Picking Your Dogfights

OR: The Fighter Commander’s Guide to Air Combat

By Alan Emrich

You initiate Air-to-Air Combat in Frank Chadwick’s ETO when a player’s Fighter units conduct an Intercept Mission. The intercepting player is always in control of when and where Air Battles occur and, better still, makes those decisions after appraising all of the opponent’s Missions. So, from the smorgasbord of interception possibilities, you must determine from among them which are the most existentially vital to thwart and which offer the best chances to punish the enemy’s Air Force. Usually, it is hard to find these two priorities together, as the opponent’s most vital Missions are the best protected by Escorts and employ Fighter-Bombers, while a less-vital Mission presents better Intercept opportunities to really inflict punishment in Air Combat. Although Airdrop Missions often qualify as both great threats on the map and easy targets in the air.

The classic East Front 1941 air-to-air situation: 4 strength of Soviet Interceptors vs. a 4 strength German "Hammer" CAS Mission.

Correctly prioritizing which enemy Missions to target and assessing your chances in Air-to-Air Combat before launching your Intercept Packets is the key to gaining an air advantage.

Two versus One

Usually, Fighter units conduct Intercept Missions in Packets of two units to bring maximum strength to the ensuing Dogfight. Since Escort Missions can only have one Fighter unit protecting their Mission Packet, the intercepting player usually musters an initial strength advantage (or at least parity) on the Dogfight table and has a real chance to do some harm. Interception forces are always striving to achieve at least a +1 on the Dogfight Table since it allows them to roll a lucky ‘6’ puts an enemy Air unit in the Destroyed box.

The Axis intercept the Soviet Close Air Support Mission at a +1 Combat Differential.

For example, during their Winter Counteroffensive the Soviets need a Close Air Support Mission flown to a crucial Battle hex: they fly a Mission Packet with an Il-2 and a Pe-2, escorted by one (the maximum allowed) Yak-1 Fighter unit.

The Axis Intercept with a Packet including the German Bf-109E and Romanian PZL.P-11 Fighter units.

The Axis have a combined Air-to-Air Strength of 5 versus the Soviets’ defense of 4 (2 for the Yak-1, +1 each from the two Fighter-Bomber units in the Mission Group; with one Tough and one Vulnerable symbol on their side cancelling each other out for Defense Strength modification). Thus, the Axis will attack on the +1 column of the Dogfight table with a very good chance to disrupt the enemy’s Air Group and, on a lucky roll, will Kill one the Pe-2 Mission Air unit (because it is the Vulnerable one of the pair)!

The ETO Dogfight Table has more teeth and decision-making on the central columns when a [P]ress result occurs!

One versus One (or Two)

Should the Escorting Fighter unit survive the initial bounce from the Intercepting Packet, it gets to return fire. This means a decision whether to engage both Interceptors (when two Fighter units are in the Intercept Packet, which is typical) or selecting one from the pair and only targeti