Air Combat Maneuvering
Even though the ACM environment dictates that you make constant decisions and reevaluations
based on an evolving engagement, you must develop a game plan. This game plan will be based on
many different factors including, but not limited to, aircraft performance comparison, weapon system
capabilities, the degree of mutual support, mission considerations (allowable risk) and the nature of
the merge. The game plan must be consistent with the fighters level of proficiency and flexible
enough to deal with a rapidly changing situation.
Although there are many different game plans, they can generally be characterized by the mind-set
with which they are executed. A fighter who enjoys a superior weapons system and/or superior
performance generally employs an energy-management type fight. The fighter pilot executing this
tactic maintains a more conservative mind-set with respect to energy. He is less willing to accept
excursions from his corner airspeed and strives to keep separation from the bandit (to exploit his
weapons system advantage). Perhaps you remember the scene from Raiders of the Lost Arc
where Indiana Jones confronts a particularly vicious looking assassin in the Egyptian market. As the
assassin demonstrates his considerable talents with a machete, Indy pulls out a revolver and shoots
him. Classic energy-management fight.
At the other end of the spectrum is the aggressive position fight. This fight is characterized by a
greater willingness to trade airspeed for position. A fighter pilot with this mind-set attempts to keep
the fight close and will bleed energy if it will result in an opportunity to intimidate the bandit. Against
an adversary with better performance and/or superior weapons, this is the fight of choice. The
greater the disparity in capabilities, the more aggressive the mind-set. This is the proverbial knife
fight in a phone booth and requires a pilot with a high level of Basic Fighter Maneuvering (BFM)
proficiency to be successfully survived.
Between these two mind-sets, there are a million different options.
You have already been introduced to the concept of radial g and its effects upon three-dimensional
maneuvering. In jets that suffer from low thrust-to-weight, these effects have an enormous impact.
But where is this impact positive, where is it negative, and how can we use this knowledge in our
employment of BFM?
When we talk in terms of position advantage, we are usually referring to the aircraft that has the
fewest degrees to go before he can bring weapons to bear. In a fight where forward quarter
weapons have been neutralized (due to minimum range or lack of the capability altogether), it also
refers to that aircraft that is behind the others wingline. There are a whole lot of ways that a fighter
can create position advantage or improve that which he has. One of these is the intelligent use of
By maneuvering out of the bandits plane of motion, we can often collapse our turn radius and/or
increase our turn rate with respect to his jet. By maneuvering out of his plane nose high, we collapse
our turn radius relative to his and create turning room in a fight determined by radius (commonly
called one-circle maneuvering). It can also help to control excessive closure, which might compro-
mise an offensive position (high yo-yo).