The pride of the navyEdit

Aircraft carriers play an important role in IL-2 by providing mobile airstrips out on the great blue ocean.

Building an aiport on top of a ship greatly increases the fleet's ability to detect enemy ships at range, allows for allied air cover for ships far beyond the maximum reach of land-based aircraft, and also allows for bombing raids against targets which are out of reach for landbased bombers.

In IL-2 1946, several carriers from the USNavy, Imperial Japanese Navy and the Royal navy are included. Although only a few aircraft designs were capable of taking off from and landing on a carrier in WWII, almost every plane in IL-2 can land on and takeoff on a carrier, which means that carrierborne aircraft can carry much heavier payloads in IL-2 than they could in reality. A Swordfish torbedo bomber? Those can sink battleships if you have enough of them, but how about something bigger, like a TB-3? 3000 kilograms of explosives in four 1000kg bombs would sink pretty much anything short of a battleship, wouldn't they? How about a Pe-8 with a FAB-5000, that's more than 4000 kilograms of refined awesomeness.

Sounds good? Well think again and then moan, because before you go nuts in said Pe-8 thinking that you'll be the ruler of both sky, land and sea, we're going to take a look at the math.

What is in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an outside forceEdit

This simple rule is what keeps your plane in the sky, makes your bombs drop and keep those pesky little biplanes from ever catching up with your big and expensive Me-262, but when it comes to making big planes leave the ground or in our case the deck of an aircraft carrier, not to mention getting the behemoth to turn around, land and stop on the deck, the laws of physics can be quite annoying.

In order to slow down aircraft landing on a carrier's short deck, the aircraft is equipped with a hook which catches one of ouf several wires lying across the deck, the wires pull the aircraft backwards, and so it slows down and stops at the deck.

The problem with big planes is that they're heavy, and as the plane gets bigger, it needs either a longer runway to gain speed enough to take off, or more powerful engines to improve accelleration. Some heavy aircraft in IL-2 have weak engines and need long runways, but there's alot of planes with power enough to pull them off the carrier deckbefore they reach the end of it, so taking off from a carrier is possible for most planes.

Landing however is a totally different matter. Only a few planes have arrester hooks, the others have to use only the brakes on their landing gears to slow down, and planes like the TB-3 which don't even have brakes are in big trouble here, because after the 250m of deck they have left, the ocean awaits.

As for the brakes, there's another problem, namely the effectiveness of the brakes, and the stress tolerance of the landing gear they're mounted on:

  • A T-183, single-seated jet-powered German fighter can land on the deck of a carrer and use only brakes and flaps to stop itself. 
  • The brakes on the B-29's wheels can't stop it in time, the silvery giant would plunge into the depths. If we would be able to equip use more effective brakes then the stress on the landing gears themselves would cause them to break. The heavier the plane, the slower it stops.

Which planes can land on and take off from carriers?Edit

This is the first question you should ask before trying to land on a carrier. A TB-3 can't do it because it doesn't have any brakes at all, and because of its great wingspan it would most certainly knock off a wing on the carrier's superstructure, causing it to flip over.

What you need to consider when you pick your plane is:

  1. Stall speed, the slower you're going when you hit the deck, the faster you'll be able to stop, and the lower stall speed, the slower you can go without losing control over the plane and crashing into the sea.
  2. Weight, the heavier it is, the longer it will roll before it stops, and when taking off, it will also gain speed slower, meaning that when you reach the end of the deck, you may not have enough speed to stay airborne.
  3. Engine power/weight ratio. The more power you have pulling your plane forward, the more speed it will be able to gain before reaching the edge of the deck
  4. Does it have an arresting hook? It would be very useful for stopping the plane after landing.
  5. Wingspan, when taking off, your plane will be immune to damage from the carrier, so you can crash into the bridge without breaking anything, but when landing, you're no longer immune to collision damage, and if your wings are too large, you might end up breaking them.
  6. The landing gear type:
  • Planes like the P-51 Mustang have two-point landing gears with two main wheels under the aircraft's wings and a smaller wheel under the tail, these planes are prone to flipping over, if you decide to pull the brake handle all the way back, you'll end up with your nose buried in the deck, or maybe even upside down. It looks funny when you're flying an I-153 or I-16 and manage to go nose-down into the ground after landing, but it's not very useful.
  • Planes like the A-20, B-25, He-162, and pretty much all larger modern airpanes have three-point landing gear with one gear in the nose, and two under the wings, you have nothing to fear when you step on the brakes in one of these planes, you couldn't make them flip over like an I-16 even if you wanted to.

On the deck and how to get off it.Edit

So, you're sitting in the pilot's seat, your plane is on the deck of a carrier, and the carrier is steaming across an endless ocean in the morning sun. We'll take you off the deck step by step.

  1. Check that your engine is on, start it up if needed.
  2. Decrease thrust to idle.
  3. Set the flaps to "Combat" position, if your plane has no flaps then jump to step 4, if it does have flaps but the flaps don't have the "Combat" position, set them to "Takeoff", or leave them in the "Raised" position if there's no "Takeoff" position either.
  4. Increase thrust to 90%, wait two seconds, and then release the chocks (check game controls if you don't know which keys to press)
  5. When you're three seconds from the edge of the deck, set the flaps to "Takeoff" position, this will decrease accelleration, but that forward movement is exchanged for upward movement, so if your speed is too low and you fall down after reaching the edge of the deck, the increased lift will slow down your descent and hopefully you've built enough airspeed to start moving upwards before you hit the sea.
  6. Raise the landing gear the very same moment that you reach the end of the deck. The landing gear increases drag and slows you down, so you should pull it up as soon as possible.
  7. Increase your speed, raise the flaps, gain more speed and repeat the pattern untill your flaps are all the way up and you're going fast enough to keep your altitude.
  8. Decrease thrust to avoid unnecessary engine stress, level off at 250m altitude and head for the mission objective.

That's the shortest runway I've ever seenEdit

True, the carrier's deck isn't like the grass fields you're used to, but unlike the grass field, the carrier is quite often moving forward. A carrier moving forward at 31 knots (63km/h) will move a considerable distance forward while you're rolling on the deck. If you're landing on the deck at 190 km/h, the difference in speed between you and the carrier will be around 127km/h, and most cars can go from 127km/h to a full stop in less than 150m.

Here's where the three-point landing gear shows its usefulness. If you're going at 150km/h on the ground with say a I-16 and pull the brakes, you'll end up nose-down in the ground.

To keep that from happening, you may release the brakes when the plane begins to tilt forward and then engage the brakes again when it fall back to the original position. Apply the brakes again, and repeat the precedure. It takes some practice, but it works.

the problem here is that you're braking and then not braking, 50% of the distance you travel before you stop, you'll be rolling without braking. With a three-point landing gear, you plane doesn't tip forward thanks to the nose wheel, so you can have the brakes engaged the whole way.

The 18th holeEdit

No, IL-2 is not in any way related to the game of golf, but landing on a carrier is hard if you're new to it. You're moving, the runway is moving, and the runway itself is less than a third the length of any runway on dry land. We'll try our best to bring you down safely onto the deck, but we guarantee that you'll end up swimming with the fishes on your first five tries:

  1. Landing on a carrier is much like landing on a runway on land, so the first thing you need to do is align your plane with the carrier's deck, deploy the flaps, lower the landing gear and so on.
  2. When you touch down on the deck, wait for the hook to catch a wire, if that doesn't happen, push the throttle all the way forward, raise the hook and try again.
  3. If your plane doesn't have a hook, then there's no such thing as a second chance. Once you touch the deck, you have to decide for yourself if you'll go all the way or try to take off and try again at lower speed or a better angle.
  4. On the deck, rolling towards the ocean below the bow.
  • If your plane does have a hook and this hook does catch a wire, reduce your throttle to idle and do your best to keep your wheels on the deck, the wire will stop your plane completely and if you're too far above the deck when you've stopped, you'll fall right down and break your landing gear.
  • Ok, so you're coming down without hook, not the best choice you could have made but you can still stop your plane manually. Decrease your throttle to idle and apply your brakes when you touch down, then tell your crew to cross their fingers.

Once you get more experienced, you can try different techniques to shorten the stopping distance. Some planes, like the SBD-3 Dauntless, have airbrakes. These airbrakes are most often used to slow the plane down when dive-bombing, but they can also greatly decrease the time and distance needed to stop a plane.

The biplane, troll of the oceansEdit

Doubtlessly, biplanes are the most newcomer-friendly aircraft when it comes to carrier takeoffs and landings, and are fun to play around with for the more talented pilots aswell. Because of the twin-wing design, they can stay in the air at much lower speeds than any other aircraft, and as a result, they are very easy to take off from, and land on carriers.

Brotip: Pick the J8A. Load a map, start up the engine, lower the flaps, set the throttle to full power. Now wave at the crew on the deck, release the chocks and brakes and laugh as your anitigravity generator kicks in.

In Japanese Zero, you kamikaze into american carriers. In Finnish J8A, british carrier kamikazes into you!