Developing Situational Awareness (SA) is one of the most difficult skills to be learned in the process of becoming an effective fighter pilot, but it's also one of the most important. Some would say that it is THE most important skill, next to actually being able to land of course.
Part of SA lies in having a good grasp of the immediate 3D tactical situation: knowing or having a pretty good idea of where planes near you are in relation to you, what direction they are pointing, how much energy (E) they have (Energy is described in the next course), and how much of a threat they are at any particular moment.
But even without this kind of tactical knowledge, there are a lot of clues to Situational Awareness that you can glean from the information the game gives you. And in any situation, you can put yourself in a better position if you apply a bit of knowledge of human nature. DON'T underestimate this last bit, because you score a lot more kills if you can guess what the other guy might do before he even thinks about it.
The first thing you should do is find out the odds. You can do this by looking at the map in your HQ. If you see that an intense furball is going on in a sector enter the sector at a high alt and keep a lookout for enemy diving in to save their fellow countrymen. These are the easiest targets to shoot down as they are quite fixated on the action ahead and not watching their six like they should be.
Here's a small example of Situational Awareness being used effectively to get an easy kill.
In this example we will assume that you are a CZ. Here is a map of the current
Let's say you log on, and you check the map. You discover that there are no A's up, nine B's and 2 C's. You check the map, and by the sector counters you can see that there are two friendly counters and seven enemy counters in the sector that contains Fubar. Two more enemy counters are in the Gray Eagle sector nearby.
What does this tell you? It tells you that all the B's are gang-banging your buddies at Fubar, and probably flying from there closest field as fast as they can to get in on the fun. Human nature, remember? So, what would be a good plane to fly in this situation? Assuming you want to stay alive, a P-51 would be a good choice, because it's the fastest plane in the game, and will stand you a better chance of getting you out of any trouble that you get into.
So you check the airfields health and it shows that Jenny is not damaged. You take off from Jenny and immediately climb out towards the East. You see a couple of kill messages, but only friendly counters are still over Fubar. Apparently, your silly countrymen are getting all pissed off and taking off right away from Fubar after getting killed. This little furball is bound to be quite low over Fubar, right? Sure, because the B's will be trying to kill the A's just as soon as they take off.
You notice a couple of B's have been killed, and a couple of minutes later two additional enemy counters pop up in the Gray Eagle sector. Ah-ha! They're probably all bent out of shape at being killed and will head right back to Fubar to get their revenge without bothering to gain alt, since they know that the enemies they are after are stuck in a low furball. So you fly towards the point about midway between Fubar and Gray Eagle and hope that you're right. And sure enough, there's a couple of low dots flying heading to Fubar. You head behind them, hoping that they don't see you, and knowing that your altitude will give you the speed you need to catch up.
If you time this correctly, you will ideally make your move as the bad guys get close to the furball, since they are more likely to be fixated on the fun coming up in front of them, and not looking out the back as they should be. (Human nature strikes again!) So you come in behind the trailing plane, keeping your manuevers wide and gently so you don't bleed off airspeed unnecessarily. You drop below his altitude so that even if he does look straight back he won't see you. As you get to just outside gun range, you open up. Hits! Boom, he dies!
Now his buddy is still 1000 yards away, but off to one side a bit. Also, he's just about to Fubar, where only one of your fellow C's is still alive. You'd have to manuever hard at this speed to get a good tail shot, and losing airspeed in the middle of nine enemies would be a bad thing. About this time you see that the last of your buddies gets killed. All those bad guys were twisting and turning, slavering over his kill. Now that he's gone, they're gonna look around for something else to kill. And the only thing around is.....you!! Yes, you probably could get that second kill, but if you want to live you will straighten out, put the nose level or slightly down and blow right through this mess, only climbing out when your well out of gun range. It's handy that your escape path towards home is already pretty much the way you're heading. It'd be a coincidence, but you planned it that way, because your SA is so darned good!
This is an example of the kind of considerations you find yourself making all the time in this game. Notice that I used knowledge of how many good and bad guys were flying (that I got from looking at the map) and figured out the general situation from number and placement of sector counters. Then I chose a plane and tactic suited to the situation. None of this required that I fly like the Red Baron just that I observe things, and use the information in an itelligent way. You don't have to be the top stick-and-rudder man to fly smart, and that is what Situational Awareness is all about.
The above was written by Bug, an Air Warrior Trainer, and was converted into HTML by DEADSTICK.