Discussion in 'Fighter Tactics' started by Waystin2, Dec 27, 2019.

  1. Waystin2

    Waystin2 Administrator
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    Dec 20, 2007
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    American carrier based fighter, it is a pretty decent planes when you go through each of it's attributes one by one. Good firepower, small hard target, good maneuverability, tough airframe, all things that make what would be an excellent fighter. The problem with the F4F-4 is that it is very underpowered and vastly out-classed in speed by most of the common opponents it will face. This makes for a tough fight since the Wildcat will most likely not be able to dictate the fight unless an enemy chooses to stay around and turn-fight it.

    F4F-4 Wildcat
    To be successful

    The Wildcat is a good fighter, showing an excellent blend of attributes that made it a good plane. The main problem with the Wildcat is that is simply doesn't have enough engine power to play with the likes of most of the planes in anything near an even battle. This isn't to say that it's useless, it isn't, but in most cases it will have to use other factors in order to create fights and then force them to conclusion.

    The F4F-4 has no WEP and engine power is at a premium already. This makes for a slow aircraft, so slow that it is unlikely to catch anybody in a straight pursuit. Sea level speed is 283mph, increasing to around 320mph at 19K, amongst the slowest aircraft in the game. Climb times to 19K are long with even the best climb rate only being in the range of 2100ft/minute as compared to most planes who can average at least 3000ft/minute or more.

    The Wildcat is very maneuverable when it has speed. It can corner very quickly, probably a lot better than most people expect. I found that while this instantaneous turn rate was great, the long term situation wasn't nearly so rosy. The sustained turn rate without losing altitude starts to force you to lighten up on the stick or lose control through lack of speed. The horsepower of the engine just can't replace nearly the energy expended in hard turning and thus your sustained turn-rate is much less. The F4F-4 also seems a little unstable at low speeds, developing some lateral mushiness as if the tail were not quite large enough. It feels a little like the P-47D30 which also experiences this at low speeds (and usually high external loads). Fighting nose up is pretty much useless as you will find yourself well below your corner speed. The Wildcat is a very good angles fighter though, at least while it's speed is still up. I found that a descending spiral attack when speeds got low seemed to help extend the excellent turn rate.

    The weapons of the F4F-4 are very good, packing six 50 caliber weapons on par with a lot of late war models. The accuracy of these weapons is great out to long ranges so taking shots out to D800 is often possible though D500 is more typical of maximum range for most shot opporuntities. Snap-shots, high-deflection, or even merging shots are all good ideas. The guns are well positioned and have quite a bit of ammunition so I wouldn't be shy using them to try and take pieces out of bogies.

    The F4F-4 is also incredibly strong and an excellent diver. It isn't quick to build speed in a dive but once in a steep dive can retain control and not rip apart at unreal speeds. I've flown a F4F-4 in a 550mph vertical dive and still had good control response. Even at 575mph the plane is creaking but controls are still reasonably effective and recovering from a dive is not overly challenging. I understand that the Wildcat can also take serious punishment from aircraft fire too. A diving escape is sometimes possible to at least extend the encounter till help can arrive.

    Your best plan is going to be to try and corner an enemy near the edge of a fight, one who is in a plane that is not clearly superior to you in E or position. Be above the enemy and then work them over in a BnZ style of fight using your good snapshot and instantaneous maneuverability to bring the nose into firing positions. If the fighter deteriorates to low altitudes before you have a kill then your turn-rate still should provide a good option against all but the best turning opposition. Trying to escape though is a problem since your top speed could likely be 80mph less, or worse, than the enemy you are facing. Most fights will be to the end, though if you can trap an enemy you should have the right tools at hand to get the job done.

    To beat it

    The Wildcat is actually a dangerous opponent and should not be underestimated. That said, it is usually a rather easy opponent to escape from or to kill. If you get trapped by an Wildcat, and maybe his friends, then you could find yourself in deep trouble.

    To attack a Wildcat I would plan on using your top speed and vertical potential. The Wildcat has a dismal climb rate and it is not typical to find one that has maneuvered at all to be flying at more than 260mph at low level. That low speed should make attacks and extensions reasonably easy without much of a threat of retaliatory attacks. Be careful of the firepower of the Wildcat though, he may be happy just presenting you Head-On after Head-On to try and maximize the strength of his airframe with the above average firepower he can bring to bear at long ranges. Any extension would probably be best served with a vertical component since the Wildcat is so poor in climb. Wildcats also become marginally stable at very low speeds and don't hang on their props well, but with the good firepower the possess they may try and spray from long ranges at you if you are also slow. If the fight appears to be going poorly, simple reverse direction and egress before initiative is lose. Extensions should be relatively easy.

    Escaping from a Wildcat can present some problems especially if he is holding a significant E advantage in altitude or speed. If you feel you can match his speed in a dive then you can attempt this, level at top speed, and then extend with little chance of him catching you. The Wildcat doesn't appear to accelerate well in the first part of it's dive, so you may be able to build up some distance early and then use that as a buffer when you run. The Wildcat is highly maneuverable though at high speeds so it is best to not try and aggressively maneuver for position or to try and create an overshoot. You are just as likely to face barrage of .50 cal fire as the Wildcat maneuvers with you and slows you down. Gross overshoots are fine though when a very high speed diving Wildcat is bound to overshoot. Gain speed for a defensive maneuver, execute it in time to avoid the rather of the .50's and then reverse to extend away.

    A couple of additional points to be concerned about. The Wildcat is a small fighter and can be quite darty and nimble. Holding it in the gunsight can be tough and the excellent turn rate can trick you into attempting impossible lead pursuits and set you up for reversals. The Wildcat is also prone to take longer range shots, like many planes with good long range firepower. The Wildcat is even more prone to this because the pilot tends to fight more desperately and try anything in order to swing the fight in his favor, extensions should always involve enough room to escape cleanly from range of his .50's, at least D1.0 is a good margin. The Wildcat is also not a one pass kill type of plane so don't overcommit yourself to a single shot opportunity. You may need to make a second or even third successful pass in order to finish off a F4F-4. Finally, if that wasn't enough, be careful of collisions. The small, darty, and slow nature of the F4F-4 can make collisions a real possibility. Over-committing to an attack you may find yourself on a collision course with something that is as much as 100mph slower than you are.

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