Air combat manoeuvring

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.

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]

Fixed, forward-firing guns were found to be the most effective armament 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]

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.

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.

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


F-104A flight envelope
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]

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]

Fighter maneuvering - tactical egg
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

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

See also

Further reading

  • Robert Stengel: Flight Dynamics. Princeton University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-691-11407-2.


  1. ^ a b c Who Killed the Red Baron? October 7, 2003. PBS.
  2. ^ a b "Early Air-to-Air Combat". BBC.
  3. ^ The Red Fighter Pilot. Retrieved on 2010-11-16.
  4. ^ "Dicta Boelcke - Organization of Jagdstaffeln and the demise of Boelcke". Archived from the original on 2009-10-25.
  5. ^ [1] Archived March 4, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Basic Principles of BFM Archived 2011-08-05 at the Wayback Machine".
  7. ^ Air Force Glossary. Retrieved on 2010-11-16.
  8. ^ Sick's ACM School: Maneuvers Explained Archived 2009-08-31 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2010-11-16.
  9. ^ Advanced Combat Manoeuvres - Battleground Europe Wiki. (2008-08-15). Retrieved on 2010-11-16.
527th Space Aggressor Squadron

The 527th Space Aggressor Squadron is a non-flying United States Air Force unit assigned to the 57th Adversary Tactics Group. The 527 SAS is stationed at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, being a Geographically Separated Unit (GSU) of the 57 ATG, which is stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.


ACMI can stand for

Autonomous Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation

Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance and Insurance

Australian Centre for the Moving Image

Aerial warfare

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.

Air combat maneuvering instrumentation

Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) systems record an aircraft's in-flight data.

They are often used by the military for aerial combat training and analysis.

All Nippon Airways Flight 58

All Nippon Airways (ANA) Flight 58 was a Japanese domestic flight from Sapporo to Tokyo, operated by All Nippon Airways (ANA). On 30 July 1971, at 2:04 local time, a Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) F-86F Sabre jet fighter collided with the Boeing 727 airliner operating the flight, causing both aircraft to crash. All 162 occupants on the airliner were killed, while the Sabre pilot, a trainee with the JASDF, ejected before the collision and survived. This incident led to the resignation of both the head of Japan's Defense Agency and the JASDF chief of staff.

Basic fighter maneuvers

Basic fighter maneuvers (BFM) are tactical movements performed by fighter aircraft during air combat maneuvering (also called ACM, or dogfighting), 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.

Fourth-generation jet fighter

Fourth-generation jet fighter is a general classification of jet fighters in service from approximately 1980 to the present and represent design concepts of the 1970s. Fourth-generation designs are heavily influenced by lessons learned from the previous generation of combat aircraft. Long-range air-to-air missiles, originally thought to make dogfighting obsolete, proved less influential than expected, precipitating a renewed emphasis on maneuverability. Meanwhile, the growing costs of military aircraft in general and the demonstrated success of aircraft such as the F-4 Phantom II gave rise to the popularity of multirole combat aircraft in parallel with the advances marking the so-called fourth generation.

During the period in question, maneuverability was enhanced by relaxed static stability, made possible by introduction of the fly-by-wire (FBW) flight control system (FLCS), which in turn was possible due to advances in digital computers and system-integration techniques. Replacement of analog avionics, required to enable FBW operations, became a fundamental requirement as legacy analog computer systems began to be replaced by digital flight control systems in the latter half of the 1980s.The further advance of microcomputers in the 1980s and 1990s permitted rapid upgrades to the avionics over the lifetimes of these fighters, incorporating system upgrades such as active electronically scanned array (AESA), digital avionics buses and infra-red search and track (IRST).

Due to the dramatic enhancement of capabilities in these upgraded fighters and in new designs of the 1990s that reflected these new capabilities, the Russian Government has taken to using the designation 4.5 generation to refer to these later designs. This is intended to reflect a class of fighters that are evolutionary upgrades of the 4th generation incorporating integrated avionics suites, advanced weapons efforts to make the (mostly) conventionally designed aircraft nonetheless less easily detectable and trackable as a response to advancing missile and radar technology (see stealth technology). Inherent airframe design features exist and include masking of turbine blades and application of advanced sometimes radar-absorbent materials, but not the distinctive low-observable configurations of the latest aircraft, referred to as fifth-generation fighters or aircraft such as the Lockheed-Martin F-22 Raptor.

The United States defines 4.5-generation fighter aircraft as fourth-generation jet fighters that have been upgraded with AESA radar, high-capacity data-link, enhanced avionics, and "the ability to deploy current and reasonably foreseeable advanced armaments". Contemporary examples of 4.5-generation fighters are the Sukhoi Su-35, the Shenyang J-11D/J-15B/J-16, the Chengdu J-10B/C, the Mikoyan MiG-35, the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle, the General Dynamics F-16E/F Block 60, the Saab JAS 39 Gripen, and the Dassault Rafale.

Interceptor aircraft

An interceptor aircraft, or simply interceptor, is a type of fighter aircraft designed specifically to attack enemy aircraft, particularly bombers and reconnaissance aircraft, as they approach. There are two general classes of interceptor: relatively lightweight aircraft built for high performance, and heavier aircraft designed to fly at night or in adverse weather and operate over longer ranges.

For daytime operations, conventional fighters normally fill the interceptor role, as well as many other missions. Daytime interceptors have been used in a defensive role since the World War I era, but are perhaps best known from several major actions during World War II, notably the Battle of Britain where the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane developed a good reputation. Few aircraft can be considered dedicated daytime interceptors. Exceptions include the Messerschmitt Me 163B—the only rocket-powered, manned military aircraft ever to see combat—and to a lesser degree designs like the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15, which had heavy armament specifically intended for anti-bomber missions.

Night fighters and bomber destroyers are, by definition, interceptors of the heavy type, although initially they were rarely referred to as such. In the early Cold War era the combination of jet-powered bombers and nuclear weapons created air forces' demand for highly capable interceptors; it is during this period that the term is perhaps most recognized and used. Examples of classic interceptors of this era include the F-106 Delta Dart, Sukhoi Su-15, and English Electric Lightning.

Through the 1960s and 1970s, the rapid improvements in design led to most air-superiority and multirole fighters, such as the Grumman F-14 Tomcat and McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, having the performance to take on the interceptor role, and the strategic threat moved from bombers to intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Dedicated interceptor designs became rare, with the only widely used examples designed after the 1960s being the Tornado F3, Mikoyan MiG-25 "Foxbat", Mikoyan MiG-31 "Foxhound", and the Shenyang J-8 "Finback".

List of accidents and incidents involving military aircraft (2000–2009)

This is a list of notable accidents and incidents involving military aircraft grouped by the year in which the accident or incident occurred. Not all of the aircraft were in operation at the time. For more exhaustive lists, see the archives or the database. Combat losses are not included except for a very few cases denoted by singular circumstances.

McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet

The McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet (official military designation CF-188) is a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) (formerly Canadian Forces Air Command) fighter aircraft, based on the American McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet fighter. In 1980, the F/A-18 was selected as the winner of the New Fighter Aircraft Project competition, and a production order was awarded. The Canadian Forces began receiving the CF-18 in 1982. CF-18s have supported North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) air sovereignty patrols and participated in combat during the Gulf War in 1991, the Kosovo War in the late 1990s, and as part of the Canadian contribution to the international Libyan no-fly zone in 2011. CF-18s were also part of the Canadian contribution to the military intervention against ISIL, Operation Impact.

Outline of war

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to war:

War – organised and often prolonged armed conflict that is carried out by states and/or non-state actors – is characterised by extreme violence, social disruption, and economic destruction. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities, and therefore is defined as a form of political violence or intervention.Warfare – refers to the common activities and characteristics of types of war, or of wars in general.

RAF Waddington

Royal Air Force Waddington otherwise known as RAF Waddington (IATA: WTN, ICAO: EGXW) is a Royal Air Force station located beside the village of Waddington, 4.2 miles (6.8 km) south of Lincoln, Lincolnshire in England.

The station is the RAF’s Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) hub and is home to a fleet of aircraft composed of the Sentry AEW1, Sentinel R1, Shadow R1, RC-135W Rivet Joint and operating base for the RAF's MQ-9 Reaper.

The station badge depicts Lincoln Cathedral rising through the clouds with the motto 'For Faith and Freedom emblazoned below.

Thomas F. Connolly

Thomas Francis Connolly Jr. (October 24, 1909 – May 24, 1996) was an admiral in the United States Navy, gymnast and Olympic medalist in the 1932 Summer Olympics.

Connolly served in Navy for 38 years. Over his career he served in World War II, oversaw the development of a program that later evolved into the United States Naval Test Pilot School, commanded two aircraft carriers, and served as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Air Warfare, retiring from that post in 1971.

Connolly was instrumental in the development of the Grumman F-14 Tomcat. The plane was named in his honor and for Thomas Hinman Moorer, then Chief of Naval Operations.


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