LOMAC and BVR:
Beyond Visual Range Combat
of missiles to kill an airborne foe at distances outside the
range of the human eye. This term has existed in the realm
of air combat for quite some time. The ability to actually
carry it out, at least on a regular and reliable basis, has
not. The definition is simple. The actual execution is rather
more complex. The history of air-to-air combat is not a long
one. Only in the last twenty years or so has the technology
existed to shoot down another aircraft at ranges considered
outside the "visual" arena. Normally, engaging a
target outside of about 15 miles would be considered a BVR
fight. It can happen at much greater distances, but tactics
and weapons will dictate the actual ranges at which the kill
takes place. The technology exists today for reliable, accurate,
and effective BVR combat. Missile and radar electronics are
robust and lethal. The
real problem comes with tactics, command and control, and
positive identification. The most difficult of these is obviously
one of identification. How can we be sure the aircraft we
are shooting at is a bad guy? This is a tough problem but
its not insurmountable.
BVR combat has been the goal of aircraft
and weapons designers since the dawn of the radar guided missile.
Some time after the Korean War it became possible to shoot
down aircraft outside of the visual arena. The Cold War drove
technology at a furious pace and the development of the SAM
(surface-to-air missile) helped to accelerate the air-to-air
aspects of radar and missile technology simultaneously.
During the late sixties and early
seventies it became evident that BVR engagement of aircraft
was a very desirable and possible goal. With the advent of
the cruise missile it became paramount to have the capability
to shoot down multiple targets at long ranges outside the
visual arena. Development of high power and accurate long-range
radar has given us the ability to realize this concept. The
development of the F-14 Tomcat and the Phoenix missile as
a pure BVR platform is a prime example. The F-14 was designed
to protect the carrier battle group from attacking bombers
and cruise missiles with engagement ranges of 100 miles! We
don't need to get into nitty-gritty detail on the history
and development of radar and missile technology. It's actually
rather boring. I am betting the reader has at least a rudimentary
knowledge of how radar works and the current state of the
art when it comes to long range air-to-air weapons.
The object of this article is to introduce
the concept and talk about how one can be successful in this
arena. Also some tips and comments on how to succeed in LOMAC
will be provided.
I mentioned earlier, one of the really huge problems with
BVR combat is how to identify friend from foe. Shooting down
friendly aircraft is something to be avoided at all costs.
There are many layers of complexity involved in making sure
you kill the bad guy and not your wingman. Tactics
and procedures help to minimize the threat, and electronics
back up the tactics. The use of IFF (Identification Friend
or Foe) is used to ID targets. Also, geographical coordinates
and flight patterns can be used to distinguish good from bad.
IFF is nothing more than a transponder that is interrogated
and replies with a specific code. If the code is correct,
its a friendly. If not, lock and load. Most of the time
there will be very descriptive Rules of Engagement (ROE).
The ROE will drive the type of engagements. True BVR fights
on a large scale are not likely in this day and age. With
the demise of the Soviet Union, it's not likely we will see
huge air-to-air battles in the near future. There has historically
been very little true actual hostile BVR air-to-air at all.
Most of this has taken place as small engagements with few
aircraft. That won't change in the near future.
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