War Thunder

Some thoughts on the balance of Japanese fighters, and how this community approaches aircraft balance in general

warthunder 1 - Some thoughts on the balance of Japanese fighters, and how this community approaches aircraft balance in general

The a6m5 otsu currently sits on a 90% winrate. Along with it's premium brother, the KO, the a6m5 is a source of rage for many an allied pilot.

It's not overpowered. In fact, these are some of the more mediocre 4.7 fighters ingame.

Allow me to explain.

Part 1) What the a6m5 otsu can and cannot do

The a6m5 otsu is a textbook Japanese turnfigher, the penultimate zero currently available to war thunder pilots. It's strengths are as follows:

  • high climbrate at low to mid altitudes

  • outstanding maneuverability

That's it.

Now, unfortunately for allied pilots, these 2 strengths happen to fit the cage match meta of air RB perfectly. It's difficult to deal with a plane that appears above you and can maneuver better than you do. But if you hop into an a6m5 and expect every match to be a pushover, you may have a tough time now and then. The average allied pilot may be no hassle, but when you meet someone who knows how to properly engage a zero, you're in for a historically accurate experience…..

Part 2) The competition

At and around 4.7, the allies have several extremely strong fighters, such as:

  • p-47D28 (4.7)
  • la-7 (4.7)
  • spitfire mk 9 (4.3)
  • f-82E (5.0, but should probably be higher)
  • f4u-4 (5.0, but should probably be higher) Etc etc

None of these aircraft can match the maneuvering performance of a zero, and few of them can compete on initial climbrate. But all of these aircraft share 2 key features that allow them to compete: a higher top speed in level flight, and superior armament.

Part 3) the game plan

The zero excels in making the initial merge a decisive engagement, when the nippon steel swarm consumes half of the allied fighters that commit, it becomes much more difficult for the remaining, more patient players to win

Patience is the key to victory against a Japanese team. You cannot boom and zoom what is above you. If your team does not stop climbing, the Japanese won't stop climbing either. But there are a couple of key factors that do allow you to get above them: stupid players, and engine performance

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On every allied team there are some rushers. Some groundpounders. Pbj's, loaded p47's, a-26's, you name it. These are your bait. And even if you are the bait, you often have a rear facing turret. Use that turret. The kind of zero pilots that dive on to a low PBJ are often the type that don't know how to attack from a difficult angle, and 12.7mm turrets can tear a zero apart in mere moments.


What if there isn't a bait? Well, one of you must become the bait. If you miraculously get the all-fighter allied team and the zeroes are approaching, one of you should dive when the zeroes are still 6km out. See the threat, gain speed, and pull some of them safely on to your tail so that your allied mustangs can continue to climb unhindered.

Is this loop infinite? No, no it isn't. Ince the fight begins to approach 6 km, the allied engines will remain strong as the zero begins to flounder. Certainly the zero is capable of reaching high altitudes, but it's performance there is rather anemic. And once you are at a higher energy state than a zero, you have effectively won. Zoom towards them, force them to evade. If they attempt to get a cheeky shot as you pull away in the level, wiggle your plane a bit. Once you are a few kilometers out, pull up and around and make another pass. If they want to headon, take the headon. The zero will not win headons.

As someone who has flown the a6m5 somewhat extensively, there is no counterplay to a p-47D28 who knows not to turn, and also how to wiggle while pulling away

As for the likes of the spitfire and the la-7, their tactics should be similar, but they both have an increased ability to pull their nose around and put guns onto even a maneuvering zero. The la-7 in particular suffers at high altitude as well, but in the later phase of the battle it can use it's absurd engine performance below 4km to zoom past zeroes and SHVAK them

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  • The zero is a plane that excels at early game dominance
  • do not climb directly towards the Japanese team. Be patient, your objective is not to engage early, your objective is to reach a superior energy state. The zero cannot climb forever, eventually it will enter the high altitude realm of the American fighters
    • once you reach a superior energy state, the zero has no effective way to counter a BnZ aircraft

I look forward to being clubbed by hordes of competent p-47's.

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