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Skills Needed to become a Combat Pilot

The foregoing are the basics of air combat maneuvering. Many variations on the described maneuvres exist, but they are percisely that: variations. No air-display-type aerobatics have been included, because they are irrelevant to air combat. But, however skiful a pilot may be at air combat maneuvering, his ability must be backed up by knowledge and awareness of other factors affecting the contest.

The first essential is to know the strengths and weakness of his own machine and be able to compare them against the fighting qualities of his oppenent's aircraft. For example, it would be foolish for a Phantom to ebgage in a prolonged turning contest with a MiG-21 at about equal airspeed as the MiG-21 has by far the better turning capability.

We must always remember that air combats are lost rather then won. Air combat maneuvering is not a series of magic formulae, one of which can be plucked from a hat to meet a given situation and guarantee a successful engagement. Rather is it a means to an end. It is important to avoid making mistakes, and equally- if not more- important to force the oppenent into making mistakes by keeping him under pressure, If the oppenent can be forced into a series of energy-dissipating hard turns, he will become increasingly unable to defend himself effectively. Pressure is kept on by positive and decisive maneuvreing.

The term aggressive has been deliberately avoided, as aggression is a double-edged sword. Too much aggression can lead to mental tunnel vision: total preoccupation with obtaining the kill. If other hostile fighters are near, this can easily prove disastrous.

Probally the most common fault of a novice fighter pilot is depleting his energy state to a level where his ability to maneuvre has all but vanished. He should endeavour to keep his speed up near the corner velocity for his aeroplane if at all possible. The old saying, "out of altitude, airspeed, and ideas" is very true; every fighter pilot has at one time or another been faced with a situation where he has run out of ideas. In this situation, his only recourse is to attempt to point his nose at the enemy.

Also, trite though it may sound, he should never give up. This is not as peculiar as it first seems; the records of air warfare give many examples of flyers who did give up and presented their victor with an easy target. The extreme emotional, physical, and psychological stress of air combat accounts for this phenomenon. With a bandit neatly trapped at the six o'clock, the position may appear hopeless, but he has not lost yet. The attacker has still to slove the problems of closure rate, range and deflection, missile firing limitations, and even setting the correct switches. If the defender can keep the attacker busy by just staying in a favourable position, the defender's chances of survival increase considerably.

Other pages I've made

My main page
Aircraft pages
Main Maneuvres page
Pairs Maneuvres page
The Break
The Scissors
The High G Barrel Roll
Jinking
The Spiral Dive
The Vertical Rolling Scissors
The Slpit S
The High-Speed Yoyo
The Rollaway
Lag Pursuit
The Low-Speed Yoyo
The Barrel Roll Attack