P-38 vs. Ki and Vals
Last update - 10 September 1998

Posted by: Hoof

Date: October 13, 1997 at 03:00:18

Replying to: Vila's Amazing Performance in Sundays Scenario Light :-)

Message: : Today was the reenactment of a Japanese raid on an American Airfield "somewhere in the Pacific." Actually it was posted where it was but i forgot :-)

: I had a flight of four doing P38 cap just north of the airfield F-12. Our coast watchers thought the Vals with Zero's and Ki-43s they had seen were headed to it.

: In my flight was my long time wingman, -you, and the fine flyer faat. Also included in our group was vila. Having learned that the best way is to stay close to the field for dive bombers we were just a bit north. Vila yelled on the radio that he had a sweep fighter on his tail at 16K or so.

: Soon there were several on him. However he quickly turned the tables and shot one down. Score one for Vila.

: Trying to get to him from about 14k we three discovered the Vals had slipped in under us somehow. Crash, Crash! Vila shot two of them down while diving away from the pesky Ki43s after him, with Faat his wingman doing what he could to help. Three for Vila at that point.

: Soon two more were dead as Vila was diving down at high speed, shooting, egressing, Immelmaning, then back at them!

: Score four and five! This was getting very interesting.

: Now it was a general melee, with us four and a wad of angry enemy fighters trying to kill us and Vals trying to escape! To say Vila had messed them up on their dives was an understatement :-)

: The swirling screaming dogfight was down on the deck now with planes everywhere! Bang! Bang! Vila got another one!That brought him up to six planes! Faat got two and I went down in flames. Vila managed to get another one as they tried to run. Score 7 in one sortie! A Fantastic Score!

: Landing safely Vila took the congrats of all with modesty, trying to spread the credit around. Sure Faat deserved some. However the rest of us were pleased as punch to find we had won a "moderate victory." Such was the Scenario Light this Sunday afternoon :-)

: 6gun

I don't want to belittle vila's good sortie (7 kills in 1 sortie is pretty darned impressive in any situation), but his success was largely due to the type of matchup and situation vila was in: P38s (even the F variant) vs Ki43s and vals. This inherantly favors the P38s bigtime due to a rather nasty combination of factors, especially since it was a fight with two sides of numerous opponents. Let me explain.

The P38F is tough. I've found it takes 70-80 rounds to down a P38 in a ki43, assuming 50% accuracy. 70-80 rounds is about 10 seconds of fire. Naturally this is complete distruction (as opposed to a pilot kill), but a second full burst on a P38 will probably not harm it. On the other hand, a half-second burst from a P38F to a Ki43 or val will shred it. I'd say about 80% of the time. This means a P38F can shrug off Ki43 snapshots all day long, but the Ki43 cannot. Big advantage to the Ki43.

In addition the Ki43 is slower than the P38F and handles poorer in a dive. This and the durability/firepower issue is bad enough, but combine that with a multi-bogie vs multi-bogie fight. What half-decent wingman is going to allow a Ki43 to wail on his wingie for 10 seconds? And as soon as the wingie tries to do anything, the Ki43 has 2 choices: break off or die. On the other hand the P38F pilot doesn't have that same option selection. If my wingie and I are being attacked by 2 saddled ki43s, I can go help my wingie, clear him of the Ki43, all while taking fire from my ki43, and then turn and allow him to do the same, and I will still be in reasonable flying condition (assuming a lucky pilot kill shot wasn't done). Try doing that with 2 ki43s with P38s on their 6.

Thus the inherant problems the Ki43 has dealing with the P38 are exasperated by a multi-bogie fight. A group of ki43 pilots have to chip away at the P38s, hoping one falls apart after a while. Meanwhile the P38s can kill a Ki43 with a lucky spray 'n' pray snapshot. This means the P38s can make lots of mistakes, the Ki43's can't.

This doesn't even *consider* the effects of the 32 plane limit and the fact that the Ki43 pilots may not even be able to *see* physically an attacking P38. Again the P38 has the advantage. If a Ki43 attacks unseen (whether invisible or not it doesn't matter for the P38), the P38 can almost always take the blow, and start evasives, and have a 95% chance of getting away. If the Ki43 pilot is hit by anything more than a single ping from the P38, sayonara bud.

Thus I hold a kill by a P38 pilot in such a situation as nothing to brag about. Great for making big US pilot egos, but really no tactical victory or real test of skill. Now a kill in a Ki43 (other than a lucky pilot kill) is really something. That meant that the P38 screwed up really big (probably several times) and his wingmen were incompetent, or the Ki43 pilot was really really lucky.

Of course, in vila's case, he shot down *7* planes, which is definitely a sign he knew what he was doing. The equivelant number of kills in a Ki43 IMO would be 2 kills in 1 sortie. 4 kills in a P38/F6F/F4U (or 2 in a F4F) would be equivelant to 1 kill in a Ki43 IMO.

This was discovered bigtime in Sol II [early WarBirds scenario- front]. There were several incidents where 30+ ki43s dropped down from higher altitude onto lower less numerous wildcats and got slaughtered. And it wasn't due to anything special the US pilots were doing. The US pilots were following a few basic rules (don't turn with the Ki43s, dive if you get one on your 6, focus not on fighting the Ki43s but on clearing other wildcat's 6's). The Ki43 pilots on the other hand really had their work cut out for them due to the previous paragraphs' reasons. Over and over again the Ki43s (and zeros too, although they did better due to better guns) were slaughtered for minimal US casualties. It got to the point where we used the fighters simply as a sacrificial distraction to get the bombers in (which worked over and over again btw). No amount of pilot skill or multi-ship tactics had any effect, and IMO our pilots were as good or better than the US, with good wingman tactics and multi-ship tactics employed.


But historical matchups of US planes (especially the later war planes) vs ki43s and vals were almost always are extremely lopsided towards the US side. There was a reason the Great Marinaras Turkey Shoot went the way it did, and it wasn't just because of intercepted communications just before the battle, or due to lower quality pilots flying the Japanese planes. SolII, if it happened in "real life", *would* (and did) have happened how it did. The US planes were simply better built for the task at hand than the IJ planes.

Thus whenever I see I see high scoring US pilots in IJ vs US (non-ki84) fights, I'm not too surprised. What impresses me is when an IJ pilot scores multiple kills (and anyone scoring two or more kills in a Ki43 in one of these events IMO is an as good or greater feat than Vila's). A quick snapshot from the P38's guns that lands will usually kill a Ki43 or Val, but not a Ki43's vs a P38. How many times did Vila get hit by 13mm fire that had he been in a Ki43 and the attacker been in in a P38 would probably have ended Vila's sortie then and there?

Try flying a Ki43 sortie sometime to see what I mean. I flew one for several sorties (in the GA) averaging 2 kills a sortie. Many times I'd done killing 2 other guys, frustrated as I was saddled up on some 38 or Spit but unable to kill him due to empty guns. And that was because the other two kills had eaten up 70+ rounds each at 50% gunnery accuracy (I was averaging about 48% accuracy during those ki43 sorties, and that was only because the guys I were killing were stupid enough to turn. Something Vila wouldn't do in a million years :) Getting a kill in an organized scenario with a Ki43 with anything but a lucky pilot kill is very difficult vs planes like P38s, F6Fs and F4Us. Vs F4Fs, you at least have a chance, but often his wingies prevent you from having the time to chip away at the wildcat to down it. Yet with virtually every US plane, a Zero/Val/Ki43 can be downed with a glancing snapshot, no tracking shot necessary. Thus, due to equipment alone, the pilot skill required in a Ki43 vs a P38F in a multi-bogie fight is far greater. This is how it was in history, and is repeated over and over again in WB scenarios.

Compound that with the 32 plane limit causing planes to be literally invisible, you have a very, very nasty combination. An F6F/F4F/FM2/F4U/P38 can take a few pings as his signal that he's being attacked by another plane, whether he sees him or not (since it usually takes more than a snapshot to down a plane unless the invisible Zeke saddles up first and really lays it into his target, a Ki43 takes too long). On the other hand, a Ki43 or Zero will perish if someone gets a half-decent snapshot at him, thus the invisible attacker syndrome common to >32 plane furballs is a lethal combination.

Keep all this in mind next time you fly a US vs IJ (non ki84) scenario, especially with ki43s as the primary IJ plane. These setups are inherantly biased towards the US and will inevitably cause 4 to 1 or higher kill/death ratios for the US side vs the IJ or worse (for the IJ), due to the list of things the IJ has going against them. And the big whammy IMO is the fact that the 32 plane limit really eliminates the great equalizer: numerical superiority. Give the IJ 5x the numbers of planes in a particular furball and the US will clean shop, given equal pilots. I guarantee it.

If you want a true test of pilot skill in these scenarios, and get kills you can brag about with some substance, fly IJ. If you can get 2 or more kills in a single sortie flying the Ki43 or 3 or more in a Zeke, then you can claim that you are one of the top. For the US, get 6 or more kills in a single sortie (like vila did), *then* you are one of the top. But the inherant advantages the US has in WB US vs IJ scenarios really detract from the apparant successes the US always has in fighter-fighter battles, and why I probably won't play a IJ-US scenario anytime soon.

Hehe, sorry for my long-winded post, but I am still amazed that people are impressed when the US does well in these scenarios.