When you think of a FW-190A, what do you think of? A Boom-n-Zoom plane? Good top speed but bad climb rate? An inferior version of the P-51D? Spitfire food? Turns like a brick but rolls like a god? These were all my perceptions of the 190 when I started playing this game. I usually ended the game with 0 or 1 kills after being pilot sniped by a Spitfire that I didn't see. KD was around 0.8 and I despised the 190's. I even made a meme about it.
Now the FW-190 A-5/U2 is my favorite plane in the whole game (including jets), my KD in it is above 4, I gain over 30k SL in my typical game, and I actually just enjoy it a lot. Am I bragging? Well…maybe, but the point is that I learned some things about the 190 that completely changed the way I played it, and that clearly improved my skills by a lot. Feel free to respond if you have questions, comments, or screams of fury.
Notes: when I say "energy retention," I mean "the efficiency with which speed can be converted into altitude and vice versa". "Maneuvering energy retention" is "the amount of energy retained after a certain angle of turn". Without further ado, here is what I have learned…
- Altitude does NOT matter that much. I know, what a sacrilegious thing to say. Anyway, the 190 performs extremely well at low altitude. If you ever climb side by side with 109's, you will notice that you actually out-climb them under 1 km (once you're spaded). You have a lot of power under 1 km, and you will be underestimated at low altitude. Use this to your advantage: always attack furballs even if they are low, your energy retention at low altitude is very good so you will be able to regain your altitude. On the other hand, the 190 performs poorly at altitude. It struggles against the spitfire and the P-47 at high alt – instead of fighting them on their own terms, try to lure them down.
- The 190A's turn very well. I know, wtf right? No, I'm serious. At high speeds – i.e. above 450 kph, very few things can out-maneuver a fw 190 A. The P-51's will out-maneuver you at high speed, but besides that, you are extremely agile at high speed. Spitfires, Yaks, 109's, even Corsairs and P-47's – all of these planes lock up in either the pitch or roll axes at high speed. But the 190 and the P-51 get increasingly maneuverable at high speeds. You will be able to really surprise people with your high-speed maneuverability as you cut inside their turns.
- Use throttle control and takeoff flaps. Most veteran pilots will tell you that energy and speed are the most important things in a 190. Nah. They are important, but position is more important. Suppose you're starting to fly defensively against a P-38 that's diving on you at high speed. The play in this position is to nose down and pick up speed until you hit 500 kph (remember, this is your most maneuverable speed, relative to other planes). At these speeds, you have less energy retention than the P-38. This means that no matter how hard you push your throttle, the P-38 will gain on you. So, instead of playing to his strengths and going for speed, you should play to your own strengths and use your agility. Lower your throttle to around 60% and roll around his guns. Then once he overshoots, quickly set your throttle to WEP and your vertical energy retention will kick in. The 190 retains a lot of energy when going vertical, especially at low altitude, because of its powerful engine, relatively low mass (compared to P-47, P-38, F-4U, etc), and slow turn at low speeds. This means that after the P-38 overshoots, you have a very long window going vertical in which you can shoot him down. Note that in order for this tactic to work, you need to have around 2 km of altitude that you can convert into speed. I know I said earlier that altitude isn't that important, but it is important to have at least 2-3 km so you aren't a sitting duck. What you shouldn't do is climb up to 6 km, you are useless up there.
- Additionally, if you are forced to defensive fly against these heavy American planes at low speeds, you can use takeoff flaps. Never use your landing flaps (they bleed speed super fast), but takeoff flaps on the 190 provide the perfect combination of lift and a little extra drag to get behind your opponent. They are extremely useful and help you hang in the air for a really long time and get guns on target.
- The 190 does not need teammates to be successful. It certainly helps to have teammates, especially if someone's on your six, but a good 190 pilot does not need teammates to get kills. I've carried games against 3 or 4 enemies, solo, and the trick is to be unnoticed. When you spot a dot, never approach it head-on. Instead, go around it and make sure to keep good distance (at least 3-4 km) away from it. Preferably, approach it from below. The energy advantage is not nearly as important as the spotting advantage. Then, get into a good angle where he is at your 12 o'clock and you are approaching him on his 8 o'clock. This is a very difficult angle to dodge because if he turns towards you, then he increases his silhouette (providing an easier shot) and if he turns away from you, he is positioning you on his own six! So anyway, 2 times out of 3, he won't see you and your MG 151's will make easy work of him. 1 time out of 3, he will see you but has to make some sort of drastic maneuver to avoid getting shot down. As soon as he does this, you can head straight up and loop back down on top of him (hammerhead). Your terrific roll rate ensures that you will always land the shot on your way back down.
- Side-climbing in the 190 is bad. So is heading straight into battle. You shouldn't head straight into battle because you would like to be in the offensive. While the 190 is great at defensive flying in 1v1's, these fights involve both planes losing a lot of energy, which is not great in a team fight. So instead of fighting in 1v1's, you will prefer to be on the offensive all the time. This means darting in and out of the furball, never committing to a single enemy. This is a skill I learned in jet battles. Ok so you shouldn't head straight into battle, but you also shouldn't side-climb. If you side climb at the beginning, you will not be able to help your team in the crucial, initial furball. This makes the end game very difficult as you are trying to track down multiple opponents and avoid extended 1v1's. Also as previously mentioned, you perform poorly at altitude, so the side-climbing puts you out of your own territory and into the territory of American and British planes. Instead, I like to use a strategy which is half side-climb, half rush (I also learned this in jet battles). Essentially, I climb so that my path on the map is at 45 degrees to everyone else's path. Then once I reach 3.5-5 km altitude (depending on the size of the map), I maintain a distance of 6 to 8 km from my teammates. This distance is far enough that I don't get spotted by the enemy, but close enough that I can pick off enemies in the furball within just a few seconds of it starting. Also, I try to approach the furball from the side of the enemy – similar to the flanking tactic in GFRB. They expect us to come from our own side, but if I circle behind them and approach them from their own side of the map, there's a good chance they won't spot me. Additionally, it provides a nice opportunity to take out damaged planes that are trying to land. Damaged planes should be a high priority because they are currently an easy target, and you don't want them to repair and become battle-worthy again.
- The 190 CAN dogfight. I've already mentioned its great high-speed agility, but the 190 can also dogfight, in general. Example: I had a dogfight with a P-63 (a "more maneuverable" plane) yesterday. The P-63 had a slight energy advantage, but not enough to force an overshoot. The P-63 out-turns the FW 190, but I easily got on his six within a single turn. What did I do? Well, the FW 190 is not good at turnfighting – if you are turning in the same direction as your opponent, he will out-turn you. However, the 190 is pretty good at dogfighting – using your maneuverability to get on your opponent's six. So, I approached this P-63 at his 2 o'clock and dodged him in the head-on, and as he did a 180 to turn back into me, I went below him. I gained lots of speed and started to turn well, and then I lost all that speed as I went back up. Meanwhile, he lost energy in a turn, but he was turning downwards so he was actually gaining lots of speed as he lost energy. He crossed below my path as I was slowing down at around 250 kph, and then I immediately rolled back upside-down and followed him in the dive. This is the key: the 190's roll rate. If I had been in a 109, for example, I would not have been able to do this. I would have had to continue to go up and stall out. However, because the 190 rolls so quickly, it can unexpectedly change the direction of its turn in an instant and follow the opponent down when he thinks he's safe. In essence, I was able to turn in two spherical arcs as he turned in one spherical arc, meaning that I covered more distance and thus got on his tail. In order to gain an angle on him, I didn't turn in the same direction that he did – instead, I positioned my nose where I knew he would be after completing his turn. It seems weird at first, but after a few battles, you will find yourself turning away from the enemy and reaching your target position before he does. It's very very cool.
- Another factor which helps this is the 190's energy retention. I have used this to fight spitfires in close quarters (it was very difficult, but it definitely can be done). I was sort of lucky because we were fighting over El Alamein, the hot map. But anyway, it was nearing the end of a long match, and we merged (a merge is a headon + dodge) at low altitude. I was a little faster than him. As we merged, I barely moved my mouse as little as possible to dodge his shots. This allowed me to maintain most of my speed while he had to do a 180 to get back on me (he thought he was winning). I was pulling away from him, and once I hit 2.5 km separation, I made an oblique turn back towards him and pointed my nose down. His nose was pointed up, so as I was speeding up, he was slowing down. I repeated this maneuver 1 more time, and then I had such a large energy advantage that I could hammerhead him. Granted, this was on a hot map so he couldn't WEP, but still.
- The 190 is NOT a BnZ plane. I know that when I first heard of BnZ, I thought it meant "dive on someone at a 70 degree angle and then try to pull back up before you lose too much altitude." This couldn't be further from the truth. If you get to jets, you will learn that the optimal tactic for fast planes is the shallow dive. Not the steep dive, the shallow dive. In a steep dive, the plane with more acceleration comes out with more speed, but in a shallow dive, the plane with a more aerodynamic airframe and more powerful engine is able to sustain the gradual speed gain for much longer. Also, if you want to break off from a shallow dive, you only need to pull up 20 degrees and you will still be gaining distance away from your target. On the other hand, if you try to exit a steep dive, you will be in your target's crosshairs as you pull back up. And you will be slow. Not a great situation.
- The 190 is a great bomber hunter, but only in the early game. Personally I tend to put bombers as the least priority target in a game of Air RB. However, at the beginning of the game, you're going to want to stay away from the middle of the map until a furball forms. A productive way to do this is to hunt bombers. MG 151's are great for taking out bombers, and once you do, you can go back to help your team from an advantaged position (good altitude and angles). Also, you stop other planes like 109's from wasting their time hunting bombers. The 109 is a hardcore energy fighter so it definitely should not waste precious engine power hunting bombers – gaining altitude is a much high priority. BUT…don't get too greedy! Limit yourself to at most 1 bomber per match. If you try to take down 2 bombers, that takes too much time and your team will have lost by then. But I find that 1 bomber is usually a good amount of delay to get back into the fight at the perfect time. The 190 is not a great bomber hunter in late game because its climb rate is bad at high altitude and it struggles to pitch up at high altitude. Also, watch out for Russian tail gunners. Just saying.
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