Part of The Complete Beginner’s Guide
After each battle you are awarded with Research Points (RP), and what do Research Points make? Research Prizes! RP contribute towards unlocking modifications for the planes you were flying (covered in a separate guide), and researching new aircraft.
To see all the exciting planes you’ll (eventually) be able to fly, click the “Research” button in the hanger:
Aircraft are divided into five ranks or eras, broadly chronologically but with some adjustments to account for performance in a game context, for example the German Do 217 J series heavy fighters in Rank II are derived from the Do 217 E bomber in Rank III. Aircraft you own have a blue background, aircraft you can research have a slightly darker blue background, aircraft that aren’t available for research yet have a red background. Over on the right hand side of the tree are Premium and Gift aircraft, with a yellow/gold background. Premium aircraft are bought with Gold Eagles (the real money currency), and don’t need to be researched; Gift aircraft are generally available in bundles, or sometimes in promotions or giveaways.
To progress through the ranks you need to unlock a certain number of aircraft, shown under the Roman numeral on the left; in the screenshot I’ve got three Rank I aircraft and need six in total before I can research a Rank II aircraft, then I’ll need to research four of Rank II before I can start on Rank III.
To unlock a specific plane you’ll need to have researched the previous plane in its line (connected via an arrow). Some aircraft, such as the I-15, SB and Su-2, have a little tab in the top left corner of their icon; these are stacks of planes, if you click one then a window should pop up with two or more variants of that plane. Stacking can be a little inconsistent; the LaGG-3-8 and LaGG-3-11 aren’t stacked, despite being very similar, whereas the LaGG-3-35 and LaGG-3-66 after them have more significant differences, but are stacked. You only have to research one of a stack of planes to move down the line, so to get to the La-5 you have to research the LaGG-3-8, then the LaGG-3-11, then the LaGG-3-35, but you can skip the LaGG-3-66 (or you can research it as well, if three LaGG-3 variants just aren’t enough).
Hovering over a plane in the tree pops up a little stat card showing its salient details:
The precise figures may not be completely accurate, and will vary depending on upgrades, but it should give a rough idea of the performance and armament. To get a first-hand impression you can also take any plane eligible for research for a test flight, either right-click or use the second little icon over the plane.
The second stat on the card, “Battle Rating” (1.7 in this example), is a more granular indication of plane performance within Ranks, and very important for matchmaking. Battle Rating increases in rounded 0.33 increments (1.0, 1.3, 1.7, 2.0, 2.3 etc.), and in general you should meet opponents with Battle Ratings up to 1.0 higher or lower than your highest BR.
To research an aircraft, simply click the “Research” button just underneath it. You can research one aircraft per country at any time; the trickiest bit can be deciding what to choose next. For a new USSR player looking for a fighter there’s either the I-16 Type 18, the LaGG-3-8 or, if you click on the I-15, then the next option in that stack is the I-15bis. Of those, the LaGG-3-8 is quite a step up, a monoplane considerably faster than the other choices, and armed with a 20mm cannon, whereas the I-15bis is a slightly upgraded version of the starting biplane, reflected in their Battle Ratings of 2.0 and 1.3 respectively. For a brand new player, I’d actually suggest starting with the I-15bis; as mentioned the matchmaker works on Battle Rating, so if you fly the LaGG then you’ll meet tougher opponents.
So, after decided which aircraft you’d like next and putting it In Research, all you have to do is fly your other aircraft. After each match you should see your progress towards the new plane:
In this example I’m researching the I-153 M-62 and gained 1064 Vehicle research points in the battle, almost half the 2400 I’ll need to unlock it, represented by the yellow bar. Another battle or two should be enough to finish the research, especially if the team wins (victories grant a hefty RP bonus). Once unlocked, you need to buy the new plane with silver lions (the “Research” button under the plane turns into a “Buy” button), and then put it into service. You can replace one of your existing planes, but if you have enough money I would buy a new crew slot by clicking the “Recruit Crew” button at the bottom of the screen; the fourth slot costs 10,000 silver lions and the fifth slot costs 50,000 lions. You can buy further crew slots with gold eagles if you want, but five planes should last through most battles unless you’re particularly bold and/or unlucky. Either way you’ll need to pay to train the crew with the new plane; upgrading can be an expensive business!
Click the “Research” button again to select the next aircraft you’d like to unlock; to focus on fighters, I’d suggest a new USSR player gets the I-15bis, the I-153 M-62, then the I-16, LaGG-3-8 and LaGG-3-11. For ground attack the BB-1 and Su-2 series have a useful combination of guns and bombs, and lead to the Il-2 Sturmovik; for heavier bombing there’s the SB series. If you’re not sure, or like a bit of a mix, then research one of each!