…or Dissimilar Air Combat Training. There are myriad reasons why you would want to train against and hone your air combat skills against different aircraft, the primary one being you never know what sort of aircraft you will come up against in the air combat arena.
As I said in my book 99 CAMELOTS, another reason is that
…different aircraft have difference performance characteristics. Things like turn rate and radius, energy management, available g, aircraft size and weight and tactics can all affect how you will fly and fight against them. As the old saying goes, you fight like you train and the experience gained by fighting against dissimilar aircraft was essential in creating a successful tactical Tomcat crew. These experiences are passed down from crew to crew, from the experienced hands in the squadron to the nuggets, or new aircrew.
The back story to these photos dates back to 1974. My dad was then the commanding officer of VF-43, a squadron of A-4 and TA-4J/F aircraft based at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach with a mission of providing “bogey” or aggressor/adversary aircraft for the F-4 and later F-14 fighters on the east coast. Basically, an east-coast TOPGUN without the classroom element. My dad and his pilots would be the “bad guys” for our “good guys” to train/fly against.
Sometimes other aircraft in need of air combat training would give them a call to set up dogfighting exercises.
In these pictures, an F-4 from VF-21 based at NAS Miramar in San Diego is in formation with a Langley Air Force Base 48th Fighter Interceptor Squadron F-106A and a NAS Oceana TA-4F from VF-43. There was no doubt some flinging of aircraft around the sky with great abandon would/did occur at some point, working on those air intercept and dogfight skills – one-circle fight or will it be a two-circle? Go high? Stay low? What does the situation give me? Will it be an energy fight or an angles fight? What is the turn rate and radii of the other aircraft? Fuel states! Should I look for a bug out to live to fight another day or stay and fight it out? All these and a dozen more questions are part and parcel of air combat training.
The Air Force F-106A was a not bad aircraft in the initial stages of the air combat arena but when it lost energy, when it lost whatever speed advantage it may have at the merge that big delta wing and the size of the aircraft left it in a hurt locker. The single J-75 engine only gave it about 17,5000 lbs of thrust. That engine on an aircraft that weighed 30,000+ lbs did not give it a very good air combat thrust-to-weight ratio. Compare that to the 43,000 full afterburner thrust coming out of today’s 49,000 lb F-35 Lightning II engine – close to a 1:1 thrust ratio.
In the mid 70s the F-106s were being transferred to the Air National Guard and their job of USAF air defense/interceptor was being taken over by the then-new F-15 Eagle. The F-106 was pretty much a pure interceptor – take off, go real fast, shoot the bad guys with missiles then go home. The F-15 was more of a fighter/interceptor, able to mix it up more with the enemy if needed. This was one reason why the Air Force F-106 dudes wanted more experience at dog-fighting with dissimilar aircraft like VF-43’s Skyhawks.