Air Combat in Hearts of Iron II is a blend of the land combat and naval combat systems. Air forces are assigned missions to patrol the skies for enemy aircraft, or to conduct extended bombing campaigns against enemy ground forces, installations and infrastructure. Air transports: normally used by your paratroopers: can also be used for temporary air supply of encircled forces if absolutely necessary. These missions are assigned through an order interface that is virtually identical to the one we just looked at for naval orders. Combat between aircraft, though, is handled much more like land combat, but with only a limited number of combat rounds being possible due to limitations in fuel. Never underestimate the devastation that will occur if you lose control of the skies.
Air forces, like navies, must be assigned a base from which to operate and may only land in provinces that have such a base. Like naval bases, air bases have limited available space to handle a flow of aircraft, so exceeding this limitation will greatly reduce the flow of supplies and fuel, and will significantly increase the length of time required to complete repairs and technological upgrades.
Air forces are made up of individual air wings, each of which represents a number of similar-type airplanes that have an area of expertise. The Air Combat equivalent of a division is called an Air Wing (or wing). Groupings of wings are usually called squadrons or sometimes air groups or air forces. The precise wording will vary somewhat from nation to nation, but their function is identical. Forthe purposes of this section I will use the term "squadron" when referring to any combat group of air wings.
Air wing types can be categorised by their size, range and general function. Strategic bombers are the largest of these and are relatively slow-moving aircraft that can carry very large bomb loads ever fairly great distances. Their missions are usually flown against large fixed emplacements such as infrastructure, factories, fortifications and other such targets that require the impact of larger pay loads and have no ability to avoid being hit. Tactical bombers are somewhat smaller and more manoeuvrable, specialising in precise targeting which is much more effective against moving targets (land forces). Close Air Support craft are inexpensive, very short range dive bombers which can inflict very high casualty levels on ground forces, but are unable to defend themselves particularly well against either ground defences or other aircraft. Naval Torpedo Attack Planes are I and-based aircraft that are specially outfitted with munitions suited to attacks against naval vessels and convoys.
The smallest, fastest and most manoeuvrable aircraft available fall under three different general types: fighters, interceptors and escorts. Escorts are the slowest of the three types, but they also have the greatest range, so they are suited to the task of escorting bombers. More than anything their function is to tie up enemy fighters and distract ground defences, allowing the bombers they escort to succeed with their missions. Interceptors are the bomber pilot's worst nightmare. This airplane has excellent weaponry and speed for bringing down the larger aircraft, but is limited by its range and manoeuvrability. The fighter is something of a multi-role aircraft. It has slightly greater range and slightly better attack capabilities than an interceptor but is much more likely to be shot down itself. It can also participate in limited attacks against ground and naval targets, but is unable to stand much in the way of return fire.
There is one last class of "wings" that are ordered from the Air Wing menu of the production folder. These are the flying bombs and flying rockets that historically began with the German V1 and V2 and would eventually (in the postwar years) lead to ICBMs. All of these are Included in Hol2's technology tree (since some war technology is deemed possible, although difficult to attain) and are handled through the Air Combat interface.
The sprites for squadrons are only displayed on the main map when they are in flight, so they can be a little harder to locate and select until you are used to handling them. You can easily spot an air base with a squadron In it because it will be blue in colour instead of grey. You will also see the squadron listed in the information panel when you select a province that contains one. The Air Forces Hot Button displays a complete list of all squadrons and their current base assignments and is probably the fastest and most convenient method of rapid selection.
You can access the Air Wing Details information panel by selecting any squadron and then clicking on one of the wings. As with land and naval divisions, the data displayed in the information panel will reflect any technological upgrades that this unit has received, so it may vary slightly between otherwise identical units. I will not provide a detailed description of any data listed here that is equivalent to a land or naval division's statistics. Air Wng Name: Assigned automatically, you may change this to anything you like.
Air Wing Type: Below a representative picture of this class of airplane you will see a description of its type and specific model.
Commander: The commanding officer of the squadron this wing has been assigned to. You can click anywhere on this bar to return to the squadron details, Squadron Strength and Organisation: A graphic display of the percentage strength (orange bar) and the percentage organization (green bar) ofthe entire squadron. An expanding tooltip gives precise details of these values. Squadron Name, Size and Order Box: The name and the number of wings in the squadron. If the squadron is currently executing orders, then a summary will be listed in the order box. You may assign a new order by clicking on the box and selecting a new mission from the scrollable list.. Location Details: The current location of this air wing. Strength: The wing's current combat strength. Organisation: The wing's current organisation. Morale: The wing's current morale. Strategic Attack: This is the attack value against strategic targets such as infrastructure, factories, fortifications and other provincial assets.
Soft Attack: The attack value used when conducting tactical attacks against soft land targets. Hard Attack: The attack value used when conducting tacti cal attacks against hard land targets.
Naval Attack: The attack value when this wing attacks a naval target.
Air Attack: This is the attack value used when the target is another aircraft.
Surface Defence: This is the defence value used when being fired upon by AA, land forces or naval forces. Air Defence: This defence value is used when the wing is being attacked by another aircraft. Maximum Speed: The wing's maximum speed. Supply Consumption: The daily supplies required. Fuel Consumption: This wing's daily oil consumption rate when in flight. It will use no oil when on the ground. Range: The wing's maximum range is the maximum distance it can travel from its base. When combining wings into squadrons, the wing with the shortest range will determine the squadron's range.
Sea Detection Capability: The wing's ability to detect naval vessels.
Air Detection Capability: The wing's ability to detect other aircraft in the vicinity.
Experience: This wing's current experience level. Effective Supply Efficiency: The wing's current ESE value.
Attach/Detach Nuke: This button will only appear once you have achieved a technology level that allows you to deploy a nuclear bomb on a rocket or strategic bomber. Clicking it will ask you to confirm that you wish to remove a bomb from your nation's nuclear arsenal. If you confirm this, the next mission flown by that unit will include the option to deliver the bomb against the target. You may later detach it and return it to your arsenal, if you wish. The button will be greyed out unless the wing is able to carry a nuclear bomb.
Disband Button: Click this button to disband the wing and recoup some of its manpower,
The Squadron Details information panel is nearly identical to the one used for naval commands, including the squadron's current base assignment and operational range. The set of primary statistics listed for each wing are (in order from left to right) the values for air attack, naval attack, soft attack, hard attack, strategic attack, air defence, and surface defence.
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