does the game actually keep track of whether or not you're in the designated area for 'observation'? or does the game simply register if you've arrived over the target and flown the required number of minutes after arriving at your specified target?
I have those same questions.
..do you try to 'stay on mission' or do you wander about freely looking for trouble so... what do you guys do when you get an artillery spotting or recon mission?
Dreaming...I do essentally the same. Sometimes I 'll go off on my own two-seater missions. Imagine ....a long range recon where stealth, navigation, and surprise are factors. Maybe in a the mission you could be surprised by something unexpected like a troop column or new industrial site. You would have to take specific photos too( If we can bomb specific targets why not specific photo sites). Maybe you could decide on the route to take.. All the while using stealth and wits to avoid fighters and get your photos back safely. Mission would be rated on returning accurate photos of designated sites.
Or how about arty spotting specific map spots at low dangerous altitudes to get a definite fix, then dropping notes flares etc behind lines. Lots of interesting possibilities could be imagined to happen in a dynamic environment. I have no idea if any of this tech possible but need to dream first.
Recon and art spotting are not as romantic and broad appealing as fighters. But we all would benefit from more depth to those missions.