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What is lowest height for air-to-air missiles?

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  • What is lowest height for air-to-air missiles?

    This is an interesting issue which I remember hearing a years back..... Air-to-air missilles and even old Surface to air missiles have a limit in terms of minimal height at which they can engage a target. B-1 was build on this principle flying 2.5 times supersonic at height of 100m..... (or lower?)......

    OK. Back to the issue...... I remember when I talked about some secret training of Russian pilots they used to "DIP DOWN" at increadibly high speed thus avoiding missile. I remember I was told that this requires a lot of training as it involves very high G force combined with precision of the maneuvre to avoid collision with the ground. It also limits your view as view horrizon of the radar is less on lower hieght. But in just few seconds you may be very low to kill you....

    Yesterday I chatted with friend who plays a lot of simulations and he told me that this is one of the ways to avoid lock and shot from enemy fighter by flying high.... he also told that if two fighters meet one which has higher height will lose.... he is very well visible while his adversry may deep down and shoot from below. I know that GAMES ARE JUST GAMES.... but this kind of matches what I heard years ago from a fighter pilot.

    So I got a question? How low should you fly to be sure that enemies missile will not get you? What are features of different missiles?

  • #2
    It's an interesting topic, Garry. The "dip down" move as you call it, is not so much to get below the missile's "floor", but to cause it to hit the ground due to it's intercept profile. The missile is leading the AC, and calculating the intercept. If the target suddenly heads for the ground, the missile may calculate the intercept at a point below the ground. Obviously this kind of manouver has to be performed perfectly, or you're toast. It can also be used in terrain to cause a missile to hit a ridgeline, mountain, etc. The missile isn't flying to where the target is, it's going to where it will be.

    The second part, about the higher AC being at a disadvantage, I tend to disagree with in general (though there may be certain situations where this is the case). But usually the higher AC will have an energy advantage over the lower one, so all else being equal, I would prefer to have the height advantage over my opponent.
    "We will go through our federal budget – page by page, line by line – eliminating those programs we don’t need, and insisting that those we do operate in a sensible cost-effective way." -President Barack Obama 11/25/2008

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    • #3
      Originally posted by highsea
      It's an interesting topic, Garry. The "dip down" move as you call it, is not so much to get below the missile's "floor", but to cause it to hit the ground due to it's intercept profile. The missile is leading the AC, and calculating the intercept. If the target suddenly heads for the ground, the missile may calculate the intercept at a point below the ground. Obviously this kind of manouver has to be performed perfectly, or you're toast. It can also be used in terrain to cause a missile to hit a ridgeline, mountain, etc. The missile isn't flying to where the target is, it's going to where it will be.

      The second part, about the higher AC being at a disadvantage, I tend to disagree with in general (though there may be certain situations where this is the case). But usually the higher AC will have an energy advantage over the lower one, so all else being equal, I would prefer to have the height advantage over my opponent.
      Thank you Highsea, it was very interesting.

      I agree that "dip down" must be really risky move as reaction time would be mere seconds. If we add the speed of AC and front incoming missile then it adds up to pretty high speed! If this sums to 3-5 max then the 5km range takes only 5-3 seconds before the hit!

      As for the collision with the ground at speed of 1 max the pilot would be deep underground after 12-15 seconds of such fast decending at 45 degrees down from 3km height....... or probably the aircraft would fall appart.... or pilot.

      Still dip down is being used for training of pilots in RAF. Dangerous training.

      However I am trying to uderstand the point with B-2B and Ka-50/52 which expect that air-to-air missiles will not hit them flying at 100 feet above the ground. Is this still valid?
      Last edited by Garry; 17 Jan 06,, 12:04.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by highsea
        It's an interesting topic, Garry. The "dip down" move as you call it, is not so much to get below the missile's "floor", but to cause it to hit the ground due to it's intercept profile. The missile is leading the AC, and calculating the intercept. If the target suddenly heads for the ground, the missile may calculate the intercept at a point below the ground.
        Studies of past air warfare indicates that the radar of high flying aircraft gets confused due to the ground clutter and hence it does not lock on to the enemy figter that is flying low.
        However, this is passe as the current radars can distinguish the opponent through the ground clutter and can lock on with ease.

        Cheers!...on the rocks!!

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        • #5
          Originally posted by lemontree
          Studies of past air warfare indicates that the radar of high flying aircraft gets confused due to the ground clutter and hence it does not lock on to the enemy figter that is flying low.
          However, this is passe as the current radars can distinguish the opponent through the ground clutter and can lock on with ease.
          So the aircraft at 100 feet can be hit by air-to-air missile just like on 5,000 feet? Does B-1B effect still work? I learned that Ka-50/52 have bet so much on this..... and it would be sorry for them to know that it does not work anymore. Due to its configuration Ka-50 can fly full speed on just couple of meters above the ground avoiding collision with terrain and wires.

          What are specs of currently existing air-to-air missiles. I heard for example that both Sidewinder and old Sparrow can not hit anything below 100 meters. Probably there must be some limits for other missiles of different origin.
          Last edited by Garry; 17 Jan 06,, 13:07.

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          • #6
            Garry,
            Read the link below to get an idea of the electronics of the older F-16 A/B aircraft, today I believe the technology is much more advanced.
            http://home.att.net/~jbaugher4/f16_7.html

            Cheers!...on the rocks!!

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Garry
              ...However I am trying to uderstand the point with B-2B and Ka-50/52 which expect that air-to-air missiles will not hit them flying at 100 feet above the ground. Is this still valid?
              Yes and no. The main point of flying so low is to minimize the reaction time of the defenses. An AC at 100 ft. AGL pops over the radar horizon only 9 miles away, assuming the radar set is at ground level (10 feet). At M1.2, you wouldn't have much time to get a lock and fire a missile. If you elevate the receiver to 10 meters, the target becomes visible at 22 miles. So the lower you fly, the less time you will be visible to enemy radar. Terrain can help, obviously. There are also limits as to how low an angle a SAM can fire- it has to fly something of a parabolic path to hit a low flying target.

              I would say that trying to hide in ground clutter (or doppler notching) are not as effective defenses as they used to be. Signal processing is at a high enough art to really minimize them as an effective tactic.

              The dip-down type move is risky, you better know what kind of missile you are trying to evade. For example, the AMRAAM flies a top-down profile, so it's not too likely to be fooled by such a manouver.
              "We will go through our federal budget – page by page, line by line – eliminating those programs we don’t need, and insisting that those we do operate in a sensible cost-effective way." -President Barack Obama 11/25/2008

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              • #8
                Thank you Genglemen! It was interesting topic to learn.

                Last question? Is that true that air to air missiles can not engage targets below 100 feet if this target was detected by a fighter? I mean can fire and forget missile kill such target?

                Somehow I was told that it can not.... by a test pilot of Ka-50, but I never trust to one source.

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