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July 18, 2007

Those Who Ignore History are Doomed to Repeat It « Militaria »

And the Brits are busily repeating the mistakes of the early Viet Nam era.

The RAF had envisioned Cold War-style missile duels between high-tech fighter jets when it drew up plans for the new Typhoon, which entered service this month. To save money, the RAF originally planned to have only missile capability on the planes, and not guns. Then, after a year of Iraq operations in 2004, the RAF changed course and decided to include the guns, evidently after concluding that closing off gun bays would be costly and impractical.

Right now, Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles may have an advantage over pilot/aircraft defensive capabilities. But that advantage is likely only temporary. Once all missiles are launched, an aircraft is defenseless if it doesn't have guns. And there are times that even with missiles, if the enemy is within a certain range, guns are effective when missiles cannot be fired (due to angle, friendly forces, etc).

We lost too many pilots in Viet Nam due to enemy pilot tactics to exhaust our missiles, then close to use guns. We learned from our mistake by including guns on later versions of fighter aircraft. The Brits may have avoided catastrophe by not removing the gun, but they are still flirting with disaster by not loading them, or training the pilots in air-to-air gun combat.

The discussion of strafing is more clear in the internally linked (and now linked here) Wired article, but strafing is really tangential to the issue. Guns on fighter aircraft are for dog-fighting.

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