Air Combat Maneuvering
In short, you will seldom maneuver in either the
pure vertical or the pure horizontal; rather, you will
be trading airspeed for altitude in an infinite variety
of oblique planes. As you develop your ACM skills,
you will learn how to use the oblique to turn as
tightly and quickly as you can while conserving the
greatest amount of energy possible, thus
preventing you from approaching the deck out of
airspeed and ideas. Picture yourself in one of the
aircraft shown in Figure 4. Notice that one is
performing an extremely steep oblique loop, while
the other aircraft is more horizontal, yet still
oblique. As you maneuver in all three dimensions,
base your decision to trade airspeed for altitude on
what the situation calls for during an engagement.
We can deduce that, regardless of the plane of
maneuvering, when the lift vector is above the
horizon it detracts from turn performance;
conversely, when the lift vector is below the horizon
it enhances turn performance. In order for you to
be effective in ACM, the geometry of your
maneuvering requires the timely and dynamic use
of multiple planes.
Figure 4: OBLIQUE MANEUVERING
Now that we know the airspace in which we are operating, we need to examine the airplane and how it will
operate in that environment. We will define operational maneuverability as your capability to perform
changes in altitude, airspeed, and direction. It is limited, however, by several fixed and variable factors.
The fixed factors include the structural limitations, the thrust-to-weight limitations, and the wing-loading
capability of your aircraft. The structural limitations include both the maximum lift that can be supported by
an airframe and the maximum-g capability that will vary with fuel and ordnance loads. You should know
the picture of these limitations. The Vn diagram in Figure 5 clearly shows the operating envelope that
illustrates the load factor and g limitations of the T-45C. As you will soon see, the critical section of the Vn
diagram is the area surrounding cornering speed. Without going into great detail, you must calculate
certain factors related to this envelope in your headwork for ACM, factors that can give you an edge not
only in training but also in real-world combat.
As you know, the available thrust of an aircraft varies with altitude and temperature but is independent of
airspeed in a jet aircraft. The thrust-to-weight ratio of an aircraft, computed by dividing thrust by combat
weight, commonly indicates an aircrafts capability going into an ACM environment. Pilots flying aircraft
with thrust-to-weight ratios greater than one will use different tactics than pilots flying machines with ratios
less than one, as is the case of the T-45C.
You must consider wing loading, computed by dividing the combat weight by the wing area. For two
aircraft at co-airspeed, the aircraft with a higher wing loading will have a larger turn radius and a slower
turn rate. Conversely, aircraft with lower wing loading have a smaller turn radius and a faster turn rate.
T-45C Revision 1