Air combat manoeuvring

Air combat manoeuvring

Air combat maneuvering (ACM) is the art of maneuvering a combat aircraft in order to attain a position from which an attack can be made on another aircraft. It relies on offensive and defensive Basic Fighter maneuvering (BFM) in order to gain an advantage over an aerial opponent.

Historical Overview

Military aviation appeared in World War I with aircraft being used to spot enemy movement. Soon the need to stop enemy aircraft from completing their mission became a necessity, and this rapidly led to the creation of a class of aircraft designed specifically to destroy enemy aircraft: fighter aircraft. It was soon noticed that the best armament for such an aircraft was fixed, forward-firing guns. With such armament, the pilot just had to point his aircraft at the enemy and open fire.

In order to achieve firing position while not being threatened by the enemy's guns, the best technique was to get behind the enemy aircraft. This is known as getting on an aircraft's six o'clock, or on his tail, plus a wide variety of other terms, usually coined by air crews. During World War One, Oswald Boelcke, a German fighter ace, was the first to write down basic rules for aerial combat maneuvering. He advised pilots to attack from the direction of the sun (towards which the defending pilot could not see), or to fly at a higher altitude than the opponent. Most of these rules, known as the "Dicta Boelcke", are still as valuable nowadays as they were a century ago.

Today's air combat is much more complicated than those of older times, with newer inventions like air-to-air missiles and RADAR being used operationally on virtually all modern fighter aircraft. New maneuvers emerged, intended to break radar lock by minimizing Doppler signature of own aircraft ("keeping enemy at 3 or 9 o'clock") or to exhaust the kinetic energy of incoming missile (changing course from side to side - the missile, not flying directly at target but trying to forestall it, will make sharper turns and eventually have to fly a longer path). However, close range fighting with IR guided missiles like the AIM-9 Sidewinder and aircraft cannons still obey 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 on your six o'clock, 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.

Example maneuvering

* Basic:
** Split S
** Immelmann turn
** Thach Weave
** Scissors
** Chandelle
* Complex:
** Pugachev's Cobra
** Pugachev's Turn a.k.a. Cobra Turn
** Kulbit
** Herbst maneuver

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