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what if no "top Gun" program during the vietnam war

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  • what if no "top Gun" program during the vietnam war

    What if both air force and navy did not digest the lessons of air combat in vietnam and no top gun program was created

    Also no fighters in the class of F-16 and F-15 are created

    Infact navy opts for the F-14 and the airforce for another specialized interceptor ala Arrow or a more sophisticated F-106

    The F-4 continues to soldier on as a tactical fighter-bomber

    what would have been the affect on soviet or US fighter designs in the 80s and 90s ? and more importantly on the air combat doctrine of the 70s and 80s

  • #2
    The F-14 was the last in a line of long range missile "fleet defense" fighters that the US Navy created. This line starts with the F3H Demon, then the F-4 Phantom, and next, the F-14. In this sense, the USN was very consistent in developing a line of fighters for a specific purpose.

    The USAF on the other hand had more varied needs. The F-102 and 106 were defensive interceptors for all-weather attacks against expected Soviet intercontinental bombers. That threat never materialized.
    The follow-on to it was the F-108 Rapier



    or more extreme, the F-12



    These planes were to carry the Hughes AIM 47 Falcon, the predecessor to the AIM 54 Phoenix

    The USN also knew that they needed a day fighter to replace the F8U Crusader. I'd expect them to develop something like the F8 Crusader II



    Unlike the USAF, the USN didn't completely move away from gun and short-ranged missile fighters. The F-4 Phantom was the Fleet Defense fighter and expected to be more of a missile platform against targets you needed no visual confirmation on as their engagement environment would be out to sea.
    The USAF adopted the F-4 because their own programs got ungodly expensive and out of hand. The only reason the F-16 got bought was a fluke due mostly to John Boyd and the "Fighter Mafia" at the Pentagon at the time. It was not a popular plane with the Generals.

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    • #3
      I don't think that the basis of this thread is accurate

      The Vietnam Air War’s Great Kill-Ratio Debate ... data shows that American fighter planes performed poorly vs. the enemy early in the war—or does it?

      http://www.historynet.com/great-kill-ratio-debate.htm


      The North Vietnamese Buildup

      During this period, the North Vietnamese air force was building an extensive ground radar network while its pilots slowly acquired experience with their new MiG-17s. Acting cautiously, Hanoi refused to commit its fighters to combat unless the odds were stacked in their favor. Only 28 North Vietnamese planes were lost in combat with U.S. aircraft during the 1964-66 period.

      The U.S. Air Force’s first kills of the war occurred on July 7, 1965, when two MiG-17s attacked a pair of F-4C Phantom II fighter-bombers, which used their superior speed and rate of climb to reverse position on the MiGs, a tactic incorporated into the Navy’s Topgun program four years later.

      At the end of this period, the North Vietnamese began flying the improved MiG-21, setting up the next phase of the air war.

      Going Head to Head

      By early 1967, North Vietnamese pilots felt confident they could go head-to-head with U.S. airmen in a straight-up fight. They were gravely mistaken.

      The year started with Operation Bolo, where Col. Robin Olds’ 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, equipped with F-4 Phantoms, set up an ambush by imitating the routes, call signs and even radar-jamming pods that F-105D Thunderchiefs used on their way to bomb targets in North Vietnam. When the North Vietnamese MiG-21s came up to intercept the “Thunderchiefs,” they were surprised to meet Phantoms equipped with missiles for air-to-air combat, instead of the bomb-laden F-105Ds they were expecting. In that engagement, on Jan. 2, Olds’ crews claimed seven MiG-21 kills without a loss.

      So, going from a 10-1 kill ratio in Korea to an apparent 2-1 in Vietnam might look like a problem at first, but as is the case with everything from that war; beware of spin.
      "Why is the Rum gone?"

      -Captain Jack

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      • #4
        By all accounts, including those of Col. Olds, the F4 performed poorly in the opening stages of Viet Nam, and the pilots demanded the return of a gun system due to the poor performance of the AAM's in use at the time. It certainly didn't help that the F4 left a dark smoke tail that could be seen for many miles by enemy fighters.

        The Phantom was essentially an attempt to turn a dump truck into an air-to-air superiority fighter when it was much better suited to be a ground attack aircraft.

        Considering the insane political pules of engagement,m everything else is highly questionable.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
          By all accounts, including those of Col. Olds, the F4 performed poorly in the opening stages of Viet Nam, and the pilots demanded the return of a gun system due to the poor performance of the AAM's in use at the time. It certainly didn't help that the F4 left a dark smoke tail that could be seen for many miles by enemy fighters.

          The Phantom was essentially an attempt to turn a dump truck into an air-to-air superiority fighter when it was much better suited to be a ground attack aircraft.

          Considering the insane political pules of engagement,m everything else is highly questionable.
          A large part of this came from USAF pilots who were saddled with the execrable AIM 4 Falcon missile as their primary short-range AAM. The AIM 4 Falcon had not been designed for air-to-air combat maneuvering situations, and had several design limitations that hadn't taken that into account as the designers hadn't been asked to include this as part of the missile's design.

          The biggest was the seeker head for the IR version required a shot of liquid nitrogen to cool it before being launched. This took several seconds to accomplish (forever in a dogfight) while the plane had to maintain a lock on the target to get the missile to track properly. That was very hard to do on a maneuvering target.
          The planes usually carried 4 Falcons, and had nitrogen to cool them maybe 6 to 8 times total. That mean you quickly ran out of liquid nitrogen and your missiles were now worthless.
          There was also a very high failure rate with this missile, often due to age, and they failed to launch and failed to track too readily.

          The USN, having AIM 9 Sidewinders (also liquid nitrogen cooled but much quicker to accomplish) didn't experience these problems to any great degree. When the USAF switched missiles, they too had a big drop in missile failures.

          It also didn't help that almost all US planes lacked a separate IR sensor that could track targets and determine in advance if the plane had a lock or not.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by nastle View Post
            What if both air force and navy did not digest the lessons of air combat in vietnam and no top gun program was created

            Also no fighters in the class of F-16 and F-15 are created

            Infact navy opts for the F-14 and the airforce for another specialized interceptor ala Arrow or a more sophisticated F-106

            The F-4 continues to soldier on as a tactical fighter-bomber

            what would have been the affect on soviet or US fighter designs in the 80s and 90s ? and more importantly on the air combat doctrine of the 70s and 80s
            A more sensible question to be asked, in view of what actually happened in OTL, is "why both branches would not create an ACM rectification program"?.

            It was a fait accompli , and just a sensible, natural progression in view of the observed circumstances.

            It's not "rocket science", and is just "grist to the mill" for staff colleges and air combat theoreticians.
            Last edited by At ease; 28 Apr 18, 03:40.
            "It's like shooting rats in a barrel."
            "You'll be in a barrel if you don't watch out for the fighters!"

            "Talking about airplanes is a very pleasant mental disease."
            — Sergei(son of Igor) Sikorsky, 'AOPA Pilot' magazine February 2003.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
              A large part of this came from USAF pilots who were saddled with the execrable AIM 4 Falcon missile as their primary short-range AAM. The AIM 4 Falcon had not been designed for air-to-air combat maneuvering situations, and had several design limitations that hadn't taken that into account as the designers hadn't been asked to include this as part of the missile's design.

              The biggest was the seeker head for the IR version required a shot of liquid nitrogen to cool it before being launched. This took several seconds to accomplish (forever in a dogfight) while the plane had to maintain a lock on the target to get the missile to track properly. That was very hard to do on a maneuvering target.
              The planes usually carried 4 Falcons, and had nitrogen to cool them maybe 6 to 8 times total. That mean you quickly ran out of liquid nitrogen and your missiles were now worthless.
              There was also a very high failure rate with this missile, often due to age, and they failed to launch and failed to track too readily.

              The USN, having AIM 9 Sidewinders (also liquid nitrogen cooled but much quicker to accomplish) didn't experience these problems to any great degree. When the USAF switched missiles, they too had a big drop in missile failures.

              It also didn't help that almost all US planes lacked a separate IR sensor that could track targets and determine in advance if the plane had a lock or not.
              Intersting, how did the IR sensor of the R-60 differ from these missiles ?

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              • #8
                Originally posted by nastle View Post
                Intersting, how did the IR sensor of the R-60 differ from these missiles ?
                Early Sidewinder and K 13 Atoll missiles didn't have seeker cooling. The AIM 9D was the first Sidewinder to introduce liquid nitrogen cooling. The Hughes AIM 4 Falcon IR missile got it too about the same time.

                This was changed to a closed cycle electronic cooling system that had unlimited run time on the AIM 9E, CO2 on the F.

                The R-60 is shorter range than the AIM 9D, and has an uncooled seeker head limiting it to a much more rear aspect launch angle. It was specifically designed to be a lightweight, short-range, dogfight missile as opposed to the AIM 9 being designed more for LOS engagements out to longer ranges.
                The R-60M introduced liquid nitrogen cooling to give a limited all-aspect engagement capability to the missile, roughly equivalent to the AIM 9D or E.

                It is also not really a one-hit, one-kill missile. The R-60 in service has shown that it takes 2 or 3 hits to bring down a plane entirely. A single hit will only normally induce severe damage but the target aircraft often remains flyable.

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                • #9
                  During WWII the British, German, Soviet and Japanese Aces had amazing kill numbers...some in 500 range. The pilots flew until they were in turn shot down. The US Aces had a much lower kill number, the number one Ace had around 80 kills. Because the Aces were withdrawn after a period of time or kill number and then sent to teach what they had learned in combat to new pilots. The learning curve just kept growing. Recently I read that during WWII the Japanese trained some 6000 pilots, few by instructors with combat skills while the US trained nearly 100,000 pilots, a very high percentage from experienced combat proven instructors. Back in the 1970s a WWII film had a British pilot remark that "the few kept getting fewer." Top Gun was just an outgrowth of that tradition. Named dropping...I met Robin Olds at the Air Force Academy, while I was attending a special course...he inspected the group I was with and notice that I was wearing non-regulation items under my uniform, which were love beads...it was that era. Col. Olds then pulled his out from under his uniform and showed them to me...a passing moment but always made me think he was thinking outside the box.

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                  • #10
                    so would the F-108 rapier be a better fighter in the late 70s and 80s for USAF than the F-15 Eagle ?

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by nastle View Post
                      so would the F-108 rapier be a better fighter in the late 70s and 80s for USAF than the F-15 Eagle ?
                      No. It was designed to be an extremely high speed interceptor of the sort the F-106 was. The expected performance of the F-108 was expected to exceed Mach 3 and have a ceiling in excess of 80,000 feet.
                      It was designed at a time when the thinking was "Higher and faster." The crew was 2, a pilot and an RIO / weapons operator. They had limited visibility from the cockpit, particularly the RIO who had small windows on his to reduce light penetration at a time when CRT screens were hard to see in daylight.
                      The expected mission profile was a 1200 mile dash at Mach 3, or a 300 mile tactical radius with one hour loiter and a Mach 3 dash to 750 miles from the loiter point to shoot down a target (expected to be a bomber).

                      As a dogfighter, it would have been very poor. Crew visibility was limited. Maneuvering such a large and heavy plane would have been restricted. Its weapons were optimized for long range radar engagements not short range dogfights. It lacked gun armament.
                      Compared to the F-106, it would have been 50% faster, flown 25% or more higher, and had about double the range.

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