by Richard Sheffield
Fuel is a critical item. You have to get to the target, destroy it, destroy extra ground or air targets, and return home. You'll rarely find this possible on the minimum amount listed as you arm your plane. If a mission has a minimum fuel amount of 9,900 pounds, you should think seriously about leaving some weapons behind and taking more fuel instead. Even then you'll have to be frugal: The extra tanks don't carry very much. Be conservative with your throttle and altitude.
There are a couple of things you need to know about the Extra Fuel. You can activate the fuel as soon as you take off. Doing so has the odd effect of increasing your speed and thus your range. The fuel is still there to use, but the computer no longer takes the extra weight into consideration when calculating the fuel consumption rate. If you think you'll have to glide most of the way home from your mission, you might want to wait before using the extra fuel. Go ahead and let the aircraft run out of fuel (make sure any extra weapons are dropped) and start your glide. Now activate the extra fuel but don't start your engines yet. When you're close to the base, you can restart the engines and use the extra fuel for your landing maneuvers.
Under certain circumstances, if you don't turn or maneuver, you should be able to glide almost indefinitely. It glides best when the weapons bays are empty. By pitching the nose up to around nine degrees you'll be just above stall speed, and you should be able to get the Vertical Velocity Indicator to level out. This maneuver won't work if you have a lot of fuel left, due to the added weight.
The aircraft fuel consumption rate goes down as you increase in altitude, up to 32,000 feet. This is shown in an increase in airspeed for a particular throttle setting. The effect of this increase in airspeed is an increase in range.