by Richard Sheffield
The Big Hint
If you only remember one hint from this chapter, remember this one: Maintaining a low stealth profile is very important, for a number of reasons. It improves your Stealth Rating and your score, and it reduces the chances of your being spotted by enemy radar. The best way to keep a low profile is to fly low and slow. Flight below 500 feet, where your profile is the lowest, however, can be very difficult. Constant altitude adjustments are necessary to keep from hitting the ground or popping up to 1000 feet.
Flight below 500 feet can be difficult—that is, unless you know the trick: There's a combination of pitch and airspeed that will allow you to fly hands-off at altitudes below 500 feet. This point will be different for each weapon's load and fuel level, but it's generally in the area of nine degrees of pitch and 250-275 knots.
The best way to find this combination is to fly at 900 feet and then set the pitch to nine degrees; this is indicated in the lower portion of the HUD (Heads-Up Display). Now decrease the throttle. Watch the Vertical Velocity Indicator bar gauge; when it indicates a slight descent, you're almost there. Now let the plane descend to below 500 feet. This should be a very slow descent; if not, increase your throttle by one notch. Once below 500 feet, you should have only one blue light showing on your EMV (Electro-Magnetic Visibility) bar. Increase throttle by one notch. This should stop your descent and leave you in level flight at 400 feet or so. Now if you want to change altitude you can increase or reduce throttle. If you can't fly steadily at this point and you reach a situation where one notch more of throttle causes the plane to rise while one notch less causes it to sink, adjust the pitch one notch up or down and repeat your throttle adjustment. This process becomes second nature with a little practice.
Once you master the technique of finding this smoothflying slot, you'll be able to greatly increase your stealth percentage by flying consistently below 500 feet. Remember that you burn fuel faster at this altitude, so it might not be right for all missions. Also, be careful when flying in this manner near mountains, as the erratic winds near them will move you out of the slot and cause you to rise or sink. If you sink to 300 feet, there won't be a lot of air under you.