5 March 2014
Dogfighting with Jets?
During the Second World War, the propeller fighter aircrafts were once the masters of the sky, but the advent of the jet fighters in the later stages of the war changed the way pilots fought in dogfights. Did the jet fighters eliminate the art of aerial close-range combat or did they develop it? Historians have been saying that once jet fighters were mass-produced and used in the battles, there were no more dogfights. All that left were battles with fighters fire homing missiles at each other and then run off because dogfighting is not physically possible with jets and also because of the new advanced aerial missiles no longer requires dogfighting. That is not true. This question can be answered in a lot of ways, but the best way is to look at how the jet fighter pilots were still fighting with a sense of dogfight in his mind and how the teaching of dogfight-maneuvers in flight schools can help pilots in the battles. Also, the fact that dogfighting still exist and also being taught in military schools can prove that dogfighting has not been made obsolete. With more advanced aircrafts and new armament such as air-to-air missiles, new radar system, ground-to-air missiles, etc…, pilots had to change the majority of their tactics, therefore developed the art of dogfighting.
To observe the change in tactics, we can see it in a lot of documents that talk about it. One of my main sources is the interviews that were made between the younger generations and the fighter pilots who fought in the Vietnam War. There are a lot of organizations that arranged and published various interviews with fighter pilots such as the History channel. In addition, there are documentaries that were made about the changes in weaponry, especially heat-seeking missiles at the advent of jet fighters. These documents can be found in various websites, more particularly in Strategypage.com or Wikipedia.com. Base on my argument, the evidences I use should contain information about the way pilots engaged in battles in either the time before the jet fighters stepped in or after. Also advanced technologies such as the introduction of air-to-air missiles had had a significant impact on dogfighting. My conclusions will be drawn upon the real dogfights between jet fighters during the most intense period of the Vietnam War. Because of the changes in characteristics of aircrafts such as agility, maneuverability and maximum altitude, the way pilots fought was changed as well as the art of close range aerial combats.
What is dogfighting?
To understand how the advent of jet fighters and the development of other technologies affected dogfights, we have to first know what dogfighting is all about. The definition of dogfight, according to The Oxford English Dictionary is as follow: “Dogfight, or dog fight, is a form of engagement between fighter aircraft; in particular, combat of maneuver at short range, where each side is aware of the other’s presence”. Another way to see dogfight is when two or more fighter aircrafts engaging each other in gun-firing range; and both try to perform various aerial maneuver, either to evade or to gain an advantage over its opponent. Pilots when getting into dogfights have to stick with his ultimate goal: destroy enemy aircraft or evade in a defensive maneuver.
Key elements in dogfights
In a dogfight, a pilot needs to be aware of various elements that affect his strengths and weaknesses. These elements are, firstly, the aircraft’s energy, which consists of potential energy (gravitational potential energy, or altitude) and kinetic energy (airspeed). Secondly, he has to know about the limitations of both his and his opponent’s aircraft. These include armament, rate of climb, turning rate, turning ratio, and max speed. This helps the pilot to avoid getting into situations where his weaknesses are exposed to the enemy to take advantage of. Knowing the