Level Bombing

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File:111mission.jpg
A group of Heinkel 111 bombers en-route

Introduction

Bombers have one goal: to grind the enemy into dust and impress him with the futility of continued resistance. To this end, bombers of all sizes and denominations bring forth high explosive bombs to render the enemy production facilities inoperable and his frontline units paralyzed for want of fuel and supplies. Bombers can also be leveraged against tactical targets such as cities, armybases and bridges, in low level attack runs, or high level bombing.

Level bombing at altitude is the safest and typically most accurate mission profile, as it well above AA guns and often above enemy fighters engaged at lower altitude, but the trade off is the more demanding flight from a technical and managerial point of view. Still, it ranks as one of the most fulfilling and exciting missions you can perform in WWIIOL:BE. Here we show you how it is done.

Easy or hard? You choose!

There is an easy way of level bombing and the hard way. The easy way is to follow an accomplished bomber slavishly at minimum distance and to do exactly as he does, and to throw your luggage precisely when he does. In that manner you need not bother with the bombsight at all: all you have to do is pickle your bombs at the right moment, and if this is your preferred method of bombing you may stop reading right here. By the hard way, when you go it alone or lead a formation, you have to do all the computing and sighting yourself. Read on!

Level Bombers

A "Level bomber" is simply a bomber with a "bomb sight", and currently this game has 4 of them.

Bomb Sights

The bomb sight so mentioned above comes in 2 versions, a wire sights, and a periscope sight.
The Blen and Havoc sights are a simple cross hair the bombardier looks down, but because of the limits of the eyeball among other factors, are limited to intermediate altitudes.
He-111 and DB-7 sights are periscopes, similar to what you will see on a submarine, and allow for very long visual range, high degree of accuracy, and easier approaches to target.

Common Practice

All level bombers share a common procedure in taking to the sky and of drawing close to their intended target. The mission starts with assembly and briefing; a safe and steady takeoff using the full length of the field and flaps too as needed; a nice and steady ascent to bombing altitude; a cruise in formation to the Initial Point; a period of hunkering down in the bombsight and of adjusting dials to yield an accurate sight picture; the final approach with minute adjustments to the lineup; flak, fighters and stress; and then bombs away, a turn for home, a sigh of relief.

For general guidance regarding bomber operations including defensive measures and the utility of fighter escort, please refer to the Strategic Bombardment section.

There are many things to consider during a mission and most of them have to do with manipulating the bombsight, and of flying so as to give the bombardier the lightest possible workload on the bomb run. Pay attention, for if you fly sloppily or forget vital settings your bombs will surely miss and your whole flight will have been in vain.

Common factors

Minimum and Maximum Bombing Altitudes

The ingame bombsight has a lowest and a highest altitude setting: 3000 ft (900 m) and 18000 ft (6000 m). Accurate bombing below the lowest setting is possible, though it requires a separate calculation, using the formula below:

  • For every 250 feet you drop below minimum bomb sight settings set the IAS value in the top left corner of the screen to the value shown on your planes gauges + 10 mph.
  • For every 100 meters you drop below minimum bomb sight settings set the IAS value in the top left corner of the screen to the value shown on your planes gauges + 21 km/h.

Example: Assuming that you are flying a Havoc, that the altitude of your target is 500 feet above sea level and that you will bomb from an altitude of 3000 feet indicated (ASL). Thus your real altitude over the target is 2500 feet (AGL) – but the minimum altitude settings for the Havoc's bomb sight is 3000 feet! Compensate for the 500 feet altitude difference by manipulating your IAS setting: your airspeed indicator reads 220 mph, therefore you set the IAS value to 240 mph (i.e. 220 + 20) using the "Home" and "End" keys. Your sights now show where your bombs will land.

Bombing from a higher altitude than the maximum setting is possible but impractical as it is quite difficult to sight the target from above 18000 ft. You may however want to cruise at higher altitude for reasons of security, but you must then let down to a steady speed and altitude well before you reach your Initial Point.

Non-rendered Targets

Because the game engine does not render certain individual units from altitudes exceeding approximately 3000 ft (1000 m), tactical bombing requires the pilot to fly and bomb from below this altitude – because units that do not render cannot be damaged or destroyed. Tanks and guns may be visible above 3000 ft however. As a rule, more units are rendered the lower you go and the longer you remain in visual contact with the target area – on the other hand, this makes you all the more vulnerable to ground fire and fighter interception.

Bombsight Operation

The bombsight is a simple computer that is calibrated by the player to produce an aiming point (point of impact) depending on the airspeed and altitude of the bomber. As you may have guessed, the aiming point is not static but traveling forward with the speed of the bomber, and for this reason it makes good sense to make the bomb run at reduced speed so as to provide a margin for final corrections. Do not fly too slow however as this makes it difficult to maintain level flight and all the more difficult to maneuver the aircraft: 75% throttle is a good middle ground.

Remember: aimed bombing requires you to calibrate your bombsight with pertinent speed and altitude data - if you do not, your bombs will surely miss.

Unaimed bombing, such as when you follow a leader and drop your bombs on his cue, does not require any manipulation of the bombsight whatsoever. In this case, all you need to do is to fly a close formation and drop your bombs when the leader does.

Preparation and Readout

Set your bombsight to the anticipated airspeed and altitude prior to takeoff and stand ready to correct your settings when the aircraft is settled down on the actual bomb run. The bombsight settings are displayed in the 'game info' panel at the upper left corner of your screen (default toggle: §) and reads AGL Altitude, TAS and IAS. These settings are vital and require some explanation.

Bombsight settings are effected with the following default keyboard commands, from the bombardier's position (2):

  • IAS increase: Home
  • IAS decrease: End
  • Altitude increase: PgUp
  • Altitude decrease: PgDn

Altitude Setting: ASL to AGL conversion

File:AGL.jpg
You are above the sea, and so is the target. Do the math.

Your altimeter indicates your altitude Above Sea Level (ASL) - however, the bombsight calculates an impact point based on your altitude Above Ground Level (AGL). Because targets are usually situated some distance above sea level you must therefore make allowance for the difference between ASL and AGL by a quick calculation, or your bombs will fall short of the target as the ground intervenes before the bombs can reach the (hypothetical) sea level. To arrive at the correct bombsight altitude setting you must know the target altitude, from experience or from an altitude index such as this one.

The formula is simple: your ASL (altimeter readout) minus target altitude ASL = AGL (your bombsight setting)

Example: your bomb run is at 5000 m ASL. The target is at 230 m ASL. 5000-230=4770. To bomb correctly you must therefore set the bombsight altitude to 4770 m – or fly at precisely 5230 m indicated with a bombsight setting at 5000 m. Since aircraft altimeters are notoriously difficult to read, the former procedure is the easier.

Speed Setting: IAS to TAS Conversion

Your aircraft instruments displays Indicated Air Speed (IAS), your speed through the air. This is however different from your True Air Speed (TAS), which is your speed over the ground. IAS and TAS differ because air is actually a fluid that becomes thinner at higher altitude where less air is thrust into the pitot tube (which measures air pressure), yielding a lower speed readout. Wind, humidity and temperature also play a signficant part but air density is the most important factor.

At sea level, IAS and TAS is the same, whereas for every 1,000 ft increase in altitude true airspeed increases by 2% (this is a rough value) according to the formula IAS = TAS/(1+0.00002*Alt). Not to worry, the bombsight performs the calculation for you.

All you need to remember is that the bombsight computes an impact point based on your TAS, which it derives automatically from the IAS that you read off your altimeter and dial into the bombsight.

Aligning the Bombsight

File:111bombsite moving.gif
Watch how the dials move off center as the joystick moves. The bombsight must be neutralized at the time of delivery or the bombs will miss completely.

The Heinkel 111 and the DB-7 bombsights can be slewed fore and aft and to left and right by moving the joystick in the bombardier position. This is of great utility for multicrewed bombers though it is also a drawback if the feature is not used correctly or the bombsight misaligned by mistake.

The Havoc's and Blenheim's bombsight is fixed and cannot be slewed, which is both a benefit and liability depending on your view.

Whether you use the slew feature or not, always make certain that the bombsight is set to neutral shortly before bombs away, or your bombs will miss the target completely. Watch the dials by looking down (keypad 2) in the bombardier's default position.

Using Bombsights Special Feature

A key feature in periscopic bombsights is the "slew", the ability to look in many directions. Use the slew feature to look forward in your flight path through the bombsight, to gain visual contact with the target, and keep the target centered in the bombsight as you draw closer by jogging the joystick accordingly. The sight can also be moved to left and right of the flight path for this purpose – this compels the pilot to turn in the suggested direction until the flight path is aligned with the bombsight as indicated by a tick mark on his Kurszeiger (German: "Course pointer") / PDI (allied: Pilot Directional Indicator), mounted centrally on the pilot's control panel. This practice requires intimate cooperation between bombardier and pilot, and is quite challenging to manage in a single-crewed bomber. If you fly the bomber alone, avoid using the slew function as you have enough tasks to bother with already. Note that the pilot does NOT have a longitudinal indicator on his control panel: the bombardier alone must make sure that the bombsight is correctly aligned in the vertical shortly before bombs away. The range is 22.5* either side of center, or 1/16 of compass rose.

File:Pdi.gif
In the pilot's seat, watch the Kurszeiger/PDI for directions from the bombardier.

Navigation by Waypoints

Navigation, that is, moving from A to C via B, is made considerably easier by the use of Waypoints (WP). By adhering to a well-planned route you can avoid known enemy concentrations and keep the enemy in the dark as to your intended target by not flying a straight line toward it. Set waypoints by right-clicking on the overhead map (M) and number them sequentially, e.g WP1, WP2 etc. Add altitude information too as a further guidance, e.g. WP1-3km, WP2-6km etc. When looking at the map the circle around your bullseye icon will show a tickmark indicating your heading and a green triangle pointing to your currently active waypoint. When you have passed your first waypoint you must right-click on the next waypoint and select it as ”Active” in order to get a heading indication as per above. The same active waypoint indication is given in the 'mini-map' readout in the lower right corner of your screen.

The Initial Point

The Initial Point (IP) is the place where you begin your bomb run, whether you mark it as such or not. The mission leader sets the IP on the overhead map (M), as a waypoint, by right-clicking on the map. It is from this precise location that you must be flying a steady level course at a known heading to the target. The wise mission leader edit the IP text with altitude, IAS and heading (vector) information as an aid to the forgetful or late arriving pilots. E.g. IP – 5K 380 v090. Note that you may wish to set multiple IPs in case of enemy interception en-route or sudden detours. Name the additional IPs accordingly, e.g. IP2, IP3 etc. It makes good sense to place the IP over a prominent feature at a cardinal direction from the target, or so that the bomb run is parallel to a straight road, river or similar feature: this makes it considerably easier to determine whether the bomber is on track or not.

The Bomb Run

File:Slewsite.gif
DB-7 bombardier view. Watch the dials for any misalignment in position 2 looking down (default: numpad 2) and neutralize the bombsight using your joystick, quick as you can.

Approaching the target on your bomb run, you will need to be flying level on auto pilot and at a fixed throttle setting for at least 3-5 minutes, or about the width of two AWS grids, in order to make sure that your bombsight settings are accurate and that your flight path is correctly lined up with the target. The target will not appear in your bombardier's view until very late, when but seconds remain before bombs away, so flying a correct course is imperative. Use the overhead map and its zoom and scroll functions to determine your approach.

In the bombardier's office, zoom in on the target with your gunsight view (default: keypad .). While on the bomb run, make small corrections only, by switching back and forth between bombardier and pilot if you are alone in the ship and by frequent communications if you are using the multi-crew feature. This is a most stressful time for the crew. If you are wildly off target it is generally better to go around and set up anew from the Initial Point or from an alternate IP, than to take a chance with a badly managed bomb run. One minute to go before bombs away, double-check your altitude and speed settings in the bombsight against your aircraft instruments as any deviation will cause your bombs to miss with a greater or smaller margin. Also double-check that your bombsight is neutralized vertically and laterally by watching the appropriate dials and tick-marks in the default bombardier view.

Watch a video on how to manage your bomb run.

Bomb Bay Operation

The Blenheim and Heinkel bombers have spring-operated bomb bay doors that do not require the bombardier to open or close them: the bombs themselves push the doors open. The Blenheim's doors are actually closed by bungee cords. In the Douglas Havoc/DB-7 however, the bombardier must manually open and close the bomb bay doors prior to and following bomb release. In the bombardier's seat (position 2), press 'D' to operate the doors. A handle and an red light indicates bomb bay door status: when the handle is down and the indicator shines red, the doors are open.

The Moment of Truth

Having managed all of the above and with the target but a few seconds away, you are now on the brink of delivery. Each bomb is dropped individually by pressing 'B' or your joystick's secondary trigger. If your target is an RDP-producing factory, or a particularly congested tactical target, drop all bombs in a swift sequence by hitting the 'B' key repeatedly until you are out of ordnance. If your target is a small objective such as an armybase bunker or Forward Base revetment, pickle two or three bombs and save the rest for a subsequent pass unless you plan to make but a single run at the target. Note that there may be a slight delay due to internet latency (lag) and other factors such as increased computer strain over a highly populated target – if that is the case you may have to make several passes over the target to ensure a tight bomb pattern.

Operational Specifics

Heinkel 111

There is nothing of note not covered above, the bomb bay doors are pushed open by the bombs as they fall out. Make sure your bombsight is centered.

Blenheim IV

Also an "automatic" bomb bay door, again the bombs push their way though the door

Douglas DB-7 and Havoc

With this aircraft you have a bomb bay door you must open or your bombs will not drop. The default keep for the doors is "B", and there is 2 visual indicators of open/close. You will see a red light to the left, on when red, and a lever to the lower right, down when open, up when closed. In the DB-7, make sure the sight is centered before drop, just like with He-111.