The Haze

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Level Bombing 101
by Vertigo

There is a lot that goes into successful bombing in WarBirds, but one thing you have to know is how to use the bombsight. This page walks you through that one step at a time.

The bombsight in WarBirds works generally like the famous Norden bombsight did - it calculates your speed and heading, and when it is finished, it will show you the exact point your bomb will land. All you have to do is move the aircraft so that this point intersects with something you want to make flat.

Most level bombing in WarBirds is not really historical - you are usually dropping on individual targets at an airfield or town, rather than area or carpet bombing. Because of that, you often have to make multiple passes, and at the end of this article, there is a description of the fastest way of making multiple passes, something we call the Twirl Turn.

The idea behind level bombing in WarBirds is simple. Line up on your bomb run in time for the bombsight to align itself. Open the bomb bay doors, put a target in the crosshairs, and drop a bomb. Boom. No more target.

In practice, it's a little more complicated, but easily done if you follow these procedures. Today, we're going to drop bombs on a particular factory in the German town of Köln.  And to do that, we'll need one of these babies:

Miss Conduct, ready to misbehave

Step 1: Get to your IP
The IP is the "initial point", which can be defined as the last leg of your bomb run, after which you will turn to a heading that will take you over the target. Your IP will usually be at least 10 miles from the target because your bombsight needs about 30 seconds to align itself after a turn. More on that in the next step.

If you are not the flight leader, then you don't have to worry too much about the approach to the target or where the IP is - just stay in formation, and the flight leader will tell you when you're at the IP. Once you are at the IP, you begin aligning your bombsight and making your own adjustments so that you can hit your targets.

At the IP, the flight leader usually will call for a reduced throttle setting. This is to bring you over the target at a slower speed, making it easier to hit multiple targets on a single run. Today, to make things simple, we're hitting a single target.

Step 2: Turn to target and get your bombsite green.

We are now about 10 miles out of Köln and have turned at the IP. In a few minutes, we'll be over the target. Now it's time to get the bombsight green.

Go to the bombardier's station by hitting "Y" on your keyboard. This will engage autolevel so the plane will stay level without you having to hold it in place. Note that as long as you're in the bombardier's position, the plane will hold level even when you move the plane left or right. This is not true of the pilot's position, where even slight movements of the stick will cause autolevel to disengage.

What you see when you get to the bombardier's station varies from plane to plane, and in some (B17), there is nothing but blue sky to see because the artwork isn't finished.

But whatever you see there, once you are in the bombardier's station, hit and hold keypad 2, the "look-down" view. You are now looking through the bombsight at the ground, and it will look like this:

First look through the bombsight

Look in the upper right hand corner of the picture above and you will see the bombsight deviation meter. As you can see, the needle is off to one side and the light below it is not lit. This means that the bombsight is not yet aligned or "green". If I dropped a bomb right now, it would land far away from the point indicated by the crosshair (far left and far behind it).

So, I hold in this position - staying in the "look-down" view (KP2) - and in about 30 seconds, the bombsight aligns itself. As it does so, you will see the needle move to point straight up, and the view of the terrain below will move forward and, in this case, left, as the bombsight calculates your speed and adjusts for your heading.

Note that the bombsight will not align itself until you are in the "look-down" view. You can't align it from the bombardier's station only - you have to be looking through the bombsight. When it finishes lining itself up, it looks like this.

Now the bombsight is green and ready to drop

Now the bombsight deviation meter is pointing straight up, the light is green, and if I drop a bomb it will land on whatever is in the crosshair. Through that small break in the clouds, we can see Köln in the distance. It looks like I'm almost lined up on the target, although I need to move the plane a bit left because I'm going to bomb one of those larger white buildings you see at the top of the picture through that hole in the clouds.

The other information in this view shows you the status of your bomb bay doors (no light means they're closed, red means they're open), your altitude, the type and amount of ordnance you have selected (here, twelve 500 lb bombs), and the salvo number and delay interval between bombs. You won't have to worry about these last two things just yet, because today we're dropping bombs manually, one at a time.

Step 3: Open your bomb bay doors.
This would seem obvious, but it's very easy to forget to do this. The flight leader will usually call out "doors" when he opens his, but it's best to make this part of your aiming routine so you don't forget it.

Not all planes have bomb bay doors, and obviously, for those you can skip this step; but I like to get into the habit of doing it anyway.

Step 4: Make your final adjustments and zoom the bombsight in as close as you need.
As luck would have it, the clouds are moving and it looks like the target will be clear. I need to adjust a little left, and then I need to zoom the bombsight in. Hit the "]" key to zoom closer, the "[" key to zoom back out again. Remember, you can still move the plane around without turning the autolevel function off, and so you can make heading adjustments from this view. As you move left or right, the bombsight deviation meter will come off of center, but it will come back quickly so long as you stay in the look-down view.

Here we see the bombsight zoomed in closer, and our target is coming into view.

The last few seconds of the bomb run

Move your plane left or right so as to put the vertical line of the crosshair over your target (here, that white building in the center of the factory complex). Zoom in as close as you want, but keep your target in sight.

Step 5: When the target is under the crosshair, bombs away.
In WarBirds, there is very little "splash damage" from bombs, so if you are targeting a structure as we are here, you need to put the crosshair right on the target. The last few seconds before you drop, you will probably be making tiny corrections so as to do that.

OK, we have the target where we want it - bombs away!

I see dead people

Step 6: Close your doors, rejoin the flight leader, and continue the mission
Congratulations - that target is a memory, or it will be when the bombs hit. In the meantime, you're still busy.

Close your doors and look around until you find your flight leader. During the bomb run, you usually fall out of formation. Maintaining formation integrity during a bomb run is always difficult, and sometimes impossible, depending upon where your targets are in relation to the flight leader's targets.

What you do next will depend upon the mission. In an event, you probably dropped all of your bombs, and once the flight is back together, the flight leader will slowly turn the flight back towards home. In a general arena, you may need to make another pass to hit different targets.

The most common way of making another pass is to continue past the target for about 1 minute, then do a 180 degree turn, which gives you about 30 seconds to line up the target and green up the bombsight again before you come back over the target, this time from the opposite direction. Another, faster way of doing this (a strictly gamey way mind you, but then again so is making a second pass, or having to drop on individual targets like you were an F-15E) is what we call the Twirl Turn.

Twirl Turns
The Twirl Turn is a simple device - really, a trick - to get your bombsight aligned again quickly. Here's what you do:

  • Make your bomb run normally and drop on your first targets.

  • As soon as you've dropped, jump back to the pilot's seat and execute a hard 180 degree turn to the right or the left, so that you are headed back in the direction from which you came.

  • Fly in this new direction for about 30 seconds. Do not go back to the bombardier's station - stay in the pilot's seat.

  • Turn 180 degrees in the same direction that you made your first 180 degree turn.

  • When you are pointed at the target, jump back the bombardier's seat, and the bombsight will be green, or nearly so, without the need for another 30 seconds. Which is good, because the target will be very close.

Why does this work? The first 180 degree turn pushes your Norden off to one side. Since you don't go back to the bombardier's station until you're ready to turn again, it stays pushed off to that side. The second 180 degree turn pushes it back again to - you guessed it - the center. If you jump into the bombardier's position before you have turned back to the target, or if you turn left and then turn right by accident, it doesn't work.

So, now you know what you need to know about how to use the WarBirds bombsight. Better head for home now, the flak is getting thick.

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