Tactics 101 – Introduction and Lag Pursuit

by Ed “Skater” Lynch


Well, it’s been a long time coming, so let’s not waste any time and get started.

First let’s go over some of the acronyms that will be discussed in this article. More will be added to this list as the discussion continues.

In this discussion we will discuss ways to use basic and familiar maneuvers in order to achieve a positive outcome. In other words, bandit dead, not you. Most of you will have used these maneuvers before, but they will be opened up in more detail, and in a slightly humorous manner.

ACM: Air Combat Maneuvering – The science of maneuvering your fighter in such a way as to be efficient in using g, time, energy, maneuverability, and weapons to achieve a favorable position and outcome on your bandit. Everything else is nonsense.

BFM: Basic Fighter Maneuvers – This is the basis for all maneuvering. Turning, climbing, and diving are all BFM moves.

DLO: Desired Learning Objective – The basis of the discussion, a learning point. The goal of the current lesson.

Lesson One – 29 JUN 98 – Using the Lag Turn to Fry Chicken

The Lag Turn is one of the most basic of all fighter maneuvers. Let’s now discuss how you got here, and why. Basically, while turning your fighter in a combat situation, you are trying to achieve one goal, destruction of the enemy aircraft. To do this, you need to put your nose on the bandit, within weapon parameters, and turn the lights on. When trying to accomplish this, you are usually turning in one plane or another, and so is the bandit, unless he is a masochist, in which case Tactics 101 is of no use to you.

While turning to achieve a nose-on conversion you will be in one of three types of turns. For this discussion, and since this is what you will be doing, we will call it pursuit. Sounds more fighter-like. We like that. There is Lag PursuitLead Pursuit, and Pure Pursuit.

Describing Lag Pursuit is a little difficult, but try to imagine that you are in a turn slightly below and behind your bandit. This is the most common Lag Pursuit position. Let’s examine the virtues of the Lag Pursuit…

  1. You are behind the bandit
  2. The bandit is not behind you
  3. You are a hop, skip, and a jump from bandit bar-b-q
  4. Bandit’s look better through the front of the canopy
  5. You are in the universally recognized best position for bandit bird flipping

Ok, enough brevity, let’s talk business…

Lag is mainly used to maintain position on the bandit in order to convert to a nose-on position to deploy weapons. While trying to convert to this nose-on position, there are a few things to consider. One, you do not want to expend all remaining energy in order to put the nose on the bandit, fire your load, and have no energy left to maneuver defensively or offensively after the kill. The goal is to stay in lag long enough to exploit a mistake made in desperation by the bandit, killing him, while retaining enough energy to fly defensively against any inbound bogey’s, and/or offensively against any other hapless bandits. Patience is a virtue here, but don’t plan on moving in. Fighter combat is most often brutally quick. You want to stay only long enough to efficiently maneuver for a kill, without getting killed in the process. Look for an opening that will allow you to maneuver the nose onto the bandit with little effort and expended energy from your current position. Usually if you are stuck in lag pursuit, the bandit will attempt to reverse his plane of motion, to draw you into a scissors, which should present you with a brief snap-shot opportunity, or to change his plane of motion (i.e. horizontal to vertical), which will lower his energy state and may allow you a brief sight picture. Should you get this opportunity (usually only from green or inexperienced human or AI pilots), FLAME ON! Because you won’t usually get this gift again. If you don’t, then it is time to hunker down, and try something different, because you are in for a fight.

You also want to stay aware of the tactical picture unfolding around you. This is known as Situational Awareness. Remember to always provide yourself with a planned route of disengagement. This is more commonly known as your Escape Window. If everything is not going well, and you are in danger of having a nose conversion on you, or you see bandit buddies closing in, it is time to use this window to get out of the fight. Also, you don’t want a bandit sneaking up and whacking you while you get target fixated on the bandit in front of you, or swing around and dicking the strike package while you try to get another star painted on your bird. More often than not, the bandit will acquiesce and graciously allow you to kill him in a vigorous military manner. Sometimes you get a particularly nasty bandit that has no manners and will just not play right and die. For those unruly bastards, there is always the next installment of Tactics 101…

DLO: Know when to fight and when run. Lag as an offensive maneuver is effective only against inexperienced or bad pilots, and should be used mainly as a way of preserving a neutral position on the bandit while trying to find and opening to exploit in order to convert to a weapons solution on the target aircraft. Stay aware of the tactical situation. Know where the bandit’s buddies are. Know your bandit’s energy state. Know where other threats, potential or otherwise, are in relation to you. Know where the friendlies are too, fratricide will ruin your day. If you are doing all of these things and the fight is still not going your way, and does not look like it will, it is time to hit the escape window and get out of the fight.

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