Glossary of Combat Terminology
This material was included in the original 1998 release of European Air War by Microprose.
An offensive or defensive maneuver which is designed to convert potential energy into kinetic energy either for offensive or defensive maneuvering. A low Yo-Yo is an acceleration maneuver designed to decrease the separation between an aggressor and his target. A Split-S is an acceleration maneuver designed to increase the separation between a defensive fighter and the aggressor.
Air Combat Maneuvering. Any series of individual maneuvers designed to gain a tactical advantage or escape an untenable situation.
When an aircraft applies aileron at high angles of attack, there will be a tendency to yaw away from the applied direction initially until the aerodynamic forces overcome inertia. This effect is known as Adverse Yaw.
Picture three perpendicular lines joining in the exact center of the aircraft, the balance point if you will. The line which extends along the fuselage from nose to tail is the longitudinal axis. Rotation around this axis is expressed as roll or bank. How quickly an aircraft can achieve a given degree of roll or bank is known as the roll rate. The second axis extends through the center of the aircraft parallel to the wings. Rotation around this axis is known as pitch. When you pull back on the stick to raise the nose of the aircraft, for example, you are "pitching up." The final axis extends straight up and down through the aerodynamic center of the aircraft. Rotation around this axis draws the aircraft's nose to the left or right of the direction of travel. This is known as Yaw.
The angle between the longitudinal axis of your aircraft extended along the fuselage in the direction of travel and the axis of the defender's 6 o'clock position. This angle, which is also called track crossing angle, helps you to determine the proper deflection of a gunnery tracking solution.
Angle of Attack (AOA)
The Angle of the wing relative to the forward flight path of the airplane. If you exceed the AOA limitations of the wing design, the aircraft will stall. Stalling involves the interruption of the production of lift, not necessarily stopping the forward momentum of the aircraft.
Gaining angles is the attempt to set up a gunnery solution based on the turn performance of an aircraft. Energy fighters with good roll rate can also use this to obtain the angle for a gunnery attack, but the emphasis of this term is based gaining as close to the classic stern attack position as possible.
When your nose is pointed at the bogey, the aspect angle of the target is the reciprocal of the angle off as measured from your aircraft. For example, if your angle off is 30 degrees, his aspect angle is 210 degrees. All angles are measured relative to the nose of the objective aircraft. Angle off is measured from the nose of the aggressor. Aspect angle is measured from the nose of the defender.
Bomb Damage Assessment. Summary of the effectiveness of a Strike mission in damaging or destroying the objective area based on visual observation or photo-reconnaissance.
Basic fighter maneuvers. These are the building block maneuvers which comprise ACM, from barrel rolls and Chandelle turns to the classic Split-S. Think of BFM as textbook maneuvers. Learning about them gives pilots an appreciation for position and energy transference in a tactical environment, but most ACM engagements do not play out as cleanly as a series of BFMs would imply. Nevertheless, they are a good foundation for further tactical refinement.
Any aerial contact which has been positively identified as hostile.
To complete a barrel roll, simply push your stick fully to one side or the other without applying forward or aft pressure. You will corkscrew in the applied direction, clockwise or counter-clockwise, generally losing some altitude as you do so. The most common tactical application of a barrel roll is to avoid overshooting a jinking target while attempting to gain angle on it for a subsequent gunnery solution. Don't hold the maneuver too long however or you will bleed off too much energy and increase your nose to tail separation, thereby affording the enemy an escape or reversal opportunity.
Any aerial contact which remains unidentified as friendly or hostile.
To attack another aircraft with the element of Surprise. During WWII, it is estimated that 80% or more of confirmed air victories resulted from a successful bounce.
A very basic evasive maneuver designed to maximize the deflection of the gunnery solution of an enemy who has just bounced you. Basically, you roll your aircraft anywhere from 45-90 degrees toward the aggressor (if he is on dead six, direction doesn't matter), then pull back hard on the stick to decrease your turn radius. The advantage of a break turn is that it can be executed very quickly to minimize the reaction time and probability of success of an aggressor's first pass. The disadvantage is that it bleeds energy rapidly. Executing too many consecutive break turns without energy gaining maneuvers between them can leave your aircraft so depleted of residual maneuver capability as to be virtually a sitting duck.
To disengage from combat and extend for home base, either due to fuel constraints, completion of the mission or loss of the tactical advantage.
To execute a Chandelle Turn, roll your aircraft to between 15 and 30 degrees in either direction and pull back gently on the stick. This is not a defensive maneuver like the break turn. It is a very energy efficient way to gain altitude (potential energy) while reversing direction. You can use this to follow up on a high energy pass against a low energy target to convert for a follow up attack, just be careful not to allow to much horizontal and vertical separation when you do so or you might give the target an escape opportunity.
Positional reference reporting structure relative to the nose of the reporting aircraft in a formation. The nose is 12 o'clock, and reports of contacts sighted in relation to that point usually also include the altitude band they are operating in, high, medium or low.
Reducing the separation between a target and yourself through cut off tactics and energy conversion.
Measures the relative speed between two aircraft. In a tail chase, if the defender is flying at 400 mph. and the aggressor is overtaking him at 450 mph., the closure rate would be the difference between the two: 50 mph. If the same two contacts were merging head to head, the closure rate would be the sum of the two speeds, 850 mph.
See Line Abreast below.
Problem caused by the air around the plane being compressed as the plane approaches the speed of sound. It is often encountered during high speed and high altitude flight, typically around Mach 0.6, or 60% of the speed of sound. Once the compressibility is encountered, the plane would start to vibrate violently, control would be lost, and the plane would often "tuck under" and nose down steeply into a dive.
The slowest airspeed at which the maximum allowable aircraft G and minimum turning radius can be generated.
Defensive maneuvers which are designed to turn the tables in an engagement and gain the offensive. Rolling Scissors, reversals and defensive spirals are examples of counteroffensive maneuvers.
When two aircraft in a Section have sufficient lateral separation, they can turn into each other, going nose to nose, prior to steadying on the reciprocal of their previous heading. Cross turns are applicable when an enemy aircraft or Section has been detected astern, but they are not in engagement range yet, and you want to immediately convert the tactical situation to a meeting/merge engagement.
Pursuit curves and maneuvers designed to reduce the nose to tail separation between an attacker and defender.
Maneuvers designed to preclude an accurate gunnery solution. Jinking and Break turns are defensive maneuvers.
A steep dive combined with a barrel roll to grossly complicate a gun targeting solution and either force an overshoot by the attacker if he has a higher energy advantage at the beginning of the maneuver or gain lateral separation from the pursuer if you begin at an equal or relatively equal energy state (to account for the time lag of his reaction to the maneuver).
The combination of lead angle, lateral separation and relative speed. The higher the deflection of a gun shot, the more difficult it is to perform.
Break off the current attack either to extend for home (a permanent disengagement) or to re-position for a better tactical advantage for subsequent re-engagement.
A tactical formation where the wingman is displaced approximately 45 degrees astern from the flight leader at a pre-determined distance. This position is also known as trail, and it can be established at the same altitude as the flight leader, or displaced slightly above or below at the discretion of the Section.
A formation of two aircraft, also known as a Section.
Tactical maneuvering designed to defeat an enemy aircraft or Section. An engagement involves both offensive and defensive maneuvering by opposing aircraft and continues until one side is either destroyed or disengages.
The flight parameters of an aircraft as expressed over the entire altitude band. For example, the turning radius of a given aircraft varies based on speed, but it also varies based on altitude due to differences in atmospheric pressure. Although this data can be displayed graphically, good pilots understand the flight performance envelope of their aircraft as readily as they do their own names, and the best one's continually push the envelopes of their airframe to gain tactical advantage.
To use an acceleration maneuver to increase the separation between your aircraft and any pursuing aircraft. Extensions are used to disengage, even if only temporarily.
Slang term for when a pilot is spoiling for a fight. Sometimes it also includes "with his hair on fire." Aggression is a good trait, but most pilots are wary of those who fly with "fangs out" because they tend to forget their other responsibilities to the Section or Flight.
A formation involving four aircraft, two Sections of two aircraft.
Slang for an engagement involving many aircraft performing angles combat in a small piece of the sky.
A measure of the multiples of gravity a pilot and airframe is subjected to when maneuvering. One-G equals normal gravity. A three G turn would exert three times the normal force of gravity on the fighter. These would be positive G's and each aircraft has a maximum limit it can withstand before structural damage occurs. Well before that, however, a pilot can black out because the centrifugal force causes their blood to flow toward their feet. When you pull negative g's, such as in an outside loop, blood rushes to your head and you can suffer red out.
Using back pressure on the stick to increase your turn rate and pull more g's in the process.
To complete this maneuver, stay wings level and pull back on the stick to pitch your nose up slightly. After a few seconds, push forward on the stick so your plane pitches back nose down to complete the parabolic arc. High Yo-Yo's can be used offensively when you want to slow the closure rate between you and a target in your forward hemisphere (assuming a nose to tail aspect) and counter-offensively to quickly convert on a bandit attacking astern with high closure rate. You will likely only get a snapshot out of the latter maneuver before he moves out of range, but it also gives you a chance to subsequently reverse and extend.
To complete an Immelmann Turn, keep your wings level pull back on your stick sharply to enter into a vertical loop. At the top of the loop, roll from an inverted position to wings level. You are now on the reciprocal of your previous heading at a higher altitude. This is best used as an offensive maneuver to gain energy state and position prior to an attack run. An alternative to the basic Immelmann is the oblique variant of the same maneuver. Instead of staying wings level at the beginning of the vertical portion, roll from 15-30 degrees then pull back on the stick. This is like a Chandelle turn in the first half of the maneuver but instead of following through the turn, you will again roll out on top to retain the altitude gained. Oblique Immelmanns are useful when you want to increase or decrease the horizontal separation between your aircraft and the target prior to subsequent maneuvering.
A series of quick aileron, rudder and stick movements in an unpredictable manner designed to complicate a tracking gunnery solution by an opponent in firing position astern.
A pursuit curve designed to cause the attacker to fly behind the target into gunnery range at low or relatively low closure rate. If your nose is kept pointed at a spot that intersects his longitudinal axis somewhere behind his aircraft, you are in a lag pursuit. By contrast, a pure pursuit curve would be one in which you continually point the nose of your aircraft directly at his aircraft, regardless of aspect.
A pursuit curve where the nose of your aircraft is continually pointed ahead of the enemy in his direction of travel. Lead pursuit curves are adopted to maximize the rate of closure on a hard maneuvering bandit to obtain the angle for a gunnery solution. They are also known as cut off tactics. You would not maintain a lead pursuit curve to its ultimate conclusion because if you did, you would actually end up in front of the bandit. Instead, when you achieve gunnery range, you roll your aircraft in behind the enemy in a saddle trail to take the shot.
A tactical formation for a Section or Flight where the aircraft are aligned side by side, instead of at an angle like in Echelon, at a pre-determined separation. Two aircraft in a Line Abreast at a separation of one turn radius is also known as a Combat Spread.
A tactical formation for a Section or Flight where the aircraft are aligned nose to tail in the same axis at a predetermined horizontal separation. This is also known as being in "Trail."
As it sounds, this is the bearing of the target relative to your aircraft from your perspective.
Refers to wing loading. Increasing the angle of attack (AOA) increases the number of G's exerted on the airframe. Decreasing the AOA "unloads" the number of G's.
See Axis above.
Generally a maneuver better exhibited at air shows than in combat, the loop involves pulling back on the stick while wings level and holding it throughout an entire 360 degrees of travel, such that you end up traveling on the same course as before. The energy transference during the maneuver isn't one for one, so you generally come out of a loop at a slightly lower altitude than where you started the maneuver.
Losing the Bubble
Slang for overloaded situational awareness. When pilots get caught up in a furball, for example, it is impossible for them to keep track of all the tactical factors simultaneously. This is called losing the bubble and the only way to compensate for this reduced SA is to narrow your focus to the nearest threats until you can extricate yourself from the situation.
This is the reverse of the High Yo-Yo (see above). Instead of pitching back first, you pitch forward first then back. The Low Yo-Yo is an offensive maneuver designed to close the lateral separation between an aggressor and his target.
Any engagement which has stagnated into a pure angles duel with neither fighter having a tactical advantage. When you are assessing threat priorities, Lufberries can be discounted. Also, if you are disengaged, enemy fighters caught in a Lufberry are prime targets because most of their maneuvering energy has already been depleted.
An aircraft at rest is not maneuverable. Therefore, maneuverability is a factor both of the performance characteristics of the aircraft and its energy state, both speed and altitude. Remember, maneuvering characteristics change with altitude (See also Envelope).
When two opposing aircraft complete a meeting engagement in the forward hemisphere. This may or may not be in a classic head to head pass.
Coordination and cooperation between two or more aircraft or Sections to enhance both offensive and defensive capabilities.
Maneuvers, either energy or angle dependent, designed to achieve a gunnery opportunity against a target.
A condition where the attacker fails to curtail his closure rate before completing a gunnery solution on the intended victim and flies out of the engagement zone. In the worst case scenario, the attacker's momentum carries them into the defender's engagement zone and the roles are reversed.
The closest point of approach between two opposing fighters. After range begins opening between the two, a "pass" has been completed. Many pilots also think in terms of an opportunity for a gun solution. A missed guns opportunity is also a missed pass.
Flying in and out of clouds to track an enemy formation while minimizing your own chance of counter-detection to hopefully maintain the element of Surprise for a subsequent attack. This is also known as "Porpoising."
Slang for the defensive spiral maneuver. He was "digging a post hole."
The group of aircraft to which fighter escort is being provided. These forces are mission critical and defending them is your primary responsibility.
Keeping your nose pointed at the objective aircraft while turning to close your range to that aircraft (See also Lag Pursuit and Lead Pursuit).
Rate of Turn
How rapidly an aircraft can change course. Rate of Turn is measured in degrees per second.
Inverting the roll of your aircraft 180 degrees suddenly to change the direction of your turn. This is a counter-offensive rolling maneuver generally designed to gain angle on a aggressor that has overshot, but it can also be used in Section tactics like Bracketing and Half Splits.
A series of vertical rolling maneuvers which usually result from a high speed overshoot where the defender tries to go vertical as well. Each aircraft is barrel rolling in the vertical plane to try and gain a stern attack position. Generally, the fighter which bleeds off energy the fastest is the most vulnerable in this situation, either when he hits the apex of the climb if he is in front, or when the higher energy fighter turns and descends on him if he is behind.
See Section below.
The common abbreviation for Situational Awareness. Piloting an aircraft can be task intensive, even when you are not in combat. Good SA skills means that a pilot keeps track of all the instrumentation he needs to monitor, always knows his position relative to friendly and enemy aircraft, and is thinking tactically to gain a position of advantage.
Slang for getting caught between a target and his wingman, or other enemy aircraft such that you are simultaneously in an offensive and defensive maneuvering condition.
A series of reversals designed to cause an attacking aircraft to overshoot and become the defender. The better turning aircraft usually wins the flat scissors (See also Rolling Scissors).
Two aircraft operating in mutual support as a tactical unit.
Multiple aircraft attacking the same target in succession. A Section engaging enemy bombers would be likely to use a Sequential attack to increase their chances of severely damaging or downing the targeted bomber on one pass.
If you dip a wing then apply opposite rudder, your aircraft will skid and pivot around the lowered wing. You use a skid at the top of a Wing Over maneuver (see below) but you can also use one to complicate an enemy's gun tracking solution.
An oblique Split-S is also known as a Slice.
A high deflection gunshot (see above) with a low probability of success. Snapshots are tactically important, even if they don't find their mark, because often they will have psychological impact on the one being shot at, making them a little less aggressive subsequently.
A Split-S is exactly the inverse of an Immelmann. You begin by rolling inverted then pull back on the stick. At the completion of the maneuver, you will be heading in the opposite direction at a much higher rate of speed and at an lower altitude. The Split-S was the classic escape maneuver for Bf-109's that had been bounced by a Spitfire because the latter could not fly inverted because it did not have a fuel injected carburetor.
Two or more aircraft or Sections operating in mutual support but separated vertically.
Tracking (Guns Tracking Solution)
A very low deflection gunshot from a classic attack position astern of the target with minimal relative motion.
See also Line Astern. The aircraft farthest back in a formation is known as the "Trailer."
See Axis above.
A formation for three aircraft which originated in the First World War. There is a lead aircraft followed by two trailers in triangular formation. The Luftwaffe only used the Vic during the Spanish war, although the British continued to employ it early in WWII as well until the pre-dominance of Section and Flight tactics were established.
When members of a formation cross each other's flight paths in a regular pattern. An offensive example of this tactic is the Thatch Weave.
The second pilot in a Section, usually but not always the junior man of the two pilots. The Wingman has primary responsibility as defensive lookout for the Section, freeing the Section Leader to concentrate on offensive responsibilities. If subsequent tactical maneuvers place the Wingman in better position to prosecute an attack, the Leader temporarily assumes the duties of wingman for that pilot until the attack is over or the formation disengages.
A Wing Over is performed by applying elevator at the top of a climb to kick the tail of the aircraft around the yaw axis and reverse direction back into a dive. To be done correctly, the aircraft should be at or near stall speed when you begin the turn. Do not do a Wing Over with an attacker in close quarters climbing after you as it makes you an easy shot. The most common tactical application of this maneuver is to set up a follow up pass after a prior diving attack. Wing Over's are energy-based maneuvers.