Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mutual Destruction. Close in aerial combat has changed.


The pictures above display just a few of the "within visual range" missiles that have driven the thought behind aerial combat in today's age.

Everyone points to Vietnam as the foundation of modern combat and the need to retain guns on aircraft.  Modeling and simulation have shown that not to be the case.

Detect with systems, enemy aircraft at distance.  Launch at optimum distance.  Break contact to re-arm, refuel and return to the fight.

If close in combat is the rule then this airplane would rule the skies...


  1. Solomon, I am willing to bet you $20 that the guns on board fighters will prove to be not only relevant, but essential in the next major war that has significant aerial combat.

    Missiles may have gotten better since Vietnam, but so too has the technology to counteract them. Depending upon the ROE, visual-range aerial combat might be required, so why take the risk of removing guns? What significant advantage do you gain by doing that?

  2. first, with modern avionics and a systems approach, the identification of aircraft at extreme ranges is easily accomplished.

    second, if WVR is the fight of the day then the Mig-35 and F-16 type fighters would be carrying the day.

    small lightweight fighters that push maximum agility would be what modern air forces would be buying.

    they're not, so my theory must be widely held.

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  4. The F-35 lacks the missile capacity to take on a large enemy air force, and it lacks the speed to run away when said missiles are exhausted. In this situation, the gun is the 35's last and only defense.

    With regards to BVR vs. WVR, the only major air war we fought where BVR kills were common-place was the Persian Gulf war. Most of these kills were against poorly trained pilots flying poorly maintained aircraft who didn't even manuever against the missiles fired at them. It is a therefore poor decision to conclude that short-range, WVR engagements are a thing of the past. In fact, as stealth technology proliferates, and detection ranges shrink, WVR engagements will become more common-place.

    Also, war-time performance of missiles is almost ALWAYS poorer than both live-fire and simulated missile shots predict. A major reason for this is that most test-shots are conducted against non-manuevering targets. Since 2000, there has been only ONE AMRAAM test against a 9g target.

    And finally, I don't think anyone is saying that WVR fights are the wave of the future. But to say that BVR kills will be the norm doesn't mean WVR kills will disappear, and so long as WVR engagements occur there will always be a place for a gun on fighters.

  5. your statement is off the mark.

    why is it too slow to get away?

    why do you say it carries to few missiles? are you talking about in its full stealth configuration or are you talking about in its full air defense package layout?

    no further discussion is necessary until you have a come to Jesus moment on those basic facts.

  6. And as a side note, if WVR engagements were the norm Extra 300's would be eaten alive. Speed is life, and if you are faster than your opponent, you have the edge, even if he is more manueverable than you. If what you say is true, then F-51's and Corsairs should have dominated the Mig-15 over korea.

  7. different tech. you're talking about the end of the all gun era.

    if speed is life then why aren't we talking about Mach 3 fighters? we have the capability to develop them easily.

    if speed is life then why didn't the YF-23 beat the slower YF-22. because the disciples of fighter culture were short sighted and wedded to WVR combat when its changing.

  8. Speed allows you to engage an enemy when you want to engage him, and allows you to run from the fight when you want to run. Faster planes usually have altitude advantages as well.

    From a BVR standpoint, speed means more energy, which means you can launch your missiles from a longer range.

    Mach 3 fighters are by no means "easy to develop" The high mach 2 range is about the limit of current turbofan engines. There has only been one (known) aircraft capable of sustained Mach 3+ speeds, and that was the SR-71 Blackbird. A faster plane has not been built since, and its becuase Mach 3+ planes are damn expensive and complicated to build.

    Additionally, in a service concerned with stealth, Mach 3+ may be seen as a disadvantage. When you go that fast, the air around the aircraft heats up to the point where it is actually detectable by radar. Stealth features the aircraft employs are therefore negated by the super-hot air around it.

    I do recall hearing a four-star's speech (Marine) where he said that if the enemy finds a way to negate our stealth technology, then we'll have to begin investing in higher and faster planes (i.e: Mach 3+) This reinforces my belief that right now, the services place a higher premium on stealth than speed. Keep in mind, however, that the services are also much more concerned about SAM threats than air-to-air threats. I think if the primary concern was air-to-air then speed might come back into the equation a little more.

  9. mach 3 fighter should be no more difficult an undertaking than developing stealth airplanes. as a matter of fact it becomes a pure aerodynamics game.

    but back to close in fighting.

    gun passes on helicopters? not in the future...Marine Helos carry AIM-9X's...

    come in with guns blazing and you'll catch a missile up your tail pipe....if you don't catch cannon fire in return.

    want to keep your guns for use in strafing runs?

    not against a first rate opponent...heck not even against insurgents that have their shit together. you'll catch a stinger (or better) launched from multiple vectors if you're that stupid.

    guns are becoming obsolete my friend.

    no ifs ands or buts about it.

  10. Yup...strategic thinking in the brand new missile era of the 50's said that guns fights were a thing of the past. It'd be all missile engagements, Sparrows and Sidewinders. They took the gun off the Phantom and look what happened to it in Vietnam. All of a sudden the chair warmers in DC tossed BVR out the window and insisted on visual ID of the bad guys before engagement. That put you right smack in the gun engagement zone and completely threw away the use of the Sparrow. Right off the bat, we were being shot to pieces by Migs with GUNS. It took TOP GUN to teach air crews and maintainers how to defeat Migs, energy management and how to keep fragile missiles operational. The very next fighter aircraft designed after the Phantom had a damn gun in it. That's because the Navy and the Air Force re-learned a hard lesson: When you're out of golden arrows, it's time to let the BBs fly because it might be the only thing that gets an expensive aircraft and an even more important pilot back home again.

    BS Flag is thrown.


  11. and its thrown right back at ya Byron. no one had to close within visual range to id enemy fighters even during the Vietnam era. the reason why is because even with our medium range missiles you'd end up closing to knife fighting range.

    in todays world you'll engage much further out and as the article implies...much closer and you're just committing mutual suicide.

    is it really that hard to understand?

  12. Funny thing about the F-35's missile load is that even on internal carriage, it is equal to the standard loads being carried on OCA and DCA operations today...

    Many still seem to think that isn't enough though.

    It is unfair however to compare internal missile loads at it's initial operational capability (Block 3) against aircraft who have had many years to develop their capabilities and do not have the option of an internal carriage capability.

    Let us revisit this issue when F-35 Block IV/V capabilities are coming online and future US weapon systems are entering service and we will see how it stacks up?

    Lockheed Martin has already confirmed that studies have been conducted into the possibility of F-35 carrying 6 internal AMRAAM sized missiles and no great problem with this configuration has been identified.

    Such an increase would afford considerable flexibility in operational loadouts, without even considering external carriage options...

  13. Solomon, according to both "Scream of Eagles" (story of the Ault Report and the birth of Top Gun) and "On Yankee Station", the definitive story of Naval Aviation during Viet Nam, the ROE for ATA required visual ID. It wasn't till late in the war that technology provided relief with reliable IFF. Keep in mind the Mig-21 and the A-4 look a lot alike until you get within 3 miles...and by then, you're in the furball and a turning fight vice a head on shot with Sparrow. Also, it wasn't until 1972 that the reliability of the missiles was such that a pilot didn't have to fire two to give him a chance at a first shot kill.

    Last but not least, the pre-eminent Mig killer for the first two thirds of the air war was the Crusader, better known as the Last of the Gunfighters.

    Taking guns off fighters is dumber than dirt, and completely removes a pilots last best chance at getting home.


  14. If the enemy appears on the battlefield with effective DIRCM, even the best IR-missile won´t help you.

  15. One further reason to keep guns on fighters: strafing.


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