F-16A vs F-15A in BFM performance.

Agreed, it will never be a fair fight but how would the F-16 match up against the ... ?
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Unread post24 May 2019, 22:40

Meteor wrote:I flew the F-16A from 1983-1988, after which I transitioned to the F-16C. During my "A" time I flew a lot against the F-15A in Europe and in the Pacific, and later on at Nellis and Luke.

The conversation in a lot of these threads revolves around detailed discussions of theoretical aircraft performance derived from the perusal of various EM diagrams. News break: In the real world, (even in training), that almost never happens. The single greatest variable in air-to-air combat is the pilot, not the aircraft. I've watched a highly experienced (4000 hour) Vietnam vet flying an F-4E wear down a lesser pilot in an F-16A, and eventually guns kill him. I was a highly experienced FWS grad, SEFE, RTU IP, FCF pilot, etc., but at one time or another, I think I was shot by just about every fighter in the NATO inventory, and I returned the favor. Rarely, if ever, was I perfectly matched against another identically prepared adversary and aircraft.

When training in an operational unit, we rarely did DBFM. On those occasions where we could successfully arrange dissimilar training with another unit, both sides wanted to "train like you'll fight." We didn't plan to meet a MiG-23 or Su-27 or Mirage F-1 in a 1v1 engagement, in perfect weather, outside of any SAM ring, in clean configuration, within a short flying distance of both of our runways. We did think that we'd be an egressing 4-ship at 300' AGL and 540 knots, low on fuel, with empty TERs, empty 370s, and an ALQ-131 on the centerline. We did think that all of a sudden we'd cross a ridgeline and find ourselves blundering into a cloud of MiGs. So we're in an air-to-ground configuration with maybe an AIM-9P or AIM-9L onboard, low on gas, in the weeds, with people on the ground shooting at us too. Now THAT is a real air-to-air scenario, and THAT is what we trained for.

I've flown DACT in everything from 2v2 exercises to 16 v X at Red Flag, Team Spirit, etc. My plan was always to remain as fast as possible, yes, even above corner speed. If I turned more than 90 degrees, my personal alarm bells started going off, and if I turned more than 180 degrees and hadn't gotten a kill, I started looking for a way to bug out. Flying 2v4 against the Aggressor F-5Es, I'd take my element to the merge at 600 KIAS or 1.15 mach, (hence my callsign), while the F-5s would be at 450 KIAS and .85. We'd kill two at the merge, never turn more than 90 degrees, and separate. I don't recall an occasion where either of us ever got shot, and we almost always got at least one F-5, if not two. That is real training.

I spent three years as a squadron weapons officer at the Luke RTU. There we actually DID do DBFM for student training. They flew against the AT-38 (and got shot), the A-7 (and got shot), the F-4D (and got shot), the F-14 (and got shot), the F-18 (and got shot), the A-4 (and got shot), the Kfir (and got shot)….well, you get the idea. It was all about the pilot, not the aircraft.

So here is where I finally get to the F-15A v F-16A question. As an RTU IP, I occasionally DID get to fly the hypothetical 1v1 air-to-air scenario I mentioned above. I flew against an F-15A squadron weapons officer that had gone through FWIC at the same time I had, we had both flown F-4s previously, we were both in clean jets, the weather was Arizona perfect, and we were both the same distance from the warm dry runway. We would do "butterfly" neutral setups, and both be limited to AIM-9P and guns, so it was truly an energy maneuvering fight. As long as I didn't screw it up and get too slow, the F-16A would usually beat the F-15A in probably 75%-80% of the engagements. However, as stated above, while that might be good for beers at the bar, it really had nothing to do with real world air-to-air.

In real world DACT (not DBFM), I was very glad that the F-15s were on our side. I've flown 4v2 out over the water against the F-15s from the 33rd at Eglin, and they kicked our butts. The four of us were all experienced IPs with 1000-2000 hours in the jet, but we rarely even got to visually acquire the TTBPs, much less survive to the merge. We'd usually fly the first two engagements "full up", with our 4xAIM-9L vs their 4xAIM-9L plus their 4xAIM-7M. It wasn't pretty. Then, so that we wouldn't sulk and would come back and play with them the next day, they'd restrict themselves to 4xAIM-9P on the last engagement. (That was a lot more fun for us...)

I also flew "red air" for an F-15A ORI. On the first day, they launched real ZULU alert birds out to intercept us 200 miles out over the ocean. It was pretty impressive to watch them come thundering out at 1.4 mach at 45K, then pull up alongside us with 8 live missiles hanging underneath. I felt like a high school receiver being run down by an NFL linebacker. I'm glad they were on our side.

Conclusion of this overly long message (too much vino tonight); the F-16A was generally a better WVR dogfighter than an F-15A. Flown by equally capable pilots, the F-16A would probably win. That being said, in a REAL world, night, IMC, jamming, many v many scenario, the F-16A would likely not make it to the merge against an F-15A.

What a great read, thank you.

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