Cycle of Fighter Tactics

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Jul 20, 2006
I've been giving alot of thought to the modern conception of fighter combat. I've developed a little hypothesis here, and I want some outside opinions.

Anyhow, the idea is that as stealth technology gets better and better, BVR combat would actually become less practiced, due to the inability of aircraft to find each other, and fighter tactics would revert back to old-style dogfights and such. Then, as new technology is developed, it will move back out to BVR range, and so forth.

This all assumes a few things, A, that manned aviation doesn't go the way of the dodo bird, B, that no AWACS-type aircraft are involved, and C, that new anti-stealth technologies such as air-disruption radars don't pan out.
As technology evolves, so does warfighting in all facets. Stealth technology is currently untrackable by enemy forces, but not knowing who exactly the next enemy will be or the technology they will use makes the variables too high. It's always a matter of one side having superior equipment and the other side either trying to catch up, or make more of their lower technology to overwhelm.
Part of it is the clear id of your target as John mentions but it goes further than just stealth. These days the enemy could be anyone, anywhere and could be front line fighter aircraft like a SU-27 or F-16, or a Piper cub filled with explosives.

I think that the dogfight is likely extinct, unless China continues its build-up and decides it needs to own its own resources like the oil and mineral reserves in the "Northern Resource Area" (the Japanese term for the vast resources in Siberia).

What will actually happen is that robots will fight it out in the relatively near future. Yes there will still be manned aircraft but one day soon UCAVs both completely automated and as RPVs, remotely piloted vehicles, will dominate conflicts.

We can no longer afford the political expense and emotions of having caputured pilots in enemy hands. The cost of air vehicles will dramatically reduce as soon as the systems and redundancy of multiple back ups is eradicated. Without the need to make human pilots survive craft will be lighter, simpler and cheaper to produce.

This will definately spill over into land vehicles too. The Army is working on completely autonomous vehicles that can move, navigate and ultimetly fight without human involvement. Certainly RPV combat vehicles will come 1st.

It actually doesn't matter to the dead enemy if the driver/pilot is sitting at a console sipping a coke 10,000 miles away or in the cockpit. He's just as dead.
The only problem I have with unmanned vehicles that make their own decisions, is that we might have a glitch in the system, making us the enemy, and suddenly a good portion of the armed forces are going after their makers. Also, to the point of dogfighting, yes it is becoming more antiquicated, but I would still love to dogfight an enemy fighter if all our missiles were gone. Then, its just a matter of skill to see who comes out on top. Heck, if I was gonna lose, I'd still do it because it would be worth it, and I'd know I lost to someone better than me.
But like Twitch said, remotely piloted vehicles are in use today. I recently read an article about a "pilot" in Florida flying a sortie in Afghanistan. He was flying that mission from the air conditioned comfort of a command center in Florida controlling the aircraft from halfway around the world.

Artifical intelligence is getting better, but completely free-roaming robotic vehicles are still a bit of time away, unless you count the Tomahawk missile.
Who is the world leader in RPV and drones? USA was the leader by far for the longest time but I think Israel might be even better now.

Anyone know?
Most of the larger, richer- or in the case of the Israel- toughest, nations already have UAVs and UCAVs of assorted size, complexity and intelligence. The forthcoming sophistication of AI- artificial intelligence- we anticipate can be easily traced back to less than 20 years ago. The exponential growth and advances in the area of AI are incredible. In 20 more years it'll be amazing. Till then the kids that spent their hours "playing" with PC flight sims will be comfortably popping off bad guys from their consoles "somewhere in America" flyinging RPVs.
I doubt fight tactics have really changed at all actually. Speed is still king as it always has been. Why else do you think they are concentrating on supercruise, the faster aircraft always has the advantage because it can dictate the fight.

Long range missiles are fine, but have one very large flaw, Visual Identification, rules of engagement usually limit a target being fired upon until you can positively ID it. This is why Phoenix missiles were never used much in combat. Even during war with IFF enabled you can't be too sure usually what your shooting at.

Stealth aircraft are never completely invisible to radar, just a reduced signature, and infact some radars can pick them up now (such as Jindalee OTHR), get in close enough and you will still get a return, you can use night vision and TV guided missiles with auto optical recognition to shoot them down, unless of course they come up with with optical invisibility as well.
Until the new aircraft come into operational service, there are now no stealth fighters. The F-117 was misnamed, it was never a fighter, but an attack aircraft. The Air Force calls it a "precision strike aircraft".

BUt I would not say speed has always been king. In the days of WWI and WWII, speed was not necessarily the prime necessity. Good manueverability in a dogfight is extremely important. Speed will get you into and out of the fight quickly, no doubt, but once into it, the speeds will drop during turns, etc. The number one item, I would say is pilot skill and luck. How else would P-26 Peashooters be able to down Zeroes and Brewster Buffaloes produce aces?
Agreed, Twitch. I always thought it was odd too. Maybe it was to throw off any potential spies during development, or a change in the spec once the aircraft was built.
Twitch said:
Evan- That's for sure about the F-117s status as a fighter. I truly wonder why it wasn't designated as an "A-" something for attack. That is weird.
Here's some Lockheed folklore, I heard this while working there in the early 1980s...

When classified aircraft were being built the term "the article," was used by Skunk Works personnel to describe it. Legend has it that during a briefing to the government, the guys developing the -1 (flight manual) left a note for a secretary who was working the text to correct a page. On the front cover was a hand written sticky note that was written "P 11 7, possibly indicating pages 11 and 7." Somehow a title page got typed with F-117 on it and that what was briefed to the government.

A similar thing happened to the SR-71 which was supposed to be RS-71, thanks to President Johnson.

"Believe it or not!"8)
Got this from Wikipedia...

Name and designation
The USAF had planned to redesignate the A-12 aircraft as the B-71 as the successor to the B-70 Valkyrie, which had two test Valkyries flying at Edwards AFB, California. The B-71 would have a nuclear capability of 6 bombs. The next destination was RS-71 (Reconnaissance-Strike) when the strike capability became an option. However, then USAF Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay preferred the SR designation and wanted the RS-71 to be named SR-71. Before the Blackbird was to be announced by President Johnson on February 29, 1964, LeMay lobbied to modify Johnson's speech to read SR-71 instead of RS-71. The media transcript given to the press at the time still had the earlier RS-71 designation in places, creating the myth that the president had misread the plane's designation [2] [3].

This public disclosure of the program and its designation came as a shock to everyone at Skunk Works and Air Force personnel involved in the program; at this time all of the printed Maintenance Manuals, Flight Crew Handbooks (the source of Paul Crickmoore's page), training vufoils, slides and materials were still labeled "R-12" (The June 18, 1965 Certificate of Completion issued by the Skunkworks to the first Air Force Flight Crews and their Wing Commander are labeled: "R-12 Flight Crew Systems Indoctrination, Course VIII" and signed by Jim Kaiser, Training Supervisor and Clinton P. Street, Manager, Flight Crew Training Department). Following Johnson's speech, the designation change was taken as an order from the Commander-in-Chief, and immediate republishing began of new materials retitled "SR-71" with 29,000 blueprints altered. :shock: :shock: :shock:
That's how I've always understood it Joe, if it's the actual truth. A simple flub by the president determined the designation of the plane. :lol:

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