The Ki-84-la in Aces High II
Expectations on the Ki-84 were very high when it was introduced to AH2. Some people are still disappointed in what they feel that it lacks in top end speed as compared to some historical data. Don’t be fooled though, the Ki-84 is probably one of the most dangerous aircraft in the game and can beat you in any number of ways given half a chance. It might not amongst the fastest as modeled but what it lacks in speed it trades off in acceleration, climb, and roll. The Ki-84 is one of those aircraft that can turn a fight from defensive to offensive very quickly and anything it can’t out-run it can out-turn, and vice versa. The Ki-84 is a premier performer and a very dangerous opponent, sometimes being called "the jap 190".
It's surprising that the Ki-84 hasn’t received more attention in the MA as it is truly an excellent aircraft. It might just be that people have not really given it a chance yet, either that or they are already in what they feel is a similar ride. Arguably the Ki-84 is the best overall IJ fighter in the game, though some may counter with a preference for the N1K2. The Ki-84 is very well suited to the typical style of play and the extra speed it can generate narrows the gap to some of the faster aircraft. Regardless of the comments/discussion about what the Ki-84 was historically capable of, in AH it is still an excellent aircraft and provides the pilot many of the tools they need to be successful.
Excellent, though not really a top-speed champion, against its peers it is faster and the acceleration and climb rates rank amongst the best in the game. Sea-level cruise speed is 324mph, putting you at the top end of the TnB crowd but the Ki-84 has WEP on top of that, opening up the lead when it sprints to 343mph. WEP use is standard as the cooling cycle on the Ki-84 is about 1 second cooling for 3 seconds on, a complete reversal of the situation on most aircraft. Speed increases around 4mph/1K of altitude though be careful of some dead-spots in the power over specific altitude bands. Above 11K performance suffers until it recovers at around 17K, then above 21K it falls off gradually until it reaches service ceiling. WEP follows the same pattern but tends to top out about 1K below the critical altitudes. Consider staying at 12K or lower, or climbing up to 21K as a max. Speed at 21K is around 388mph, not really in the caliber of aircraft that should frequent those altitudes.
Fuel range is outstanding, internal fuel being all that is typically necessary though a twin drop-tank option is available. Range on military power is better than 220 miles (41 min duration) and that can be extended to ~300 miles (60 min) simply by using cruise settings. Drop tanks can boost that if you so desire to 469 miles or 129 minutes duration at normal power settings. One point to mention, the Ki-84 has a really bad fuel burn altitude between 15K and 16K, fuel consumption spikes up 40 gallons/hour over that range. Lowest fuel burn is just below 15K and also above 22K where it drops off rapidly, though so does performance. A useful side note is that the Ki-84 has a red indicator mark on the fuel gauge that indicates the % of fuel remaining. You can use this to judge your current fuel state without having to open up the E6B computer and see how much fuel you have remaining.
Acceleration is very brisk, in the top couple of aircraft at most altitudes. WEP should be used for acceleration, something it is well suited for considering its short duration. A 150mph to 300mph sprint with WEP only required 42 seconds at light loads and those numbers barely change (44sec) at normal loading (50% internal and full ammo). Acceleration is good up through 10K, the differences being almost non-measurable until you get into the higher part of the speed range (above 325mph). Not likely that anything can extend from you in an acceleration fight at low-mid speeds, only when you get over 330mph with you start to feel for the lack of top end. Climb is also excellent, not much will beat you to 10K and even if it does the difference is very small.
Aces High II Performance Charts
A pretty solid combination, twin 20mm wing guns (150 rounds/gun) with dual cowl mounted 12.7mm machine guns (350 rounds/gun). The combination is very effective and the ballistics appears reasonably matched. Total firing times are a bit short, 10 seconds worth for the cannons and 26 sec worth for the machine guns, but it doesn't tend to give that impression unless you are used to long spraying attempts. Some people have complained about the effectiveness of the guns either in hitting power or in ballistic properties. It’s a bit masked by the typical firing opportunity that Ki-84 can generate, very close and usually a nice tracking shot. That’s a good reason to keep the convergences short, typically in the D300 to D400 range. The cowl guns, while less impacted by horizontal convergence, will be off in vertical convergence if you set them radically different than the wing guns. The guns put out a lot of fire very quickly though, making targets that get into your sites take a lot of damage very quickly. Externally, the Ki-84 has a pair of wing-mounts that can take either the drop tanks or a pair of 250kg bombs. Performance suffers as average for most aircraft with about a 10-11mph loss in top speed and some decrease to roll and acceleration. Releasing the external stores removes the performance hit entirely so there is no disadvantage long term if you think a couple of bombs (~1100lbs worth) might be of use for targets of opportunity or in a swing-jabo configuration.
A tale of two extremes. At low and very low speeds the Ki-84 is very capable and can typically perform with anything outside the real dedicated low speed turners like the Zero or Hurricane. While the Ki-84 has combat flaps they only become available below 168mph, very slow in comparison to most aircraft who possess combat flaps. The landing setting is available, by comparison at only 13mph less, 155mph. Typically, as a result, you won’t get the flaps out unless you are turning very slow/tight or at the top of loops where they can be deployed for short periods before acceleration kicks in. With flaps out though, the Ki-84 can remain in control under 85mph and at very high angles of climb. The other side of the coin starts at the relatively low speed of only 375mph (IAS) where you can start to get structural creaking as a warning that you are entering unfriendly performance territory. The Ki-84 simply doesn’t handle anything over 400mph well and by 475mph you may start shedding aircraft components. To sum it up, you don’t need to worry about Mach buffet or compression in the Ki-84, if you even try to get close to that fast you are more likely to fall apart first.
A final point, stalls in the Ki-84 are in general fairly gentle but with the high engine power and slow speed capabilities, it is very possible to put the Ki-84 into a dangerous flat-spin. Be careful when slow not to apply too much power or push the aircraft too hard, the margin for error is larger than in some aircraft but if you exceed the flight envelope you can get yourself into real trouble.
Fighting in the Ki-84-la
Offensively, try to use the acceleration and climb-rate, plus the excellent turning at mid-low speeds. You should be able to over-power anything that can turn with you and out-turn anything faster. Vertical performance is simply amazing, it's doubtful that anything can follow the type of climbing spiral the Ki-84 can perform. In the mid-speed range between about 175 and 250mph the Ki-84 can turn pretty much equal with a Spitfire Mk V though you might lose ground slowly in such a case. Put the fight into the vertical though and your superior power and low speed handling should quickly put the Spitfire at a disadvantage. Energy type fights should also work very well, the excellent acceleration and climb should match energy with anyone else very quickly. Don't climb too high, the Ki-84 is better in the mid-low altitude bands, 11K and lower. As you get higher a lot of aircraft are going to over-power you fairly quickly and anything over 22K or so is not your best spot to be. Try and close to good guns range, D300 or less, so you can put the most fire into your target in the fastest amount of time possible. Unfortunately, faster aircraft with some altitude to burn may simply dive away and extend. The Ki-84 has good energy retention properties but not the top speed to stop this from happening, nor the good high speed handling/toughness. A smart enemy will roll out and dive to the ground and there is probably little you can do to stop it.
Defensively, the break-turn and energy equalization properties of the Ki-84 are very good. Quick, violent, maneuvers should be able to break off more enemies and quick use of WEP to get maximum acceleration should even up the energy situation fairly quickly. The Ki-84 is about average in toughness, much better than many Japanese aircraft, but still doesn't want to take a good hit from anything. Visibility is very good though, so use your situational awareness to trigger your avoidance maneuvers and then try and immediately pick up energy to counter the enemy (and maybe take the fight to him). If you get a tracking enemy, see if you can't use the vertical to slow him down and then show off your amazing slow speed handling to hang up your attacker so you can turn the tables quickly. Scissor type maneuvers tend to be very effective as the Ki-84 is good in roll and acceleration, making it tough to match in that area and if you can throw in some climb or slow speed down you are going to make it very difficult for anyone to follow you.
Fighting against the Ki-84-la
The Ki-84 is an exceptionally dangerous foe and escaping one can be very difficult if you get into trouble. Anything you can do, the Ki-84 can probably do almost as well, or better, so don’t get caught in the Ki-84's trap and find out too late that you can’t get free.
If attacked, try and break contact quickly and don't hang around trying to match energy levels. The Ki-84 has such great energy building properties that you are unlikely to be able to match that. Even if you can, the fight might deteriorate into something very slow, and area where the Ki-84 excels. If you have some altitude, a split-S type maneuver could be successful as it exploits the mediocre high speed handling of the Ki-84. An extreme speed dive is even more likely to have the Ki-84 break off pursuit, else it structurally fail trying to follow you. You can also try some overshoot maneuvering in hopes the Ki-84 will over-energy his situation and end up passing you. On some aircraft this is more effective than others, with the Ki-84 a smart pilot would simply zoom a bit and wait for you to run out of energy and then re-engage. Not many aircraft can purely out-turn the Ki-84 at low speeds but above 250mph many of the faster ones probably can. It seems the Ki-84 is unable to pull 6G's above 275mph, making it less than average in that respect.
If attacking a Ki-84, keep your speed up and watch for impossible style vertical maneuvers. The Ki-84 can reverse very quickly and basically hang on the prop at almost zero forward airspeed. It isn't a fantastic zoomer mind you, but in a pure power climb it is pretty much equal to anything. Be careful of your energy situation, what starts out as a small advantage for you can quickly turn into a deficit if the Ki-84 is given a chance to use acceleration/climb. You need to keep fairly constant pressure up to keep the Ki-84 reactionary to you and not able to gain energy. Take whatever snapshots you are given but realize that the Ki-84 is significantly tougher than other Japanese aircraft and a single good gun pass may not be enough to kill it, so don't over-commit to only one opportunity. Be decisive on your exit if you need to extend, the Ki-84 can accelerate very quickly. If you wait too long, or are indecisive, the Ki-84 might reverse and catch you with early acceleration before you can build sufficient speed to exit.
Soda's Aircraft Evaluations