Recently Storm of War did a detailed review of the Marianas Islands map, which has recently been released for DCS. While the Modern version is not relevant to Storm of War, we wanted to look into the feasibility of using the World War II version which Eagle Dynamics said that they were working on. Part of that assessment, meant looking at the scale of the map and how it relates to the size of the typical operating ranges of our aircraft and what our pilots typically expect to fly.
This is not the first time we’ve done this. A while ago we did a careful assessment of the Channel Map, looking at whether it would be suitable for World War II operations for our server. Like our study on the Marianas, scale, flight-times and combat vectors were considered. This then raised the question of the “other maps” in DCS.
Unlike the civilian flight simulators (X-Plane, Prepar-3D, MSFS-2020, etc.) DCS World does not include the “whole world”, but rather has terrain maps. These are limited regions, covering just a small part of the globe.
Now, this is completely understandable. You see, the difference is that unlike a civilian flight simulation, the scenery is a target. Bombs, gunfire, and rockets will (or at least should!) interact with the landscape to destroy buildings, crater runways, knock out bridges or char the vegetation. This is why combat flight simulators have limited areas or maps, in which the action takes place.
In total, DCS has seven maps. Two are free (the default Caucasus and the downloadable Marianas). The other five are additional modules which you need to buy. But this brings us back to our original consideration of the maps for DCS WW2. For Storm of War, the only map we use is the Normandy map. But we have thought about the other maps and part of that was wondering how they compare in scale with each other.
So, what we’ve done is take every single DCS map. We measure the scale of the map in kilometres and take some screenshots of the map to show their full extent. Then, we calculate the relative scales of the maps and put them all on a single image, scaled to the same size.
The DCS maps are flat in the sense that there is no earth curvature and the east-west and north-south grids are linear and orthogonal. This means a direct comparison can be made. Additionally, it is possible to place nearby maps at the correct distances from each other.
So, in the composite image, we’ve grouped some maps together. Nevada and Marianas are completely separate from the others. The Channel and Normandy overlap each other. The Caucasus, Syria and Persian Gulf maps are near each other, but there is no overlap. We have spaced them the correct distance apart (and added a little bit of coastline of the Mediterranean and Caspian Sea to guide the eye).
A comparison of size
It is interesting to compare the sizes of the maps, but one needs to be careful! The “populated” (in a scenery sense) areas of each map are not the same. It is pretty obvious on the Caucasus where the fill-in area is. But, for example, the Romanian coast is totally empty. Likewise for the Persian Gulf, which has detail for the Strait of Hormuz, while Kuwait and Iraq are coastlines only. The Syria map actually has the most scenery-populated land area.
Of course, water is water… so the Marianas has a minuscule landmass, but is still the largest map… assuming you like flying over the open ocean.
Although Storm of War will not be using any of these maps except Normandy, it is nevertheless interesting to compare what we are using to the other maps and their scales. Of course, new maps will no doubt come out for the simulator.Eagle Dynamics have already mentioned the WW2-Pacific version of the Marianas, and Razbam are currently working on a Falklands Islands map. We will no doubt examine each as they are released (or upgraded).
In multiplayer WW2 DCS trains do not work. They do not appear correctly for all clients. They do not run correctly. In some cases, they simply do not appear at all. This is a MAJOR deficiency of the simulator, which has existed for year, and had led to a lot of frustrated customers. In this article we look at why trains are so important and the impact of their absence on our Storm of War pilots.
History and importance
The German railway network (Deutsche Reichsbahn) was the national railway system created at the end of the First World War. During its expansion in the 20s and 30s, it was considered one of the biggest industrial expansion programmes in the world, and one of critical importance to the infrastructure of the Reich: from food distribution, to industrial interconnectivity, and supplying the front line. When war broke out, these railways were hard-pressed to supply Germany’s war needs and, in many ways, they never were able to.
After the defeat of the Jagdwaffe in early 1944, American fighters were allowed to attack targets of opportunity after completing their escort duties. With the ease of finding those long silver lines and smoke and steam giving away their presence, trains were a primary target. With over 40 trains per day being destroyed, the loss rate outstripped production of locomotives and rolling stock (an experienced train crews), which was already in decline. The occupied countries had it even worse. In France, the railways were severely damaged during the Allied air-offensives in the lead-up to the D-Day invasion, and the subsequent Normandy breakout.
The railways operated right to the collapse of the Third Reich. Yet by the end, they were barely functioning, despite the heroic efforts of the railway repair teams, maintenance staff and train crews. The inability to have adequate supply exacerbated the chaos of the relentless and overwhelming Allied advances. With the flow of spare parts, replacement troops, fuel, munitions and rations slowed to a trickle by the collapse of the railways the effectiveness of German forces decreased dramatically.
For Germany, trains are a vital part of the logistics. While the Allied logistics was dominated by ships and trucks, the Germans had trains and horses. With Axis oil being in such short supply (and desperately needed for other areas), the coal and steel railways provided the only viable solution for mass-mechanised transport logistics. Without an adequate supply chain, no nation can wage war.
Trains in DCS
Within the DCS WW2 assets pack, there are some very special units. The DRG Class 86 locomotive, plus the G10 covered wagon,the DR 50-tonne flat type transport and others. These have been created in stunning detail. They are truly beautiful models.
In the Mission Editor, there are two types of trains.
“Civilian traffic” trains. These are arbitrary and do not function well. If you are simply going to ignore trains, use them as environment-only, and fly single-player, then these are fine.
“Placeable unit” trains. These “snap” to the rail lines and should spawn-in and move about on waypoints just like road vehicle units. For targets and a controlled multiplayer environment, this second type is essential.
And this is where it starts to hurt the players.
Currently, trains a dysfunctional. The railway key in the Mission Editor does not work. The levels-of-detail on the map are flawed. The logic by which they follow railways is indecipherable. The trains can only be placed in certain positions. They do not always render or appear correctly. They are often merely shadows on the ground.
But it gets worse…
Storm of War has always strived to create an immersive environment for World War 2 air combat operations. As far as possible within the limitations of the DCS simulator, we use extensive research and historical sources to create a set of historically minded and compelling scenarios. Part of that is the logistics. It is critically important to us to convey this aspect of the war to our vitual pilots. Not only does it provide vital context, but it also makes the ecosystem richer and our virtual battlefield less sterile.
Trains are also a critical target for the P-47D and the DH.98 Mosquito. It is difficult to justify the inclusion of these aircraft (particularly the Mosquito) in the absence of the provision of valid targets.
However, there is a more fundamental problem. Trains do not work across multiplayer DCS. What we mean here is that any train placed in the mission editor only appears on the server-instance of DCS. It does not appear in the clients. This affects not just persistent, multiplayer servers like Storm of War, but even just a couple of players wanting to carry out their own co-op mission.
Trains do not work across multiplayer DCS.
The fact that trains do not render in different clients, much less are actually synchronised between them, is not new.
This bug was reported back in 2017. Yes, twenty-seventeen. It comes up repeatedly on the forums. Numerous threads have pointed this out.
So this is not just Storm of War, but a much larger swathe of the community.
Yet for us, trying to run the Normandy Campaign without trains, is like trying have the Battle of the Atlantic without convoys. Logistics is a vital part of warfare. And working locomotives and their rolling stock are a critical part of the defending logistics, an important target and essential to the historical landscape.
When the Channel Map was released for DCS, the team at Storm of War did a detailed assessment of the map for possible use on a 24/7 multiplayer server. In the last week, Eagle Dynamics (ED) have released the Marianas Map. The map is FREE as a downloadable module/DLC. It is set in a modern era, with modern assets, airbases and urban areas. However, ED have stated that they plan to develop an historical version of map and assets. In a statement made by NineLine on the ED forums on 06-Jul-2021, he wrote:
“ WWII PTO assets will be worked on later, the map will be released in a WWII version down the road as well, thanks. ”
NineLine, 06-Jul-2021, ED Forums
This then begs an analysis of the map, the current aircraft and assets, and is it feasible as a potential scenario for Storm of War?
Storm of War has always been about historical scenarios. In order to assess whether there are any suitable options, research was done on the following historical events.
There was a 1st Battle of Guam: 8-10 December 1941, but that’s not suitable for a PvP server, given the unpreparedness of the USA, and the fact it is so early in the war (which means a lack of any flyable aircraft).
The significant action on this map begins in the far west. This is the Battle of the Philippine Sea, which was on the 19-20 June 1944. It was a single battle which was very much one-sided and is also not suitable for a PvP server. It is exacerbated by the requirement for carrier operations (which we’ll discuss later). This was the precursor to the Marianas campaign which ran from June to August 1944. It seems like the Marianas campaign would be a good set of missions for DCS.
The problem is that by the time the main action on the islands had commenced, the raids against the Japanese airfields had annihilated any aircraft or infrastructure. The only major attempt by the Japanese to fend off the Americans was during this carrier offensive, in February 1944, as they raided the islands and neutralised the Japanese air power in the area.
American aircraft raid Rota, Tinian and Saipan. The US forces are from Task Group 58.3 (Sherman) and Task Group 58.2 (Montgomery). The attack sinks 20,000 tons of Japanese shipping, destroys the airfields and damages the harbour infrastructure. These few days in February 1944 is when the air war occurred over the Marianas. Unlike Operation Hailstone, it was not well contested. And it limits the US aircraft strictly to carrier-based aircraft.
Currently, we have the P-47, which took part in the invasion of Saipan as part of the 7th Air Force, flying onto the island in June 1944. It saw action in the ground attack role. However, its arrival was after the Japanese air force was decimated.
Magnitude 3 (a 3rd party developer) is producing the F4U1-D Corsair. It earned itself the nickname: “Sweetheart of the Marianas”. But, like the P-47, arrived after the Japanese airforce was gone.
We all know that Nick Grey (Co-founder of ED) Really Loves The Hellcat, and that this aircraft is on the way to DCS. The Grumman F6F Hellcat, was deployed in mid-1943, with first actions in Sep 1943. It is faster than the Zero at all altitudes and would make for a powerful carrier aircraft, appropriate to this area.
Other Allied aircraft are not so relevant for the Marianas, let alone the air war there. The P-51 was deployed late in the Pacific, for example, from Iwo Jima in 1945. It was assigned to B-29 escort duty and saw some large air battles, but these were over Japan itself (e.g. 29-May-1945). It is not so relevant for the Marianas, but could be squeezed in a a pinch. Other DCS WW2 aircraft, even less so.
But what about the Japanese?
A6M5 “Zero” was the naval fighter produced throughout the war. Magnitude 3 has hinted at producing an AI version of this aircraft, but nothing has been confirmed. That said, the A6M was already obsolete by this stage of the war, and will not fare well against the Hellcat or the Corsair.
If it is not flyable, then we’d need to use substitutes.
One option is the “Japanitfire” which uses the Spitfire Mk.IX also attired in Japanese colours representing any of the inline-engined Japanese aircraft (like the Ki-60).
The other option is the “Japanton”… this is the FW 190 A-8, re-skinned in IJN colours and used as a stand-in for the some generic radial-engined Japanese aircraft (say the A6M). This was even used by ED in their promotional video for the new map.
We already grieve needing to use the Bf 109 K-4 in Normandy as a substitute for the Bf 109 G-6. These substitutes are simply not acceptable.
The “other” aircraft
An ongoing problem with DCS WW2 is the obsessive focus on fighter aircraft. Any war is fought at multiple levels and, in order to support the PvP fighter-v-fighter combats, bombers, attack aircraft, transports, are also needed. This is what makes the air war ecosystem come alive and transforms it from a dogfight server to an historic server.
Thus, aircraft like Grumman TBF Avengers and Nakajima B5N2 “Kate” bombers are important. (As an example of a more contested air war, look at Operation Hailstone.)
Then there are the bomber raids against the Marianas (B-24 Liberators), the Japanese maritime aircraft stationed there (H8K2 Emily) and the long-range American aircraft that moved there post-invasion (B-29 Superfortress) to carry out the raids against the Japanese mainland.
From infantry, trucks and Sherman tanks, the Allies have enough ground units to supplement an amphibious landing. Additionally, there some anti-aircraft guns. The Bofors gun in DCS has a British crew, but could be pressed into service if needed. However, a better heavy US anti-aircraft gun is needed. There is a jeep too (albeit with a British driver).
On the Japanese side, there is nothing. Any WW2 scenario (whether PvP or PvE) in the Marianas is simply not feasible without infantry, mortar and crew, anti-aircraft guns and coastal defence artillery. (Japanese tanks are not relevant here.)
There is a US Essex-class carrier being developed… we’ll get to that later, but it needs to be supplemented. Destroyers (e.g. Fletcher class or Benson class) are needed for this carrier escort work, but also for shore bombardment (an important part of the campaigns).
The Japanese carrier is sometimes mentioned. These operated on the far-western edge of the Marianas map (Philipines Sea). And the blue-water expanse of the map could be used for any carrier-v-carrier operations. However, for the plane-set that we anticipate F6F Hellcat, the carrier war was very lop-sided by this stage of the war and does not make for a compelling PvP scenario.
For the raids on the Japanese-held Marianas, destroyers and cargo ships will be needed.
The map has dimensions 1500\,km east-west, but 1300\,km north south. It is nearly all water. However, in the south east, there is Marianas Island chain. This comprises the islands of Guam, Rota, Aguijan, Tinian and Saipan. It also contains a number of very minor islands, such as Cocos Island and Farallon de Medinilla. We’ll assume that there are appropriate airfields added, and that it would be possible to fly from Guam, Rota, Tinian and Saipan. Historically, these islands also had significant seaplane bases.
Superficially, the Marianas looks comparable scale to Normandy. However, the Marianas island chain is linear. There is no “off-axis” fields, like we have Lessay or Evreux. This makes for linear gameplay as there is merely a stream of players taking off from nearest opposing fields.
The answer on the Marianas is the introduction of carriers to provide off-axis vectors. These can be randomised to add variety. But they have an additional set of complications.
It is known from the modern jet servers the challenges of carrier operations. WW2 aircraft will have serious problems here. Firstly, the launches are flown, not catapulted. The landings are precarious, at best… and the Corsair has a particularly nasty reputation in this regard (assuming it is used). Finally, the carriers themselves are small. This affects the amount of room for aircraft, but also the ship itself.
We already have manoeuvring problems on airfields due to the challenges of tail-dragger aircraft. The pitching decks of confined WW2 carriers will be particularly challenging, especially as they are straight-deck carriers, and not angled deck carriers like in modern times.
Naval operations also require working radio communications and equipment. At the moment, at least half of the WW2 aircraft in DCS have non-functioning radio navigation equipment. This would need to be fixed. Additionally, provision needs to be made for both sides to allow either Japanese or American aircraft to operate.
One of the biggest problems we see with the 24/7 server concept is the sustainability. Currently, SoW has 25 Normandy Campaign missions. These are massive missions with multiple objectives for both sides. The map spans a large area, but there are multiple deployment points and a large variety of mission-specific targets and static defences (e.g. ports and airfields).
This is not readily available in the Marianas scenario.
There is no real air war here. Like Unternehmen Bodenplatte in Europe, the defenders made some last assaults of significant numbers, but in total futility. The Allies flinch for a moment, and then continue their relentless advance with their assailants crippled and reeling from their last-gasp attack.
You can make a single mission of these such events, but it is not possible to make a 24/7 server from them.
However, our summary is that the Marianas will not be suitable for Storm of War. We anticipate that it will be good developed as a single-player environment, and that it would work nicely for a PvE co-op environment or one-off event. However, we do not anticipate being able to constructively utilise the map for an immersive, PvP 24/7 historical multiplayer environment.
Many SoW users may have noticed that in recent weeks we have been more vocal about communicating issues and long standing bugs or deficiencies with the software that Eagle Dynamics has provided.
In it’s current state there are a significant number of long standing bug reports fort many of the software modules that have been sold and purchased and are being deployed by SoW. A list of these bugs for the FW190-A8 simulation alone have been posted on the SoW .info website which you can read here: https://stormofwar.info/fw190a8bugs.php
Dietrich in particular has been writing detailed, careful bug reports for years now (example: https://forums.eagle.ru/topic/181973-reported-incorrect-trajectory-of-the-br21-rockets/ ), with historical references, .trk files, instructions on how to repeat the tests, etc., etc.. The response has been underwhelming. Bugs have remained in the same state as far as the customer is concerned, for not months, but years. It is difficult to image how much clearer and detailed the identification of product issues needs to be articulated before it can be understood and resolved by the software developer.
There is now significant concern from much of the user-base that additional new modules being developed Eagle Dynamics (Such as the F6) are going to further limit the amount of effort to deliver on the incumbent projects. Among the apparently neglected deliverables are a significant number of aerial AI-only assets which includes (but is not limited to) the B-25, C-47 109G variant .
I often think of the 2018 “SoW Wishlist” video which set out a set of desired product improvements that were considered important (if not critical) for building a server-based simulation like we have with SoW. It is somewhat disheartening to see how many of those things remain incomplete. However, most of these items are wish-list requests. At the core of the current communications from SoW is the desire to see core “broken” elements of the existing software finally fixed.
To that end, regular communication of critical product bugs will be posted on the SoW .info website.
We also encourage the user community to continue engaging with the supplier, Eagle Dynamics vie any public or private channels you have access to. The hopeful result being that this long list of historically reported platform issues can be resolved as soon as possible.
This month was the second busiest month ever for the server in terms of both player numbers and hours flown.
6400+ hours of flight time were logged in May. This compares well to the 4200 hours from April and 6000 from March.
1449 unique DCS accounts logged on to SoW during the month. Around 300 players flew for 5 hours or more. This means that the vast majority of players are not flying much though, and we have a hardcore of pilots who keep the server populated. Part of this is probably explained by the rather brutal and unforgiving nature of the server, it is obvious from the stats and watching the trk file replays that newer players have a tough time on SoW. Unfortunately, the servers which are designed specifically to help provide a transition for newer players into the MP environment are not being as well patronised as we would like. We are exploring ways to try and promote those servers and other DCS WW2 online environments.
We are also thinking of ways to try and spread the “peak” of player numbers, which tends to be concentrated over a 3 to 4 hour period in the evenings in Europe. We’d like to see more activity in the evenings for the Americas. At the moment, the idea of getting some Americas/ Oceanic-based squadrons to join en masse during this time zone, perhaps one night per week, is something we are trying to explore.
We’ve now converted 9 of the old missions over to the 2.7 format. June will see a couple more added in also. We also have plans to increasingly track and provide stats on the completion of objectives and we are working on a basic system for rewarding the escort and interception of the medium and high altitude AI bomber raids.This might be trialled during June, however it is unlikely to be implemented until later in the year.
Stability wise, once the 2.7 OB was patched, the server has not crashed at all. In fact, this has now been the most stable the server has ever been. This has made server admin significantly less time consuming and stressful. So we have to take our hats off to ED for being so surgical with their response to the problem. Also a big thanks to the player base who reported issues and drew EDs attention to the problems we were having when the 2.7 patch was released.
The launch of DCS 2,7 open beta was rough for a few servers, in particular who are hosting warbird missions on the Normandy map. Thankfully, we now appear to have a stable Open Beta. After two days of running the server on the patched 2.7 we are happy that things are stable now. We’ve not had a crash at all since the patch. Thanks go out to the team at ED, including BigNewy and Nineline for tracking the bug reports and Rik who contacted us directly with some tools to help diagnose the issue. Also, thanks to:
SpecialK for his support testing and coordinating bug reports.
LFDM Maxime for sharing ideas and helping test one of our missions on the LFDM hardware.
The guys from JG3 for giving up time to test/ diagnose issues with us.
Burrito and Mr red for putting in some time painstakingly doing mission edits.
The player base for being supportive and especially to those players who provided bug reports/ data directly to ED (Gili, LeLv8_Archi, Nirvi).
Now Dietrich and I can get back to the slightly less stressful business of SoW maintenance, at least until the next thing breaks 🙂
You may have noticed a limited mission set remains on the server. This is because we are re-building every mission from the ground up now. We tested a complete mission rebuild as part of the diagnostics during the crash-period. It turned out to not be the fix we had hoped for, but on the upside – doing this has greatly improved the efficiency, consistency and load times of our missions so we are going to rebuild all of them up to the version 100 standard over the next few weeks or months.
Dietrich has also been able to improve some aspects of the stats coding in the interim too, so the down time has had other benefits for SoW as a whole.
The next steps will be to get LotATC working again soon, so that our team of controllers can jump into the plotting room and vector everyone about the heavens.
Over the next couple of weeks, we will be adding new anti-shipping related stats onto the stats display website.
It has always been problematic that only the very last person to damage a ship gets the credit for it. Whilst we know this issue also applies to aircraft and other ground units, it is particularly frustrating for shipping given how much effort (usually combined effort between players) and risk is required, especially to sink the larger ships.
Furthermore, the current system does not distinguish between the tiny landing craft which can be destroyed with a couple of canon rounds, and the USS Samuel Chase – which usually requires over 1,500kg of direct hits with bombs to sink it.
We therefore intend to start sharing the Loaded Displacement in metric tonnes of sunk ships between contributing players and AI aircraft. This means, obviously, that there is a far greater displacement tonnage to be claimed from participating in the sinking of the larger ships. The basic outline of HOW we will allocate the score is as follows:
The last player to hit a ship with ANY WEAPON, and any other PLAYERS or AI who ALSO hit that ship with bombs or rockets, will share in the tonnage, equally.
We are also using “loaded displacement”, which means the displacement of the vessel, plus the weight of any stores, cargo, fuel, troops, ammunition, etc. that it might be carrying at the time of its sinking. This is distinct from registered tonnage (which is cargo volume). We feel that this is a better reflection of the value of ships, not just for their logistics capacity, but also for their tactical value. By using loaded displacement it also means that there will be some variation in the tonnes of any given ship. This will be randomised along a normal distribution curve WITHIN what we believe is a realistic range for each vessel. Thus, this displacement range reflects the different chances that any given ship might be lightly, or heavily, loaded on any specific missions.
The ranges we shall be using are: – Schnellboot 100 to 110 metric tonnes – Higgins Boat 8 to 15 metric tonnes – Light cargo ships (both variants) 1950 to 2250 metric tonnes – Type VIIC U-boat 769 to 878 metric tonnes – LST Mk2 Landing Ship 1780 to 3880 metric tonnes – Tanker (i.e. Elnya Type) 3491 to 5045 metric tonnes – Heavy attack transport (i.e USS Samuel Chase) 9000 to 16725 metric tonnes
In addition to the displacement, we will probably continue to display ship “kills” (which are allocated as they are now) to the last person to hit a ship before it sinks. We may also add a raw count of “assists” to players who hit a ship with a bomb or rocket before another player sinks it.
We know that this system does NOT perfectly allocate the displacement between the contributing players, however we consider this to be a far better system than the one we currently have. We have run through a large number of possibilities on this, all within the confines of the data that DCS makes available to us. We have also extensively tested various allocation concepts against our server log data to check for possible edge cases and exploits.
It cannot be overstated however, that we are limited by the data which comes out of DCS.
In our opinion, this is just about the most fair system we can come up with that recognises risk and effort with the appropriate reward for the individual AND for combined pilot attacks.
Some players have asked if something similar can also be used to allocate shared or assist kills for air-to-air or air-to-ground. Whilst a sharing system like we developed in Storm of War for Cliffs of Dover would be desirable – developing the code and systems for this is not on our current priority list.
Monday 08th March 2021. All was quiet. All was calm.
Suddenly a horde of nearly 20 red-team players arrived on the server. It was the unashamedly red-to-the-core European Air Force (EAF), and, Monday night is their squad flight night. They arrived, intent on raiding and asserting air supremacy.
The poor old blue team were caught with their pants down somewhat. There were few who are brave (or should we say foolish!) enough to attempt tackling this force alone. But the general reaction from the blue team was probably to steer clear!
The SoW discord was quick to see what is going on, but it’s not clear if the reaction was delight or despair!
It was at this point that a response somehow managed to half organise itself on discord. Within 30 minutes or so, some balance had been restored with 15 or so blue team player deciding to jump on and meet the EAF threat.
The word from our informants is that we can expect a repeat of this from EAF on a regular basis on Monday evenings, around 2000 Central European time.
If that is true, then Monday’s are shaping up as the idea time for a couple of Blue team squadrons to organise themselves also.
The result could be some almighty scraps of epic proportions. . . .
” A ship slipped through the darkness, strong and proud and free, Yet her wake was a ribbon of moonlight, over the purple sea, The aircraft dived, the bombs were dropped; flame and spray leapt high! The droning engines faded, and the sailors were left to die. “
Each month, Storm of War awards campaign ribbons to the best results of those pilots who fly the minimum number hours. The results are reckoned per “pilot career”, thus rewarding those who can achieve victory for minimal loss. There are three separate categories: victories against maritime, ground and air targets. The same number of ribbons are awarded for each category. Both the air-victory and ground-victory categories are usually well contested. With the ribbon-earners generally racking-up 5+ successes per pilot-career (so, roughly “ace” status).
However, that is not the case with the ships.
Since starting the statistics, it’s been the the other way around… 1 success per 5 pilot-careers. Some months, it’s been even less demanding. For example, last month there were so few attempts on shipping that there was a ribbon given out for a single success from a pilot who flew 15 pilot-careers!. Yes, that’s right, getting 0.07 maritime victories per pilot carreer would have got you a ribbon in February 2021. Thus the maritime campaign ribbon is currently rewarding its pilots, not just for the skill in sinking these stubborn targets, but for being resourceful in the first place and exploring all that SoW has to offer.
But why are there so few ships sunk?
Well, there are number of factors. There are fewer of them, compared to other target types. They can sometimes be difficult to find, often difficult to approach and even difficult to hit. Some pilots just can’t handle that challenge. And others probably don’t even realise such targets are there. The top-10 list for both ground and air fill up quickly each month, but the seascape attracts scant attention. So here are some tips to surmount the difficulties, and to put yourself in the running for a coveted SoW campaign ribbon.
Finding targets Finding ships out on the open sea can be challenging, just based on the sheer distances required to cover them. Altitude helps, but then there is the potential for clouds to obstruct the view. If you do spot ships out on the open water, report them via radio (SRS) so that others on your side, and your GCI controller (Kenway or JaFü), can respond even if you yourself do not.
Especially in the earlier missions which are set shortly after the landings, there can be a plethora of vessels along the landing grounds. Flying along the beaches can quickly spot the larger vessels and quite often there will be small landing craft in the vicinity, making their way to the sandy shore or pulled up on the sand.
Ships will congregate in the harbours too. Cherbourg, Le Havre and Grandcamp are well-known sites and both sides will make use of such havens when they have them. But there are lesser ports too. And sometimes barges and small craft can be found on the rivers and inland waterways (and, yes, inland shipping counts in the maritime category). Be wary though. Ships are generally good at self-defence, but these ports can be absolutely bristling with resistance.
Approaching targets The large transports, and the LSTs (Landing Ship, Tank), are very well armed. Approaching them can be downright dangerous. And ships in ports will have nearby anti-aircraft emplacements on the docksides and shorelines. Harbours will often have multiple ships, multiplying the firepower even further. This can make a close approach suicidal for a lone, low-and-slow, fighter bomber.
Treat flotillas like bomber formations — hit the stragglers. Look out for those that are separated from the others and attack them orthogonally to the main group, so that the bulk of the guns will have to lead their shots against you. Of course, if you can find a lone ship somewhere, all the better.
The dropped ordnance for DCS WW2 is currently limited. There are no level-bombing sights for high-altitude attacks, nor delayed-fuse bombs for low-level work. And sea-skipping bombs is also not yet functioning. So this means a dive-bombing or shallow-dive attacks are your only options. Dive bombing can be difficult, as you need to get your speed under control to be able to maintain good aim, and then pull out in time. The upcoming F4U Corsair should be good for this. A shallow-dive approach is an effective bombing method, as very high speed (but still controlled) can be obtained, with minimal side-slip to ensure bombing accuracy. You can then continue the dive down to sea level to keep your speed up for the escape.
As with all attacks. There is safety and strength in numbers. Do not go in alone. Use numbers both to increase your firepower, but more importantly to distribute that of the enemy. Successful attacks on ports were done with a lot of aircraft. For example, there were two whole squadrons of FW 190s that attacked Bône Harbour on 1-2 January 1943, and they were additionally backed up with a squadron of Stukas.
Take with you all your squad mates or anyone else you can rustle up on comms. Fly out with an AI wingman to help disperse the return fire (even the wingman’s aircraft is not carrying bombs itself) and distract defending interceptors. Make use of AI raids too. Going in to support a squadron of Ju 88 torpedo bombers will definitely be easier, as they’ll break up the fleet and draw the AAA-fire away from you.
Consider also your approach direction. Are you coming in over land (and other Flak/AAA units), or are their other ships in the area? And what about barrage balloons? Having some good reconnaissance will help and knowing the placement and disposition of the docks and piers, and those berthed at them, will be of benefit in planning.
And don’t forget to use the radar reports and GCI fighter controller to warn you of potential interdiction.
Hitting targets Landing bombs on ships is harder than it seems. Firstly, you need to manage your sideslip. Fly with the “trim ball” centred. This means that a longer, more deliberate approach can be more accurate, as you can ensure that the aircraft is not slipping. That will make your lateral accuracy very good.
Getting the timing and aim right for the bomb release is much more difficult. So attacking the ship along its length is a good idea. A slight error in release will still result in a hit, as the bomb falls further forward or aft on the target. In some cases, the very front (or aft) guns cannot track back (or forward) across the superstructure. Thus you might even reduce the amount of return fire you receive.
And, when bombing on water, a near miss is still a miss. Ground targets can be caught up in the blast, even if not hit directly, but this is not the case with ships. Well… not unless you hit the quayside.
Smaller warships, Schnellboote, U-Boote, etc., present a different challenge. They still carry a potent arsenal of anti-aircraft weapons, yet they are smaller in size and thus can be more elusive to your falling bombs. On the other hand, once hit they will slip beneath the waves more readily, so are susceptible to concerted rocket and cannon attacks.
The small infantry landing craft (Higgens boats) can be easy pickings for rapidly moving fighters to strafe. But they are tiny and are thus difficult to spot, let alone hit. And the plume of water that will erupt from near-misses can obscure them (and your vision more generally), so prepare for one careful solid burst. Note that you can hit and sink them with cannon fire from a fair way out, so don’t feel you need to close in to point-blank range to hit.
The catch with those Higgens boats is that there are usually LSTs and transports nearby. So come in very fast, obliquely to the larger ships, get one and then get out!
Leaving the area Planning your egress is just as important as planning your approach. If you attack on the open sea, you don’t have many options, although a setting/rising sun may mask your retreat. However, attacking ports and shorelines will require some more tactical thinking. It may make more sense to attack from the sea, overfly, and then head inland. Thus, you can use terrain and port buildings to mask your departure.
Keep your speed up. Some maritime pilots (and this applies to ground attack too!) will make their attack and then pull up. As they climb out, they are slowing down, and remain well within the range of the guns of their targets. These aircraft become extremely easy to hit. Instead, level out and egress with your speed as high as you can manage until you are well out of range.
Resist the allure of a second pass. It is so tempting, I know. But do not do it! By now the ships are all alerted and all guns are training on you. Your turn back will bleed you of speed and make you even more vulnerable to the naval AAA. And, being low on energy is not a good idea for when those enemy fighters show up. And you can rest assured that they will be homing in on your radar mark, not to mention all the smoke and commotion.
Violent jinking (hard manoeuvring to avoid being hit by bullets) does not help as much as you might think. To the pilot, it seems like you are making huge corrections and are dancing all over the sky. But these are less than a degree in he sights of the AAA gunners who are just concentrating on putting maximum rounds downrange in your direction. Instead, arcing away means you are changing direction, and are forcing the guns to track you, but you are still keeping your speed up and thus are getting out of their reach quicker.
Landing safely after taking out a floating target, whether a tiny boat or a many-thousand-tonne behemoth, is most gratifying. Very few pilots are brave enough to attempt the challenge and even fewer can pull it off. So those ribbons in shades of purple, silver and gold, do actually make you one of the few. Even better are the sea stories of your exploits.
The Storm of War pilot stats pages provide space for the various campaign ribbons that a player has won to be displayed. This is an explanation of how the ribbons are awarded.
HOW MANY RIBBONS PER MONTH? The total number of ribbons awarded per month is equal to 15% of the number of players who flew for 10 hours or more. So, if 100 players flew for 10 hours+, then 15 ribbons in each category will be awarded. If 200 players flew for 10 hours+, then 30 ribbons in each category will be awarded.
WHAT ARE THE CATEGORIES? There are three categories Air to Air – based on victories against other aircraft versus “careers” flown Ground attack – based on the number of enemy ground units destroyed versus “careers” flown Maritime Strike – based on the ships sunk by the player versus “careers” flown The same number of ribbons are awarded in each category.
WHO GETS A RIBBON? Players who fly 10+ hours in the month are sorted by their kill:career ratio in each category. Once the sorting is done, the number of ribbons to be awarded (x) in that month are awarded to the (x) top players by K:C ratio. Pilots start each month with 1 career 1 death is counted as a further “career” 5x bailouts are also counted as a further “career” . So, if 25 ribbons are being awarded, then the top 25 players in each category get a ribbon.
RIBBON DESIGN The ribbons are intended to look historically neutral in that they do not mimic real world medal ribbons from either Axis or Allied sides. We don’t want to copy real world medals for two reasons: 1. Out of respect for the real thing, 2. Due to potential political debates about the appropriateness of certain awards and imagery. By designing our own ribbons we can also have the flexibility we need to recognise the types of gameplay that matter for SoW. Each category of ribbon has a “similar” design, so the colour scheme of the ribbons indicates the category. For example, Maritime Ribbons make heavy use of dark blue and purple colours. The image below provides a visual guide to the ribbon designs.
Furthermore, each month of the year has one campaign ribbon per category, which means a maximum of 36 (12×3) ribbons are available in a year. In subsequent years, if a pilot is awarded the same campaign ribbon again, a “PIP” is added to the ribbon, as shown below. There is room for up to 4 pips (5 awards of the same ribbon).
The following pilots have received the below awards for their performance in November 2020.
13 Ribbons of each type were awarded for the month (based on the number of players who managed 10+ hours flying on the server). The ribbons will automatically show on your pilot profile on the SoW stats pages as soon as you start accumulating stats for December.