Wings of Honor
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Red Baron II/3D - Tutorials

Energy Management

By Mike 'Sensei' Couvillion


Well, with the new found interest in this topic particularly with those flying Normal Flight Mode, I thought I'd go ahead and start posting on the topic. First off, none of this is original material. It is based on my own training, reading of many, many books, outright copying of several excellent sites on War Birds and Air Warrior and most likely sources I no longer even remember. Where possible I will try and cite the original source. A lot of this isn't from just one source but many. I will try and add my experience as well as others as it pertains to Red Baron.

1.) What the hell is Energy Management and why do I care?

Well, first let us define Energy. Its simplest definition is that energy = altitude + speed. That is the classic definition. I, however, feel that angles are a key component rather than a separate component of Energy. In a dogfight you trade each of these components for the other. The pilot who best handles these tradeoffs will be the victor. In a dive you trade your altitude and ability to turn (angle) for superior speed. In a hard bank you increase your angle at the sacrifice of speed (and sometimes altitude). It is an ever increasing trade off. Energy Management is the ability to handle these trade-offs in such a way as to get yourself a killing shot on your opponent.

2.) Isn't "Boom n' Zoom" Energy Fighting? Boom n' Zoom is usually visualized as a higher plane diving on a lower plane, taking a shot, and then zoom climbing back up to alt. This is a tactic that uses Energy Management in a simple form but ALL dogfighting is Energy Management. Boom n' Zoom is but one tactic of many.

3.) What are other tactics? I will cover specific tactics later. Some that will be covered are high yo-yos, low yo-yos, reversals, lead turns, guns defense, turn circle geometry and merge tactics.

4.) OK, then what else ya got? Well, for instance, why is Energy Management important? It is important because the aircraft with more Energy is the aircraft that dictates the fight and has the option of the initiative. Seizing the initiative puts you on the offensive. If you are on the offensive your opponent is on the defensive. If he is on the defensive, he isn't getting a shot at you. It's that simple.

The keys to good Energy Management are:

a) know your aircraft and its relative energy state at all times.

What I mean by relative is that it can be just as deadly to be high and slow as it is to be low and fast. Many times the low and fast plane actually has the better energy state.

b) Learn to recognize your opponent's relative energy state.

The best way to do this is to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the enemy aircraft.

c) Know what aspect of energy (angle, speed, altitude) is the best for your aircraft.

Altitude is the one you control by pre-positioning in a fight. If you are entering a fight too low, turn around, fly away and come back higher. The other two characteristics are more determined by your aircraft type. Some planes have a better angle component (DrI or TripeHound for example) while others have a greater Speed component (Spad or Se5a). Don't try to turn fight a DrI with a Spad. You will lose. Likewise a DrI won't outrun a Spad.

5) Great grasp of the obvious Sensei, teach me something I don't know.

Patience Grasshopper, just laying the ground work. Here a few definitions you will need to know so that we all talk from the same reference point.

Turn Radius: How big a circle I carve in the sky while turning.

Turn Rate: How fast I traverse my turn radius.

Cornering Speed: The speed at which your aircraft has the highest turn rate in the tightest turn radius. This is not your slowest airspeed, however. It is true that the slower you go you will turn a tighter radius, however, it is your turn rate that will determine how fast you bring your nose around. Rate kills…

BFM: Basic flight maneuvers, i.e. climb, dive, bank turn, rolls etc…

Turn Circle: The circle I am carve out while effectively performing offensive BFMs.

Lead Pursuit: Pulling the nose of your aircraft in front of the nose of the target in front of you so that your bullets will hit the enemy and kill him. It gets bullets on the enemy but it is going to cost you your speed component and quite possible your altitude component. It is a pure angle component maneuver.

Lag Pursuit: Keeping the nose of your aircraft slightly behind the tail of your enemy. This allows you to stay on their 6 without expending your speed component for angle. You do this while you want to keep your energy up and wait for the bad guy to make a mistake.