Air combat manoeuvring

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Indian Air Force's Sukhoi Su-30MKIs during a Thach Weave manoeuvre. Su-30 MKI's.jpg
Indian Air Force's Sukhoi Su-30MKIs during a Thach Weave manoeuvre.

Air combat manoeuvring (also known as ACM or dogfighting) is the tactical art of moving, turning and/or situating one's fighter aircraft in order to attain a position from which an attack can be made on another aircraft. Air combat manoeuvres rely on offensive and defensive basic fighter manoeuvring (BFM) to gain an advantage over an aerial opponent.

Fighter aircraft Military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat against other aircraft

A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat against other aircraft, as opposed to bombers and attack aircraft, whose main mission is to attack ground targets. The hallmarks of a fighter are its speed, maneuverability, and small size relative to other combat aircraft.

Basic fighter maneuvers

Basic fighter maneuvers (BFM) are tactical movements performed by fighter aircraft during air combat maneuvering, to gain a positional advantage over the opponent. BFM combines the fundamentals of aerodynamic flight and the geometry of pursuit, with the physics of managing the aircraft's energy-to-weight ratio, called its specific energy. Maneuvers are used to gain a better angular position in relation to the opponent. They can be offensive, to help an attacker get behind an enemy or defensive, to help the defender evade an attacker's air-to-air weapons. They can also be neutral, where both opponents strive for an offensive position or disengagement maneuvers, to help an escape. Awareness is often taught as the best tactical defense, removing the possibility of an attacker getting or remaining behind the pilot; even with speed a fighter is open to attack from the rear.

Contents

Historical overview

Military aviation appeared in World War I when aircraft were initially used to spot enemy troop concentrations, field gun positions and movements. Early aerial combat consisted of aviators shooting at one another with hand held weapons. [1] The first recorded aircraft to be shot down by another aircraft, which occurred on October 5, 1914, was a German Aviatik. The pilot, Feldwebel Wilhelm Schlichting, was shot with a carbine wielded by observer Louis Quenault, who was riding in a Voisin Type 3 piloted by French Sergeant Joseph Frantz. [2] The need to stop reconnaissance that was being conducted by enemy aircraft rapidly led to the development of fighter planes, a class of aircraft designed specifically to destroy other aircraft. [1]

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Aviatik B.I reconnaissance aircraft, first version of the Aviatik B type

The Aviatik B.I is a German two-seat reconnaissance biplane designed and built by the Automobil und Aviatik AG company, who until then had produced copies of French designs.

Reconnaissance military exploration beyond the area occupied by friendly forces

In military operations, reconnaissance or scouting is the exploration outside an area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about natural features and other activities in the area.

Fixed, forward-firing guns were found to be the most effective armament for a majority of World War I era fighter planes, but it was nearly impossible to fire them through the spinning propeller of one's own aircraft without destroying one's own plane. Roland Garros, working with Morane Saulnier Aéroplanes, was the first to solve this problem by attaching steel deflector wedges to the propeller. He achieved three kills but was shot down by ground fire and landed behind German lines. Anthony Fokker inspected the plane's wreckage and learned to improved the design by connecting the firing mechanism of the gun to the timing of the engine, thus allowing the gun to fire through the propeller without making contact with the propeller. [1] [2] As technology rapidly advanced, new and young aviators began defining the realm of air-to-air combat, such as Max Immelmann, Oswald Boelcke, and Lanoe Hawker. One of the greatest of these "ace pilots" of World War I, Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron), wrote in his book The Red Fighter Pilot, "The great thing in air fighting is that the decisive factor does not lie in trick flying but solely in the personal ability and energy of the aviator. A flying man may be able to loop and do all the stunts imaginable and yet he may not succeed in shooting down a single enemy." [3]

Roland Garros (aviator) 20th-century early French aviator

Eugène Adrien Roland Georges Garros was a French pioneering aviator and fighter pilot during World War I and early days of aviation. In 1928, the Roland Garros tennis stadium was named in his memory; the French Open tennis tournament takes the name of Roland-Garros from the stadium in which it is held.

Anthony Fokker Dutch aviation pioneer

Anton Herman Gerard "Anthony" Fokker was a Dutch aviation pioneer and aircraft manufacturer. He is most famous for the fighter aircraft he produced in Germany during the First World War such as the Eindecker monoplanes, the Dr.1 triplane and the D.VII biplane.

Max Immelmann German flying ace

Max ImmelmannPLM was the first German World War I flying ace. He was a pioneer in fighter aviation and is often mistakenly credited with the first aerial victory using a synchronized gun, which was actually performed on 15 July 1915 by German ace Kurt Wintgens. He was the first aviator to win the Pour le Mérite, and was awarded it at the same time as Oswald Boelcke. His name has become attached to a common flying tactic, the Immelmann turn, and remains a byword in aviation. He is credited with 15 aerial victories.

Pilots soon learned to achieve a firing position (while avoiding the threat of enemy guns) by manoeuvring themselves behind an enemy aircraft; this is known as getting onto an aircraft's "six o'clock" or onto their "tail", plus a wide variety of other terms, usually coined by air crew. This type of combat became known as dogfighting. Oswald Boelcke, a German fighter ace during World War I, was the first to publish the basic rules for aerial combat manoeuvring in 1916, known as the Dicta Boelcke . [4] [5] He advised pilots to attack from the direction of the sun (toward which the defending pilot could not see), or to fly at a higher altitude than the opponent. Most of these rules are still as valuable today as they were a century ago.

Dogfight combat between aircraft, conducted at close range

A dogfight, or dog fight, is an aerial battle between fighter aircraft, conducted at close range. Dogfighting first occurred in Mexico in 1913, shortly after the invention of the airplane. Until at least 1992, it was a component in every major war, despite beliefs after World War II that increasingly greater speeds and longer range weapons would make dogfighting obsolete.

Oswald Boelcke German First World War flying ace

Oswald Boelcke was a German flying ace of the First World War credited with 40 victories; he was one of the most influential patrol leaders and tacticians of the early years of air combat. Boelcke is honored as the father of the German fighter air force, as well as considered the "Father of Air Fighting Tactics".

German Empire empire in Central Europe between 1871–1918

The German Empire, also known as Imperial Germany, was the German nation state that existed from the unification of Germany in 1871 until the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918.

Today's air combat is much more complicated than that of older times, as air-to-air missiles, radar, and automatic cannons capable of high rates of fire are used on virtually all modern fighter aircraft. [6] New, and additional types of manoeuvres have emerged, intending to break radar lock by minimizing the Doppler signature of one's own aircraft ("keeping the enemy at 3 or 9 o'clock"), or to exhaust the kinetic energy of an incoming missile (by changing the aircraft's course from side to side, the missile, not flying directly at target but trying to forestall it, will make sharper turns and will eventually have to fly a longer path). However, close range fighting with infrared guided missiles and aircraft cannons still obeys the same general rules laid down in the skies over Europe in the early 20th century. The master rule is still the same: do not let your opponent get onto your six, while attempting to get on his.

Radar object detection system based on radio waves

Radar is a detection system that uses radio waves to determine the range, angle, or velocity of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. A radar system consists of a transmitter producing electromagnetic waves in the radio or microwaves domain, a transmitting antenna, a receiving antenna and a receiver and processor to determine properties of the object(s). Radio waves from the transmitter reflect off the object and return to the receiver, giving information about the object's location and speed.

Europe Continent in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere

Europe is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Asia to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia.

Close-range combat tactics vary considerably according to the type of aircraft being used and the number of aircraft involved.

Tactics

A flight envelope diagram showing VS (stall speed at 1G), VC (corner speed) and VD (dive speed) F-104A flight envelope.jpg
A flight envelope diagram showing VS (stall speed at 1G), VC (corner speed) and VD (dive speed)

There are five things a pilot must remain aware of when contemplating aerial engagement; of these, seeing and keeping sight of one's opponent are the most important. In Southeast Asia, over 85 percent of all kills are attributed to the attacker spotting and shooting the defender without ever being seen. [6] Structural limitations of the attacking and defending fighters must be taken into account, such as thrust-to-weight ratio, wing loading, and the "corner speed" (the maximum or minimum speed at which the aircraft can attain the best turning performance). Variable limitations must also be considered, such as turn radius, turn rate and the specific energy of the aircraft. Position of aircraft must quickly be assessed, including direction, angle off tail (the angle between flight paths), [7] and closing speed. Also, the pilot must be aware of his wingman’s position and maintain good communication. [6]

Thrust-to-weight ratio is a dimensionless ratio of thrust to weight of a rocket, jet engine, propeller engine, or a vehicle propelled by such an engine that indicates the performance of the engine or vehicle.

Wing loading

In aerodynamics, wing loading is the total weight of an aircraft divided by the area of its wing. The stalling speed of an aircraft in straight, level flight is partly determined by its wing loading. An aircraft with a low wing loading has a larger wing area relative to its mass, as compared to an aircraft with a high wing loading.

Aircraft-specific energy is a form of specific energy applied to aircraft and missile trajectory analysis. It represents the combined kinetic and potential energy of the vehicle at any given time. It is the total energy of the vehicle per unit weight of the vehicle and being independent of the mass of the vehicle provides a powerful tool for the design of optimal trajectories. Aircraft-specific energy is very similar to specific orbital energy except that it is expressed as a positive quantity. A zero value of aircraft-specific energy represents an aircraft at rest on the Earth's surface, and increases as speed and altitude increases. Orbital specific energy is zero at infinite altitude and decreases as one approaches the surface of the earth. As with other forms of specific energy, aircraft-specific energy is an intensive property and is represented in units of length since it is independent of the mass of the vehicle.

A pilot in combat attempts to conserve his aircraft’s energy through carefully timed and executed manoeuvres. By using such manoeuvres, a pilot will often make trade offs between the fighter’s potential energy (altitude) and kinetic energy (airspeed), to maintain the energy-to-weight ratio of the aircraft, or the "specific energy". [6] A manoeuvre such as the "low yo-yo" trades altitude for airspeed to close on an enemy and to decrease turn radius. The opposite manoeuvre, a "high yo-yo", trades speed for height, literally storing energy in "the altitude bank", [8] which allows a fast moving attacker to slow his closing speed. [6] [9]

An attacker is confronted with three possible ways to pursue an enemy, all of which are vital during chase. "Lag pursuit" happens in a turn when the nose of the attacker’s aircraft points behind an enemy’s tail. Lag pursuit allows an attacker to increase or maintain range without overshooting. "Lead pursuit" in a turn occurs when the nose of the attacking aircraft points ahead of the enemy. Lead pursuit is used to decrease the distance between aircraft, and during gun attacks when the cannons must be aimed, not at where the defender is, but where he will be when the bullets get there. "Pure pursuit" happens when the nose of the attacker points directly at the defender. Pure pursuit is when most missiles will be fired, and is the hardest position to maintain. These are known as pursuit curves. [6]

The tactical egg shows the effects of gravity on manoeuvring Fighter maneuvering - tactical egg.PNG
The tactical egg shows the effects of gravity on manoeuvring

The turning battle of a dogfight can be executed in an infinite number of geometric planes. Pilots are encouraged to keep their manoeuvres out of the strictly vertical and horizontal planes, but to instead use the limitless number of oblique planes, which is much harder for an adversary to track. This infinite number of planes around a fixed point about which the aircraft turns is termed the "post and bubble". A fighter that can maintain position between an aircraft and its imaginary post cannot be attacked by that aircraft. [6] The imaginary bubble, however, is misshapen by gravity, causing turns to be much tighter and slower at the top, and wider and faster at the bottom, and is sometimes referred to as a "tactical egg". [6]

The manoeuvres employed by the attacker can also be used by the defender to evade, or gain a tactical advantage over his opponent. Other components may also be employed to manoeuvre the aircraft, such as yaw, drag, lift, and thrust vectors. [6] A key factor in all battles is that of "nose-tail separation". While getting close enough to fire a weapon, an attacker must keep his aircraft's nose far enough away from the tail of the defender to be able to get a good aim, and to prevent an overshoot. The defender, likewise, will use every manoeuvre available to encourage an overshoot, trying to change his own role to that of attacker. [6]

Example manoeuvring

The Pugachev's Cobra as performed by the Su-27 Flanker Su-27 Cobra 2b.png
The Pugachev's Cobra as performed by the Su-27 Flanker

See also

Further reading

Related Research Articles

Thach Weave aerial combat formation

The Thach Weave is an aerial combat tactic developed by naval aviator John S. Thach and named by James H. Flatley of the United States Navy soon after the United States' entry into World War II.

Aerial warfare is the battlespace use of military aircraft and other flying machines in warfare. Aerial warfare includes bombers attacking enemy installations or a concentration of enemy troops or strategic targets; fighter aircraft battling for control of airspace; attack aircraft engaging in close air support against ground targets; naval aviation flying against sea and nearby land targets; gliders, helicopters and other aircraft to carry airborne forces such as paratroopers; aerial refueling tankers to extend operation time or range; and military transport aircraft to move cargo and personnel. Historically, military aircraft have included lighter-than-air balloons carrying artillery observers; lighter-than-air airships for bombing cities; various sorts of reconnaissance, surveillance and early warning aircraft carrying observers, cameras and radar equipment; torpedo bombers to attack enemy shipping; and military air-sea rescue aircraft for saving downed airmen. Modern aerial warfare includes missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles. Surface forces are likely to respond to enemy air activity with anti-aircraft warfare.

<i>Dicta Boelcke</i>

The Dicta Boelcke is a list of fundamental aerial maneuvers of aerial combat formulated by First World War German flying ace, Oswald Boelcke. Equipped with one of the first fighter aircraft, Boelcke became Germany's foremost flying ace during 1915 and 1916. Because of his success in aerial combat and analytic mind, he was tasked by Colonel Hermann von der Lieth-Thomsen with writing a pamphlet on aerial tactics. Completed in June 1916, it was distributed throughout the German Air Service some two years before the French and British militaries followed suit with their own tactical guides. Air combat tactical manuals based on the Dicta Boelcke have become more elaborate over time, and have become a mainstay for NATO's air combat training of American, German, Dutch, Norwegian, Turkish, Italian, and Greek fighter pilots.

Lanoe Hawker British World War I fighter pilot, recipient of the Victoria Cross.

Lanoe George Hawker, was a British flying ace of the First World War. Having seven credited victories, he was the third pilot to receive the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration for gallantry awarded to British and Commonwealth servicemen. He was killed in a dogfight with the famous German flying ace Manfred von Richthofen, who described him as "the British Boelcke".

Split S

The Split S is an air combat maneuver mostly used to disengage from combat. To execute a Split S, the pilot half-rolls their aircraft inverted and executes a descending half-loop, resulting in level flight in the exact opposite direction at a lower altitude.

Thomas McGuire United States Army officer

Thomas Buchanan McGuire Jr. was an Irish American United States Army major who was killed in action while serving as a member of the United States Army Air Forces during World War II and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. He was one of the most decorated American fighter pilots and the second highest scoring American ace of the war.

Barrel roll

A barrel roll is an aerial maneuver in which an airplane makes a complete rotation on both its longitudinal and lateral axes, causing it to follow a helical path, approximately maintaining its original direction. It is sometimes described as a "combination of a loop and a roll." The g-force is kept positive on the object throughout the maneuver, commonly between 2–3 g, and no less than 0.5 g. The barrel roll is commonly confused with an aileron roll.

The Lufbery Circle, or Lufbery Wheel, also spelled "Lufberry" or "Luffberry", is a defensive air combat tactic first used during World War I.

The Scissors is an aerial dog fighting maneuver commonly used by military fighter pilots. It is primarily a defensive maneuver, used by an aircraft that is under attack. It consists of a series of short turns towards the attacking aircraft, slowing with each turn, in the hopes of forcing the attacker to overshoot. Performed properly, it can cause the attacking aircraft to move far enough in front to allow the defender to turn the tables and attack.

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The sun position in aerial combat is the pilot's ability to position the aircraft relative to the sun in relationship to the position of the enemy aircraft.

Aerial ramming

Aerial ramming or air ramming is the ramming of one aircraft with another. It is a last-ditch tactic in air combat, sometimes used when all else has failed. Long before the invention of aircraft, ramming tactics in naval warfare and ground warfare were common. The first aerial ramming was performed by Pyotr Nesterov in 1914 during the First World War. In the early stages of World War II the tactic was employed by Soviet pilots who called it taran, the Russian word for "battering ram".

Attacks on parachutists, as defined by the law of war, is when pilots, aircrews, and passengers are attacked while descending by parachute from disabled aircraft during wartime. This practice is considered by most militaries around the world to be inhumane, barbaric, and unchivalrous, that it is unnecessary killing, and that it is contrary to fair play. Attacking parachutists from aircraft in distress is a war crime under the Protocol I addition to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Firing on airborne forces who are descending by parachute is not prohibited.

References

  1. 1 2 3 Who Killed the Red Baron? October 7, 2003. PBS.
  2. 1 2 "Early Air-to-Air Combat". BBC.
  3. The Red Fighter Pilot. Richthofen.com. Retrieved on 2010-11-16.
  4. "Dicta Boelcke - Organization of Jagdstaffeln and the demise of Boelcke". Archived from the original on 2009-10-23.
  5. Archived March 4, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "Basic Principles of BFM Archived 2011-08-05 at the Wayback Machine ".
  7. Air Force Glossary. Gruntsmilitary.com. Retrieved on 2010-11-16.
  8. Sick's ACM School: Maneuvers Explained Archived 2009-08-31 at the Wayback Machine . 352ndfightergroup.com. Retrieved on 2010-11-16.
  9. Advanced Combat Manoeuvres - Battleground Europe Wiki. Wiki.battlegroundeurope.com (2008-08-15). Retrieved on 2010-11-16.