The Official F-15 Strike Eagle Handbook

by Richard Sheffield

Defensive Tactics

Turning and dogfighting with enemy aircraft has already been covered fairly well. Do what you must to survive. The other major threat, probably more dangerous than enemy aircraft, is surface-to-air missile (SAM) fire. SAMs will be coming at you almost continuously during your time behind enemy lines. Learning how to effectively deal with them will spell the difference between success and failure.

Know the Missile Type

When the tone sounds indicating a missile launch, it's imperative that you look up to the top of the HUD for information on the type of missile. The capabilities of the various enemy missile systems vary greatly. Some are extremely dangerous and some are easily fooled. Knowing which kind is coming at you will determine your response.

You'll only have a second or two to look up and see the missile type displayed. Once it's gone, you won't know for sure what kind of missile is headed your way. You can, however, get some idea of the missile's capabilities by dropping a bundle of chaff while it's still a long way off. If the tracking indicator light goes off when you drop the chaff, you'll know the missile isn't Doppler guided and can be fooled easily. If it doesn't go out, you'll know the missile has a sophisticated Doppler guidance system that chaff alone won't fool.

Avoiding Radar Guided SAMs and AAMs

Radar guided SAMs and air-to-air missiles are the enemy's most lethal weapons. Infrared (or heat) guided missiles can be trouble but are generally easy to fool by a flare.

Radar-guided missiles fall into two categories: beam-riders and semiactive Doppler systems.

Beam-rider missiles. These are generally older and are easily fooled. They follow the radar beam from a ground or air source to the target. Since the source is a long way off, it's easier to decoy or jam it. Chaff will cause beam-rider missiles to lose "lock-on." Once the lock is lost, they continue flying in a straight course. Therefore, after you dispense a bundle of chaff, you must also change course if the missile is coming straight at you from the rear or from the front. This explains why occasionally you may decoy a missile, but it hits you anyway.

Detection by beam-rider type systems can be delayed by flying low and directly toward the source of the radar signal. This reduces the system's effectiveness.

Semiactive Doppler missiles. These are much harder to shake. They use a Doppler detection system that's extremely good at detecting targets moving toward or away from the source. They also have a small radar transmitter built into the nose of the missile. As the missile gets close to you, it can burn through jamming and see through chaff. Chaff alone won't fool them.

To defeat this type of system, you must use the strength of the Doppler system against it. Since it's very good at detecting targets moving either toward or away from it, you must turn so the missile is directly off to one side. You need to maneuver so that your path is at a right angle to the path of the missile. This will keep you from moving toward or away from it as much as possible. Once you get turned to the correct perpendicular course, the radar tracking light will go out and the missile on the radar screen will turn dark, indicating that the missile has lost its radar lock. If you continue on this course, the missile will eventually pass harmlessly behind you.

As you increase the difficulty levels, this safe area gets smaller and smaller. At Veteran and Ace levels, you may have to constantly maneuver to keep perfectly perpendicular to the missile to keep it from locking on to you. When flying at the higher levels of difficulty, it's a good idea to use the shortest range on the radar as the missile approaches you. It isn't uncommon for you to move out of the safe zone just as the missile is passing behind you, which may give the missile a chance to acquire you at the last second and score a hit. If you're watching on the radar screen, you'll see the missile start to flash again; you should then be able to maneuver back into the safe area.

There are only three SAM missiles that have this system. The ones you should worry about are:



SA-N-6 (fired from missile boats)

There's one air-to-air missile of this variety: the AA-10, and it can be very tough. Front-line fighters may be found with them, and they almost always show up on enemy Il-76 Mainstay AWACs aircraft.


You must maneuver to defeat these missile types. Simply deploying bundles of chaff won't work.

Optimize the Use of Your Chaff

You don't have an unlimited amount of chaff, so use it wisely. Once you get over enemy territory, it's likely that you may have missiles coming at you from a number of sources, several at a time. With proper timing and clever maneuvering, it's frequently possible to fool two or more missiles with a single bundle of chaff. This normally involves waiting until both missiles are close to you before deploying the bundle. Having an extra bundle or two when trying to limp home damaged may save you and your aircraft.

Attacking High-Threat Targets

Anytime you're trying to destroy a SAM radar, missile, or anything located next to a SAM site, you're heading into a high-threat area. If the SAM has Doppler-guided missiles, the threat is higher still. In order to get close enough to launch a Maverick, you'll have to head toward the target; however, heading directly toward it may not be the best path. An indirect route known as an offset approach might be a safer choice.

Figure 9-4. Offset Attack on a High-Threat Target

Position 1. To use this approach you start off heading directly toward the SAM site.

Position 2. When the site launches a missile at you, wait a second or two so you can get closer to the target; then turn away on a perpendicular course to fool the missile.

Position 3. Once the missile is past, don't head directly back toward the target; instead, head off to the side.

Position 4. When the site launches another missile at you, you can now turn back toward the site to get perpendicular and fool the missile.

Position 5. Now when clear again, you may be close enough to head directly into the target and attack it before it can get another shot off.

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