Attack aircraft and heavy fighters very often need to rely on their rear gunner should their maneuverability, speed or main armament not be enough to withstand enemy attacks.
Turrets as a type of aircraft armament were first introduced during the Great War. For a while it was considered that turrets could be used offensively to engage unprotected reconnaissance and bomber aircraft, but later development of gun turrets focused on improving the defensive capabilities of multi-crew aircraft. Prior to the start of WWII, defensive turrets mostly included single low-caliber machineguns that were manually aimed. These types were only dangerous to attackers at close range. Further development saw the introduction of high caliber machineguns and then cannons, often combined into two- or even four-barrel configurations. As technology progressed they were gradually improved with special reflector, gyroscopic or even radar-assisted sights and targeting computers. Eventually, remote controlled turrets with electrically powered aiming appeared.
The basics of turret mechanics in our game are the same that are used for anti-aircraft guns. Let’s talk about the main nuances that you should know about to either successfully evade turret fire or to utilize all the potential of your defensive armament in battle.
Rear turrets automatically attack the targets that enter its firing sector and approach to firing distance. These two parameters depend on the turret configuration (tower, tail bubble etc.) and type of weaponry installed (machineguns or cannons). When we balance these parameters we try to consider all the unique characteristics of each type of turret.
To learn the details about shooting sectors and range of any turret in World of Warplanes you can right-click the rear gun in the Upgrades tab or the Tech Tree page for the aircraft and choose Information.
Let’s take a look at all the parameters in detail.
Effective fire range: this parameter is defined according to battle balance. Range is mostly defined by the armament type in the turret. It also depends on aircraft tier and class. Even though the rear gun is defensive, it still is a type of armament, so it should deal damage. For slow-flying attack aircraft fire contact times under fighter attack is very short, which is why generally their turrets reach farther than other classes’. This class relies heavily on their rear gunners for survivability, so attack aircraft turrets are the most effective.
Damage per second is also a balance-driven parameter. Similar to AA guns, rear turrets do not deal damage until several seconds after their target enters the shooting range. This simulates “aiming”. After that damage starts to increase from minimal at maximum fire range to normal inside the effective range. Also similar to AA guns, they do not actually fire projectiles as normal armament does: instead the game calculates a leading point similar to the one you see when you’re aiming at a target. Then it generates a “pseudo explosion” at that point, which deals damage to the target that depends on how close it actually is related to the calculated point. As a result the rear guns are quite accurate — once it starts shooting at you, you won’t be able to avoid damage completely unless you leave its field of fire. Nevertheless you can decrease the amount of damage sustained by maneuvering. Remember: rear guns, especially high caliber ones, can deal critical damage to modules. If you stay for a long time on an attack aircraft’s tail at low speed, you risk receiving an engine crit and stalling.
Field of fire is defined by the turrets construction. You can find all the angles in the rear gun’s infotip. Basically all you need to remember is that the vast majority of aircraft with manually-aimed rear guns (USSR attack aircraft except Il-40 and Il-40p, German low-tier attack aircraft and heavy fighters, British attack aircraft) have their turrets installed behind the pilot’s seat. As a result they cannot shoot downwards. This creates a “dead zone” where you can feel relatively safe. At medium and high tiers German machines receive remote-controlled turrets with much wider vertical angle range. Naturally Il-40 family and SNCAC NC 1070 that have tail-mounted bubble turrets also have wide shooting sectors.
Target selection is done based on their danger. The priority table puts three fighter classes at the top, and only selects attack aircraft as a target when there are no other enemies in range. Unlike AA guns, rear gunners also consider the enemy’s aggressiveness in prioritizing targets. The more damage you deal to an attack aircraft, the higher priority you will be for its turret. When a target leaves the turret’s field of fire, it gets assigned zero priority until it comes back in. So, you can dive beneath the turret and force it to switch attention to another target.
Defensive fire efficiency can be improved by the gunner’s skills. You can find out all the details about them in this post. When the gunner sustains critical damage (is wounded) the turret stops firing completely, once it enters the yellow state, shooting efficiency will be significantly decreased.
All the warplane classes that are equipped with turrets can be augmented with “Rear Gun Stabilization” equipment that improves efficient firing range by another 15%.
Using all this knowledge you can easily formulate tactics for attacking targets that have rear guns. Naturally you would want to avoid taking damage. Almost all such aircraft have no defensive armament in the forward hemisphere (unless you get in their main armament’s sights, of course). So the best direction for a strafing run would be diving sharply along their flight path or from the flanks, aiming at the front part of the target, and then disengage by rapid climbing before reengaging. Attacking medium and high tier attack aircraft from the rear, especially if trying to equalize speed to increase fire contact time won’t be the best of ideas. Their high caliber turrets can riddle even the sturdiest of fighters in mere seconds. If you find yourself in danger after getting shot at by the rear gunner, try getting below it, but be careful, a skilled AA pilot can easily catch you with a bomb.
At the moment we are working on improving feedback from rear gun fire to the players. This will affect both AA/HF pilots and those who attack them. For instance we aim to make the firing sectors more understandable so you can turn your plane to a more favorable positions to utilize the turret effectively. Also we will improve feedback on turret fire — it will be more visible once it starts firing, gets damaged and so on. Right now it’s quite hard to discern at a glance whether the turret is firing at all, and harder still to see what the target is. We want to make rear guns a more important part of gameplay.
That is all for today. Good luck in the skies, pilots!