This evaluation will take a closer look at all aircraft from official publications for the original Crimson Skies.
After having done a review on Behind the Crimson Veil and having taken A Closer Look at Special Characteristics (SCs), I initially intended to do a review about the next book in line: the Aircraft Manual. But as most of you will know, it is nearly exclusively about new planes and their stats. Thus I considered that it might be of more interest to see evaluations done for all official aircraft, similar to the ones I did when writing about the new planes in Behind the Crimson Veil.
Every aircraft gets two ratings, one for its general usefulness, a second one when employed for a special task.
General usefulness favors well-rounded designs that you can't go too wrong with, especially when you don't know what you'll be up against, e.g. in plain old dogfights or during free-for-all plays.
Special tasks can be bombing runs, Zeppelin attacks, interception missions and all other kinds of situations in scenarios or campaigns. Those might call for extraordinarily high speed or agility or specialized armament (gun range, ammo type, many hardpoints) which means that that particular plane has to skimp on some other aspect, e.g. armor.
To my knowledge there are currently 65 aircraft spread over all the supplements: 34 fighters, 27 heavy fighters (including a cargo plane) and 4 autogyros. I'll ignore the autogyros as they are a special case and there's only one that's actually armed. I'll start with the fighters, sorted by descending base-to-hit (BTH) numbers, and within those alphabetically by name.
M112 (10) /
The list begins with the only official plane with a BTH of 10. It is also one of the few fighters featuring a speed of 5, whereas its G-rating is only at an average 3. An acceleration of 3 is sensible for such a fast plane. The big engine takes up the majority of the total weight, leaving only a token armor of 80 points (the lowest value of all fighters), even the single hardpoint had to be removed for this. Apart from the cargo aircraft the M112 is the most lightly armed craft featuring only twin .30 MGs. On the plus side it sports a G-efficient Cockpit which helps with dogfights, while the removed Zeppelin hook won't hurt too much.
This plane is mostly useful for interceptions of similar opponents, it should stay out of fur balls where a single lucky shot will cut deeply into any of its parts.
The price tag for the M112 is 10.000$, which is absolutely average for a fighter. If a slightly bigger plane is not an issue, you should consider the Hornet as an able alternative.
Black Bat (9) /
With a BTH of 9, the Black Bat is still difficult to hit, but at 170 points it has more than double the M112's armor. This is mostly possible because of the much smaller engine (speed 3). Max. Gs of 4 combined with an acceleration of 3 make the Bat a formidable dogfighter. Armament is also good for its size: the common twin .30 MGs get help from a solid .50 cannon, also both hardpoints are available for missile support. A nice add-on for getting out of tight spots or closing in on opponents are the five Nitro Injectors. It received two drawbacks though: a Poor Landing Gear (+2) and Poor Stall Speed. The former can be ignored during gameplay, but the latter is quite bad for a plane that needs to stay on the tail of its prey.
Of course the Black Bat's listing price gets knocked down by this to 8.400$ which few light fighters can undercut. Again, the Hornet might be used instead, if you don't need the Black Bat's solid armor.
Cloud Raider (9) /
This plane from Deseret is slightly larger than the M112 but has very similar stats: speed 5, max Gs 3, max accel 3, armor a single row more (90). But it's the weapon loadout that makes it stand out: a .60 cannon is terrifying in this weight class. That and keeping both hardpoints make the Cloud Raider a fast interceptor that can't be ignored. The Poor Stall Speed is not too bad for its intended role and the Light Stick helps, if it finds itself tangled up in mêlée. A cargo bay of 55 lbs. could have provided another row of armor, but this way it can also be used as a fast courier plane.
Price of 11.800$ is a bit above average, but fair (and not even in the top 5 for light fighters).
Hornet (9) /
The Hornet has been discussed before in my review of Behind the Crimson Veil, but let's compare it to the other planes in its weight class.
Max speed is 5, max Gs a solid 4, but acceleration only a 2. Armor at 90 is as bad as the Cloud Raider or the M112. Armament consists of twin .40 MGs with the standard two hardpoints. No cargo room whatsoever means that every pound has been put to use for combat prowess. Unfortunately the designers made some cuts on the Poor Landing Gear (+1) and the Cramped Cockpit. It is also hampered by Poor Stall Speed like the Black Bat and the Cloud Raider. As with the latter, not too bad when intercepting, but not good for a multi-role fighter what the Hornet wants to be.
On the other hand, the Hornet is one of the cheapest light fighters at about 8.200$.
Silver Phantom (9) /
This plane is introduced as a prototype, featured in the Spicy Air Tales, so there shouldn't be too many around. But we get stats nevertheless, so let's have a look: max speed is 4, max Gs a whopping 5 and acceleration 3. An armor plating of 160 is average for its weight class and most pilots will be ok with this. In regards to weapons, the two hardpoints were removed and the remaining twin .30s look more like a feasibility study than a real threat to anyone.
Talking about feasible: the Phantom got some of the worst SCs installed, to cater for a fitting background story. Poor Stall Speed, Poor High-Speed Handling and Poor Maneuverability should make everyone consider at least twice before adding this field study to the roster. Multiple Engines aren't really worth mentioning and the Improved Cockpit Visibility isn't enough to make this plane combat-worthy.
Due to this aircraft being a prototype I don't know if I'd allow it in skirmishes or campaign play, but even at its real low nominal price of only 7.000$ the many drawbacks are probably not worth it.
A5 (8) /
This japanese airplane from the Airman's Gazetteer is a solid all-rounder. Speed is 4, max Gs 3 and acceleration 2. It retains all three hardpoints and comes equipped with wing-mounted twin .30 MGs plus twin .50 cannons. Armor of 160 is on par with many other planes its size.
It also comes equipped with a Superior Engine (-1) and Self-Sealing Fuel Tanks, of which the former is a real asset. Sadly it also has Poor High-Speed Handling, a real drawback as it mitigates the usefulness of the quality motor somewhat.
A cost of 11.500$ is a bit above average, and also too high for my taste due to the unfavorable combination of SCs. If you're looking for alternatives, you might consider the Skewer or the Wind Saber.
Buccaneer (8) /
I must admit that I'm a fan of aircraft made by Fairchild, but I'll try to be impartial. The Buccaneer is one of the slower BTH 8 fighters with a max speed of only 3. Max Gs of 4 are good and acceleration 3 is nice to have, if perhaps not essential for a speed 3 plane. Armor of 160 is the same as A5 or Scrapper so well within normal range. Small drawbacks like Inferior Range 2, Linked Ammo Bins and the removal of one of the three hardpoints are countered by a Superior .70 cannon and twin equally Superior .30 MGs. As a dogfighter the Buccaneer will shine, whereas specialized missions will be hard to find.
At 10.500$ this is a steal; as an alternative with a very similar weapon loadout take a look at the (more expensive) Wind Saber.
Scrapper (8) /
Here comes the first plane that makes good use of its High-Torque Engine. It already features max Gs of 4 and can add yet another G to turns to the left. Max speed of 4 and acceleration of 2 are good and paired with a Light Stick make for a very competent dogfighter. Armor at 160 is ok as is its armament consisting of twin Fire-Linked .50 cannons. Maybe this type of weapon loadout is not for everybody, but it should prove quite effective nevertheless.
Price tag says 12.200$, which I think is fair. If you don't care for the .50s you can always go back to the Valiant which has similar stats.
Seer (8) /
The Seer is one of the four speed 5 planes, with max Gs of 3 and acceleration 3, just like the M112 and the Cloud Raider. It is armed liked the former with twin .30 MGs, but it gets to keep its missile hardpoints. Remarkable are the big cargo space of 90 pounds and the armor of 230 points, which is way above average for (light) fighters. Only positive SCs have been added: Improved Cockpit Visibility, Self-Sealing Fuel Tanks and Superior Range 2. The overall design suggests the Seer to be a fast courier or blockade runner rather than a combat model.
Price at 10.800$ is moderate though, and there are no real alternatives for a decently armored but fast plane.
Skewer (8) /
One of the few seaplanes available featuring a Flotation Gear and No Landing Gear. Other than that the Skewer is bland: speed 3, max Gs 3, acceleration 2 and an armor of 220 points. Twin .50s and twin .40s mounted in the wings deliver adequate firepower. A hardpoint has been removed leaving only two. That's it, nothing else to see.
If you need a seaplane or a low priced generic aircraft you can add this one for 9.700$ to your squadron. Should size not be a concern go for the Bandit instead.
Tempest (8) /
This spirited little plane is close to being the perfect dogfighter: speed 3, which is fine once you have engaged your opponent, max Gs of 5 and acceleration of 2. Protected by 220 points of armor it can also withstand lucky enemy hits. Armament could of course be better: twin .40 MGs and a single .30 MG with a single hardpoint. Dropping two hardpoints was unnecessary as a single row of armor could have easily been omitted. A Superior Engine (-1) and Improved Cockpit Visibility give the necessary edge for tailing and outmaneuvering enemy planes.
Maybe 11.500$ seem a bit steep for the punch you get, but if used in its intended role it's a fair price. The only other plane with max Gs of 5 is the Silver Phantom and I know that I'd gladly pay the extra charge for the Tempest!
Valiant (8) /
One of the classic planes from the base game, the Valiant has benefitted from the retroactively added SCs: Superior Engine (-1) is always nice to have, while the Dog Basket will probably not see much use but it isn't that expensive, so what the heck. Inferior Range (I) is negligible but helps keeping the list price down. With max speed 4, max Gs 4 and acceleration 2 the Valiant can be used as both an interceptor and a dogfighter. No hardpoints were removed, and a total of six .30 MGs can really pour on some damage, especially when some of the guns use magnesium rounds. Armor has always been the main drawback, at 130 points you need to rely on your piloting skills.
All the high tech comes with a lower price than you might expect: only 11.900$. As a more expensive alternative with even more high tech try the Mockingbird.
Wind Saber (8) /
Looks like McKinley copied the blueprints of Fairchild's Buccaneer (or vice versa). Weapon loadout is almost identical: a Superior .70 cannon and twin Superior .30 MGs. The only difference is that the Wind Saber keeps all three hardpoints. Regarding handling, max speed is higher at 4, while max Gs drop to 3. Acceleration at 3 is the same, whereas the armor had to be reduced to 120 points, although a cargo space of 50 pounds would have allowed another row of plating. Inferior Range (I) doesn't really matter to an in-fighter, while the Superior Engine (-1) is nice to have, but not a great deal once engaged.
The 13.200$ are really only worth it if you need the extra speed, otherwise stick to the Buccaneer.
Avenger (7) /
Our second classic plane tries to be everything at once: a light fighter that's hard to target, heavily armed to bring down any opposition, decently armed and maneuverable. Normally this would lead to a design that can't do anything right, but with the Avenger it's actually not that bad. Imposing twin .60 cannons coupled with six .30 MGs provide range and firepower that even heavy fighters should stay away from. That the two groups of .30s are Fire-Linked is not a real drawback here. 200 armor, speed 3 and acceleration 1 are mediocre at best. But paired with the relatively small size of BTH 7 makes the Avenger last longer than one might think. What's a real pain is the Heavy Stick combined with the low max Gs of 2.
Of course this SC also helps keeping the bill low: only 8.000$ are called for a slightly sluggish but effective allrounder.
Cutlass (7) /
The first thing to notice about the Cutlass is its queer weapon configuration: twin Premium .60s, that are Fire-Linked and also have Linked Ammo Bins. There are no secondary MGs for a little more range, but blessedly it keeps all four hardpoints. Armor of 180 means you need to be careful as it won't last long. Speed is 4, max Gs 3 and acceleration 3. All in all this says interceptor for me and at 11.900$ for a fair price.
Defender (7) /
Alright, let's move on to one of the classic planes that suffered from the introduction of the SCs. Both .50s and all four .30 MGs now have the Inferior trait. Even worse, the Defender now has an Inferior Engine and Reduced Cockpit Visibility. Of course, everything else stays the same: speed 3, max Gs 4, acceleration 1 and armor 140. But with all the bad stuff, this plane is no fun to fly anymore even if it is fitting for the setting. Also, why on earth is this "Defender" - which I assume is its primary role - outfitted with 100 pounds of cargo space? Those should have been used to up the armor to 170 points.
But even with all the drawbacks and detrimental SCs the plane still costs 8.300$. Sure, that's below average, but still way too much for its all-around crappiness. I'd recommend a Fury or a Nemesis as alternatives.
Fury (7) /
It was a punch to the gut to see my favorite plane's famous .70 cannon getting the Inferior treatment. The twin .30s and twin .40s kept clear of that, fortunately. On the other hand it is now also Difficult to Bail, which sucks for league and campaign play, and it has Poor Stall Speed, reducing its dogfighting capabilities a lot. Speed of 3, max Gs of 3, acceleration of 2 and armor of 220 can still be worked with, though.
If you use fixed budgets to buy your squadrons, a listed price of merely 7.800$ can't be ignored. It is the cheapest light fighter, short of the Silver Phantom prototype.
Kingfisher (7) /
In need of another cheap generalist? Sporting 240 armor points, a speed of 3, max Gs of 3 and acceleration 2, the Kingfisher can be used for all fights. The Cramped Cockpit and the Inferior Range (I) mostly don't matter, whereas the Poor Landing Gear (+2) doesn't directly affect aerial combat, but only league and campaign play. Armament consists of four Fire-Linked .50 cannons which have a solid damage potential combined.
About 8.000$ should let the Kingfisher show up in many squadrons. If you have a grand more to spend consider the Bandit instead.
Mockingbird (7) /
Welcome to the other side of the price spectrum: 15.500$ is second place for all fighters and first place for most expensive light fighters. Well, what do we get for our money? Let's start with the basics: speed 4, max Gs 4, acceleration 3 and 190 armor points give us a well-balanced interceptor and dogfighter. The gun loadout is a little unusual: one Superior .60 cannon and a Superior .30 MG. I haven't tried this plane yet, so I'm not sure if the combination of a single big and a single small caliber gun can be called effective.
But onward to the other features: we'll ignore the Inferior Range (I) and acclaim the Ejector Seat, the Superior Engine (-1) and the Light Stick. Certainly every pilot in a league or campaign would love to have these amenities aboard. Nevertheless, the high price impedes its use as other planes can perform similarly at more reasonable rates, e.g. Wind Saber or Raptor.
Nemesis (7) /
The sister plane to the Fury with similar looks and stats. It has a stronger engine which allows speed 4 and acceleration 3. Max Gs stays at 3 while armor was reduced to 180 points. Also the unreliable .70 cannon is swapped for a regular .50 gun. Like the Fury it is Difficult to Bail but now has Poor High-Speed Handling. The installation of four Nitro Injector charges along with this SC is of questionable design. Multiple Engines and Inferior Range (II) are irrelevant as usual.
Maybe the Nemesis is the better dogfighter of the two siblings, but more consequent design changes were needed to bring out this ability. Like this, I'm not sure if I wanted to pay 8.700$ (900$ more) to get a Fury with a .50 instead of its .70.
Zion (7) /
Another in-fighter that relies more on agility and outmaneuvering the enemy than on brute force. Speed is just 3, but max Gs is 4 and acceleration is 3. Combined with a Superior Engine (-1) and a Light Stick gives us a good mêlée plane that also packs a decent punch consisting of a .50 cannon, twin .40s and twin .30s. Its weapon loadout is identical to the Nemesis, but with a higher armor of 200 points and the generally superior stats the Zion handles much better.
Is this really worth the 14.500$ though? Maybe get an Intrepid instead...
Bandit (6) /
This is the plane I just had to get as a mini, not because of its stats, but because of its name: "Bandit" is my nickname in games and forums alike (BGG being an exception to the rule).
But personal ties aside, the Bandit is a well-balanced craft available at a fair price. Speed is 3, max Gs 3, acceleration 2 and armor a stout 280 points (one of the highest for light fighters). Twin .60s and twin .40s also offer a good balance between firepower and range. Superior Range (II) is duly noted, but the Reduced Cockpit Visibility puts a damper on the design. Altogether this leads to a price of 9.200$, so go ahead and buy one for your squadron roster. A similar plane is the YAK-4 further down.
Bloodhawk (6) /
When seeing the mini of the Bloodhawk I'm often irritated when reminded that it's a BTH 6 aircraft, as it has the sleek design of a much lighter racing plane. This misconception isn't exactly helped by its pure stats either: speed 4, max Gs 4, acceleration 2, armor 150; sub-par armament of twin .40s and twin .30s. All of this could have as easily been achieved in a smaller fuselage. Apart from this criticism of the overall construction, the MGs are of Superior quality and the Bloodhawk can score with a Light Stick and a G-efficient Cockpit. Poor Stall Speed probably just had to come around again, so there. Little armor with a low BTH isn't everybody's cup of tea, but if you rely on skill and tailing, this plane can be had for just 10.900$ despite the extra charges for the beneficial SCs.
Intrepid (6) /
We can easily compare the Intrepid to the Zion even if the latter is BTH 7. Both have speed 3 and max Gs 4. The Intrepid's acceleration at 2 is not as good, also the armor is only 180 compared to 200. But where the Zion has a .50 cannon, we now have a .60. In regards to SCs both planes are generous: the Intrepid sports a G-efficient Cockpit, Light Stick and a Superior Engine (-1). The Poor Stall Speed (and the Inferior Range (II)) are not really desirable, but they help in getting cost down: 11.800$ is not much for a plane with such assets. If the Poor Stall Speed bugs you, pay up and get the Zion in its place. All told the Intrepid is a solid dogfighter albeit with too thin armoring.
Misericorde (6) /
Another plane from the Spicy Air Tales, this time without a known manufacturer. It is fast with a speed of 4 and even features five Nitro Injectors. Max Gs are 3, acceleration 3 and armor 200 with more attention on the front. It has twin .50s and twin .30s which is nothing to go crazy about, but the Misericorde also has a Light Stick without any downsides. Don't know how the availability of such a scenario-spawned plane should look like, but the calculated price of 11.600$ would be a good offer in my opinion.
Raptor (6) /
The light fighter with the thickest armor of 350 points, from Pride of the Republic i.e. the Texas sourcebook. A Superior .60 gun to punch big holes are accompanied by Fire-Linked twin Superior .30s looking for criticals or delivering magnesium rounds. The negative effect of Difficult to Bail is lessened by the thick armor and the agility of the Raptor. Inferior Range (I) is irrelevant, but the Light Stick in combination with max Gs of 4 gives us yet another neat dogfighter. Speed is 3 and acceleration 2 but this predator doesn't need to leave close combat, it seeks it. The designers certainly have done everything right and don't even charge that much: 11.700$ for a really good plane is a bargain. There are few alternatives to this peculiar configuration; the armor is even above the average for heavy fighters.
Rifleman (6) /
If you like the Peacemaker by William and Colt, you should take a look at the Rifleman, when looking for a general purpose plane. Armament consists of a regular .70 cannon supported by four .40 MGs. Speed, max Gs and acceleration are all at 3 with armor clocking in at 210 points. The cockpit is Cramped but it also offers Improved Visibility. Unfortunately the two engines have the Inferior quality to accommodate for the low price of 8.800$. Similar planes include the cheaper Fury and the more expensive Skylance.
Tornado (6) /
Another air superiority fighter from Pride of the Republic. High max Gs of 4, max speed and acceleration of 3, and two Superior Engines (-1) mean that this craft can get to the fight fast and tangle up the opposition in dogfights. Improved Cockpit Visibility helps, while the Linking of Fire and Ammo doesn't really hurt that much. The Tornado has nose-mounted twin .50s and twin .40s, so the pilot can at least use two different types of ammo. With 200 points the armor is adequate for a fighter in the medium weight class.
Price is 11.800$, which is good for an airplane with two of the best SCs available. If you've got the money consider the Zion instead, or the slightly cheaper Swordfish when you don't need all those fancy doodads.
YAK-4 (6) /
One of those unimpressive foreign planes that comes with a designation instead of a cool name. It is also the only light fighter with a speed of 2; most of the heavy fighters are faster than that! Max Gs is a solid 3, acceleration 2, armor a good 280 points. The weak Inferior Engines free up space for weapons though: four .50s plus twin .40s isn't bad, although the Linked Ammo Bins is an unnecessary setback here. Its Reduced Cockpit Visibility further limits the capabilities of the YAK-4, whereas the Superior Range (I) is as unimportant as it gets. Oh, nearly missed the large cargo bay (110 pounds), which could have changed armor or perhaps weapons into a more interesting configuration, but there you go.
This plane doesn't excel at anything and is also quite bad at others, so it probably won't see much love, except when funds are low: 8.400$ is on the cheap end of the scale while offering at least some armor that your opponent has to chew through. Alternatives are the Bandit and the Peacemaker, with the latter being even cheaper.
Albatross (5) /
As the name implies, another seaplane with No Landing Gear, but a Flotation Gear instead. Fittingly for a marine aircraft it also has Superior Range (I) and is also the first on the list with a Wooden Airframe. Armor has been skimped on with only 170 points and even has an asymmetrical design: the right wing carries a total of six rows while the left wing has to make with only four. Hardpoints were also reduced to four instead of the usual six, but this should be it about the downsides of the Albatross. Max speed of 3, max Gs of 3 and acceleration of 2 are a good average, so let's take a look at the two remaining positive aspects: guns and price. Twin .50s and twin .40s are one-upped by a massive .70 delivering a good amount of firepower. If this combination has aroused your interest, maybe the 8.700$ price tag will seal the deal. For a somewhat different configuration of a seaplane with a .70 check out the Skylance further down.
Devastator (5) /
Perhaps the most iconic plane of the Crimson Skies universe - the venerable Devastator. It is fast at speed 4, fairly agile at max Gs 3 and acceleration 3, but unfortunately not that well-armed and armored. Armor is only 220, which is not much for a BTH 5 craft and weapon loadout only consists of a quartet of .40s. It retains all six hardpoints, but altogether not really overwhelming. Additionally the Devastator has no positive SCs going for him, only two bad ones: a Cramped Cockpit and Difficult to Bail which mean that no squadron leader will want to include this death-trap in long-term campaign rosters.
Cost on the other hand is low at 8.300$, so it should still see some action in skirmish plays. A similar but probably more successful all-rounder could be the Aguila.
King Cobra (5) /
You need absolute confidence in your piloting skills and when anticipating your opponent's moves, otherwise you won't be able to use this glass cannon for long. Armor is terribly low with 140 points whereas armament comes along with a big .60 and four .50s cannons. This costs most of the payload, so stats are pretty much mediocre: speed 3, max Gs 3 and acceleration 2. Like the Devastator above, the King Cobra has no advantageousSCs to show off, only a Cramped Cockpit and Inferior Range (I) to beat down the price: 8.300$ should find prospective buyers that don't mind too much about survivability. The Bandit could be an interesting alternative.
Peacemaker (5) /
The only light fighter with a deadly quartet of .60 cannons! Armor is decent at 280 points, as are speed and acceleration of 3. Max Gs of 2... Well, such things are inevitable when mounting this much firepower on a plane (also we're already in the grey area where fighters and heavy fighters share BTH numbers). Improved Cockpit Visibility makes it easier to bring the weapons to bear, whereas Heavy Stick make the low max Gs even worse. So, a well-rounded fighter with a characteristic dual-fuselage design to have for only 8.300$. Who'd say no to that? For similar firepower consider the cheaper Coyote or the more expensive Firebrand.
Skylance (5) /
An agile seaplane with a Flotation Gear but this time with No Zeppelin Hook installed, instead of removing the regular landing gear. The G-efficient Cockpit is Difficult to Bail but with max Gs of 4 and an average armor of 230 points, your best bet is to stick to your foe's tail rudder anyway. The combination of a low range .70 with twin .30 MGs for long range offers a lot of flexibility. Speed 3 and acceleration 2 are ok and will get the Skylance through regular fights.
9.400$ can be called value for money if you can live with the small drawbacks. Fury or Raptor come to mind as alternatives featuring a big gun.
Brigand (6) /
First of the heavy fighters we have the Brigand, which is featured prominently on the box cover of Crimson Skies. It also one of the five planes sporting a turret. For regular combat the Brigand carries four .50s along with its five hardpoints. The turret has twin .30s installed to deter pursuers and keep them away from the lightly armored tail. In the same vein total armor points of 200 are not really much. Max speed 3 and acceleration of 2 can be worked with, while max Gs of 2 are rather low. Fortunately the High-Torque Engine allows tighter turns to the left and doesn't even cost a dime. Not really a dogfighter, the Brigand will mostly be used to control flight paths and deny attack vectors to enemies, albeit at a mediocre effect and durability.
9.000$ make it a solid choice, but if you simply want a plane with a rear turret, look up the heavier and cheaper Stalwart later.
Swordfish (6) /
Yet another seaplane with a Flotations Gear, but it retains both its regular gear and the Zeppelin hook this time. Stat wise nearly identical to the Skylance, it features speed 3, max Gs 4, acceleration 2, but an armor of only 210 points instead of 230. Armament is totally different though: here we have twin .50s and twin .40s, while the gunner can try to shoo away pursuers with the Pintle-Mount Guns. The Cramped cockpit is of not much interest, but the Inferior Engine make the Swordfish unreliable above the open sea, not a nice prospect.
I'm a little surprised that this really average plane is supposed to cost 10.500$, which I think is a little too high for what it does. If you need an agile seaplane go to the Skylance, if you need more firepower and amor use the Sandhill in its stead.
Aguila (5) /
The Aguila from Mexico is pretty fast for a heavy fighter (speed 4, acceleration 2), but of course its weapon loadout and armor plating suffered some in exchange (four .50s and 260 points of amor). Max Gs is only 2 but the High-Torque Engine changes this drastically: the left wing can now withstand 3 Gs, while the right wing is down to 1 G. This makes the Aguila too predictable in combat for my taste, but together with the Improved Cockpit Visibility it should be easy enough to tail someone. Unfortunately the Poor Throttle make delicate maneuvering like this nigh impossible so that the usefulness of this eagle is mostly limited to interception tasks and high-speed surgical strikes.
Only 8.000$ make it worth considering though; unless money doesn't matter in which case you can simply buy a Phantasm.
Hellhound (5) /
One of two heavy fighters (not counting the Cargo Plane) that solely rely on .40 and .30 MGs of which the Hellhound features four each. If my record sheet doesn't lie, the four .40s share a single Linked Ammo Bin, while the .30s are fed from two separate bins. In addition there's a Pintle-Mount Gun to fire gun salutes to anyone following. Sadly, this plane has to deal with a poor Stall Speed which reduces its dogfighting and tailing capabilities, which would have been good otherwise, mostly due to its Improved Cockpit Visibility. If in need for quick speed boost, the Hellhound can rely on its Superior Engines (-2). Whoops, nearly forgot the basics: speed, max Gs and acceleration are all at 3, armor at a respectable 320 points.
Despite its quirks, the price is still high: 13.100$. This combination of armor and armament is quite unique, but if BTH doesn't matter, see the Phalanx for another crazy (and cheap!) design.
Phantasm (5) /
Rolls Royce always catered to the rich and demanding, and they deliver. The Phantasm is the most expensive aircraft around, stuffed to the brim with high tech and premium equipment. Let's start with the Superior Engine (-2) which delivers a speed of 4 and an acceleration of 2. The max Gs of 2 are certainly surpassed by other planes, but it still handles smoothly due to a Light Stick. Improved Cockpit Visibility means that the four .50 guns will hit their targets often, but if bad comes to worse the Ejector Seat will keep the pilot alive to fight another day. The only real drawback is the Poor Stall Speed, probably due to its high-speed design. One hardpoint had to be removed to make the armor a solid 270 points which leads to our final total of: 16.800$. There's really no alternative to traveling in style, but if you are only looking at armament and base stats, go get an Aguila for half the price.
Anvil (4) /
"Who strikes fear in the hearts of men? The Anvil does!" If you want to bring an awe-inspiring plane to the fight, get an Anvil with its four (4!) Superior .70 cannons. Granted, its other stats are average at best, but if you get close enough to shoot first...
Speed, max Gs and acceleration are at 2, but it also has a Light Stick. Armor is 290 points, weighted slightly to the rear, so head-on attacks not advised. A single hardpoint was removed, but that's negligible as are Superior Range (II) and No Zeppelin Hook.
All this awesomeness has its price and you have to pay nearly 14.000$ to call one your own. If you like .70s but three of them will suffice, consider the Hammer Fist, otherwise rely on the tried and true Peacemaker for a similar effect.
Coyote (4) /
For a heavy fighter the Coyote has too little armor (240 points) for my taste. Especially when you see the max Gs of 2 in combination with a Heavy Stick. The Poor Landing Gear (+2) won't win any popularity contests either, while the Accurate Bomber thing might be nice to have, but does it really fit the theme and design of this plane? Anyway, speed 3 and acceleration of 2 are good enough, as is the armament consisting of twin .70s and four .40s. Overall useful in a skirmish and cheap too: only 8.100$ if you can get your hands on this Navajo aircraft. Firebrand and Tigershark have about the same stats and armament with heavier armor for about a 1.000$ more, so you may want to evaluate those before you buy.
Firebrand (4) /
During campaigns Superior Range (II) in conjunction with Multiples Engines offers an extraordinarily high range, which is of course squandered during regular play. Pintle-Mount Guns offer a token rear protection, but the generous armoring of 330 points will stop the majority of attacks before this becomes necessary. Good armor is also essential, as the design of the Firebrand makes it Difficult to Bail. The main assets are its twin .70 and twin .50 guns that can dish out a lot of damage in one round. Base stats are not too exciting with speed 3, max Gs of 2 and an acceleration of only 1. Nevertheless, if properly employed, the Firebrand is a welcome addition to any squadron costing a fair 9.500$. If you want a little variety maybe choose a Tigershark instead.
Firestorm (4) /
This plane design from Blackflag is not really a remarkable one, but it should prove quite effective in most combat situations. A total of six .50 cannons provide a good balance between stopping power and reach, although a mix of different calibers often achieves the same goal better. Despite what one might have feared, none of the guns have been linked together in any way, a mission-specific selection of different ammunition types is thus possible. Armor is at 340 points, speed 3, max Gs 2 and acceleration is also 2. The Improved Cockpit Visibility offers an edge when betting on first strike tactics or trying to engage in close combat.
Without any real downsides the Firestorm is offered for a very reasonable 8.800$. Comparable in firepower and defensive capabilities is the slightly more expensive Firebrand.
Krieg/Kraut (4) /
Actually called model 157 by the manufacturer Voss, unlike the YAK-4, the Krieg/Kraut at least got a name of sorts. ("Krieg" being German for "War", in case you didn't know.) The Voss 157 is agile for a BTH 4 heavy fighter with max Gs of 3. The High-Torque Engine plays havoc with the handling though and changes the Gs to 4 and 2 for the left and the right wing. Complicating things further, it also features a Heavy Stick a setback that's not really mitigated by its Superior Engine (-1). Speed and acceleration of 3, armor of 280 points are good enough so let's move on to weaponry: a big ol' .60 cannon is flanked by four .40 MGs. Overall a conservative but efficient design with the flaws of the Heavy Stick and a cargo space of 80 pounds, which should have been used for two more rows of armor instead.
Well, that's the way it is designed and you are supposed to pay 9.900$ for it. Not quite worth it in my book, I'd rather go to the aforementioned YAK-4 or a Rifleman.
Raven (4) /
The Raven tries to be a nimble dogfighter with max Gs of 3 and a Light Stick. This isn't hindered by any drawbacks, so it should be able to get its sights trimmed on its prey and land hits fairly regular. But twin .50s and four .40s aren't really overwhelming firepower, so anyone piloting one of these veteran fighters needs to be patient. Additionally the calibers have Linked Ammo Bins which always leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. An armor of 280 is below average for its weight class, so it also needs to stay out of the thick of it. Speed of 3 is ok, but acceleration of 1 is again sub-par performance.
I'm not sure if the Raven has actually much going for it, not even the price: for 9.400$ I'd rather buy a Firestorm along with ordnance and roll for pushing Gs from time to time.
Sandhill (4) /
Maximum Armor! With capital letters! This was certainly the premise during the construction of this seaplane. Base stats are ok at speed 4, max Gs of 2 and an acceleration of 2. Along with the Flotation Gear we get Pintle-Mount Guns and that awfulness Poor Stall Speed again. But look on the bright side: twin .60s, twin .40s and twin .30s make short work of any opposition. Considering a price of only 9.100$ no aspiring squadron leader should ignore this durable plane. Similar in performance but at even lower cost the Cazador presents itself as an alternative.
Tigershark (4) /
The Tigershark from Houston is a mixed bag that can be used for all kinds of missions. It carries twin .70 guns and twin Superior .40 MGs, but its hardpoints were reduced to six. Armor is good with 410 points and the stats of speed 3, max Gs 2 and acceleration 2 are fine with me. But the Improved Cockpit Visibility is totally ruined by the addition of Difficult to Bail and a Heavy Stick. Multiple Engines don't matter much, but the Self Sealing Fuel Tanks (with rules as written) are a death sentence for the plane.
Still, it's only 9.200$ , so if Firebrand or Kestrel are too costly, go ahead and try your luck.
Cargo Plane (3) /
Just for completeness sake, I'll include the Cargo Plane from Behind the Crimson Veil in this section, although it's not a real combat aircraft. But yes, it does have some weapons installed: twin .30s with all rocket hardpoints available. Armor is of course way below average for a (nominally) heavy fighter, only 240 points are added. Basic stats are 2 all over which is not too bad for a simple Cargo Plane. Of course, this leaves a lot of room inside the fuselage, namely 3.460 pounds, all reserved for merchandise (or boarders, depending on your business model). The addition of a few SCs for flair would have been nice, but the chapters of the expansion book were possibly designed independently of each other, so no bonus points here.
The listing price for this generic craft is 5.300$, if you ever need to figure such cost into campgain budgets.
Kestrel (3) /
Unusual weapon loadout, flimsy wing armor and a rather high price are the trademarks of the Kestrel. Three .60s deliver the main offensive barrage, backed by a single .40 and a triplet of .30s. An armor rating of 250 isn't really the end of the world, but a plane this big (and easy to hit) with wing armor of only 4 rows is crying for a shearing. The two Superior Engines (-1) are a nice touch, but also raise the cost, as do the superfluous Pintle-Mount Guns to an astounding 10.900$. If a light fighter is an option go with the Peacemaker instead, or a Ramrod on the heavier side (both way cheaper).
While it certainly can deliver copious amounts of hurt, the Kestrel's base stats of speed 3, max Gs 2 and acceleration 3 don't make up for its lack of protection. Maybe the destruction of stationary, undefended targets are its intended mission profile...
Monitor (3) /
The Aircraft Manual mainly gave us a huge amount of new planes, but it also brought along a few special cookies like the Monitor. This fully armored (460 points) monster carries twin .60 cannons in a 360° turret, which means that it will dominate the battlefield until a brave soul finally shoots it down. There's another set of guns: twin .40s in the nose and a full complement of eight missile hardpoints. It also got equipped with the stupid Self Sealing Fuel Tanks along with being Poorly Maneuverable and max Gs of only 1; guess that turret cost much of the payload, yet max speed is still 3 with acceleration being a feeble 1.
The book says 9.100$ while Aeronaut tells me 9.400$, I'll try to find out later what's the correct cost. But either way, this is a real good price for the flexibility of a 360° field of view. The only other plane that's remotely comparable is the Mako with its nose-mounted turret.
Stalwart (3) /
Another plane from Marquette Airworks and every bit as unfulfilling as the Defender. Let's start the list of bad stuff with the worst: Heavy Stick. This is followed by Linked Ammo Bins for the Inferior twin .50s and twin .30s with the latter being mounted in a rear-facing turret; luckily the .70 was somehow spared this fate. Back to more bad SCs: a Poor Landing Gear (+1) coupled with Self Sealing Fuel Tanks is begging for a place in the scrapyard and Inferior Range (II) just adds insult to injury. Apart from all of this, armor is ok with 310 points, as are a speed of 3, max Gs of 2 and acceleration of 2. But the Stalwart just doesn't cut it, not as a dogfighter, not as a strike craft, not as an interceptor.
I'm sorry, but even 7.300$ can be spent much better than this. Get a Warhawk instead or maybe a Ramrod.
Thunderbird (3) /
The Thunderbird is quite agile for its size with max Gs of 3, but it's also made of a Wooden Airframe which limits the usefulness of the high Gs. Therefore the main asset is probably the armament consisting of twin .60s and four .50 cannons. I'm not sure why the .60s need to be Fire- and Ammo Linked but you probably want to load both of 'em up with AP ammo anyway, so it's not a big deal. To keep your gunner busy he or she gets a Pintle-Mount Gun. Reduced Cockpit Visibility and No Radio take care that you don't get too distracted from potentially ongoing aerial combat, and having No Zeppelin Hook is just another reason why this ancient design should be put to its final rest soon. Neither the speed of 2 and acceleration of 1 nor the paltry armor of 240 points aren't exactly encouraging to buy this relic.
Price tag is 7.600$ but only nostalgic people or desperate souls should consider this. For virtually identical weapon loadout consider the Behemoth, for similar base stats but better armor fall back to the Warhawk.
Behemoth (2) /
Officially labeled a heavy fighter, the Behemoth is more like a light bomber in many aspects. For starters, it's the only aircraft with a max speed of only 1. Max Gs are still 2 though and acceleration at a fitting 1. Nevertheless, it's got a Heavy Stick which mostly disqualifies it for close combat. Armor is nearly maxed at 440 points and is urgently needed when approaching targets like Zeppelins or flak emplacements. Twin .60s and four .50s allow for extended strafing runs, but the main aspect is definitely the carrying and bombing capacity: along with its 9 hardpoints and being an Accurate Bomber, the Behemoth also has 1.460 pounds of internal cargo space that can also be used for bombs. As these usually come in 100, 250, 500 and 1000 lbs. increments, it would have been nice to get those last 40 pounds for a total of 1.500 lbs. cargo space, but that's about the only negative comment I can make; and at 7.000$ I can easily ignore this minor flaw. There are a few other heavy hitters that also classify as Accurate Bombers, but none have the extra payload available, so there's no real alternative in this special niche.
Cazador (2) /
Well protected by 440 points of armor and armed with twin .60s and twin .50s, supported by Pintle-Mount Guns and Accurate Bomber, the Cazador can even show off with adequate base stats of speed 3, max Gs of 2 and acceleration of 2. All of this can be had for as little as 6.700$! So where's the catch? Glad you're asking. First, all of the weapons are of Inferior quality. Also the engine is Inferior and has Poor Throttle. Lastly, this "Hunter" handles with a Heavy Stick. If you're really on a budget, fine, go for it and directly buy two of these. But if you can spend a little more, I'd recommend buying a Ramrod.
Hammer Fist (2) /
This plane was built for a single purpose: move to the target quick, kill the target in one attack, then retreat. To achieve the first part the Hammer Fist has a speed of 3 and an acceleration of 2. Max Gs of 2 are fine as they won't be needed that much. The second part is taken care of by three Fire- and Ammo Linked .70 cannons. (It also has all nine hardpoints available as either backup or pre-strike.) To be better able to successfully retreat we get a Light Stick to shake off potential retaliators. The only thing that doesn't fit this mission profile is the armor: 260 points is too little for head-on assaults, more so when it's distributed evenly and not focused on the front.
Pricing is fair at 8.000$ for a specilized craft.
Ramrod (2) /
The Ramrod is a good allrounder, sporting twin .60s and four .40s, which share Linked Ammo Bins within their calibers. Armor is at 410 points, speed is 3, max Gs 2 and acceleration 1 and hardpoints were dropped to 8. Also, there are a lot of SCs in this plane: Accurate Bomber, Difficult to Bail, No Zeppelin Hook, Pintle-Mount Guns and Reduced Cockpit Visibility. Especially the last one isn't nice, but manageable, and it keeps the price low: 7.500$ is not much for such a well-balanced plane. The Vampire is a little slower, but if you need more firepower for a few bucks more then check it out.
Vampire (2) /
An intimidating array of twin .70s, twin .60s and twin .40s forbid any frontal attacks against a Vampire. It also has thick plating of 420 with its weakest point being the tail fuselage with "only" 6 rows of armor. Base stats are as to be expected: speed 2, max Gs 2 and acceleration 1 are good enough for this on-the-nose brawler. Superior Range (I) and Multiple Engines might be nice to have for scenarios, but the other two SCs really reduce its combat value: Heavy Stick and Poor Maneuverability. Maybe it's not really that bad for such a heavy fighter, but it sure helps to keep cost down: 7.800$ and it's yours. A combination of raw firepower and good armor is rare, the only alternative is the Groundhog, albeit at nearly double the price.
Warhawk (2) /
The other classic big bird of the base game, and the second plane to bring four .60s to the game (the other being the Peacemaker). Armor is a little on the light side with only 340 points, but that's the trade-off for max Gs of 3 (better than the Peacemaker's 2!). Speed is 2 and acceleration 1, but if you're already on some poor schmuck's tail it doesn't matter. Although, the Poor Maneuverability might throw a wrench in here. An assortment of three engines is unusual, so I'll mention it here along with the Accurate Bomber SC. If you are fond of .60 caliber guns there's really only the Warhawk or the Peacemaker, with the former costing only 7.300$.
Groundhog (1) /
I guess the designers didn't want to make any more compromises and drew the line at speed 2. But everything else had to stand back for armor and weapons. Twin .70s, twin .60s, twin .50s in a rear-turret and a single .30 (all of them of Superior quality!) are close to the maximum that can be fitted on a plane. Armor is nearly maxed out at 440 points, but as mentioned before max Gs and acceleration had to suffer and stay at 1 point each. To accommodate at least a little for this the Groundhog is outfitted with five Nitro Injectors. What's really amazing, is the fact that the fuselage is built upon a Wooden Airframe; didn't quite believe this was possible until I saw the spec. Doesn't help much with the price though, the quality weapons alone cost more than double than the rest of the plane. But if you're hell-bent on guns, you'll probably gladly pony up the 13.600$.
Mako (1) /
The Mako has a unique feature: a nose-mounted turret! And if that's not cool enough, this turret houses two .70 cannons! The twin .30 MGs feel like an after-thought for a little follow-up damage after this. Armor is the full 460 points, speed is 2, max Gs 2 and acceleration is 1. Apart from only situationally interesting SCs like Accurate Bomber, Multiple Engines (4) and Superior Range (II) the Mako got hit by those Self Sealing Fuel Tanks again. A cargo room of 100 pounds is present, probably because armor was maxed out already. Cost is ok with 8.400$, but is the increased firing arc worth the sub-par firepower? Compare it to the Vampire or the Tigershark and decide for yourself.
Phalanx (1) /
To me the Phalanx feels like a feasibility study: can I cram eight .40 caliber MGs into one plane? Well, it does fit, so what are the other stats: speed is 3, max Gs is 2 and acceleration is 1. Armor is decent at 390 points. While Accurate Bomber and Multiple Engines (3) are nearly not worth mentioning, here's the pinnacle of unreason: Linked Ammo Bins for all of the eight guns into a single group! How on earth is anyone supposed to take this plane design seriously? But as the price is really low at 6.700$, even this harebrained configuration will probably find a buyer. Personally, I'd even consider a Cazador as an alternative, and that's saying something...
This ends my evaluation of the official fighter aircraft from Crimson Skies. You may, of course, disagree with some or even many of my ratings, but I hope it also provides a good overview and take-off point for pilots not yet familiar with some of the rarer models.
Incredibly valuable and comprehensive assessment. Nice work!