing you an easy shot on your next pass unless they rapidly dive away. This is a variation on the "rope-a-dope" maneuver. Split S is ideal for defensive maneuvering against a booming opponent, especially one approaching in a steep dive. By turning under your opponent they must choose to abort or dive further, the former keeping you safe and the latter burning up energy or possibly even resulting in over-G / over speed wing rips or compression induced crashes.

Barrel Roll
A relatively simple defensive maneuver, the barrel roll is simply a combination of pitching up while making an aileron roll in either direction. If keys have been bound as described earlier the barrel roll can be executed by pressing S+A or S+D or by pulling the joystick to the 4/5/7/8 o'clock position. Do not confuse the barrel roll with the aileron roll, which is simply rotate the aircraft without changing direction of flight.



The barrel roll can be used offensively to increase separation without changing heading or as a defensive tactic during a head-on approach to avoid enemy fire. The rolling scissors also utilizes barrel rolls.

Complex Maneuvers
High Yo-yo
High Yo-yos are used when the attacking aircraft has more speed than the defender and risks an overshoot, especially if the defender breaks into a flat turn. To execute, do not follow the defender in their turn but instead pull up to trade speed for altitude and tighten your turning circle, roll your lift vector toward the defender and continue to pull back to fall back on top of and behind your enemy, now trading your altitude for airspeed to stay engaged.



Defending against a high yo-yo is counterintuitive but involves relaxing or even ending your turning maneuver when the attacker begins to pull up. The goal is to gain airspeed and increase separation while the attacker is distracted with the maneuver - best case they complete the maneuver and are now on the wrong line, worst case you've managed to waste their energy while they reorient and you have the airspeed to conduct another defensive turn.

Low Yo-yo
Unsurprisingly, this is the opposite of the high yo-yo. Upon the defender turning, the attack follows in the turn but slices, burning altitude for airspeed and "cutting the corner" of the defenders turn. This burst of airspeed reduces separation, and is then used to climb back to altitude with the defender, reducing speed and preventing an overshoot.



Flat Scissors
A defensive maneuver used when the attacker has a better turn rate but similar or worse roll rate compared to the defender. The defender weaves back and forth in a series of small flat turns, slices and pitchbacks, reversing the direction of their turn every time the attacker follows in an attempt to stay out of phase with the attacker. An attacker unfamiliar with this maneuver or committed to the kill will maintain lead pursuit to get guns on target, reducing separation until an overshoot occurs. This is a risky maneuver as the attacker will have the opportunity for a firing solution on every inversion. The overshoot can be forced more rapidly by cutting throttle and dropping flaps, which will reduce the number of inversions needed but increase the risk of each inversion dramatically, while also limiting actions following the overshoot due to reduced energy.



The easiest counter to a scissors is a simple full or partial high yo-yo or lag displacement roll to increase separation.

Rolling Scissors
Like the flat scissors, the rolling scissors is a defensive maneuver designed to respond to an attacker at a higher energy level, approaching in a dive or boom for instance. Instead of a series of back and forth motions, the defender flies a corkscrew path through the air, continually maintaining their lift vector ("up" relative to the aircraft) toward the attacker. If the attacker maintains lead pursuit attempting to get guns on target, they will be forced to overshoot. This maneuver is very energy intensive and aircraft that are handled poorly or with poor thrust-to-weight ratios may be forced to disengage, stall, or collide with terrain, as well as being subject to fire from other nearby aircraft.



Lag Displacement Roll / Barrel Roll Attack
An offensive technique to prevent overshoots against a turning defender, this maneuver is very similar to the high yo yo in concept and execution. When you recognize the defender is turning and you will over shoot if you follow, pull up in an out-of-plane maneuver and then begin barrel rolling AWAY from the direction of the defender's turn. When your lift vector is aligned with the defender, cease rolling and reengage.


Common Situations
When flying there are several types of engagements you will frequently see, and generally a right and several wrong ways to approach them. This section will attempt to explain what to do when someone is diving on you or flying straight at you.

Offensive
Single Target Below

Multiple Targets Below

Defending a Wingman

Engaging a "Furball"

Defensive
A note on defensive situations: don't get into them. This may not sound very helpful, especially if you're being actively bounced by a higher-energy fighter or chewed apart by a outmaneuvering Spitfire, but the best way to survive a defensive situation is to avoid it entirely. Good situational awareness, proactive climbing and positioning, and maintaining speed and energy around enemies to enable rapid disengagement is key to survival. Everything beyond that is merely a gimmick or a trick that may trap a bad opponent or extend your lifespan long enough for a friendly to save you, but shouldn't be considered an actual strategy.

Defending from Higher Altitude Opponent

Defending from Coenergy Opponent, More Agile

Defending from Coenergy Opponent, Faster

Defending Against Multiple Attackers

Neutral
Head-on Attack
Like defensive fighting described above, the best thing to do for a head-on is never get into one. Even if you're flying a well-armored, multi-engined death machine with a dozen different pilots against a biplane, there still exists the chance that they will have better aim or luck and catch your pilot(s) or engine(s) before you draw a bead on them. However, head-ons still occur and it's important you have a strategy other than "fly right at them firing".

Most important is to perform all actions further out than you would expect. Begin firing as far out as 1.5 km depending on weapons, and begin evasive maneuvers as you enter the edge of their firing envelope, usually 700-800 meters. You will stop firing and break before you see impacts - because you and your target are closing, time to impact will be much shorter so do not become too target focused and eat a wall of lead. Stealth ammunition is a good choice for these situations as your enemy's first indication you are firing will be their plane disintegrating.


If your plane is particularly undergunned, for instance wing-mounted light caliber machine guns, or their plane is equipped with heavy firepower (multiple nose mounted 20mm cannons, 6+ .50-caliber machine guns, etc.), you should strong consider skipping firing at all and moving directly to evasion. While you won't have any chance of bringing down your target on the pass, you already didn't have very good odds and you'll also dramatically increase your chances of survival.

Appropriate evasive maneuvers include barrel rolling, especially if you vary the diameter of your roll, and simple breaks. As you break you need to determine whether you will complete your turn and attempt to reengage or whether you will dive away and reset. Knowing your comparative speed and agility is important here.

Engaging Bombers / Turreted Aircraft

Section Tactics
Combat Spread

Defensive Tactics
Defensive Split
Cross Split
High Low Split
Sandwich
Thach Weave (Beam Defense)


Offensive Tactics
Double Attack
Loose Deuce
Trailing Attack
American Aircraft Catalog
German Aircraft Catalog
Soviet Aircraft Catalog
British Aircraft Catalog
Japanese Aircraft Catalog
Weapons and Ammunition
Aircraft Armament Philosophies
United States


Germany
German Bf 109 fighters reward marksmanship, centrally mounting powerful weapons with limited ammunition, while the FW 190 line has access to greater firepower and ammunition at the cost of flight performance. Many models offer the option for additional guns for an increased cost in weight, useful for bomber hunting but not advised for most missions. Most heavy fighters mount several powerful cannons in the nose, along with other supplementary weapons, but have difficulty bringing them to bear against more nimble fighters. Defensive guns are generally poor, either 7.92mm or 13mm guns with lackluster performance but generally good defensive arcs.

Dive bombers are equipped with increasingly large payloads, and level bombers generally have options for a very large number of small bombs or a few much larger devices. Torpedo bombing is practically unheard of, and German torpedoes have a significant restriction on drop altitude and speed along with lackluster damage, but the best speed and decent range (3km).

Soviet Union



United Kingdom
Early aircraft characterized by batteries of 8-12 wing mounted .30-caliber machine guns. Later fighters incorporate 2-4 wing mounted 20mm cannons, often supplemented with .30-caliber or .50-caliber machine guns. A few fighters can be found with wing mounted heavy cannons, specifically the Hurricane Mk IV and the Tempest Mk V Vickers P. Heavy fighters are equipped with 4 20mm cannons, centrally mounted. All bombers are generally equipped with poor defensive armament, almost exclusively .30-caliber machine guns.

At the start of the game effective fighter bombers are rare, increasingly heavy payloads become available for all fighters, especially the Hawker and Fleet Air Arm lines. Several aircraft are able to mount torpedoes, but the combination of restrictive drop envelopes and the airframes capable of carrying these weapons make torpedo attacks a suboptimal choice in most situations. British bombers meanwhile have outlandish bombloads and are often capable of destroying several bases on a single sortie.

Japan
Machine Guns
Rifle Caliber / Medium Machine Guns (MMGs)
The lightest armament possible in War Thunder, these guns are largely phased out in favor of heavier weapons by era 2, though some nations retain them either as supplemental / rangefinding weapons or in larger batteries of guns. In all cases, using these effectively requires extremely short engagement ranges, no more than 400 meters and correctly set gun convergence. Kills on anything heavier than a biplane often required sustained application of fire. Armor piercing and incendiary ammunition is particular useful in these platforms.

Avoid firing from directly behind your target if possible as rounds have limited penetration and will often deflect off angled surfaces, especially at longer ranges. Some aircraft (especially those in the British tree) have cannons and machine guns with very similar ballistics - use the higher ammunition load of the MGs to determine range / lead and then fire everything to score a kill. These weapons can also be used for harassment fires, as even a few ineffective hits will often cause inexperienced players to turn, allowing you to catch up with them.

MMGs are only effective against light ground targets, including AA vehicles and emplacements, artillery and MG positions, and armored cars. Only open-top player tanks should be engaged, and only from an angle which allows exposed crew to be fired on.

Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs)
Heavy machine guns (.50-caliber or larger) are used as a supplemental weapon for many nations and batteries of these MGs are the mainstay of American aircraft from late era I all the way to jets. It's important to note that American (Browning M2 / M3) and Soviet (Berezin UB) heavy machine guns significantly outperform other variants, especially the German MG 131 and the Italian Breda-SAFAT, but also the Japanese Ho-103 to some extent. The former group is more than adequate as a primary weapon in batteries of four or more guns, especially within short to moderate (<550 m) engagement ranges and at the convergence range, while the latter should group should largely be treated as a supplement to cannons much like MMGs described above.

HMGs deliver adequate physical damage, have good penetration and rounds are heavy enough to carry an effective load of incendiary material. Engagement angles depend on the target, but AP ammunition can often achieve pilot kills even when fired from behind the target. HMGs typically have deep magazines, allowing for both effective and harassing fires to be placed at long ranges - with practice successful hits can often be made in excess of 1.5 km against larger targets like bombers. HMGs can also be used to lay a stream of fire across a target's path to guarantee a hit, useful in boom and zoom runs and especially with stealth belts.

American and Soviet HMGs equipped with AP ammunition can (usually) destroy light pillboxes and light and (very few) medium tanks at close range (<500 m) with sustained fire. Tanks must be engaged from the rear. Ground target belts are a good choice for this type of attack.
Cannons
Light Cannon (15-20mm)
Cannons are the first weapon able to mount a reasonable explosive filler, allowing for high explosive and fragmentation rounds to be fired in addition to standard armor piercing and incendiary loads. Depending on the target, these can cause catastrophic damage, either by destroying the airframe and control surfaces or killing crew with lethal fragments. The tradeoff for increased lethality is a significantly reduced ammunition load - early systems carry as little as 60 rounds per gun, and even high capacity loadouts rarely exceed 200 rounds per gun - more than enough to score several kills but only with accurate fire and close range engagements. If you're the type of player who sprays long bursts from maximum range it may be worth binding keys to fire machine guns and cannons separately, so you can save your limited ammunition for when a guaranteed hit is available.

Cannons are best run with ammunition belts containing a high proportion of explosive rounds. This will enable long distance shots to do nearly as much damage as those at point blank, since you are relying on the chemical energy of the explosive instead of the kinetic energy of the projectile. This does mean that heavily armored aircraft should be engaged in weaker areas - target engines and cockpits from the front, wings from beam position, and do your best to avoid attacking from the rear and especially firing into the tail or fuselage. Explosive ammunition will also limit your ability to engage ground targets - light tanks, armored cars, vehicles and emplacements are still viable but light pillboxes and medium tanks are a waste of ammunition.

Medium Cannon (30mm)
Heavy Cannon (>37mm)
Ammunition
Machine Guns

Cannon

Recommended Belts
Machine Guns
Light Cannon (15-30mm)
Medium Cannon (30mm)
Heavy Cannon (37mm+)

Other Considerations
  • When piloting aircraft with multiple weapon systems, especially those with dissimilar ballistics, consider using stealth ammunition on all but the most powerful weapon in order to aim more precisely. For example, many Japanese aircraft use both ineffective 7mm machine guns and reasonably powerful 20mm cannons - multiple streams of tracers can be confusing and lead to fewer hits than only seeing cannon fire.
Damage Model
Other Munitions
Bombs

Rockets

Torpedoes
23 Comments
conjoinerdrive Oct 7, 2023 @ 11:29pm 
Great guide , well done
Георгий Констант Aug 19, 2023 @ 12:47pm 
I can't see catalog, am I the only one ?
Maco Mar 22, 2023 @ 5:08pm 
why yell at him and not the dev's you idiots
Maco Mar 22, 2023 @ 5:08pm 
you people are mad for no reason lol
Shumatsu Dec 8, 2022 @ 11:13am 
Indeed this game is a fucking bullshit(Udincev, i hope you eat some shit every morning, son of a bitch)
milorad Dec 1, 2022 @ 4:31am 
oki
NavyEOD_24 Oct 3, 2022 @ 3:42pm 
Amazing guide, especially for the maneuvers. Practicing now shows me how I can defend myself. Hopefully this gets completed cause there are some blank areas.
xXDabbyXx Jun 5, 2022 @ 12:06am 
Best Guide :D
xXDabbyXx Jun 5, 2022 @ 12:05am 
WOW Good work.:airraid:
ETA773 May 24, 2020 @ 1:48pm 
This is extremely long but cool and helpful.