Basic Flight Maneuvers

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Basic Flight Maneuvers (BFM)[edit]

The Break Turn

   * Offensively, use the break turn to cut into someone's turn at a sharper angle or acquire a target
   * Defensively, use to throw an unsuspecting enemy off your tail or at least force him to work in 
order to shoot you down * Initiate a break turn by turning sideways and pitching very sharply so the craft is forced to
turn at a sharper turn radius

The idea behind a break-turn is simple- to get a sharper turn. That can be for any number of reasons, but its going to be the very first maneuver you learn, so make sure you understand it. If someone starts firing from behind, you can go into a break turn and avoid the fire pretty easily- probably some missiles as well. If a target is far and to the right, you can go into a break turn to get it on your heading almost immediately...

The Barrel Roll

   * Offensively, use the barrel roll if you're overtaking an enemy too quickly.
   * Defensively, use the barrel roll to force your attacker to overshoot and pass you.
   * Initiate a barrel roll by rolling slightly and applying pitch.  Keep the nose pitched to
spiral around the axis of your flight path

The Barrel Roll derives its name from the flight path the aircraft performs, circumscribing the shape of a barrel as the aircraft rolls round a central axis. It is an energy management maneuver possessing both offensive and defensive potential. Offensive Barrel Rolls If you find yourself traveling too fast, you may overshoot your foe, and even fly directly into his gun envelope. This happens because your closure rate is too high, and you overtake your target. The barrel roll provides an effective solution by wasting speed.

If you can't bleed enough speed with a barrel roll, pull back harder on the yoke and execute a roll opposite the direction of your current turn. The increase in pitch reduces airspeed, and the roll out turns you away from the target and keeps you from overshooting. As you complete the roll, you'll be back on your original course, but at a slower airspeed. Defensive Barrel Rolls Defensively, the barrel roll can be used to force a quickly approaching attacker to overshoot. It can also maintain enough angle-off-tail to put you out of his lethal cone of fire. Defensive barrel rolls must be carefully timed, however. Initiate the roll too soon, and the bandit will follow you through it. Start too late, and the bandit will have several shot opportunities before you begin the turn. Perfect timing requires that you both surprise the enemy and deny him sufficient reaction time.

The Lag Pursuit

This can be used when the primary cause of overshooting is excess speed. Basically it consists of maintaining position astern but outside the turn radius of the defending fighter. In this manner both speed advantage and initiative are retained, the attacker matching the defender's rate of turn in degrees per second while remaining concealed in the blind spot beneath the defender's tail. Lag pursuit is best countered by tightening the turn into a spiral dive. The temptation is to reverse and commence scissoring, but this is a good way to die if the attacker is on the ball.


This is used when at close range with a high overtake, high speed and high angle-off. The defender gets the nose high and rolls to the outside of the turn. He uses maximum g to pull the nose up and towards the target. This puts him in a ± 30° angle-off missile envelope.

The Immelman

   * Use this maneuver to increase altitude and reverse direction.

The Immelman is neither an offensive nor defensive procedure. Instead, it is a high-thrust maneuver that changes your bearing and increases your altitude. By pitching the nose up and climbing, you can execute one-half of a loop. To terminate this maneuver, invert and execute a roll. (The amount of roll applied determines your new direction of flight, as indicated in the diagram.) This leaves you flying in a different direction, but at a higher altitude. Once your wings are level, perform a half-roll again to reassume a vertical position.

The Immelman is more useful for aircraft that have low-thrust capabilities. Modern high-thrust aircraft can broaden this maneuver by making a vertical climb, then using an aileron roll to complete the half loop.

The Sandwich

For a pair, the "sandwich" is the oldest trick in the book. A fighter attacked from the rear quarter outside the formation breaks into the attack. If he is followed by an enemy, his wingman slots neatly into place behind the bandit for a rear quarter shot, taking great care, of course, not to fire a heat-seeking missile until his comrade has cleared the danger area.

The Vertical Reverse

The vertical reverse can be used when an attack or maneuver is completed with a vertical climb. The aircraft continues straight up until it loses flying speed. It is then ruddered around very sharply into a steep dive, gaining speed as it goes. This maneuver can be used at the top of a vertical ascending scissors either to disengage or to offer a pursuer a little head-on discouragement, but is mostly used to reposition for a further attack. Very few modern fighters are controllable at such low speeds; only those that are - notably the Harrier, F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-5 Tiger II - can carry out this maneuver.

The vertical reverse is only for the fighter with exceptional low speed handling. It is used at the end of a vertical climb when all flying speed is lost, the aircraft being ruddered around sharply into a dive.

The Split-S

   * Use the Split-S to increase airspeed or bleed off altitude.

A Split-S maneuver is a diving half-loop that is useful when you want to disengage from a threat. It is a high-altitude maneuver that requires a lot of vertical airspace, so make sure you're at least several thousand feet above the ground beforehand.

During a turn, invert by rolling, then immediately pull back on the stick to go into a dive. Your aircraft will rapidly accelerate and gain airspeed. Pull back on the yoke until the aircraft levels out, then ease into level flight. You'll be un-inverted, and you'll have a higher airspeed and lower altitude.

The Split-S has the advantage of providing a quick burst of speed. Additionally, rolling while inverted adds the aircraft's lift vector to gravity, thus increasing the force of acceleration and adding speed. On the down side, however, the increased speed increases the vertical turning radius, thus making it hard to pull the nose up into level flight. Starting a Split-S from low altitude, or maintaining too much speed during the dive, can prevent the aircraft from pulling out of the dive.

The Split-S makes a great escape maneuver in a guns-only environment because the rapid speed gain moves you out of gun range. It's usually ineffective against missiles, since they have significantly longer ranges.

Key Terms[edit]

AoT: Area Off of Tail- The distance from the back end of someone's fighter.

Turn Radius: The turning rate of someone's fighter- how quickly and sharply they can turn

BFM: Basic Flight Maneuvers- simple maneuvers used by pilots during combat