Bao's weblog


Meandering thoughts of a Bay Area college student… be prepared for some bipolar vocabulary

Just something that’s been bugging me for YEARS

So after lots of jinking, rolling, and weaving, Maverick declares that he’s had “enough of this shit.” At 1:33, he says he’ll hit the brakes so Jester will fly past him. Just as Jester was about to get a tone, Maverick deploys his air brakes (spoilers) and throttles down. Jester hurtles past and ultimately loses.

While this maneuver may seem obvious, brilliant, or both, it almost never works. In air combat, speed literally equals life. Because of this, fighters that ambush formations ALWAYS attack from above, because height can be turned into speed when you dive. At least this was how it was done in the old days, before the introduction of missiles, which dramatically shifted the balance of aerial combat.

ANYWAYS. Slowing down your fighter in a combat situation is a BAD idea. You lose airspeed. If the pilot behind you sees it coming (which he/she always should), then you end up in a worse position than you were before you hit the brakes.

That’s pretty much all I wanted to say. EVERYONE SHOULD STOP READING HERE. Just a warning. Everything after this is VERY nerdy.

Now, there may be those of you who may be wondering, how DO you get an enemy off of your tail? Well, it depends on your plane. I’ll use the American involvement in Vietnam to illustrate.

The star aircraft for the Americans was the F-4 Phantom II. (Also known as the Rhino for the pilots). Want a quick introduction? The F-4 wasn’t a pure fighter. It’s known as a multi-role aircraft, in this case a fighter-bomber. It bristled with advanced technology. It could do so much that you needed a second person (the person in the back) to handle most of the avionics. It carried two powerful General Electric J79-17A turbojets (er, engines), altogether capable of delivering nearly 36,000 lbs. of thrust. Interesting enough, it didn’t carry any guns, just missiles (that often malfunctioned). Because of the introduction of missiles, the USAF declared dogfights obsolete. Yeah, they were wrong, and it cost. Sexy anyways, right?

The People’s Liberation Air Force used MiG-17s. (Fresco)

Well, what’s there to say about this plane? It only had a single engine. It wasn’t as advanced. On paper, the Phantom should have raped the Fresco. But it got really bad. Here’s how it played out. The Fresco could turn tighter. They make difficult targets.

If the more advanced F-4 got into a turning fight with the MiG, it would’ve been outturned and consequently raped. So for the MiG, if it happened to find an F-4 on its tail, it could simply turn. Hard. And if both planes kept turning, the MiG will eventually find itself looking at the back end of the F-4 that WAS on its tail. It’s hardly ever that simple, but yeah.

Now, what does an F-4 do when it sees a MiG-17 on its tail? It should climb like a mofo. The MiG is lighter, sure, but it has a weaker engine. Not only that, but it carried no missiles. The F-4, on the other hand, has 36,000 pounds of thrust on its side. Remember when I said that speed = life in combat? When planes climb, they lose speed. But! The F-4 has more powerful engines, so it can sustain its climb at a faster rate and for much longer. If the MiG followed, it would eventually lose all lift (we call that stall) and fall back to Earth. And you can bet the Phantom will be on its ass.

So, Jester. What have you learned? Instead of taking the dogfight on the vertical, because clearly the F-14 has more powerful engines (higher thrust to weight ratio), you should have lured Tom Cruise into a turning fight. The A-4 (Jester’s plane) is much more maneuverable.

I have to say. That. Felt. Good.

I love being an armchair pilot 😀


Filed under: General

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