Update 0.8.0 has been released recently, and of course there are a lot of questions, specifically about the new anti-air defense mechanic. In this article we're going to discuss all details about 0.8.0 AA - how it works, how it interacts with commander skills and upgrades, and everything else.
Please note that the CV rework introduced in 0.8.0 will undergo a lot of tweaking and balancing, so the information here may get outdated at some point by subsequent changes.
How it used to be pre-0.8.0
In brief, planes got shot down with a certain probability (dependent on AA potential), and the planes, in fact, did not have effective individual hit points. At the same time, AA mounts did not have minimal range, so AA generally grew a lot stronger closer to the ship. It caused two issues:
Probability-based and erratic plane destruction used to create too much RNG - sometimes squadrons got wiped out in a moment, sometimes AA seemed to have zero effect;
Lack of minimal firing range interrupted with creating proper AA support specs, so that the ships could cover their allies properly, but would not be invulnerable at closer range;
How it works now
1.Each plane has individual hit points. If a planes 'dips' into AA range, it will be damaged according to the respective AA strength, and the damage will be recorded (so it will be easier to shoot down later) indicated by the green/yellow/red HP bars.
2.Each AA group has a minimum range now, so short, medium and long range AA on one ship do not overlap, which gives much more options for balancing the AA in general and gives a lot of potential for AA variety.
For example, let's look at Baltimore AA. Close range is 0,1-1,5 km, medium is 1,5-3,5, long range covers 3,5-5,8 km.
3. Now there is "hit chance" parameter for AA. It allows for a better fine tuning of AA mounts per class and tier - usually it is higher for more modern ships, which represents more modern AA fire control systems. Hit chance affects flak bursts and constant DPS.
4. AA damage is dealt in two ways now:
Constant DPS in the respective AA range. The damage dealt is DPS multiplied with Hit chance, so, if you have 100 DPS and 70% hit chance, you will deal 70 damage per second. This damage is being dealt to each squadron in the AA range (and it's not being spread - each squadron receives full DPS). It also worth noting that within the squadron it is being dealt to a randomly chosen plane, one at a time (basically AA quickly shoots at all planes in a squadron, plane by plane). This is why some of your planes are getting damaged a bit earlier, and some - a bit later in constant DPS area.
Flak bursts (for medium and long range AA only). A flak burst is a specific volume in a three dimensional space, and if a plane physically gets inside it, the damage (usually very large) is applied to it (that exact plane). Actual average number of flak bursts is: base flak bursts parameter, multiplied by Hit chance.
Flak bursts appear on the calculated squadron path, within the specified zones (see the picture). Mostly the bursts will be concentrated in narrow A zone directly on squadron path, and if it's full of bursts already, the rest will go to the side B zones (which makes maneuvering more challenging).
More about these flak bursts
Please note once again that the info here, especially balance values, is subject to change.
Flak bursts appear each 2 seconds. The burst "physical" size depends on AA mount caliber - larger caliber guns give bigger bursts.
Zone width (X) depends on squadron speed. It will be quite wide (X1) if current squadron speed is high, and it will be narrow (X2) if the planes are going at minimal speed. That means that using throttle is very important for dodging flak bursts.
Effective flak burst amount, as mentioned before is base flak burst parameter multiplied with Hit chance. Normal (Gauss) distribution is applied, and the minimal burst size is symmetrical to the maximum. That means that with 10 base burst size and 70% hit chance, it will mostly be 7 bursts, 10 is maximum number and 4 is minimum.
With a single ship AA, 80% of flak bursts (but not more than 6) is being placed in zone A. The rest goes to side B zones. Flak bursts do not overlap each other.
Let's check Baltimore once again (the scaling on these pictures is simplified).
Long range AA has spawned 5 bursts, so 5 go to A zone and 1 goes to B zone.
Medium range AA has spawned 11 bursts, so A zone gets 6 bursts (of lesser size) and 5 bursts go to B.
If there are several ships firing, the rules are slightly different: up to 8 bursts can be placed in A zone combined and up to 10 bursts - in A zones. The most powerful burst are being chosen in this case.
This limit gives at least slight chance for attack even against a strong AA group.
If a single AA group has multiple squadrons in range, flak bursts that would have been in B zone otherwise, are distributed into A zones so that AA covers all squadrons. That said, long and medium range AA still do not overlap, so if one enemy squadron is at medium range, and the other is at long range, that means each of them will interact with its respective AA group without any mixing and overlapping.
AA reinforcement and visual hints
AA can be reinforced two ways in battle.
1.Defensive AA consumable: constant DPS and flak bursts damage increases, and the bursts turn red.
Regular bursts are orange, and defensive AA bursts are red.
Usually the increase is x2 for cruisers and x3 for destroyers.
2. AA sector reinforcement (via special menu bound to "~" and "O" keys). Constant DPS in the chosen sector is increased by 25-60% (depends on class and shown in the Port) at the expense of the other sector. AA tracers in the prioritized sector turn red.
AA sectors don't have any transition states, they are either reinforced, normal or weakened. Changing the state takes time, so you should do it in advance. If a squadron is at the border between two sectors, the sector it is in is determined by the amount of planes; if 7 planes are in the right sector, and 2 are in the left, the squadron is considered to be in the right.
Skills and upgrades
AA mod.1 - slot 3 (available from tier 5). Gives +2 to flak burst base value for long and medium range AA. Especially useful for the ships with low amount of bursts.
AA mod.2 - slot 6 (available from tier 9). Increases both constant DPS at all ranges and flak bursts damage by 15%. A very powerful AA buff, but at the cost of other efficient upgrades in the slot.
(I) Direction center for fighters - +1 Fighter when you use the respective consumable;
(III) Basic firing training - Increases constant DPS at all ranges by 10% (and increases rate of fire of all secondaries and main guns of caliber up to and including 139mm by 10%);
(IV) Advanced firing training - Increases flak burst damage by 15% (and increases range of fire of all secondaries and main guns of caliber up to and including 139mm by 20%);
(IV) Manual Fire Control for AA Armament - increases the efficiency of sector reinforcing by 20% (which means 150% from 125%, for example) and reduces the time for switching by 20%.
So how do I maximize my AA defense?
First of all, AA reinforcement influences only constant DPS, so if you want to play around it, you better pick a ship with a lot of constant DPS. Additionally keep in mind that the switching time is different per class - 5 seconds for destroyers, 10 seconds for cruisers, 12 seconds for battleships and 15 seconds for carriers.
Using this mechanic will require extra attention from you, but in return you will increase the type of damage that is constant and impossible to dodge. With Manual Fire Control your damage multiplier gets even more serious - x1,5 for cruisers and battleships, x1,8 for destroyers and x1,92 for carriers.
What's even better, you can maximize this DPS with Basic Firing Trainng - and that skill is useful for most destroyers and secondary-specced battleships.
Advanced firing training is especially useful for the ships with low constant DPS and high amount of flak bursts, and it combines well with AA mod.1. As with Basic Firing Training, this skill is beneficial for secondaries and small caliber main guns.
Direction center for fighters can be very influential on low level, where the fighter squadron is small. Overall, we would recommend it only as the last priority, or when you have 1 extra point to spend.
What are the best maneuvers when being attacked by different squadrons?
Attack planes deal the least amount of damage, but they are very fast, agile and relatively easy to aim. Their rocket dispersion is different per game nation, so you should typically not expose broadside to the USN attack planes, and try to avoid going bow or aft against IJN and RN planes.
Dive bombers are usually slower and it's hard for them to adjust their aim while in the attack run. That means quick maneuvering is the key, and, as their dispersion pattern is usually long, they deal the most damage with bow or aft attack runs.
Torpedo bombers have different attack run patterns per nation, but they have one common thing - they always try to catch you broadside to maximize the number of hits. USN torpedo bombers usually carry more torpedoes per attack, but they have more challenging aiming, so evasive maneuvers in advance will make their life much more difficult. IJN torpedo bombers usually carry torpedoes with relatively long range, so beware of long drops and pay attention even if they do something on the edge of your visibility.
Remember about other enemies while dodging CV attacks. Sometimes it's better to take some damage from a CV instead of exposing your broadside to its BB allies.
And as a destroyer, don't forget about "P" button which turns AA off. You typically have great concealment, and being spotted late can be more advantageous than firing your AA immediately. If you appear close enough, the enemy squadron can easily fly overhead and miss the first attack run.
We hope this article was useful and you now have a better and clearer understanding of AA mechanics now.