The P-51B in Aces High II
Overshadowed by its older brother, the P-51D, the P-51B is a decent aircraft in its own right. Most players jump immediately to the D model though and skip entirely by the B model, sometimes coming back to look at it at a later time when they are looking for a change. As such, the B model is fairly unusual to see in the game, though there is nothing fundamentally wrong with it. If you are looking for an aircraft that isn't given enough merit but is still a decent performer, maybe the P-51B is for you.
The 51B is very fast though the performance curve is quite different from the 51D. Sea-level cruise speed is 348mph, 359mph with WEP, which is very good and easily in the top 10 of non-perked aircraft. Speed increases smoothly with altitude improvement until a 422mph at 17K, after which you get a pretty bad drop in performance until you climb above 24K. The gearing of the superchargers is obviously different than the 51D. Top speed is around 430mph at 30K, impressive but very high. Acceleration is not brisk but improves with altitude, ranking in the lower 1/3 of aircraft at low levels but almost cracking the top 1/3 at higher levels (18K). Climb rates are fair and actually improve with altitude, starting at 3,200ft/min at sea-level and gaining ground to over 3,300ft/min up to 17K. As you can tell, that 17K number is a critical one for the P-51B, either fly under it over quite a bit over it, so as to be in the best performance zone. Fuel duration is exceptional, 54 minutes on internal fuel alone with the option to add 2 external drop tanks that add another 30 minutes. The drop tanks are loaded in pairs although it is common to immediately drop one as carrying both is typically unnecessary. You should ensure that if you take heavy internal fuel that you burn the AUX tank first, even if you have drop tanks aboard, as it seriously unbalances the aircraft, making combat much more difficult. 50% internal will leave the AUX tank dry to start with and eliminate any concerns. Considering the high cruise speed and long fuel duration, the P-51B has exceptional range and is perfect for escorting, just like the 51D.
Aces High II Performance Charts
|In Game Test Data
|Clean w/25% fuel at sea level
|Sustained turn radius
|Sustained turn rate
|Turn rate at CV
|Full flaps w/25% fuel at sea level
|Sustained turn radius
|Sustained turn rate
|how to edit
This is one of the shortcomings of the 51B, it starts with only four .50 cal machine-guns, two per wing, which is a little sub-standard. One pair is provided with 280 rounds/gun while the other has 350 rounds/gun, making for quite uneven firing times, another annoying point. You might consider the 70 round difference as your escape fund, making the decision to leave once you're through the bulk of your ammunition and keeping the difference as spare in case you need it. Two .50's are very unlikely to have much effect other than to scare someone or damage them enough to leave you alone. With such a small gun package it is typical to set the guns to converge at a point, usually around D350, max, so as to concentrate the fire as much as possible. Long shots are possible but the volume of fire is less likely to yield results in an acceptable amount of time. External options are not quite what they appear even though the 51B can take both bombs and rockets. The bombs replace the drop tanks and have a maximum size of only 500lbs, certainly below average and half that of the 51D. The rockets, up to six 4.5", are wing mounted but ,instead of being on the typical rails, they are tube mounted in a small cluster and create enormous drag penalties, 16mph at sea-level, which never gets better even after the rockets are launched. It is not advisable to carry the rockets, instead just packing the bombs if you think you need some ordinance.
The 51B tends to feel a bit lighter than the 51D and just generally appears a bit more responsive. This is probably because the 51B tends to fly at slightly lower weights because it has fewer guns and is less likely to load up with external options. Roll is quite responsive as is pitch and the 51B is quite easily pointable at most speeds. Very high speed maneuvers are quite tolerable though the aircraft does tend to get fairly heavy at very high speeds. Manuevering flaps are available and best used in short bursts to aid instantaneous turn-rate, 1 or 2 notches is all that is required. The P-51B is not a good sustained turner though and should not get caught in a tight turn-fight with a capable opponent as you are likely in deep trouble over time. Speeds over 200mph and under 500mph are prime and should be maintained whenever possible. Stall handling is average but care should be taken to not enter deep stalls at low altitudes as the P-51B can tend to be a little unforgiving under those circumstances. High flap settings should be reserved for landings, if you find yourself with more than 2 notches of flaps and aren't landing then you are likely in a little over your head (or maybe way over).
Fighting in the P-51B
Always bring altitude and speed to the fight, you simply cannot play an energy catch-up style of fighting. It isn't necessary to climb into the stratosphere but certainly you would prefer to be in the top 1/3 of any fight because you know you will tend end up working downwards. Generally speaking, the 17K mark tends to be a decent altitude to start at, presenting the 51B with its best cruise performance with few aircraft loitering higher than that. That altitude also places the 51B in a very high speed bracket that few aircraft can match so you have little chance to be caught from behind unless someone is diving down on you. Initiating a BnZ or slashing style attack is usually best as that will allow you to retain your energy. Unfortunately, slashing style attacks tend to place a high value on firepower to get quick kills, an area where the 51B is not strong and thus may get a lot of assists from damaged aircraft. BnZ is the same though it may offer a slightly longer firing time in order to put maximum damage into enemy aircraft. A high speed turning fight, if brief, can be very good for the 51B as it can quite easily latch onto an enemy and use quick bursts of flaps to get into shooting position for a tracking shot. You should be very careful though that you don't slow down too much in a tight break turn. Lag style pursuits can help if you isolate an enemy, bleeding his energy quickly and then handing advantage to you.
Defensively, you should always set a floor altitiude for any fight and ensure you exit before you reach the deck, which is typically populated by the very good turners or very fast runners. You are more of a runner so having a little altitude remaining to help you run is best. It's worth considering saving some WEP time for your run, it's what can make the difference in a crowded pack of similar speed aircraft. Some of the key issues with the 51B though are its defensive abilities that you have to overcome. The view from the cockpit is average, which as compared to the 51D would be considered exceptionally poor. The cockpit has heavy frame rails that semi-obscure your view and can allow enemy aircraft to get into blind spots. Maintaining your situational awareness in the 51B is more difficult as a result. The 51B also is easily spotted, not because of an issue with the aircraft but because the only other P-51 in the game is so easily spotted. The 51D shimmers, or changes colour, and is easily identified even outside of normal icon range, the 51B because it shares icon with the D is thus also easily identified as "not a D". I also tend to feel that people on average tend to be more aggressive against a 51B, thinking it is inferior and willing to trade more to kill one. This could also be an advantage is used properly. The 51B is not an exceptional diver, it is good, but don't consider a pure dive as an escape from another better diver.
Fighting against the P-51B
The 51B isn't likely to be an easy kill, though the average pilot skill level tends to vary a lot (not unlike the 51D). A good 51B driver is going to give you as tough a time as a good 51D driver, while inexperience will show in either aircraft, maybe more so in the 51B.
The key to fight any Pony is to bleed his energy out and slow him down. If you can accomplish that, through whatever means, then you can tend to take the offensive of the fight. You don't want to fight any P-51, including the B, in a high speed turn-fight where they thrive, instead, taking the fight more vertical or even climbing, bleeding out the energy. The P-51 is not great as a turner when slow, and it has troubles replacing lost E without trading altitude. Take snapshots, longer ranged shots, or high deflection whenever possible. The P-51D is not terribly strong and often takes radiator or engine damage. Damage like that is forcing the P-51's hand since he knows he has a limited amount of time remaining before he is effectively helpless. The inline engines in AH don't take damage well either, if you see smoke then you can probably assume the engine will have stopped running within a minute or so. P-51s really need WEP in acceleration and dogfighting, without it they suffer a noticeable performance penalty so a short WEP of only 5 minutes hurts Pony pilots. Impatient pilots will expend at least half of that trying to get better climb or to build speed prior to the fight. The Runstang maneuver has lost some effectiveness with the prevalence of the La7 and 190D9 in the game but is still common. Basically the P-51B will simply decide to extend and attempt to run away, if he has WEP remaining then at the very least he can put up a very good speed that will be hard to close.
Defensively you can be in real trouble against a P-51B. A smart pilot will continue to BnZ you from high above with little chance you can return fire. Try and force him to pull high G maneuvers for each gun solution on each of his passes, this will slowly bleed energy out of him. Typically you can achieve this by making sweeping turns and increasing the rate and Gs as his pass on you starts to develop. You need to leave your initial turns light and use it as time to build E, not expend it, but as he closes then tighten up the turn and make him have to work hard to pull enough lead on you for a shot. If he doesn't BnZ you, then try to get into a increasing altitude defensive spiral. Pull just enough Gs to defeat his gun solution while fighting slightly nose high in a spiral climb. The P-51 will quickly find his poor climb rate and average low speed handling are not well suited to this style of fight. If he doesn't then you have likely been able to sucker him and can out-class him badly if you are in a fair turning aircraft. Against a good energy fighter you can probably extend at this point and build up an E margin to return to the attack with.
Be careful of P-51s though, they tend to work in packs and while one person is making his pass there is another getting ready to make another, and thus they may be able to continue to keep you defensive. In these cases your best option may be to try and dive away, picking up as much speed as you can control and drag the P-51s to other friendlies. P-51s don't like the feeling of being low and if they realize they will be under bogie aircraft they will often break off pursuit. If they don't then at least you should have some help in dealing with them.
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