Anyone who has spend more than 10 minutes on this subreddit knows that carriers are divisive. One problem is that AA gives little feedback beyond the AA damage counter and plane kill ribons, and when facing a competent CV player all the surface ships see is an eternal stream of full squadrons. This easily leads to the perception that AA is useless. What we might not see is is the CV being forced to use other squadrons, limiting their options and every plane shot down is damage not dealt to a ship. However the main purpose of AA is to make the area around your ship into a no fun zone (not no fly zone) for the carrier, protecting valuable targets (mainly destroyers).
Short range AA: unless it is extremely powerful, is is mostly a slap on the wrist for the CV who decided to attack you. Can be efffective if you somehow manage to position youself between the attacking planes and their victim.
Medium range AA: This is your self defense AA, dealing damage to the planes on approach, and turning a decent area into a no fun zone.
Long range AA: This is your support AA, on most ships the DPS of the longe range AA is not great, though it will pille up if the CV decides to loiter. The long range AA also has FlAK bursts, that deal massive damage spread over the entire squadron (which is why you might see a squadron hit by FlAK not loosing a single plane, or being obliterated entirely). A good CV player can "just dodgeTM" the FlAK bursts. However, when the CV is making an attack run, they need to fly somewhat straight to have any amount accuracy (unless they are side dropping torpedoes) and suddely FlAK becomes a major threat. This is why I called the long range AA support AA, your FlAK bursts does little to help you and the DPS is not great either, but it will help allies getting attacked.
Sector reinforcement: Boost your AA on one side of the ship at the cost of decreasing it on the other side. It also does a bit of damage to planes when activated. This is your main tool against planes and you don't need to spec anything for it to work. It is most effective on destroyers, both in terms of minmaxing your AA and in terms of cooldown. DD's also have the maneuverability and stealth to make good use of it. Cruisers and battleships gets weaker versions and have less maneuverability and vundneable citadels.
Defensive AA Fire: Boost your AA DPS a bit (+50% in most cases) and quadrouples your FlAK damage. As with long range AA this is more helpfull for your alies than youself, though the consumable is not useless, it is less helpful in selfe defence and punishes bad CV players more than good ones.
Catapult fighter: The fighter will circle the ship and attack any hostile plane within 3km. Like with medium range AA this is for self defence mostly. The fighter has a number of drawbacks. It takes some time to get into the air, so you need to anticipate the attack, it can get shoot down so is less useful when brawling. It also takes a bit of time to lock on to planes, so it mostly shoots down planes after they have made their attack run. Finally for some reason fighters only shootdown 3 planes. The benefits of the fighter is that it is extremely deadly to those 3 planes once it has locked on. The main purpose of a fighter is as a deterant, firstly by guarantiing that the CV will lose planes if it attacks, and additionally by telling the CV player that you are ready for him.
Smoke: I see smoke as a weapons that can be used against CV's. Firstly smoke prevents the carrier from spotting you for his team. secondly it makes hitting you much harder (skilled CV players can hit you by aiming for your tracers, so for maximum protection stop fireing and turn off yor AA). Like with the fighter, you need to anticipate the attack ahead of time to hide in your smoke. british destroyers with lots of charges and low cooldown as well as italian cruisers with their full speed smoke are good at using their smoke against CV's.
Stealth: Destroyers are hard to detect from the air if they turn of their long range AA (those that have it), making it possible to hide from planes. Additionally when they are spotted the planes are usually too close to make an attack run, meaning the CV has to line up and possibly begin the attack blind. AA destroyers can use stealth to pop up and start shooting down planes attacking what the CV thought was a lone (an vundnerable) target. Sneaky cruisers can start shooting down planes as they enter their long range AA, again potentially surprising the CV
Positioning: Few ships can stand for long alone against a dedicated attack from a carrier, and even fewer against two. Blobing shut down carriers, though will leave you open to crossfires.
To defend you self, you want to hafe other ships nearby to help against planes, generally. Most long range AA extends to 5.8km.
If you want to suport others mostly the same rule applies. A fairly effective tactic is to play as a destroyer leader in either a sneaky cruiser or AA destroyer. Find a destroyer buddy and keep a few kilometers beind it. your AA will protect the destroyer, that in turn can spot for you, resulting in a fairly deadly combo against enemy destroyers. Note I have mostly tested this in mid tier battles, and make no guarantie for the viability in high tier battles.
The minimap: This is your most powerfull AA weapon. It can be hard to tell how far away squadrons are and where they are going, by looking at them, but by reading the minimap you can see almost exactly what the CV is doing, and respond to it.
Be warned, a dedicated AA build is a meme build. Countering a CV usually means that the CV is going to attack elsewhere, the CV plays the entire map, you don't. I would only considerit on the few tier 4 and 5 ships with decent AA, because they meet the abomination that is tier 4 carriers. Additionally your AA drops to 0 when you get sunk. Captain skills like concealment expert and super intendent may help you mere against all classes than basic and advanced fireing training (destroyers are lucky since they can make hybrid AA gun builds). Massive AA is a trap, it is only circumstancially useful, cost alot of captain points and competes with vital skills like concealment, IHFE and fire prevention.
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© Post "On AA" for game World of Warships.
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