Many players have noted that Update 2.0 brought significant changes to the behavior of AA guns: they became more aggressive, dangerous and now pose a real threat to all aircraft classes. Additionally, we now have high altitude AA cannons that defend the objects from bomber and heavy fighter attacks. Let’s dive into the details on these new mechanics and compare them to the old system we had in World of Warplanes 1.x.
First of all, the AA guns don’t generate a pseudo-explosion at the target’s location anymore like they used to do in WoWP 1.x. Instead, they truly shoot at them, which means projectiles have travel time and can be avoided altogether with evasive maneuvering.
Secondly, we now have separate light and heavy altitude AA guns. Once a player’s aircraft comes under fire, they can easily assess how much damage they take and see whether their aircraft class is suitable for attacking the specific territory and flying at a specific altitude. The light AA guns mainly attack low- and medium-altitude aircraft and are tuned to be the most effective against them. Heavy AA cannons protect territories against bombers and heavies that fly much higher.
Keep in mind that AA coverage does not directly correspond to the locations of ground objects or circular territory outlines marked on the mini-map. To see the firing zones of all AA guns, you need to switch to the alternative HUD mode by pressing Alt.
A light AA gun covers a semi-spherical cupola around it. The diameter of this cupola is defined by the battle tier. These are machinegun emplacements with respective tracer fire effects. Their damage can be easily avoided by gaining altitude above their range.
Light AA gun effective radius:
- Tier I: 540 meters
- Tier II: 675 meters
- Tier III: 788 meters
- Tier IV: 1,035 meters
- Tier V: 1,125 meters
- Tier VI: 1,170 meters
- Tier VII: 1,215 meters
- Tier VIII: 1,260 meters
- Tier IX: 1,305 meters
- Tier X: 1,350 meters
Heavy high-altitude AA guns cover a cylindrical area above them. They have a minimum shooting range that can be used as a safe haven against flak barrage: you simply need to fly lower than the gun’s reach. Alternatively, you can cross the gun’s shooting zone at high speed.
Heavy AA guns effective radius/minimum/maximum shooting altitude:
- Tier I: 810/293/1,913 meters
- Tier II: 945/315/2,250 meters
- Tier III: 1,058/338/2,565 meters
- Tier IV: 1,170/383/2,925 meters
- Tier V: 1,283/473/3,263 meters
- Tier VI: 1,404/495/3,600 meters
- Tier VII: 1,530/518/3,757 meters
- Tier VIII: 1,643/563/4,050 meters
- Tier IX: 1,755/630/4,500 meters
- Tier X: 1868/653/4725 meters
All the AA guns start firing after a short delay. Once a gun detects an enemy, it starts aiming at it. Simultaneously, the player sees a warning on their screen. A couple of seconds later, the gun starts shooting and correcting its fire, gradually increasing accuracy and damage. You can easily tell if an AA gun has started shooting at your aircraft by the flak shell explosions or machinegun tracers. Once the AA gun fully homes in, it will shoot accurately and lead the target, shooting at a point where the target will be considering its flight vector and speed.
If there are several targets in the anti-aircraft defense zone, the system will divide them among different guns. If there is only one target, several guns will engage it (normally two or three), but their damage will be scaled down and become more like barrage fire than direct fire.
Both machinegun and heavy cannon emplacements shoot salvos (a series of shots for the latter) and then take several seconds to reload. During this time, the system checks whether there are higher priority targets for every gun and can switch to them. The previous version of the AA defense system would continue firing upon the first target it selected until it was either destroyed or left its firing range.
The salvo length and rate of fire are determined by the battle tier: the higher it is, the longer and more rapidly the guns shoot and the faster they reload. For light AA guns, this scaling is quite significant, for instance, at Tier X the salvo is almost 3 times longer than at Tier I. Heavy AA cannons at high battle tiers shoot only 1.5 times faster and longer, but their danger to aircraft still grows proportionally via the increased explosion radius and damage per shot.
While light AA guns track targets quite quickly and shoot relatively accurately, the heavy cannon fire can be quite easily avoided by maneuverable warplanes. For less nimble classes like heavy fighters and bombers, this is less viable but they can still mitigate some portion of the damage by turning or changing speed because the flak explosions have a lesser radius that deals nominal damage and an additional radius where its damage decreases.
The targeting priorities for the AA defense systems are tuned in relation to the aircraft classes they are designed to protect against. Light AA guns will prioritize aircraft that pose a direct threat to ground targets and aerial defenders (attack aircraft, multirole fighters and fighters, respectively). Heavy AA cannons focus on classes that are able to capture territories without engaging in direct contact with them (bombers, heavy and multirole fighters). AA guns normally only engage non-priority targets if there are no other suitable ones or other guns are already assigned to them.
In general, the defense system in the territories are composed in such a way that a player on a specific aircraft can quite quickly judge whether it’s overly dangerous for them to attack that specific territory and how effective their attack would be. In particular, the AA guns would make it perfectly clear to some aircraft classes that they are doing something critically wrong. For example, bombers or heavy fighters that drop too low and come under fire from light AA guns would take heavy damage if they become a target. Similarly, an attack aircraft that for some reason climbed way too high and came in range of a heavy emplacement would have a very bad time. This is why if you decide to risk it and enter the AA defense zone, you should focus on destroying the guns as soon as possible or make sure they are busy dealing with other targets.
The updated AA defense system is now more useful and important as a game mechanic. Any aircraft class that specializes in ground attacks should make destroying AA guns their priority task, and only after doing that should they engage other objects nearby. On the other hand, the tactic of luring enemies into AA coverage became much more effective: before, the AA fire was mostly dangerous to heavily damaged aircraft, now it’s risky to stay under “ack-ack” for anyone. This makes gameplay more varied, and becomes an incentive to coordinate attacks in a team and combine different aircraft classes for a successful raid. The underlying mechanics of the game mode are more useful as a tool for achieving victory in various situations.