Tips to be a better War Thunder Pilot
This article is for new players. If you routinely get 5+ kills per match and understand various tactics and maneuvers already, move on.
1. Situational Awareness
Always be looking around. Know what is above you and what is below you. Try to see if someone is angling to attack you. Even if you are attacking, look around occasionally to see if someone is attacking you. Mostly, it’s not worth getting killed to get a kill.
2. Understand your plane/Understand your target
Know its strengths and weaknesses. Play to your strengths, avoid your weaknesses. Most importantly, get a general idea of how maneuverable the plane you’re using is. If it’s a turn fighter, like a Zero or Spitfire, you can generally maneuver with your foes. If it’s an energy fighter, if you miss your first pass, put the nose up and climb away. Don’t turn with a plane more maneuverable than yourself.
3. How do I get someone off my 6?
a. The best pilots aren’t those who are good at getting someone off their 6, they are those who never get someone on their 6 to begin with. Maybe your plane is totally outclassed, but if you have a good plane, use situational awareness to turn into the enemy before they dive on you.
b. Use your teammates to help you. In arcade, if you can fly to your fighter spawn, do so. There will always be someone spawning in looking for a quick kill.
c. Use your plane’s advantages to evade. If you are flying a better turner, turn. If you are flying a better diver, dive, etc. For the most part, by the time someone is on your 6, it’s too late though.
4. Avoiding the head on
Head ons are very risky, even with firepower superiority. Both planes are likely to be heavily damaged even if they get a kill. At worst, you fly headlong into the other plane and neither of you gets the kill. Don’t head on heavy fighters, like Beaufighters, Do 217s, Me 410s, Ki 45s, etc. Try to maneuver behind your target so they can’t shoot back. If you are fast, climb above your target. If you are maneuverable, use your turn ability to get on the enemies’ tail.
5. Avoiding the bounce
If someone dives on you, turn under them. That means turn hard to the right or left, and fly beneath them. If they try to turn immediately after their dive, you will be 50% turned around by the time they start to turn and you should be able to get on their tail. Another technique is to do a split S. You won’t be in a position to counterattack, but it is a very effective way to avoid the attack.
6. Target Fixation
Even when you have a target in your sights, don’t lose your situational awareness completely. Get a sense of how fast you are going, the enemies around you and how you have been maneuvering. Often when I have someone on my tail, I will either climb away or fly to my teammates who kill the person on my tail. After you have been attacking someone for 5 seconds, look around.
7. Effective firepower
Shooting accuracy is to some degree an instinctual skill, but here are some quick tips: Don’t shoot until you are within around 500 m. In arcade, lead by about 25% more than the lead indicator. Shoot for engines on bombers and center mass on fighters. Try to shoot at enemies who are moving slowly, because they are easier to hit.
8. Combat maneuvers
There are many combat maneuvers to learn. Start slow, and pick one at a time to master. Eventually you’ll learn them all if you stick with it.
a. The High Yo-yo. When someone turns in front of you, instead of turning with them, pull your plane into a climb, roll it so your cockpit faces where the bogy is headed, and flop over on top of them.
b. Boom and Zoom
Step 1: Climb
Step 2: Select a target – should be someone slow and distracted preferably.
Step 3: Dive on and shoot the target. You can do some last minute adjustments as long as they are small. Getting the approach right can be difficult, so just practice it until you get it.
Step 4: Climb away to safety. Make sure there is a safe place to escape to before you dive. If not, wait and maneuver until there is.
Note: Do not turn. Even if you miss your shot, don’t turn. Turning means slowing down and slowing down means death.
c. Split S
This maneuver is best used to evade a target diving on you.
This video starts with a Split S (The video author calls it a reverse Immelman)
e. Barrel Roll
The barrel roll is used to quickly slow your plane down. It can be used defensively to force an overshoot, or offensively to match your speed to a slower target.