Aerial combat tactics

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The air combat tactics deals with the planned achievement of advantages in air combat .

Air combat tactics in the First World War

Before and at the beginning of the First World War , the early military aircraft were mainly used for enemy reconnaissance. But soon the first fighting between aircraft took place. At first, carbines or even pistols were shot at each other. Then they began to equip two-seat aircraft with a pivoting machine gun for the observer. However, one can only speak of the development of aerial combat tactics with the introduction of the forward-firing machine guns. Now it was possible to curve out the enemy and get into a favorable shooting position. This was the beginning of the development of the fighter aircraft and considerations for their combat tactics.

At around the same time, aircraft bombs began to be dropped. At first this was done by hand, but soon a release mechanism was introduced. This gave rise to another special type of aircraft, the bomber , and suitable combat tactics were also developed for this type of aircraft in order to ensure the most efficient use possible.

On the German side, it was the aviators Max Immelmann and Oswald Boelcke who formulated their experience and their approach in aerial combat into a generally applicable tactic, which was then systematically taught. Some of these principles are still valid today.

The Dicta Boelcke

Boelcke carefully trained his pilots and carefully observed their behavior in aerial combat in order to further improve their performance.

He summarized the most important rules in the Dicta Boelcke :

  1. Get the advantages of aerial combat (speed, altitude, element of surprise, numerical superiority, position) before attacking. Always attack from the sun.
  2. If you started the attack, finish it.
  3. Fire the MG at close range and only when you have the enemy safely in your sights.
  4. Do not take your eyes off the opponent.
  5. Any form of attack requires approaching the enemy from behind.
  6. If the enemy attacks you while diving, do not try to evade the attack, but instead turn towards the attacker.
  7. When you are above enemy lines, always keep an eye on your own retreat.
  8. For relays: In principle, only attack in groups of 4 to 6. If the fight is split up into one-on-one skirmishes, make sure that not many comrades pounce on an opponent.

Air combat tactics in World War II

The era of the biplane ended in the Second World War , and cantilever all-metal monoplane was now the rule. The engine power increased sharply, the aircraft became faster. The double-decker fighters in World War I reached a maximum of 200 km / h, at the beginning of the Second World War the fighters flew around 500 km / h. In 1945 piston engine aircraft reached speeds of over 700 km / h. Thanks to the all-metal design, they were also better protected against bullets, more aerodynamically favorable and much more torsion-resistant than the fabric-covered double-deckers. This enabled higher falling speeds, bomb loads , accelerations and g-loads , but maneuverability and maritime applications were reduced due to the massive increase in weight.

The principles of Dicta Boelcke remained in principle, but were supplemented by some new tactics and flight maneuvers, such as the swarm , which had been developed by the German pilots Günther Lützow and Werner Mölders during the Spanish Civil War .

Air combat tactics with guided weapons

Shortly after the war, the development of guided air-to-air missiles began . The first operational guided missiles were equipped with infrared seekers and were only suitable for short distances (<5 km). In the 1970s, radar-guided air-to-air missiles were developed with which new long-range radars could be used for the first time to fight targets out of sight (up to 50 km).

See also