World of Warships

Some insight on fighter planes – what they can and can’t do, and why your CV probably won’t protect you.

WorldOfWarships3 - Some insight on fighter planes - what they can and can't do, and why your CV probably won't protect you.
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Across the many discussions about the power of CVs, I've seen two different extremes about the CV's fighter consumeable. One side greatly underestimates their value and considers them almost useless. The other side greatly overestimates them and believes that CVs covering an ally with them is just as important as striking an enemy. They think that if a teammate gets destroyed by CV because they lack AA, it was their own CV's failure for not protecting them.

I'd like to give some perspective on the current situation of fighter planes in the game. In what situations they're strong, in what situations they're weak, and how WG should consider improving them.


Basic fighter functionality

  1. Fighter planes are active in an area for one minute after a brief deployment animation.

  2. If an enemy plane squadron remains in that area for a given time, the fighters will lock onto that squadron, chase it down and deal a certain amount of damage per plane. That damage is usually enough to kill about 1 bomber per fighter in the squad. A full T10 CV fighter squadron usually kills 6-7 bombers out of a full squad.
    2.1 If the fighters catch up during a squadrons' invulnerability phase after a drop, they will delay dealing their damage until the vulnerability ends.
    2.2 Fighters can run out of time even after they locked on if they have to pursue too far.
    2.3 Fighters will deal their damage to planes even while they are in their "recall" animation before returning to the carrier.

  3. The deployment delay and lockon time are slightly too long to force a lockon on a passing by enemy squadron. You need to deploy the squad a bit ahead of them, giving the enemy time to dodge.

  4. The entire fighter squadron disappears after having dealt any damage to any target.

  5. The planes follow the usual line of sight rules. They can get spot enemy ships and planes, but are also undetected if nobody sees them.

  6. Fighters can be destroyed like all other planes and are rather squishy.

  7. Each type of bomber can deploy three fighter squadrons. Their cooldowns are independent from each other and will elapse about 5 seconds after that bomber type's fighter squadron is either destroyed or expired. So if a fighter squadron gets destroyed you can very quickly deploy a second one.


Uses for fighters

  1. Guard an area from flythrough. This can be used to protect allied ships, to make the enemy CV take a longer path, or to bait them into strong AA ships.

  2. Set them up as an ambush. You can do this by deploying them behind a mountain where the enemy can't see them, so a bomber squadron passing over those mountains won't be able to dodge them.

  3. Kill an ongoing drop. If the enemy squadron is already in drop mode, you can deploy the fighters right behind their target and the enemy won't be able to dodge them anymore.

  4. To counter enemy fighters. Simply deploy your own fighters nearby and wait until the fighters aggro each other. It does not matter which side wins the fight, since the enemy fighters will disappear after the combat even if they defeat yours, and therefore let you strike freely afterwards.

  5. To provide area vision. This is especially useful to prolong spotting after the final strike, or to keep vision of an enemy smoke cloud. Ships cannot see the fighters from inside the smoke, so unless allies spot for them they will not be able to remove the fighters. This can be very useful to keep track of enemy DDs.


Counterplays

  1. Counter them with your own fighters. This however doesn't work if the enemy has too much AA around, since your fighters will die to flak before either side can lock onto the other.

  2. Look for another target. CVs often are opportunists who simply go at whatever can be killed the easiest.

  3. Wait until they run out – depending on the map state it may take you a minute until you can reach the enemy, so simply waiting out enemy fighters may be worth it, especially since you can still provide spotting.

  4. Heal through them. The heal of high tier torpedo bombers can counteract most of the fighter damage if timed correctly. In my experience this can cut the losses from 6 planes to just 1.

  5. Outrun them. At around 200 knots fighters won't catch up even after aggroing. You can use this either to strike another ship (as long as its in a straight line in front of you, since the fighters will catch up if you turn) or to minimise your losses by splitting your squadron up by dropping into the sea. Sometimes the pursueing fighters will even just time out on the way.

  6. Cut your losses. Drop into the ocean to send parts of your squadron home, then only strike with the remaining few planes. This is very common to drop an enemy CV (who have almost permanent automatic fighter coverage).

  7. Just eat the damage. In some situations (like if the game is ending or you have more reserves than you will need) simply ignoring the fighters to get a single drop in can be a valid play.

  8. Sacrifice some planes (like in counter 6 or 7) to despawn the enemy fighters to make way for your next attack wave.

Read:  CV Rework Game Stats by tier. (damage, frags, etc)

How good players use them

There a couple approaches on how to use fighters at the start of a match:

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  1. Deploy them predictively to cover a certain area. For example to cover your flank with less AA, to let a DD savely enter a cap, or for the mountain ambush trick.

  2. Wait until you see the enemy planes, then deploy your fighters on route to protect allies or to force the enemy to waste time on a detour. A very bad opponent may even just run straight into the fighters.

  3. Wait until your see the enemy planes, then follow them around to protect whatever target he wants to go for.

  4. Save your fighters for offensive uses, for example to counter enemy from doing version #3, to counter shipborn fighters, or to extend spotting.

Later in the match you get better predictions where the enemy might want to strike, so predictive defensive use can become a lot more effective.
With these uses in mind I'd like to adress the two main missconceptions:


"Fighters are worthless now!"

They most certainly aren't. While they won't normally get a lot of plane kills, they can still limit the enemy CV's ability to strike the most valuable targets. Occasionally this can drive even very good CV players into sacrificing many planes, since in certain game states CVs simply have to kill a certain ship – for example for victory points or because it has such a key role on the map.

Their aggressive uses are also very powerful. Using them to spot a certain area to deny it to DDs, to keep track of when an enemy leaves a smoke, or to counter enemy fighters. All of these things can give your and your team major advantages.


"CVs should make a detour to protect their weak AA members with their fighters!"

I heard that a lot about this case study and have to strongly disagree. As the red CV I would not have tried to protect that Yamato in those first minutes where it took most of the damage. I would only have started spawning predictive fighters later when he was near the map center, since that lets me do it on route to my own drop targets.
However it likely would not have done much in that situation anyway, since Yamato no longer was the primary drop target at that time but only ate the tail end after the first few drops were targeted at other ships.

To see why, you need to understand that the primary currency for CVs is time. Being able to finish as many successful strikes as possible, and to provide as much important spotting as possible, is what CVs want to spend their time on. The more time they have, the more of these things they can do. Taking a detour to spawn fighters over a flank is a major time investment that is very situational and can be countered:

  1. It only has any value if the timing lines up. There is little point in deploying your fighters after the attack is already started, since the enemy will get at least 2 (but often 3) drops through anyway, and you just get a few planekills at the tail end of it. And if you deploy them too early, they may expire or can be waited out.

  2. If the enemy CV aims his next drop at a different target, you just wasted time for nothing.

  3. If the enemy CV knows how to counter your fighters with their own, you lost much more time than they did.

  4. Even if the enemy flat out waits out your fighters, you may have lost as much time as he did, while he still provides spotting for his team whereas you do not.

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So this is only worth it under the assumption that the enemy CV's time is a lot more valuable than yours, because you have no good targets to drop or spot. Which does not happen a whole lot to good CV players, unless the enemy team is both filled with strong AA and well blobbed up.


Bottom Line

Fighters are still useful and good players can get a lot of mileage out of them. However it is rarely ever worth the time to take a long detour to deploy them. Good CVs usually only use them defensively if the target or area they want to protect is close to their line of attack. Ships in the map center are generally very easy to protect, whereas those at the map edges should not expect their CV to guard them.


Some improvements I would like to see from WG

I think fighters are very much necessary to keep CVs at bay, and I would rather see them more than less powerful in their AA role, while their offensive uses seem overemphasised. Some of the counters against them seems downright buggy. So here are the changes I would like:

  1. Fighters should no longer despawn after having attacked. Being able to "trick" them by spawning fighters over them undoes their intended defensive purpose. CVs' protective fighters already seem to act like this, so please just make all fighters behave that way!

  2. It shouldn't be possible to outrun or outheal fighters. It just seems odd and gimicky.

  3. I do not think that fighters (or any planes for that matter) should be invisible from inside a smoke. Being able to deploy them over a DD smoke can be insanely frustrating and feels downright unfair in many cases. CVs meanwhile have little trouble blinddropping people in smoke, so it seems like a very lopsided affair.

  4. Alternatively, just remove fighters' ship spotting ability altogether. Just keep them strictly as a defensive zone.

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