Air-to-air basic tactics

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Learning objectives

  1. cranking vs notching - advantages vs. disadvantages
  2. all terms: flanking, dragging etc.
  3. BVR evasion- split- s vs. pumping vs. ?
  4. MAR
  6. single-side offset....diagram/ AMCI/white board
  7. 120 loft ques
  8. M-pole
  9. Nose/tail crank

Learning files

Turning and corner airspeed

The F-16 is a pretty nimble aircraft. When not loaded with bombs or heavy ordnance, it can pull up to nine ‘G’ in a turn. When doing so, however, you bleed speed very rapidly, and you won’t be able to keep turning at that rate for very long.

When you need to turn rapidly for a long time (a sustained turn), especially if you’re in a turn fight with another fighter, you need to be aware of the F-16’s corner airspeed, as it’s at this speed that you can turn the fastest. If you go slower you won’t turn quickly enough, and if you’re faster your turn radius will increase. The corner airspeed of the F-16 is from 330 to 440 knots, or about Mach 0.80 when you’re above 10,000 feet. To perform a sustained turn, go full throttle, then pull hard enough to maintain the corner airspeed. If you start slowing down, ease up on the stick. If you start speeding up, pull a bit harder.

As long as you keep the corner speed in mind, the F-16 can out-turn almost every other aircraft in the game.

Basic Concepts

  • The flight leader's job is to lead the 1st element, sort targets, navigate/maneuver the flight and assign shooters.
  • You don't shoot until told to do so EXCEPT when threatened by a confirmed hostile aircraft.
  • The 2nd element leader's job is to take over if the flight leader dies, lead the 2nd element and perform the flight leader's job when he is defensive.
  • The wingmen's jobs are to remain in formation (specifically stay with their wingman AT ALL TIMES) and protect the respective element leaders, as well as to fire at threatening or sorted targets.
  • Brevity (using the above terminology) is extremely important, if you don't you will not be able to communicate complex information quick enough. You shouldn't have to say "I don't think I see that on my RWR", it should be "falcon 12 naked." If you think its stupid or just role playing time yourself trying to say the same amount of information using everyday language - you will find its impossible.
  • TO ensure maximum security only one element should be offensive at a time while the other element is supporting. There are exceptions to this (such as ambushing a enemy flight) but its a sound principle and rule of thumb.
    • An excellent strategy to implement this basic tactic is called a "grinder" - both elements split up, separated by some miles and then engage/defend in alternating bounds. A good formation to accomplish this is a box, in which element 1 is spread, followed by a 5 mile gap and then element 2 in spread behind them.
    • This also applies to within an individual element - one wingman should be attacking while the other supports.
  • Only the flight leader declares using AWACS.
  • All contacts should be declared with AWACS when performing BVR (beyond visual range) engagements (q on keyboard, and then 2).
  • Do not fire an AIM-120 into a furball because you can kill friendlies, get PID on all targets within 20 miles of friendlies. In other words if you see a bunch of friendlies on your RWR, mixed with enemy nails, you MUST get PID before engaging.
  • Use the datalink for situational awareness and assigning sorted targets. You can also assign stuff to the flight lead that you think might be hostile, rather than saying anything.
  • When involved in a package operation, calls should be made on broadcast that you (The flight lead) are engaging, have contact, or defending an enemy or suspected enemy group.
  • All members of a package should broadcast launches, "fox 3, bullseye 064 for 43" - this ensures that no one wastes missiles on the same target and aids situational awareness.
  • ACM is important for individual defense and offense, but tactics governs group fights.

Engaging An Enemy Group

  • Find an enemy group by using AWACS, detecting nose hot contacts on FCR and by interpreting RWR nails.
    • Contacts which are nose hot and approaching with a large degree of closure (slam) are probably hostile. Declare these.
    • Correspond/interpret the FCR to the RWR.
  • At BVR (beyond visual range) ranges the flight lead should try his best to first survey the group, then come up with an attack plan based on a few factors:
    • Time/Speed: How fast you are closing on the contact group.
    • Space: How much range is between the shooters and the contact group.
    • Threats: The behavior and type of the contact group. A enemy group which was hot then suddenly goes cold without an apparent reason may not be cowards, they may be drawing you into a SAM ambush. In such a case, added room between elements and speed is key.
    • Capabilities: Weapons the flight has, skills of the pilots, contingencies and "actions on"
    • Formation: An enemy group in spread is much more dangerous than an enemy group in trail in a merge (head on) situation.
  • An ideal situation is PID of an enemy group at 30+ miles. This gives the flight lead enough time to sort out all the targets. The flight lead should go through every contact and assign them verbally and by using the datalink buttons on the right side of the FCR.
  • The flight lead will declare which element is offensive, and which is supporting.
  • The offensive element will engage until threatened (mig 29 about to go lethal on RWR for instance, or pop up group from another direction etc) , then go defensive.
  • The support element will engage until threatened, then go defensive.
  • The element which was originally offensive will now support as the other element goes defensive.
  • The flight lead will constantly keep in mind the relation of threats to his flight, maintain a distance by which he can withdraw his flight and maintain cohesion of formation.
  • If the bandits are too close for the lead to sort them all out, the 2nd element leader should sort while the lead element engages.
  • The flight lead should keep giving maneuver orders to gain a positional advantage on enemy contacts - and keep communicating with the 2nd element leader.
  • Basics of support: fly in loose formation with the aircraft you are supporting and ensure the surrounding contacts, terrain or air defenses do not threaten the engaging aircraft. My favorite tactic is to fly high cover, which involves:
    • Breaking high and creating some distance between the supported aircraft and yourself (3000 feet-2 miles). Technically doing a "lag pursuit" on your wingman.
    • Visually tracking the supported aircraft and looking for launches, AAA, conflicting terrain and other threats
    • Glancing at radar and looking for threatening contacts, engaging them if need be
    • Following the lead, taking the shot if he overshoots the target or otherwise requests for you to take it out (a hung store/malfunction etc)
    • Rejoining on the lead's wing when the target is killed