by Richard Sheffield
Missiles are great, but there are times when nothing but the gun will do. A U.S. Navy gunnery instructor once said, “There's no kill like a guns kill.” He knew what he was talking about. A guns battle is one of the few times in this age of faceless, long-range warfare where you get close enough to you opponent to get a good look at him. When you're close enough for a guns engagement, you can actually see the enemy aircraft well. His twists and turns are easy to see and follow.
The Historical Gunsight
Gunsights have come a long way over the years. They've advanced from a circle and crosshairs mounted in front of the wind screen, to complex, computer-driven devices that make all sorts of calculations for the pilot. The “historical” or realtime sight is the most accurate type of sight yet developed. This type of sight displays where the cannon shells would impact if they were fired roughly two seconds ago. I'm often asked why the sight doesn't show where the shells will be two seconds FROM NOW. Well, this type of “predicting” sight was developed and used, but it requires a great deal of predicting. If both the target and the shooter are maneuvering wildly, this predicting becomes very questionable. The historical gunsight allows for all kinds of maneuvering since it uses known, not predicted information. The computer knows where you and the target were two seconds ago and can show an extremely accurate picture of where shells fired then would have hit.
Using this type of sight does take a little getting used to. You must base your aim on where the aiming pipper will be in two seconds or so. This will be shorter if you're very close to the target. Rather than looking at where the pipper is, you need to concentrate on which direction it's moving relative to the target. You need to time your shot so the pipper will reach the target in two seconds or so.
This sounds difficult in concept, but it's much easier to learn than it is to explain. Pilots prefer this type of sight to all others because it gives them very accurate information. With good information, they know they can aim the system properly. With a little practice, I'm sure you'll be able to master the system. Once you do, watch out MiGs!