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A2A Wingman Tactics: Part II
by Dan "Crash" Crenshaw


The Single Side Offset Intercept

The single side Offset Intercept can begin at virtually any distance beyond 15 NM. The object here is to get outside of the enemy radar cone and prevent them from detecting your flight until you have launched on them within high Pk (Probability of Kill) parameters. This maneuver has become increasingly difficult as radar becomes better and the introduction of JSTARS/AWACS style information availability.

"But the positive aspect is maintaining formation integrity and isolating the threat to one side. Plus you can get a good altitude split in your formation and still do an excellent SSO Intercept." Major Robey Price USAFR

a) At the call from the wing leader, the flight will put the bandit contacts at a 20 to 55 degree offset (the more altitude difference between you and the bandits, the less off set required).

"In the F-16 we did "no lock" intercepts such as you're describing using 30 to 40 degrees of offset. Hold the contact there until 10 miles then go pure pursuit (look through the HUD for the Tally)." Major Robey Price USAFR

If you have already obtained a passive lock, you may pull to the higher end of this scale. Do not actually lock onto any of the bandits at this time, as this will alert them of your presence. You may wish to "sample". "SAMPLING" is very short radar locks to ascertain altitude and airspeed (closure). The outside aircraft should set the angle to prevent exceeding the radar gimbal limits. It is recommended that the lead take the inside position even if this requires a cross over maneuver. Flight lead could take the outside position, which would give him better control over off set angle, however .

F15 Break Turn

"Lead taking the outside...maybe...but this forces the wingman to look Inside of the offset for the bandits and then look back outside to maintain the Visual on Lead. However you might permit #2 to drift inside to maintain radar coverage (same problem). I always wanted #2 on the outside to clear my 6 and if he loses the radar contact then he follows me to the merge while clearing my 6." Major Robey Price USAFR

b) During this phase, a separation of 5000 feet or so should be affected between your element and the bandits. This allows turning room and introduces more decisions for the bandits to make as well and make you more difficult to spot. You should also determine targets for each fighter. Based on the formation and the likely formations available to the bandits, the inside fighter should most likely take the lead bandit while the outside aircraft takes the trailing bandit.

"Simple game plan ...well sort of simple. High tech bandits with less than 8 NM between Lead and Trail go for the Trailers. High tech bandits with more than 8 NM separation go for the Lead element." Major Robey Price USAFR

c) The outside fighter will actually pull ahead of the 3/9 line of the inside aircraft. Do not reduce power to maintain a "line abreast" formation. Neither should the inside fighter power up. As the break into pure pursuit is made, the fighter will naturally come back into position.

d) At 8 to 12 NM, pure pursuit should be initiated turn into the bandits. Put the bandits on the nose, look through the HUD to get a Tally. By this point, you should have decided who will attack what bandit. The Bandit will be on your nose and your merge will be in the 3/9 line area of the bandit. Exactly how far back will depend on closure speed and how late you break into Pure Pursuit. You want to make your merge behind the 3/9 line. This should give you the advantage of first shot. (In SU-27 version 1.5, it is very difficult to hold a lock on a bandit that is "BEAMING" you - showing you his 3/9 line. A Low Aspect merge, rear quarter, is desirable in this situation.)

Counters to the Offset Intercept.

The Offset Intercept is very flexible for countering bandit maneuvers. Normally if the bandits Drag or Flank, the intercept may continue by simply checking further into an Offset.

The most difficult counter to the Offset to defend against is the Wide Pincer Maneuver. Basically a wide split maneuver, a pretty solid defense is to have the inside fighter follow the farthest bandit to a Pure Pursuit. This could leave the fighter vulnerable to attack from the near bandit. It is therefore critical that the outside attacking fighter "center the dot" on the near bandit for a minimum time intercept.

An alternate counter for this is a Wide Split for the intercepting fighter to attack the near bandit. If there is a 10NM spread between the bandits, this would give you 30 seconds or so to "double team" the near bandit and get the kill so you could then turn on the second bandit at 2 to 1 odds. This can even be turned into a feint, so that the inside fighter maintains his lock on the far bandit as he heads for the near bandit. Once the other fighter launches at the near bandit, the inside fighter turns on the incoming bandit. This must be a clean break.

Bandits that turn into the Single Side Offset attack may be countered by moving into a visual bracket. Which if you already have the proper altitude split works very easily.

Advantages to the Single Sided Offset Intercept are:

Outside wingman can visually support inside wingman.
Quick and easy response to bandit maneuvers.

Disadvantages of the Single Side Offset Intercept maneuver are:

Single axis entry. Defensive reaction by bandits negates positional advantages. Bandits will have easier time of locating interceptors, both visually and by RADAR. Inside wingman may be forced into trail at pure pursuit ranges. (Just behind other aircraft in combat range). Inside wingman can not visually support outside wingman. ("The reason I want #2 on the outside clearing my 6, while looking in my direction for the Tally on the bandit." Major Robey Price USAFR)

Inside Out Maneuver

The Inside Out option is useful for Close Range situations when you are committed to conflict with bandits bracketing and you have no time to out flank the bracket. This is NOT recommended as a primary intercept plan.

When faced with a short-range bracket attack with a spread of a minimum of 7 NM, the Inside Out option can be attempted. If you attempt this maneuver with a spread of less than 7 NM, you will leave yourself exposed to a cross shot while you have no visual or radar [contact] of your attacker. If there is not at least 7 NM separation, consider an Offset to one side and leapfrog to the other bandit after your initial kill.

If you chose an inside out maneuver, you have 2 options:

Turn towards one group or side of bandit. This will threaten those bandits and may force a reaction. This may instigate a turning fight at the merge. You must be very careful when, and if you enter this fight. A mis-calculation could expose you to a belly or 6 shot from the opposing side bandit. ("As he makes a blind side entry...a thing of beauty." Major Robey Price USAFR)

The second option is to maintain your course. This may lull the bandits into the assumption that they have not been detected. This may draw them into weapons parameter. However, the bandits may then have time to set up their own intercept. (Not good against human opponents!)

Since the Inside Out maneuver maintains the formation in close proximity, you are able to counter most bandit initiated maneuvers. A drag or flank attempt can easily be countered by maintaining formation and altering heading accordingly.

If the bandit formation collapses but maintains a nose on aspect, the Inside Out intercept will not work and you should make a transition to a bracket maneuver or look for as much vertical separation as possible. If the collapse is beyond 20 NM, a full bracket may be initiated. The Inside Out is also a backup to the Bracket. If at 15 NM during a bracket maneuver, the Bandit Split is too wide, an Inside Out maneuver may be initiated.

If the bandit formation collapses within 15 NM, a visual offset for a quick bracket could be attempted. Do not make a hard break or you will expose yourself to a launch. The idea here is to create as much turning room as possible before the merge.

F4 MiG 29 F4 Su25

Advantages to the Inside Out Maneuver:

a) Intentions are hidden until very late in the intercept.
b) Quick counters to Drag and Flank maneuvers.
c) Visual can be maintained all the way into pure pursuit.

Disadvantages to the Inside Out Maneuver:

a) Threat may pince the formation.
b) Flight path is predictable until close range (10 NM)
c) Mutual support becomes very difficult in Pure Pursuit and close combat range.
d) It is possible to give the bandits turning room or a clean belly/6 shot.

With these 3 maneuvers, there is a multitude of variations possible. Altitude variants, splits, use of terrain features are only a few of the parameters that can be used to create hybrids. There are several more common variants included in different simulations. The most common and useful variant is the Drag, affectionately know as the "Drag and Bag". Make sure you use brevity code words in the heat of battle and just say Drag as the command of execution. During this maneuver, one fighter (or flight of 2) will decoy the bandits into following them. Usually a wide turn, locking up the bandits and engaging ECM will get their attention.

As this is going on, the other flight will turn the RADAR off or to STANDBY (STBY), usually gain altitude and try to gain an undetected entry. As these two maneuvers coincide, the "Draggers" will regain visual mutual support and a safe distance from the bandits with room to run or re-enter the fight, while the "Baggers" maneuver in for a 6 shot and then re-engage RADAR. By the time the bandits know what is happening, they have been targeted, they go defensive and the "Draggers" can turn to engage. More often than not, by the time the decoys hook up with the "Baggers", the bandits are "morts" (dead). In the event that the "Baggers" are detected, they can drag and the Decoys can turn and become the "Baggers". Once the bandits have a Tally on a "Bagger" or team of "Baggers" , the bandits usually direct their full attention to them due to their close proximity.

" My Squadrons would use a sliceback or pitchback maneuver to head approx 135 from our original heading. This isn't a Beam/Flank but it doesn't head straight back toward the trailing Fighters either. I don't recommend trying to Drag once you've merged. If the Fighters elect to "Blow Through" a merge they should have a plan. Our plan was always fairly simple...Get Low, Get Fast, Get Line Abreast (for visual mutual support.)" Major Robey Price USAFR

Fighter Squadron: TYPHOON

There you have a basic, in a nutshell, set of guidelines to use for Intercept Flights with LAN or Internet wingmen. Again, this is by no means definitive, but a basic schooling. So now what? You have made the merge, you have missed your target, you are moving to slow to "BLOW THROUGH"? The Meat and Potatoes of Air Combat the "Knife Fight". What are a wingman's duties in this situation? First, you must maintain composure in an arena of inmense Task Saturation. There is so much happening so fast and with a 4-ship flight, it is geometrically worse. You primary duties in a "Knife Fight" is a rather short list. After some discussions with Major Robey Price USAFR, I decided that his words summed it up rather nicely:

"Rule #1-Wingmen support their Flight/Element Lead by clearing his 6 and positioning themselves to kill their Lead's bandit if the Lead loses the advantage and becomes threatened. (This IS NOT like 12 guys in WB all chasing a single bandit) It's #2 getting above the turning fight were he can watch Lead's 6 and immediately point at the bandit if Lead makes a mistake and finds himself on the defensive.

Rule #2-Wingmen stay with their Flight/Element Lead. Wing should request permission to engage [this is so we don't waste missiles and ensures at least one set of eyes is checking 6] UNLESS they become threatened and are engaged defensive. At that point defend yourself and kill your bandit."

Other than these basic guidelines, use your BFM to the best of your ability. There are several good books and video's available to learn more about single fighter BFM (The Art of the Kill is an excellent source). But just to get you started we have a few last words of wisdom from Major Price:

Kill 'em before the merge. If that fails there are three basic things you need for a gun kill:

You must be in range.
You must have your nose/gun out in lead pursuit.
For a "tracking" gun kill where you are "saddled up," you must be in plane with the bandit.

In the F-16, BFM was distilled into two questions (since we could out-turn everybody then). Am I inside his turn circle? If YES...Kill him. If NO...see question 2.

How do I get inside his turn circle? Fly to the "elbow" or control zone (don't just point at the bandit and try to spear him with your pitot boom.) Align your fuselage with his and go kill him."

With practice of these maneuvers as well as communications, you can master these techniques and make your LAN/Internet sessions much more enjoyable, satisfying , successful and exciting.

Good luck and good hunting.

Dan "CRASH" Crenshaw 209th VFS Delta Hawks

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