Boom and Zoom aerial combat style

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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.

The key to successful Boom & Zoom tactics depends on two stages of energy, without either the tactic will not be successful. The first stage of energy is to have potential energy, this means to be at a sufficient altitude which will allow the aircraft enough space to dive and convert the potential energy into kinetic energy or speed. At the bottom of the dive, the attacking aircraft should be able to fire off a quick burst of ammunition at the target and immediately begin a climb back up to a safe altitude, in the process, converting the kinetic energy back into potential energy. Once back up at altitude, the pilot can then look for another target aircraft and repeat the process. At any point the pilot attempts to engage in a turn fight instead of returning to altitude in an attacking dive, they risk losing their kinetic energy and cannot return back up to the higher altitude except at a much slower pace and as an easier target for enemy aircraft.

Basic Strategy

A diagram of a Boom & Zoom manoeuvre: The red square represents a target aircraft and the green square represents the attacking aircraft attempting the Boom & Zoom manoeuvre.
Basic how-to at the start of the match
  1. Begin to climb to a higher altitude, instead of flying directly into the fray, side-climb or spiral climb, thus avoiding the initial wave of enemy fighters allowing you to reach a higher altitude.
  2. Attempt to attain a higher altitude than what the enemy fighters are currently flying (warning, in arcade battles, some players may spawn into a higher altitude aircraft, always be on the lookout for aircraft coming from the enemy side of the map).
  3. Look around for an aircraft target of opportunity which could be a bomber, attacker or fighter which may have tunnel vision and not notice you.
  4. After a target is selected, initiate a dive or boom phase (the point where you begin to convert potential energy into kinetic energy).
  5. Continue the dive, build up speed and adjust so the enemy remains within the crosshairs.
  6. With the target in range, open fire and attempt to destroy the enemy aircraft.
  7. Regardless if you destroy the enemy aircraft, maim it or miss, initiate a climb back up to a higher altitude or zoom phase (at this point you are converting kinetic energy back into potential energy.
  8. Upon reaching the higher altitude, level off and look for potential threats and go back to step #3 and repeat the process.
Basic how-to at any time during the match
  1. Whether you lost energy due to a dogfight, turn fight or running away from a threat, all is not lost in attempting to set up for a Boom & Zoom run.
  2. At whatever altitude you are at, fly towards the friendly side of the map and start gaining altitude (use friendly aircraft and anti-aircraft artillery to help remove any enemy aircraft which have followed you).
  3. Work at side-climbing or spiral climbing back up to higher altitude, beware of any enemy aircraft which may already be at a higher altitude waiting to get the jump on you.
  4. When you have reached an altitude higher than the enemy aircraft begin and follow through with steps #3 through #7 of the previous steps listed for the "Basic how-to at the start of the match".

While listed in these steps to attack an enemy aircraft at the bottom of the Boom & Zoom arc, realistically, aircraft can be attacked during any point of the boom or zoom portion of the manoeuvre and depending on the location of the enemy aircraft, it is possible to shoot down more than one aircraft during a Boom & Zoom manoeuvre.

Video example
  • In this short video clip, a Soviet P-47 attempts to execute a Boom & Zoom manoeuvre on a German Fw 190, but ultimately fails and pays the price. Notice in the video how the P-47 swoops in from a higher altitude and at an extremely fast speed in an attempt to take out the Fw 190 which was flying at a much slower speed. Not able to slow down, the P-47 zips past the Fw 190 and attempts to zoom climb back up to altitude, unfortunately the slower Fw 190 was able to manoeuvre onto the tail of the P-47 and take him out. The smart Fw 190 pilot knew that they could not out-run the inbound P-47, so they began several energy-depleting manoeuvres allowing for a tighter turn which the P-47 could not match. The P-47 pilot was attempting to do all they could to get the Fw 190 in their crosshairs, when they should have realized earlier the impossibility of this shot and aborted the attack to began an immediate zoom climb away while still behind the Fw 190, thus avoiding the German guns all together and once back at altitude reevaluate the situation to potentially attack again or pick another target.

Relation to other styles

Boom & Run
  • During a Boom & Run type manoeuvre, the attacking aircraft is not necessarily interested in returning to a higher altitude, as it may already have a speed advantage over the other aircraft. Either way–whether dropping in from a higher altitude or being faster to begin with–the attacking aircraft lines up a target, attacks, then attempts to speed away either in a horizontal flight path or a shallow dive. The goal is to gain enough distance between the target and the attacker to allow the attacker to safely turn around or manoeuvre into another attack position without the threat of being attacked during this process. Aircraft with control surfaces that begin to lock up at higher speeds (during a dive) may have a better chance with a Boom & Run tactic.
Turn fighting
  • This flying method is favoured by aircraft which are considered energy fighters; for example, the German Bf 109. These planes maximize the ability to execute vertical reverses such as the Immelmann (half loop flying up), Split-S (half loop flying down) and the standard normal loop. Energy fighters typically have a good power-to-weight ratio, and can take advantage of manoeuvres which the typical Boom & Zoom fighter cannot without losing an extreme amount of energy, and thus and any speed advantage the latter may have had.

Theory of Boom & Zoom

A common mistake is made by assuming that heavier planes dive faster, however, this can be disproved by taking the motion equation for a velocity v dependent on time t:

v(t) = ∫a dt = (F/m - g + k(v)) ∫dt

This statment holds at a constant engine thrust F affecting to the mass of the airplane m with resulting uplift k(v) (including air drag). This proves the velocity is even inversly proportional to the mass (lighter planes accelerate faster, even on dive). Additionally the gravity constant g is speeding up the plane towards ground independent of its mass.

Planes which benefit the most from a strict Boom & Zoom philosophy

While most jet aircraft can take advantage of Boom & Zoom tactics, due to the speeds at which they fly, they are more prone to take advantage of Boom & Run tactics, because, for fighter jets, speed is much more important than altitude.