Air Combat Maneuvering
Understanding the effects of the vertical in determining performance is critical. In general, excessively
nose-low attitudes can be aggressively capitalized on through a hefty amount of lead pursuit, particularly
when the nose-low bandit has a bag of knots. Recognizing his predictability in this situation gives you
the freedom to early turn with aggressive lead pursuit, while assuring two-circle flow. This is simple
because the option to reverse (into one-circle flow based on radius) does not exist for the jet that buries
his nose. If it is you who is approaching a very vertical merge excessively nose low, you must do
damage control. If recognized early enough, you may be able to maneuver for a shallower merge. If
thats not possible, perhaps the bandit will get too aggressive with the lead, allowing you to flush him out
in front with a wings-level pull to the horizon. If he correctly judges his use of lead, however, you must
roll lift vector on and attempt to spiral the fight to the deck (avoiding it, obviously).
Putting It All Together
Approach each merge with a game plan in mind. If you are going to fight an aggressive position fight,
attempt to influence the merge so as to arrive already established nose high. Reverse at the pass if
necessary to create one-circle flow. Aggressively use out-of-plane maneuvering to collapse your circle
relative to the bandits.
Ideally, you would reverse your turn again once reaching the bandits wingline to wrap your jet right
around his post, capitalizing on all the turning room your superior turn has just created. As you redefine
the fight from one-circle to two-circle, look for shot opportunities (probably high-angle gunshots due to
minimum ranges involved in one-circle maneuvering), or reset aircraft attitude to increase turn rate and
work for control zone positioning.
An uncooperative bandit may not allow you one-circle flow by reversing his own direction of turn following
your initial reversal. You may be able to reverse your own turn once more, but by this time, the range
between the jets is sufficient to negate the effects of turn radius. In other words, two circle conditions
exist despite the appearance of one-circle flow. If you cannot work your game plan now, react to the
bandit by establishing a competitive turn rate, and look for an opportunity to redefine later.
If instead, you approach the merge with any energy-management mind-set, work either two-circle flow or
extension techniques. Hit the merge with the maximum knots possible and influence flow by initially
turning across the bandits tail. A nose-low attitude will be required to capitalize on all that airspeed and
g available. Pick up best sustained turn rate somewhere in your target airspeed band (300-340 KIAS,
17 units in the T-45) and attempt to outrate the bandit.
If you arrive nose-on within shot parameters, kill him. More than likely, it will take more than one lap to
work your way into the control zone. Prior to reaching it, merges may be high aspect enough to allow the
bandit a reversal. He is attempting to redefine the fight into one based on radius and you must be
prepared to make that transition. In this situation, trade your airspeed for position inside of the bandit
with the same objectives as those already discussed in the paragraph on one-circle maneuvering.
With similar aircraft, the fight normally will go to that fighter who makes the first error. In two-circle flow,
you keep a higher airspeed and since the fights normally take longer to develop, they tend to be more
forgiving. However, energy management is key. If you arbitrarily give away knots without gaining
something in return (whether that be a shot, position advantage or survival), you will probably find
yourself defensive. One-circle flow is much less forgiving of any buffoonery. If you goon up an
aggressive position fight, you probably wont see a gradual degradation of the fight. You will more likely