An Air Force F-22 Raptor (left) flies with an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter over Florida. USAF Photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock
Sebastien Roblin, National Interest: Why The F-22 and F-35 Stealth Fighters Will Revolutionize War in the Sky
In Len Deighton’s book Fighter, he describes the tactics used by the outnumbered English fighter pilots defending against German Luftwaffe bombers in the Battle of Britain:
The professional fighter pilot gained height as quickly as he was permitted, and treasured possession of that benefit. He hoped always to spot the enemy before they spotted him and hurried to the sun side of them to keep himself invisible. He needed superior speed, so he positioned himself for a diving attack, and he would choose a victim at the very rear of the enemy formation so that he did not have to fly through their gunfire. He would hope to kill on that first dive. If he failed, the dedicated professional would flee rather than face an alerted enemy.
Deighton’s point was that the best British pilots used hit-and-run tactics emphasizing surprise and speed in order to minimize losses, rather than dogfighting at length with enemies after those advantages were spent. These tactics permitted small numbers of British fighters to tackle the aerial armadas of the German Luftwaffe.
Obviously, technology has changed dramatically since 1940. While contemporary fighters can now go more than five times as fast as the Spitfires and Messerschmitt fighters of the Battle of Britain, two new technologies promise to make hit-and-run tactics more effective: stealth technology and long-range air-to-air missiles.
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