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Tailslide's Article :  Evading Missiles

Waiting for a proper moment to begin my evasion tactic was agonising.  Panic rose up in my throat, urging loss of reason.  At the last moment I pulled up with eight G's after breaking down and starboard.  The missile couldn't take the turn, going off a thousand feet below.

    -- Commander Randy "Duke" Cunningham, USN
AMRAAM
Hughe's AMRAAM Medium Range Missile

 

Types of Missiles

Anti Aircraft missiles can be categorised into two categories: active and passive.

 

Passive Guidance Guided by signals given off by the plane they are tracking.
For example, a Sidewinder tracking on the heat of your exhaust.
  
Active Guidance Guided by an external source.  This can be radar on the missile (fire and forget), or by guidance information sent by the launching plane or ground launcher.

 

How do you know what sort of missile is tracking you?  In modern aircraft, your radar is smart enough to let you know.  However, your flight computer may malfunction or you may be flying an older jet that does not have this capability.   Generally speaking, if the enemy fires a missile close by and from behind, it is probably a heat seeker.  If he fires from far away and ahead, it is radar guided.   If the missile is a SAM (surface to air missile) it may be either.

 

 

Types of Counter Measures

 

The most popular measures used to fool a missile attack are:

ECM Electronic Counter Measures. This is a form of radar jamming used to confuse a missile's radar guidance system.  Obviously not effective against heat seekers.
CHAFF Chaff consists of pieces of foil that reflect radar signals. Dropping chaff can force a missile to lose it's lock on you or if it's a particularly dumb missile it can lock onto the chaff instead.  Best used during a sharp turn to confuse the missile. Again, not effective against heat seekers.
FLARES Flares are just what they sound like.  Burning flares drop out of the plane and the heat is used to fool heat seeking missiles.  Best used during a sharp turn to confuse the missile.  This one is not effective against radar guided missiles.

 

 

Long Range Air to Air Missiles: Maximum Range

 

If you are far enough way, the safest tactic is to fire on the aggressor, activate ECM (electronic counter measures) then dive and run away.  This has two advantages:

  1. A missile's range can be several times shorter if you are running away from it than if you are heading toward it.

  2. Radar Guided missiles can be confused by ground clutter if they have to "look down"

 

If it becomes apparent the missile will overtake you, make "out of plane" turns and drop chaff. Don't just pull back but roll your wings so you travel 90 degrees up or down compared to your last turn (just make sure not to head away from the missile ).  If the missile continues to track you, wait until the last moment then drop chaff and pull towards the missile.  With the faster speed and larger turn radius, the missile should overshoot you.  This manoeuvre is very similar to forcing an enemy plane to overshoot in a guns only fight.

 

 

Short Range Missiles

( also Long Range Air to Air Missiles at Minimum Range )

 

If you are too close to run away, you will need to fire against the aggressor, activate ECM and then jink.  Jinking typically involves these steps:

fig1-msl.gif (534 bytes)
Figure 1:  Jinking Missile Head-On
  1. Turn so you are pointed 30 to 60 degrees away from the missile. You can go to the right or left but diving is best to take advantage of ground clutter and increased speed. If the missile is a heat seeker, turn off afterburners to reduce your heat signature.

  2. When the missile gets to close range, make a hard brake turn in the opposite direction of step 1.  If you see the missile follow your turn, immediately reverse your turn again. There is a 'lag' time between your change of direction and the missile's and you are taking advantage of this with your initial jink by getting the missile to head in the wrong direction, making a course correction for it that much harder.

  3. Drop lots of chaff and flares after each brake turn.  It's not going to help saving all your chaff if your plane has it's wing blown off.  If you are not sure the missile is radar or heat seeking, drop both chaff and flares.

  A variation of this manoeuvre is to continue the first turn into a barrel roll around the direction the missile is coming from.  The missile will continue to track you, but eventually your faster turn rate will mean that it will not keep up. 

 

Ground Cover

If you find yourself low, use the natural terrain to break the lock with the missile, enemy plane or SAM site.  The biggest drawback to this option is the chance of small arms fire from the ground, and the fact that you are vulnerable to getting bounced (attacked) from above by a bogey.

 

Tailslide

 

 

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Aug 15., 1998
This page updated 17/03/04

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