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Post Flying Enemy Aircraft on Combat Maneuvers
Created by John Eipper on 03/25/17 4:36 AM

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Flying Enemy Aircraft on Combat Maneuvers (Michael Sullivan, USA, 03/25/17 4:36 am)

To answer John E's question of March 24th, I spent a 35-year career training as the "friendly fighter" starting in F9F Panthers and Cougars, continuing on up through the years in F-3D Skynights, F-6A Skyrays, F-8 Crusaders, F-4 Phantoms, F-18 Hornets and Harriers. All my adversary (bogey) time, which was about 200 hours, was flying as the "bad guy" in the A-4 Skyhawk.

But we fought similar and dissimilar air combat maneuvering against other frontline aircraft much more often than we fought "adversary" aircraft, as there just weren't enough of these aircraft to go around. We enjoyed the competition so much while "dog fighting," and pilots would beg to get scheduled for theses sorties. Pilot reputations are built around these sorties, but as the old adage goes, the first pilot to the blackboard or the bar after the sortie always says he won the fight! But with the advent of the Air Combat Maneuvering Ranges around the country, it's all recorded electronically so it's all there in 3D and it's documented in living color frame by frame who won the fight!

One of the best training programs we had was during the Vietnam War was that the US clandestinely procured three or four different types of Russian fighters midway through the conflict and we'd fly up to a special area where they were kept and get familiarization sorties against them where you could compare the differences in acceleration, turn capability, Gs available at certain air speeds and altitudes and slow speed, high angle of attack maneuvers. It was a realistic, highly classified program and it was the actual type of enemy aircraft that you'd be facing in Vietnam. I remember the first time I joined up close on a MiG-21 over the Nevada desert and saw the Red Stars painted on it my heart rate jumped several beats! Today you can buy the latest, frontline Russian, American, Chinese and other countries fighters on the open market!

JE comments: I wonder how the US procured those Soviet aircraft during the height of the Cold War.  Even then, one assumes, you could get your hands on pretty much anything if your pockets were deep enough.  Or were they recovered and repaired wrecks?  Cuban defectors?

It must have been especially terrifying to fly a red-starred MiG over Nevada. Suppose another US pilot (or radar operator) wasn't in on the game, and assumed an imminent invasion?

Another great aviation story from General Sullivan!

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  • Soviet MiGs with the US Marines (Michael Sullivan, USA 03/25/17 2:51 PM)
    To address John E's questions on my earlier post (25 March), the word I got was that the Russian jets we trained against came from Eastern European Soviet bloc countries via defectors and with a hefty price for the defecting pilot. What impressed the US the most was the mechanical reliability of those jets, as you could fly them sortie after sortie with no maintenance gripes--maybe a tire change or a new set of brakes after 50 sorties. They were basic Generation 2 and 3 aircraft, but it's still very impressive.

    Today the US has two Generation 5 aircraft. The Air Force's F-22 which is fully operational (only 187 built), and the F-35 which is coming into service now with two Marine F-35B squadrons and one Air Force F-35A squadron declared operational.

    The total F-35A, B, C buy for the US is supposed to be 2,443 as it will become the mainstay of our fighter/attack capability for the next 30 years, while the rest of our front-line fighters today are Generation 4 and will be replaced as the F-35 comes on line. Many of our Generation 4 fighters are 25-30 years old and very hard to maintain. My son is flying the same F-18C Hornets I flew 25 years ago!

    Today's Russian Generation 4 aircraft (they're now developing a Generation 5 fighter, PAK FA or T-50), are plagued with mechanical problems as compared to their older MiG-17, MiG-19 and the MiG-21 used in Vietnam.

    JE comments: They never seem to make 'em like they used to. The MiG-21 might be called the Kalashnikov of the Air--reliable, long-lived, deadly, and ubiquitous. Wikipedia tells us that ISIS/ISIL has some 19 of them under its control, at least one of which is operational. Can anyone confirm?

    (I thought I was being original, but the Boston Globe made the AK-47 comparison some years ago:  http://archive.boston.com/news/world/europe/articles/2008/12/14/soviet_mig_21_jet_fighter_approaches_its_twilight_years/ )

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