Turn and Burn aerial combat style

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Overview

Turn and Burn is a method of flying commonly known as "Turn fighting," though said term is a rather limited description. In essence, the name already tells a lot. Most manoeuvres are loops of various lengths and angles ("turn") and involve the reduction of energy in altitude and/or speed ("burn"). This can be further split into two categories depending on the flown aircraft.

Turn fighters

The first thing that comes to mind when hearing the term "dogfights." It involves low wing-loading (big wing & light), low stall speed, high angle of attack and high control-authority/manoeuvrable aircraft. The goal is to manoeuvre inside the enemy's turn and get a firing lead, either at the tail or as a deflection shot. All biplanes and the Zero fighter are examples for this style. Many fighters may look like favourable machines for this playstyle but lack a sustainable turn rate, i.e. they literally fall out of the sky after a few tight turns.

Energy fighters

Turn and Burn is also favoured by those aircraft which are considered energy fighters. For example, the German Bf 109 fighters. These interceptors maximise the ability to execute vertical reverses to include the Immelmann (half loop flying up), Split-S (half loop flying down) and the Yo-Yo (any turn angled below or above the horizon) manoeuvres. The energy fighters typically have a good power-to-weight ratio, as shown in their excellent climb rate. Thus they can take advantage of typical Boom & Zoom fighters, which cannot regain any altitude or speed advantage they had after an energy costly manoeuvre. In a nutshell, the energy fighter pilot is awaiting the enemy to make the mistake of overextending. Turn and Burn may hence be seen as counter to Boom & Zoom, yet it is a far more mentally taxing combat style, relying on mind games, the pilot's morale and to a certain extent the foe's eagerness to kill.

Stratagem

Getting inside the enemy's turn for a target solution requires good positioning, maintaining one's vehicle's favourable speed and preferably a manoeuvrability advantage.

  1. Gain energy advantage.
  2. Seek a fitting target.
  3. Turn into the enemy.
    1. Maintain or gain preferred turn speed by using high/low Yo-Yo or even Immelmann/Split-S.
    2. If the hostile does not want to engage in a turn fight, scare the foe with a few warning shots. The enemy's evasive manoeuvres will decrease the distance too.
  4. "Burn" the chased aircraft's energy by continuous turning, taking away options and speedy escape routes. Leaving the pursuer on the tail and hence in control.
    1. Take time and adjust the Yo-Yo's angle to not get into control surface compression speeds, or even force the foe into it.
    2. Yet be quick. Turn fights lose altitude quickly and may put the survivor in a low energy state competitively.
    3. Do not blackout. Investing in crew skills is beneficial, but avoiding prolonged high G-forces is desirable, for one never knows who will black out first.
  5. Taking the shot. Either a deflection or tail-lead shot.
    1. Deflection shots require either good timing or plenty of ammo. A high rate of fire important and will leave the enemy severely crippled, almost certainly ensuring a victory.
    2. Tailgating or tail-leading shots are the classic cinema "have you in my sight" kills. Sitting in a turn fight directly behind the foe's tail does however requires fast-flying projectiles. Otherwise, the necessary lead increases with distance and inverse bullet velocity. Also, the silhouette or profile of the aircraft becomes smaller and thinner, necessitating good aim. The volume of fire may, however, be exchanged for harder-hitting armament such as high calibre cannons.
  6. Regain lost energy as speed or altitude, favourably both.

Countering

All of the following considers a flown vehicle of worse manoeuvrability, especially in regards to stall speed and general turn characteristics.

Fending off against any potential Turn and Burn pilots is, unlike most other combat styles, rather easy, in concept: Do not turn, maintain higher speed or altitude, and disengage. Of course not fighting the enemy is often not an option, either for being surprised or for actively seeking combat. The latter is easy and mentioned before: Do not overextend, maintain energy advantage and important patience. The former case is a much harder issue to resolve, as engaging in any manoeuvre is a lost cause. For one the hostile engaged in knowing it can manoeuvre better at lower speeds and second any turn, evasion and dodging done reduces energy, see problem one. This (often literally) downward spiralling chain can only be broken if an edge can be found. This can be a piloting skill or a vehicle's flight characteristics.

Skill Counter

A classic manoeuvre to gain the upper hand against a Turn & Burner is the "Overshoot". Via various means, dropping gear, landing flaps, air brakes, stall manoeuvres (like the Cobra) or simply lowering the throttle, the enemy pursuer is caught off guard and cannot compensate for the speed loss. With the gained speed difference the hostile overshoots into one's field of fire. Several downsides exist though: The energy loss is often substantial and in the wider picture unacceptable, for other enemies could be close by or the ground even closer. Further, it leaves only a short window of opportunity at such speeds which may not be favourable to manoeuvrability. Worse these lower speeds are the desired ones for the turn fighter. However, this tactic has a far superior variant, alas, an even more difficult one: The Barrel Roll!

The Barrel Roll or horizontal Corkscrew is a rather complex manoeuvre to fly properly. If done well nearly all energy is retained while ostensibly losing speed in the horizontal to force an overshoot. If done badly it will burn up all energy and leave the aircraft stalling upside down... though in this case nearly guaranteeing an overshoot. A barrel roll can be performed at any speed as long as the necessary control authority is not lost due to compression. Yet downsides persist here as well. The initiation of a barrel roll is rather obvious to skilled pilots and countered by performing a barrel roll, too. The proper spatial manoeuvring is rather difficult with mouse and keyboard and is best done with a flight stick or joypad. If both aircraft entered a barrel roll, the similar Scissor may help.

Scissoring is roll dependant and speed consuming. During this manoeuvre, both aircraft are performing semi-turns followed by half-rolls to maintain engagement. From above scissoring looks like a continuous eight, or a two-string braid. A scissor fight can easily be exited by performing either a low Yo-Yo or a half turn but is only recommended once inside the hostile's rolling induced blind spot.

Performance Counter

An edge can be found in the flown vehicle if compared to the enemy. Roll rate is a common one and lends itself for scissoring. This manoeuvre is an art of its own, see above. Another common characteristic is control surface lock up speed, or compression. If at sufficient speed, either through diving or starting out fast, a momentary edge is given. A classic example is the P-51D's out turning Bf 109s and even Spitfires at speeds above 500 km/h (310 mi/h). Another one is a suicidal dive towards the ground in a Fw 190 and then pulling up. Many hostile pilots are too eager for the kill and follow, only to perish as they can no longer safely pull up, ramming the earth. In a similar manner follows a version of this fool's chase. Forcing an over-stepping of the wing's G-tolerances will result in the fatal static failure and a wingless descent to earth. Boom and Zoom tactics are not lost just because one is chased by a turn fighter. Superior energy retention or top speed can be used for the following manoeuvre: Diving and exceeding the hostile's top speed will result in a loss of energy with every metre the foes loses in altitude and gains in speed. For the coup, the dive is now slowly exited and reversed into a zoom climb. After gaining enough separation normal Boom & Zooming can commence. Alternatively, the zoom climb is exited into the horizontal at speed for Boom & Run tactics. Note that in dives aerodynamics and engine power matter. Initially, many energy fighters can pull ahead of dedicated Boom & Zoomers!

Common Misconceptions

  • Turn fighting is not only done in the horizontal. Doing so is called "flat-turning" and is known as the telltale sign of beginners. Yo-Yos are a specific manoeuvre in which many aces use it as a lure less experienced players.
  • Using a Turn & Burn strategy does not mean negating climbing, in fact, most well-turning planes do well at Energy fighting due to a high rate of climb owed to their thrust to weight ratio.
  • Some attackers, like the IL-2 or the Ju 87 D have a very good turning circle.
  • Turn fighting is not all about turning circles, as planes with poor power loading end up too slow to manoeuvre in a sustained turn fight, they have burned all their energy.
  • Depending on the propeller's rotation direction, a left or right-hand turn may be shorter!

Relation to other styles

Boom & Zoom
  • Boom & Zoom is the name of a playstyle which aims for an attacking aircraft to take advantage of a high energy state in order to attack (Boom) an enemy target and avoids any prolonged fighting by immediately returning (Zoom) to a higher altitude in order to conserve speed and/or altitude. Differing from Turn & Burn, this type of manoeuvre attempts to return the attacking aircraft to a higher perch in the sky to prepare for another attack. Instead of burning through both prey's and hunter's energy to control the engagement, this style trades off potential and kinetic energy through diving and climbing during attacks, always maintaining an advantage in potential energy.
Boom & Run
  • During a Boom & Run type of manoeuvre, the attacking aircraft is not necessarily interested in returning to a higher altitude, this could be due to the aircraft already has a speed advantage over the other aircraft in the match. Either way, dropping in from a higher altitude or overall being faster, the attacking aircraft lines up a target, attacks and then attempts to speed away either in a horizontal flight path or in a shallow dive. The goal here is to put as much distance between the target and the attacker to allow the attacker to have enough safe distance in which to turn around or manoeuvre into another attack position. All without the threat of being attacked during this high-velocity process and always maintaining an advantage in kinetic energy. For aircraft which their control surfaces start to lock up at higher speeds during a dive, they may have a better chance with a Boom & Run tactic. Thus

Aircraft which benefit from Turn & Burn techniques

Aircraft NOT to engage a turn fight in

Please note the following list is INCOMPLETE and should be seen as a guidance tool. All aircraft can perform Turn & Burn combat. However, the following fighters are very often misused for various reasons like flat-turning and hence are listed below:

Additional information (links)

  • Aerial fighting styles
  • This page could be endless, further material and guides can be found at War Thunder Forum which is an excellent place to learn much more and engage with seasoned War Thunder pilots.

Media

Turn and Burn - GrmlZGaming
Turning & Burning- SorcererDave
How not to get Boomed and Zoomed in a turn fighter - Green Fury