by duffry of Clan=|DMZ|=
This guide is intended to introduce the role of the gunner in BF2 bombers. It covers the basics of the vehicles and tools and goes on to discuss methods for maximising performance and team play.
Some of the techniques in this guide involve attacking the enemy base. It should be noted that the administrators of some servers do not permit this and the wishes of the server owners should be followed.
Laser guided missiles are the most powerful weapons in the game, bar none. Many weapons are ‘one-shot’ against troops and even vehicles but none can destroy commander assets without many impacts or armoured vehicles with splash damage.
There are two types of laser guided missiles in BF2: the US AGM-65 Maverick and the AS-14 Kedge used by the MEC and China
Three of the seven BF2 jets are of the ‘bomber’ class; they each have the same munitions:
- 900 20mm Auto-cannon rounds
- 4 Air-to-air missiles
- 5 Retarding bombs
- 20 Laser guided missiles (LGM)
Each plane carries a maximum of twenty LGMs at a time. Four of these can be deployed in sequence before a brief reload time prepares the next four.
The difference between the three bomber jets weapon systems is the targeting displays. Below are three movie clips showing the LGM targeting systems in action.
You can see that while their targeting displays are different the basic operation remains the same:
- Slue the targeting head over the landscape to identify targets
- Hold the targeting head over a target to attain lock-on
- Lock-on indicated by change in targeting graphic and a ‘good tone’
Once a ‘good tone’ has been achieved the maverick missile can be deployed and it will attempt to seek the locked-on target. The LGM system is bound to one missile at a time, whether it is still attached to the launch mechanism or on route to a target. Only once this missile has detonated will the LGM system bind itself to the next missile; this means that you cannot have more than one missile in the air at any one time.
Both the pilot’s head-up display (HUD) and the LGM targeting screen automatically identify potential targets by putting a white border around any occupied ground vehicles; this includes armour, transport, anti-air and fixed weapon emplacements. While the pilots HUD will identify friendly vehicles from those of the opposing force the LGM targeting screen does not make this distinction.
The images below show the ground target identification of the pilots HUD for the F-15.
The auto-targeting process above is the standard operation of the LGMs but attaining the ‘good-tone’ takes time and this is not always available. The relative position and speed of the jet and target is vital to ensure that the missile’s guidance systems are able to steer it onto the target. If the jet has flown past or turned away from the target by the time the missile is launched then even with a lock the missile will not be able to impact the target. This is not only a concern because the target is missed but also because a devastatingly powerful weapon will now be impacting where it was not intended; this is the cause of many blue-on-blue casualties.
If a target presents itself but the gunner determines that there will not be enough time to gain lock-on and deploy the weapon before the effective corridor is passed then they can launch without ‘good-tone’ and guide the missile manually. A missile launched without a locked target will steer towards the point under the centre of the gunner’s crosshair. It must be remembered that the gunner is targeting from a moving vehicle and therefore the aim must be constantly adjusted to maintain position on the target.
There is a further advantage to manually guiding maverick missiles to the target as well as being able to launch early and strike targets unavailable if using the lock-on system. Tanks in BF2 have a warning system that alerts the driver to a missile lock-on. Manual launch and guidance denies the driver this warning.
The LGM systems of all bombers are prone to intermittent targeting failures. These failures manifest themselves as a disparity between the targeting system of the onboard Multi-Function Display (MFD) and the guidance systems of the missile.
While the target lock-on and manual systems appear to function properly the missile deviates from target by approximately 10 degrees. This can have catastrophic consequences for friendly troops near your target. Once the system has started to malfunction it will persist until the aircraft has been destroyed.
While this issue renders the auto lock-on system useless it is still possible to accurately place missiles. The gunner must correct for the missile displacement manually by eye, adjusting from the targeting information on the MFD. This makes the job much harder and more unpredictable but may be preferable to ditching the craft (for example when if has been stolen from an enemy airbase).
Being highly mobile, finely accurate and devastatingly powerful the laser guided missiles can choose from almost any target in the game. Below are some ideas and guidance to target selection.
While it is obviously desirable to attempt to eliminate all targets that cross your screen this is typically impractical and it is therefore necessary to prioritise. When multiple targets present themselves consider the following:
Are there friendly units close by? - Between any targeting inaccuracy and the considerable splash effect of LGMs friendly units close to your target are liable to take damage or be destroyed; choose targets away from friendlies where possible.
Is your pilot going to deploy bombs? - Remember, you are not alone in this plane and your pilot has some powerful weapons to deploy as well. If you are approaching a concentration of targets and your pilot has bombs to drop you may be better served targeting a vehicle on the edges or slightly away from the concentration and leaving the mass for the pilot, this way you maximise the enemy’s losses.
What is the biggest threat? - Typically anti-aircraft vehicles and emplacements are your best first target. At best they distract your pilot’s attention and could induce evasive manoeuvres that deny you an opportunity to target the enemy, at worst they will bring you down. If there is no threat to you look for threats to your team, armour is often difficult for ground based troops to deal with so eliminate any advancing on your troops positions (see ‘Painting targets’ below)
What can you hit? - You have many shots and can launch them in reasonably rapid succession but don’t attempt a shot that is speculative if it means you jeopardise launching on an easier target right afterwards.
Although troops are not indicated to you on your LGM display they are more than vulnerable to your missiles. If you know the position of a concentration of troops it is often worth manually launching on the area. Be aware of your team’s flags turning neutral, UAV scans, troop ‘spotted’ calls and even where your commander places artillery strikes; all indicate the presence of the enemy (be aware of friendly troop movements also, see ‘blue-on-blue’ below).
The automatic targeting system seems to lock the missiles onto the centre of the vehicle, when an APC is in water its centre is below the waterline. In this situation your missile often requires a steep angle of attack to avoid splashing into the water for much less damage. If your plane is too low to be confident of a clean strike it is sometimes better to manually guide the missile onto the top of the APC.
Maverick missiles will destroy bridges, this is obviously a useful tactical move but one that is best performed under order from your squad lead or commander, as your troops may need it. Bridges deep in enemy territory can be destroyed to slow the advance of troops and vehicles.
If you see multiple targets approaching a bridge it may be useful to destroy the bridge on the first pass and request a second. By the time you come back you may find your targets bunched at the end of the bridge ready for you.
Commander assets can be destroyed by manually guiding the missile onto them; a single clean hit has the power to destroy any of them. If they are damaged (i.e. when they have just been repaired but not yet fully) then splash damage is often sufficient.
If the pilot takes an appropriate flight path over the assets then several can be destroyed in one pass; this is illustrated in the movie below.
If the pilot is out of air-to-air missiles then you can launch onto air targets. Doing this takes careful guidance and great care to avoid any friendly units behind your target. The best targets for this are large helicopters or planes rearming/repairing over their runways.
One prime example of this is engaging the opposite teams bomber. If your pilot can negotiate his way in behind the enemy, he can use his afterburners to gain ground and position himself directly behind the jet engines. Some pilots may use the guns in this instance to destroy the enemy, however an experienced pilot may realise before enough damage is done and pull away. Then the element of surprise has been lost, and a dogfight ensues.
The LGM however is an instant kill. As soon as the enemy bomber begins to dive for a bombing run, or to repair/reload at an airfield, your pilot will need to elevate his position to roughly 10m above the targets altitude, this will open up a much larger area for you to hit, and at that range the points are practically yours.
If a pilot is to make the most of his gunner he will need to fly differently to the manner in which they would were they flying a bomber with no gunner or a fighter.
Rapid turns and fast movement characterise the flight style of fighters, focus is on the skies both to avoid and engage enemy aircraft. Bombers focus more on the ground but when not flying for the gunner an erratic and evasive pattern is the norm. Rapid deployment of munitions followed by immediate return to base for more.
When flying to assist the gunner in eliminating enemy targets the pilot should try and avoid the following:
- Low-level flight - this prevents the gunner from seeing most targets and gives almost no chance to destroy them.
- Sweeping turns - while the LGM system can see and launch on targets to the sides of the aircraft when the pilot pulls back on the stick he is turning the missiles away from any targets dramatically reducing their chances of being able to turn back on course.
- Diving attacks - while this can pick out targets for the gunner he has a short firing window before the pilot must pull out of the dive, if the missile has not been locked and fired or manually impacted the change in vector is liable to deny the kill.
A bomber pilot has five bombs that are typically deployed in a single strike, when flying alone it is worthwhile returning to base to rearm once these have been dropped. The gunner has five sets of four missiles and can be taking out targets for much longer before rearming.
It is also beneficial to stay in the field for longer to assess the movements of enemy vehicles rather than just getting a snapshot between trips back to the runway.
The effective bomber pilot will be looking for targets for his gunner first and only choosing a target for his payload of bombs when the most worthwhile presents itself. The LGMs are precision weapons ideal for single targets whereas the bombs deliver a powerful spread which is perfect for concentrations of troops and vehicles.
The key to air to ground domination is good communication between pilot and gunner, even the most experienced of crews with hours flying together are benefited by letting each other know what they can see or what they intend.
The pilot has many things on his mind and can’t always tell how many missiles have been fired. Setting a gunner up on an attack run can be dangerous and so it is not worth doing when the gunners weapon system is reloading. A simple word to your pilot can let him know that you are temporarily unable to launch to avoid this situation.
The most common instance of friendly fire kills with LGMs is when the gunner does not know that the occupied vehicle in front of him is a friendly. The pilot must give the gunner cues as to which are the live targets and which to avoid by using the bomb targeting HUD.
If the radar warning alarm is sounding the pilot should start evasive manoeuvring. It is typically difficult to be sure if the threat is another jet or a ground based anti-air weapon. Since it is almost impossible to use the LGM system while the pilot is flying evasively the gunner should be looking out for the aggressor instead, this can be done with the fore and aft views as well as the cockpit free view. Then the gunner should advise the pilot as to the nature of the threat and together devise a means to eliminate/evade it.
Target painting typically means receiving a laser lock-on signal from a third party source. This is a feature that was removed from BF2 during development but a version of it still exists. When vehicles or other threats are spotted my ground troops the gunner and pilot should try and be aware of where this target is and move to eliminate it. This is why the target has been typically been spotted, the spotter needs help.
While slow flight with a constant vector is the ideal conditions under which to target and launch LGMs this is often not practical in combat situations. If the aircraft comes under threat from land or air it is the duty of the pilot to fly defensively and avoid damage or destruction. Only the enemy is advantaged by an aircrew having to RTB for repairs or a new vehicle.
Defensive flight involves higher flight speeds and steeper turns, both of which hamper accurate missile launches. The most extreme evasive manoeuvres render the gunner's job impossible but with good communication the pilot can alert the gunner to a firing opportunity approaching and stabilise his flight long enough for a launch and strike. In this situation targets are visible to the pilot before the gunner (as the gunner can only see targets blow the reticule in the centre of the pilots HUD) and he can call that a viable target is ahead and that he will be stabilising for an attack. The gunner will have a short window to deploy and land the strike and so will need to use the manual targeting technique. It is also advisable for the gunner to alert the pilot of that the missile has impacted (successfully or not) as the pilot will most likely have lost sight of the target and will want to resume an evasive pattern as soon as possible.
The AGM-65 Maverick is a tactical, air-to-surface guided missile designed for close air support, interdiction and defence suppression mission. It provides standoff capability and high probability of strike against a wide range of tactical targets, including armour, air defences, ships and transportation equipment and fuel storage facilities. Maverick was used during Operation Desert Storm and, according to the Air Force, hit 85 percent of its targets.
The Maverick has a cylindrical body, long-chord delta wings and tail control surfaces mounted close to the trailing edge of the wing of the aircraft using it. A contact fuse in the nose fires the cone-shaped warhead in the missile's centre section. The propulsion system is a solid-rocket motor behind the warhead.
The missile also has “launch-and-leave” capability that enables a pilot to fire it and immediately take evasive action or attack another target as the missile guides itself to the target. Mavericks can be launched from high altitudes to treetop level and can hit targets ranging from a distance of a few thousand feet to 13 nautical miles at medium altitude.
The Maverick variants include electro-optical/television (A and B), imaging infrared (D, F, and G), or laser guidance (E). The Maverick E is being adopted in the AGM-65E version as the Marine corps laser Maverick weapon for use from Marine aircraft against fortified ground installations, armoured vehicles and surface combatants. Used in conjunction with ground or airborne laser designators, the missile seeker searches a sector 7 miles across and over 10 miles ahead. If the missile loses laser spot it goes ballistic and flies up and over target – the warhead does not explode, but becomes a dud.