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

Unread postPosted: 24 May 2019, 22:40
by firebase99
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.

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

Unread postPosted: 01 Sep 2019, 09:13
by Fox1
It was a great read indeed! Too often we get caught up in the 1v1 visual range engagement when trying to compare one aircraft against another. But in truth, aircraft never fight other aircraft. It is the men (and women) flying them, the ground crews maintaining them, their training, doctrine, support assets, the quality of their weapons systems, logistics and so forth that really matter. While today there are potential adversaries out there equipped with fighters that could seriously challenge our own in 1v1 scenarios, I feel confident that there isn't another air force on the planet that can match the U.S in terms of what we can bring to the fight overall. The individual aircraft are just that. It is the entire system working in unison that determines success. Nobody else does as many things so well as we do. As long as that remains true, I think we'll be just fine.

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

Unread postPosted: 02 Sep 2019, 09:53
by boilermaker
Lest we forget, the biggest killer in Vietnam wasSam's. Which of the two would do best against Sam's. As ananecdote, an Iraqi Mig managed to hit a F15 whose missiles were not functioning and got caught. The aircraft survived the engagement with one engine. The F15 is much more robust than the F16. I think I would rather fight in it.

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

Unread postPosted: 02 Sep 2019, 12:45
by basher54321
Nearly - pretty certain that AAA and Small Arms were the biggest fixed wing killers - will post a chart later.

Edit - Actually too big: See from p77 here ... rative.pdf

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

Unread postPosted: 04 Sep 2019, 13:46
by zero-one
My main take away from Meteor's post is that its the man in the box that matters.
My question is, will superior training and tactics make up for lackluster equipment.

There is an argument along the lines of, highly trained pilots in 4th gens will trump average pilots on 5th gens. And because 5th gens are so expensive to procure and operate and because their availability rates are lower than 4th gens. 5th gen pilots may have less training hours than 4th gen pilots.

Personally I have dismissed such arguments by saying that F-22 pilots have demonstrably wiped out a plethora of 4th gens with little difficulty.

But upon reading the post by Meteor, I'm thinking they may have a point. So far the F-22/35 have been spectacular but only in simulated air combat.

Can Russia and China close the technological gap with more training and better tactics. Is the extreme high cost of a 5th gen fighter program justifiable if another country can simply spend more time in training and developing tactics to close the gap substantially.

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

Unread postPosted: 04 Sep 2019, 20:21
by basher54321
Take as given that the name of the game is to find ways to overcome or get around an adversaries perceived advantages.

With their own VLO type fighters China is could be part of an exclusive club that gets to try 5 Gen Air warfare and create new and appropriate tactics for that.