Sunday, 11 August 2013

Agile fighters - just a thought

I recently watched some video footage of the Su-35 at this year's Paris Air Show; at the start of the year  I also had the distinct pleasure of watching an F-22 Raptor perform its flying display at the Australian International Air Show at Avalon.

In both cases the pilots showed off the low-speed handling characteristics of their aircraft brilliantly, but their displays, much as I enjoyed them, left me with a nagging thought. If you're close enough to your enemy that your platform superiority gives you some sort of advantage in a dog flight (which tends to degenerate into a low-speed combat), than you're too close: you're within range of an infra red guided missile such as a Sidewinder or Asraam which have a high off-boresight cueing capability and are extremely difficult to out-run.

If you're going slowly enough to perform a backwards somersault, or rear back through 90 degrees-plus in a high-alpha 'Cobra' manoeuvre to get your nose on the target, you're a sitting target for a gun or missile shot.

But why would you take the risk anyway? Why not take a shot from long range with an infra red or radar-guided missile? Oh, I forgot - if you're up against a stealthy F-22 or F-35, it may not work. You HAVE to get in close, if you can. Tricky.

When will people get it into their heads that air battles are not simply a sequence of single combats fought at visual range between pilots who are trying to get into each others' "Six O'Clock"?