A dogfight, or dog fight, is an aerial battle between fighter aircraft conducted at close range. Modern terminology for air-to-air combat is air combat manoeuvring (ACM), which refers to tactical situations requiring the use of individual basic fighter maneuvers (BFM) to attack or evade one or more opponents. This differs from aerial warfare, which deals with the strategy involved in planning and executing various missions.
Dogfighting first occurred during the Mexican Revolution in 1913, shortly after the invention of the airplane. It was a component in every major war, though with steadily declining frequency, until the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s. Since then, longer-range weapons such as beyond-visual-range missiles have made dogfighting largely obsolete.
The term dogfight has been used for centuries to describe a melee: a fierce, fast-paced close quarters battle between two or more opponents. The term gained popularity during World War II, although its origin in air combat can be traced to the latter years of World War I. One of the first written references to the modern-day usage of the word was in an account of the death of Baron von Richthofen in The Graphic in May 1918: \"The Baron joined the mêlée, which, scattering into groups, developed into what our men call a dog fight\". On March 21, 1918, several British newspapers published an article by Frederic Cutlack, where the word was used in the modern sense: \"A patrol of seven Australian machines on Saturday met abot twenty of this circus [von Richthofen's] at 12,000 feet. Ten of the enemy dived to attack our men. A regular dog-fight ensued for half a minute.\"
British Brigadier General Hugh Trenchard ordered that all reconnaissance aircraft had to be supported by at least three fighters, creating the first use of tactical formations in the air. The Germans responded by forming Jastas, large squadrons of fighters solely dedicated to destroying enemy aircraft, under the supervision of Boelcke. Pilots who shot down five or more fighters became known as aces. One of the most famous dogfights, resulting in the death of Major Hawker, is described by the Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen,
By the end of the war, the underpowered machines from just ten years prior had been transformed into fairly powerful, swift, and heavily armed fighter planes, and the basic tactics for dogfighting had been laid down.
Airplane technology rapidly increased in sophistication after World War I. By 1936, dogfighting was thought to be a thing of the past, since aircraft were reaching top speeds of over 250 miles per hour (400 km/h). The experiences of the Spanish Civil War proved this theory was wrong.
The other stream of thought, which emerged primarily in Britain, Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United States was the belief the high speeds of modern combat aircraft and the g-forces imposed by aerial combat meant that dogfighting in the classic WWI sense would be impossible. Fighters such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109, the Supermarine Spitfire, the Yakovlev Yak-1, and the Curtiss P-40 were all designed for high speeds and a good rate of climb. Good maneuverability was not a primary objective.
Immediately following the Spanish Civil War came World War II, during which dogfighting was most prevalent. It was widely believed that strategic bombing alone was synonymous with air power; a fallacy that would not be fully understood until Vietnam. After the failings in Spain, a greater emphasis was placed on the accuracy of air-to-ground attacks. The need to stop bombers from reaching their targets, or to protect them on their missions, was the primary purpose for most dogfights of the era.
During this time, three new Russian fighters, the LaGG-1, the Yak-1, and the MiG-3 were just coming off of the production line. The Soviet Air Defense Force had been fraught with problems since World War I. The German Barbarossa offensive on June 22, 1941, destroyed more than 2000 Soviet aircraft on the first day, and more than 5000 before October. With great desperation, the Soviets fought in dogfights over Leningrad, Moscow, and Ukraine for more than a year.
The Second Sino-Japanese War began on June 7, 1937, between China and Japan. The Japanese used the Mitsubishi A5M; the predecessor of the famous \"Zero\", which was a very lightweight and maneuverable fighter. The Chinese mainly used Russian biplanes similar to those from WWI, such as the Polikarpov I-15 and early monoplanes such as I-16. Despite being much lower in power and speed than the Japanese planes, the Chinese planes were much more maneuverable, and many dogfights ensued, resulting in high losses reported on both sides. Reports of dogfights that made it to the U.S. military provided valuable insight into the Japanese tactics and their plane's flight characteristics.
Technology advanced extremely fast during World War II in ways that would change dogfighting forever. Jet propulsion had been demonstrated long before the war, by German engineer Hans von Ohain in 1934, and by British engineer Frank Whittle in 1937. The Messerschmitt Me 262 was the first jet fighter to be used in battle, with a speed over 500 mph (800 km/h), and began taking a toll on Allied bombing missions in 1944. The British were testing a jet that same year, the Gloster Meteor, which would later see action in the Korean War. Although U.S. General Hap Arnold test flew the XP-59A in 1942, the plane was never used in combat. Other prime inventions of the era include radar and air-to-air missiles.
The Chinese were very competent in a dogfight, and large swirling battles were fought in the skies over Korea. However, it was highly suspected by many U.S. pilots that some of the opponents they faced over Korea were in fact well-trained Soviet pilots, whom the Americans referred to as \"hanchos\", (a Japanese word, meaning \"bosses\"). Major Robinson Risner recalls,
By this time, dogfighting techniques had fallen out of favor in U.S. training doctrines, as missiles were considered to be all that was necessary to shoot down the big bombers expected to be deployed by the Soviet Union. As a result, air combat methods known by fighter pilots since World War I became all but lost as veterans from WWII and Korea retired and didn't pass them on to succeeding generations. American fighter pilots would meet in the skies in secret to engage in mock combat to try to maintain some level of proficiency. It wasn't until TOPGUN was established for the Navy in 1969 and Red Flag was started for the Air Force in 1975 that pilots were formally trained in dogfighting again.
The wars began with both sides using propeller planes, such as Spitfires, Avia S-199s, and P-51s, then progressed to older jets like MiG-15s, Dassault Mysteres and Dassault Mirages. In the latter wars dogfighting ensued between modern aircraft, like F-15s and F-16s against MiG-21s and MiG-25s. Although usually outnumbered, the Israelis managed to defeat the air forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria in dogfights, often achieving kill ratios ranging from 10:1 to over 20:1, which is usually attributed to better training of the Israeli pilots and a technological advantage.
The Falklands War began on April 2, 1982, when Argentina invaded the Falkland islands, and then the island of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, which were small disputed dependencies. Because Britain had no military bases nearby and few aircraft carriers, the Argentinians did not expect a response from Britain. On April 5, the British sent carriers to the Falklands with Sea Harrier 'Jump-jets' on board. The Harrier was originally designed as a ground-attack plane, and was not equipped for dogfighting, so the aircraft had to undergo many modifications and the pilots given extra training.
The Argentinians had superior numbers, but their forces mainly consisted of older jets from the 1960s, such as Dassault Mirage IIIs and Israeli Daggers. The Argentinians were also handicapped by the long distance from mainland airfields and a lack of refuelling tankers. Neither side was ready for war, but both prepared all through April as diplomacy failed. The fighting started on May 1, and was to become the largest naval and air conflict since World War II. By the end of the war, Argentina lost 20 fighters in dogfights, while Britain lost two Sea Harrier to ground fire. The Americans supplied late model Sidewinder missiles to the British; this and the analysis of French Mirage combat tactics made the difference. As of March 2019 David Morgan was the last British pilot to have fought a dogfight when he downed two Argentinian jets on June 8, 1982.
During the Balkans conflict, in 1999 (the Kosovo War), five MiG-29s of the Yugoslav Air Force were shot down in dogfights with NATO aircraft. The first was on March 24, by a Dutch F-16AM Falcon, and two were downed on the same night by U.S. F-15s. A day later, two more MiG-29s were shot down by an F-16 and F-15.
A dogfight between Indian and Pakistani jets took place on 27 February 2019, when Pakistani Dassault Mirage Vs, Dassault Mirage IIIs and JF-17 Thunders performed airstrikes near Indian military installations at Indian Administered Kashmir in retaliation to the Balakot Airstrike, which was carried out by the IAF on 26 February 2019.
In the ensuing dogfight, an Indian MiG-21 Bison and an Su-30MKI were shot down by Pakistani F-16s after they entered Pakistani airspace across the Line of Control, although India later on reportedly flew the same Su-30MKI on its Air Force Day in October 2019.
The Russo-Ukrainian War in 2022 became the first conflict in two decades to feature large-scale aerial warfare, including dogfights. Despite this, dogfights still remain rare, with most aircraft losses being due to the use of S-300 surface-to-air missile systems, guided missiles, and other such weapons. 59ce067264