by Richard Sheffield
With a normal fighter, the first part of an air combat engagement is a missile exchange. Though this isn't necessarily the case with the F-19, we'll cover it first anyway.
When the targeting box first changes to an oval, you're at the maximum range for that missile. That maximum range is calculated assuming you're at maximum speed to give the missile that extra boost. In many situations, you'll be flying at very low speed when you wish to fire a missile. In these cases, you should wait until the oval changes color before firing. In fact, the increase in accuracy after the oval changes color is so great, you should almost always wait for the change. The Highly Effective range for Sidewinders is inside of 9 km; for AMRAAMs it's inside of 16 km.
The one exception to the rule is when shooting at a target that's coming at you head-on. If you wait until the oval turns red for a head-on shot, the range will likely be so short that the missile will fly past the target before it has a good chance to lock on. In these situations, a shot at close to maximum range is a good idea. This will give the missile plenty of time to acquire the target and maneuver for a hit. The target will likely be in the Highly Effective range by the time the weapon arrives.
Figure 5-1. Head-On Missile Shot
Since the bogeys are coming at the attacker head-on, the attacker can fire missiles at position A (max range). By the time the missiles reach the targets, the bogeys will have moved into the more effective range
Head-on shots can be a very good tactic against multiple bogeys. You can fire AMRAAMs from close to the maximum range of 35 km at each target and then disappear to watch the results. If you haven't been detected, you can then maneuver for short-range gun or sidewinder shots at the survivors.
Both Sidewinders and AMRAAMs are all-aspect missiles. That is, they can track a target at any angle. But I prefer to use AMRAAMs for long-range head-on shots and save the sidewinders for rear quarter, tailpipe shots. Unfortunately, neither is always effective, especially against Veteran and Elite level pilots.
For missile shots to be effective against these high-level opponents, range is the key. You must get in close. Long shots give them plenty of time to react and avoid the missile. However, a long shot, to keep them busy while you close in for a shorter shot, can be effective.