Air Combat Guide
Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft are some of the cheapest in the game. VTOLs are not starter assets, but can be purchased with a small donation from another player or with at least one increase in rank.
VTOLs fly differently from aerospace. Pressing [w] will force the VTOL to take off into the air and gain elevation. By rolling with [a] and [d] and pitching and yawing with the mouse, the VTOL can be maneuvered in a vertical fashion with some horizontal movement. By holding [Left Shift] the VTOL's thrust is directed backwards causing the VTOL to fly more like a conventional fixed-wing aircraft.
While not as fast as a Solitaire with MASC, VTOLs can easily fly over difficult terrain and travel directly to nearly any base on any Terrain Control map faster more reasonably than any other asset. (aerospace can sometimes capture a base more quickly than a VTOL, but landing and take off at most bases is impractical for aerospace.)
Late game VTOLs lose much of their effectiveness in terms of firepower and armor. Most late game assets can deal massive damage to VTOLs. In the late game, VTOLs work best at back capping (so long as the rear bases are unguarded) and electronic warfare.
To land a VTOL, let go of [w] and allow the VTOL to drift towards the ground. If the VTOL is still forwards, sideways, or backwards, tilt the VTOL towards the opposite direction and briefly press [w]. Repeat as needed. Once the VTOL nears the ground, press [w] in short bursts to slow the decent. Once the ground is only a few meters away, let go of [w] completely. Be careful, it is difficult to avoid damage while landing a VTOL.
VTOLs are extremely effective in the early game against individual targets. VTOLs can balloon over their target, preventing return fire from nearly any starter asset. Most early game assets have a difficult time pitching their turret or torso high enough to be able to shoot an aircraft directly above them. When attacking a large group of enemies, ballooning becomes a mostly ineffective as they can return fire much more easily in a group. When dealing with large groups of enemies VTOLs should either wait for their allies or stay at a low elevation so that terrain can be used to block incoming fire.
One of the conveniences of VTOLs is that they can usually use the repair bays at captured bases in terrain control matches, but since VTOLs can usually return to the runway very quickly anyway, this convenience is quite minor.
VTOLs are considerably more maneuverable, but also far slower than aerospace, making VTOLs excellent dogfighters (depending on their weapon loadout), but terrible interceptors. For example, when an enemy aerospace attacks a VTOL, if the VTOL flies straight up, the aerospace will eventually stall or be forced to temporarily break off the attack.
In Terrain Control, aerospace generally do not help the losing team due to their poor ability to capture points. Players are advised to reconsider flying aerospace if their team is losing.
To take off, make sure there are no obstacles in the way. If there are, move the aerospace at low throttle until a clear long level stretch of land, preferably a runway can be found. Once ready to take off, push the throttle to maximum by holding down [w] or pressing [Num Pad +]. Then immediately hold down [Left Shift] to boost, do pay attention not to overheat the aerospace. As the aerospace increases in speed, hold down the [Space Bar] or pitch up using the mouse.
After taking off the aerospace player should reanalyze the state of the battle. If they need to avoid getting shot by nearby enemies, the aerospace should pitch up near 90 degrees until getting close to the map ceiling. If there are no nearby enemies and the player is planning to attack from a high angle they should take a modest 45 degree pitch to gain elevation while maintaining speed. If the player is planning a low angle attack, they should keep a shallow pitch around zero degrees, taking care not to collide with the terrain.
Aerospace throttle up and down with [w] and [s] just like a mech, but unlike a mech, [a] and [d] cause aerospace to roll. Pitch and yaw are controlled by the mouse just like mechs. By rolling to the intended direction and holding [Space Bar] or pitching up using the mouse, aerospace can turn much more quickly than using yaw. Aerospace have an optimal turning speed between 245 and 315 km/h depending on the particular aerospace and what classification Fighter, Attacker, or Bomber. The specific optimal turning speed for each aerospace variant can be found in the variant information column on each aerospace's page on this wiki. This optimal turning speed is very important for avoiding lock on missiles like LRMs and in dogfighting. Since most of the time aerospace are flying at maximum throttle, it is easiest to achieve the optimal turning speed for any aerospace by pressing [x] to cut the throttle to zero, then adjusting the throttle back up partway by pressing [w] for a short time and then releasing it sometime before it hits 100%. Keep in mind that going slower than the optimal turning speed also prevents sharp turns. By throttling up and/or using the boost in these cases, the optimal turning speed can be reached quickly.
Holding [Left Shift] while in the air gives aerospace a boost in speed and produces heat just like it does during take off. This can be used to escape other aerospace and to quickly get out of range of enemy weapons range after an attack run. It can also be used to quickly gain speed after stalling out so long as the throttle is not at or close to zero.
Destroyed components of aerospace affect their maneuverability. Losing a tail or wing reduces turning ability and can interfere with taking off from the runway. Losing the engine reduces the aerospace's top speed in half. Losing the tail and the engine will prevent the aerospace from ever being able to take off again. Be careful using aerospace with destroyed components, it is easy to forget that reduced maneuverability means that the aerospace will need to pull up sooner from an attack.
There are two primary approaches to an attack. A high angle of attack, from up high and a low angle of attack from close to the ground.
When attacking from up high it is best to use long range weapons if the player plans to pull up outside of enemy weapon ranges. If the player intends to get in close, then Cluster Bombs or Laser Guided Bombs as well as larger lock on weapons like LRM20 are appropriate. Due to pulling up and accelerating out of range after completing an attack run, attacking from a high angle results in surprisingly long engagement windows and low speeds at close range to the opponent. This can result in the aerospace taking heavy damage.
When attacking from close to the ground, shorter range weapons work far better, especially if there is plenty of terrain to give cover during the aerospace's retreat. HE Bombs work best in low angles of attack. Attacks at low angles can be done at far higher sustained speeds than high angle attacks, which is particularly beneficial when enemy Anti Aircraft assets are plentiful.
To land, first make sure there are no enemy aircraft near the runway. If there are, fly in circles around the base turrets until they leave or destroy them. Next, approach the runway from approximately 1000m away. Line up the aerospace with the runway so that it won't crash into any nearby buildings. Make sure there are no obstacles on the runway. Cut the throttle to zero with [x]. Pitch the plane down and get close to the ground and fly level around 500m before reaching the runway. If the aerospace is traveling faster than 250 km/h, pitch up slightly to slow it down. Be careful not to pitch up too much and and stall. If the aerospace begins to lose too much speed, pitch down slightly to gain some speed back. Pitching up and then down repeatedly is an effective way to bleed off speed without stalling. Once the "landing gear deployed" icon appears and the plane is traveling at about 200 km/h, pitch down and touch the runway. Quickly press [s] and hold it to engage the reverse thrust. Once at a complete stop, the aerospace may be sold, rearmed, or repaired.
Interceptors are aerospace that are good at destroying bombers. Most fighters fall into this category, although some Attackers and Bombers can fill this role. The best interceptors typically mount weapons with short ranges, high refire rates, and high DPS. Interceptors have to be able to deal massive damage very quickly because bombers will often return to their base turrets or retreat to their allies preventing interceptors from pursuing effectively. Interceptors generally have to have a maneuverability and speed higher than their target, otherwise it can be very difficult to shoot the target or keep it in range.
Dogfighters are aerospace that are good at fighting most other aerospace, not just bombers. Dogfighters do not normally run weapons with charge up times or long lock on times. Highly maneuverable enemy attackers and fighters can often cause these kinds of weapons to miss or fail to lock by taking sharp turns. The best weapons for Dogfighters have a high burst damage, like LBX and Large Pulse Lasers.
Dogfighting has a few key techniques that are needed to be effective.
- Diving - To gain extra speed for a short time either to close or escape an enemy, pitch down.
- Circling - The most effective way to avoid fire from other aircraft, in most situations, is to turn in a circle by rolling the plane 90 degrees to the left or right and taking a sharp turn by holding down the [Space Bar] and getting the aerospace as close to it's optimal turning speed as possible.
- Janking - When circling cannot be done because the enemy has significantly better maneuverability and/or there are many other enemies near by, fly the aerospace towards friendlies, base turrets, or somewhere away from enemies. Instead of flying straight towards the intended destination, roll left and right randomly and pitch up and down randomly. This way the enemy aerospace can be lead to a part of the map that is more advantageous. Once at the destination, resume circling. Janking is especially important against aircraft with weapons with long refire rates.
- Retreating - When engaged with a much smaller aircraft, or aircraft with few weapons, janking may not be an effective use of time. Instead, flying straight to the protective cover of allies or base turrets may be in order.
- Stalling - Cut the throttle completely. Enemy aerospace that do not slow down will overshoot or run into their target. Additionally, if they try too hard to slow down, they may stall.
- Leading - Enemy aerospace aren't always heading straight at or straight away from the player. By aiming the aerospace ahead of the enemy aerospace, the distance between them can be closed.
- Boosting - Boosting quickly overheats an aerospace, but by periodically, briefly pressing [c] to dump coolant or by not firing any weapons, the boost can be maintained for longer allowing distances to be closed or widened as needed.
- Dodging - Similar to circling, when lock on missiles are approaching, get the aerospace as close to it's optimal turning speed as possible and take a sharp turn to make the missiles miss.
- Weaving - On maps with terrain dangerous for aerospace, players can fly through narrow gaps, near buildings, rocks, and antennae to hopefully shake a pursuer and deny them opportunities to fire.
Attackers are aerospace variants with middling engine sizes, top speeds, maneuverabilities, weapons, and have bombs with no reloads. Attackers tend to be multi-role assets capable of fighting both ground assets and air assets.
Bombers are aerospace variants with small engine sizes, low top speeds, poor maneuverability, many weapons, and have bombs with available reloads. Bombers are nearly always intended to be used against ground targets.
Bombing can be done incidentally or more deliberately. Occasionally players may find that an opportunity arises to drop bombs while attacking with the aerospace's other weapons.
To conduct a more deliberate bombing run, first pick the angle of attack that best suits the bombs quipped to the the aerospace. High for LGBs and Cluster Bombs, low for HE Bombs. It's best to find a target that is already heavily damaged, especially if the aerospace is low on ammo.
- LGBs - Fire them towards the target once it is within 1500m. If the target is TAGed or NARCed, the bombing run is complete unless there are other weapons with shorter ranges that need to be fired during the bombing run. Otherwise, the bomb needs to be guided down with the aerospace's reticle. Remember that while LGBs do travel faster than aerospace, they take time to get out ahead of the bomber, meaning that LGBs dropped too close to the target will miss since the bomber will have to pull up before the bombs have impacted.
- Cluster Bombs - Use the radar screens and the rotating green circle bomb indicator to aim the cluster bombs. Cluster bombs may be dropped from a high altitude, but must be given a substantial lead and their damage is often very spread out. To focus the damage of cluster bombs, fly in closer at a high angle and pitch down while dropping the bombs to force the bombs to hit more precisely where the bomb indicator is targeting. Be careful to not be too close to the ground while dropping cluster bombs as they will damage the bomber.
- HE Bombs - Use the radar screens, exactly like cluster bombs in order to aim HE bombs. No particular angle of attack will dramatically affect the damage dealt by HE Bombs so long as the the target is under the bomb indicator. Be careful to not be too close to the ground while dropping HE bombs as they will damage the bomber.