October 22, 2001

Discussion Of Boom And Zoom Tactics

by Andy Bush

Lesson One (October 22/01):  Defending Against The Boom and Zoom

You are presented with the following situation:  a typical "angles" fighter, such as a Spitfire, is bounced by a typical "energy" fighter, such as the P-38.  The attacker has the altitude advantage and is using a boom and zoom attack on you.  What should you do?

Response by Scott "Drex" Williams, representing Aces High:


In order to reverse a bogie in such a manner to present a favorable gun solution, the following actions may be used to create the desired result. Not all actions are always required but in general the reversal will be much more effective if all conditions are met.

1) Cause the energy state of the bogie to converge with yours.

2) Cause a rapid closure rate to limit the bogie's firing opportunity.

3) For a period of time lead the bogie to believe that he is very close to an effective gun solution.

4) Deny the bogie an effective gun solution.

5) Keep the bogie in sight at all times.

6) Cause the bogie to lose sight of you.

7) Cause an overshoot

I will illustrate this with an example of a Spit V being bounced by a P-38L. The initial conditions are a P-38L 2000 yards behind the Spit V with a considerable energy advantage.

To initiate the reversal, the Spit begins a gentle nose down turn to the left (it could be either direction but the purposes of this example I have chosen an initial maneuver to the left) while watching the bogie on his 6. At this point the P-38 pilot probably starts to anticipate easy plane-form shot and will begin to set up his gun solution. As the P-38 closes the Spitfire tightens its turn and noses down, carefully observing the P-38 behavior.

The initial maneuver the Spitfire executes is essentially the start of a low YoYo. Typically the P-38 will do one of three things

In the unlikely event the P-38 breaks off and starts going up to preserve his energy advantage, he will lose sight of the Spitfire as he noses up.

This frees the Spitfire to maneuver out of the view of the P-38, giving it a brief period to climb and bank some energy, reverse its turn to add unpredictability to its path etc... The Spitfire can play this game indefinitely until the P-38 gets aggressive and presses for a gun solution.

If the P-38 goes into lag pursuit (i.e. pressing the attack but in a cautious manner), the Spitfire can continue to tighten the turn perhaps continuing to dive. Note that at this point in time the energy states of the 2 fighters are converging. Both are bleeding speed by pulling G's and if diving both are losing energy from the dive. However the P-38 started with a large energy advantage and will necessarily lose more energy as it follows the Spitfire. The P-38 started substantially faster and has to pull harder G's to follow the slower Spit through the turns, thus bleeding more energy. This also means that the P-38 pilot will start to black out sooner in the turn than the Spitfire pilot. The Spitfire needs to carefully observe the P-38 and turn just tight enough to always give the P-38 the impression that it is a split second from an effective gun solution but to continually deny them that gun solution. It will quite often be necessary for the Spit pilot to chop his throttle to further tighten his turn. Note that if the Spitfire pilot starts to black out it is a sure bet that the pilot in the P-38 has already entered blackout due to the higher G's he is pulling. When the Spitfire can see the P-38 beginning to slip past and outside of his turning circle (or when he feels the 38 pilot is blacking out, or giving up the turning pursuit) the Spitfire can reverse direction going nose-high at full power. At this point the Spitfire and 38 are engaged in a rolling scissors but the 38 pilot is already slipping ahead.

Furthermore, the 38 probably still has slightly higher speed and this extra speed means that it is very unlikely to be able to keep the Spitfire from quickly getting behind it and achieving an effective gun solution.

The most likely action for the P-38 is to go into lead pursuit and set up a gun-solution. The Spit pilot continues to nose down and tighten the turn.

As the P-38 pulls lead for his shot, (diving and pulling G's to do so) the energy states of the 2 fighters converge. The angle of closure approaches 90 degrees leading to rapid closure and a very limited firing time. The Spitfire carefully observes the nose position of the P-38 and when the Spitfire pilot judges that he has passed under the nose of the P-38 and is now out of sight he does a gentle nose high turn to the right. The most certain clue that the P-38 has pulled lead for his firing solution and lost sight of the Spitfire is the appearance of tracers from his nose. At this point if the Spitfire pilot has judged his enemy's angle and position correctly he will be in a gentle (so as not to unnecessarily bleed energy) climbing turn to the right (essentially a barrel roll) watching the P-38 through the top of his canopy as it continues to pull a hard G left turn towards where it thinks the Spitfire is. During this maneuver the Spitfire may briefly lose sight of the P-38. However the P-38 may be firing and the Spitfire can then watch the P-38's tracers to see where the P-38 is headed.

The energy states are converging very rapidly at this point as the Spitfire is climbing and banking a little energy while the P-38 is pulling a hard turn and bleeding his. When the P-38 realizes that his target has disappeared, he can do several things. Most pilots' initial reaction is to pull their nose up and regain the safety of altitude. Although the P-38 probably still has a significant energy advantage over the Spit, the instinct to go up will get them rapidly killed in this case as the Spitfire is already slightly above them and pointed up. The Spitfire pilot has only to position his aircraft to form a gun solution and blows the P-38 away as it climbs past. Often in the brief period of disorientation that follows when the P-38 pilot realizes that he has lost track of his target, he will continue to do what he is already doing. i.e. he will continue the hard left turn. In this case it is a trivial matter for the Spitfire to roll down onto his tail and kill him. If the P-38 pilot quickly realizes what has happened his best course is to unload his aircraft and extend to safety. However, even in this case an alert Spitfire pilot will probably be given a brief long range gun solution.

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