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Operation Red October

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  • Operation Red October

    "Operation Red October" -First Airing 09/09/01 On The Wings Channel

    (Sorry Folks, Another Of My Manuscripts Folks!)

    This piece was taken notes I took from the two, one hour programs from the "Discovery Wings Channel" entitled "Red October", telvised on 09/09/01, I recorded it and then did a writen outline.

    On October of 1996 (SEE NOTE #1), part of two US Navy squadrons from the US Naval Air Base Oceana, flew to Laage, Germany to work with the 73rd Fighter Squadron of the German Air Force, working as an aggressor squadron for two weeks!! While Mig.29s have participated at Red Flag, this is the first time a US Navy has worked exclusively with another squadron that fly the Mig.-29 as their primary aircraft!
    Now that Germany has combined East with West, it has placed the German Air Force is in a unique situation by having the most extensively exported modern jets from the former Soviet Union plus the infra-structure that supported the aircraft! The pilots who fly the Mig.-29 of the 73rd Squadron feel they are THE BEST combination of plane/pilot in the world! ;-) As aggressor pilots they get lots of flying time (about eighty hours per month). The German pilots who fly the Mig.-29 and use Western and creative tactics feel they are flying the best plane in the world, "bar none!" An unbeatable combination of plane and pilot!!!
    The aggressor squadron provides a syllabus or, course on how to best fight the Soviet/Russian air warfare system!
    This is the combination of aircraft and GCI that most counties that fly the Mig.-29 tend to use. The Russians are able to spend less money on the aircraft's radar development and usage but, this causes them to make their air defense to be more extensive. The 73rd Fighter Squadron also uses the F-4 Phantom 2s to simulate Soviet aircraft like the Mig.-23, etc.. The learning of English, difference in tactics, little usage of GCI, being innovative in the development of new tactics when confronted with a new situations, some pilots flying skills were not deemed good enough, plus the squadron "culture" being different eliminated most of the pilots! The 73rd Fighter Squadron has been part of the Luftwaffe eight years. The mandatory retirement age is forty-one!

    Five pilots and two RIO/WSO's from each of two squadrons (US Navy's VFA-106 Squadron and VFC-12 the Aggressor Squadron) eight F/A-18C aircraft from the and support staff of one hundred and fifty people for the squadrons made the trip to Laage. Two F/A-18D's also made the exercise. Some of the pilots are relatively new, "nuggets" (little more than one hundred and fifty flight hours, one carrier tour) while others are experienced to the point where they are "instructor or aggressor" pilots. Both squadrons are based at Oceana Naval Air Station -Virginia Beach, Virginia. The flight to Laage, Germany was non-stop with the help of "two" KC-10 Extenders. The F/A-18C/Ds made six in-flight refuelings, taking four thousand seven hundred gallons each time! The total flight time was nine hours.
    While the pilots of the 73rd Fighter Squadron provides a syllabus or course for the "student pilots" they would really like to go up against different aircraft of the world to prove their point! They have some time break the particular course to really demonstrate how their Mig.-29s are superior to the visiting aircraft. Then they have to go back again and provide the lesson they were supposed to in the first place.
    Especially up against the F/A-18C's. The aircraft that is most similar to the Mig.-29. While "air intell" has their evaluations about the capability of the Mig.-29 against every combat aircraft in the west.
    Despite what air intell says, pilots of the 73rd Fighter Squadron feel they can beat the F-15Cs and the SU-27s on any given day!! The range of which practiced over was not instruments with "ACMI" where the results would be conclusive.
    The all pilots exchange rides as pilots and passengers. The aircraft are very similar in performance despite what the specs are. If one reads the specifications of both aircraft, you would most likely conclude that the F/A-18 would win the BVR fight while the Mig.-29 would win the WVR fight. Well guess what,,, don't assume! Specs show the F/A-18 maneuvering better than the Mig.-29. The Mig.-29 having a distinctive edge in WVR combat. As it turns out the radar for the Mig.-29 while having a faster computer processor, is actually inferior to the F/A-18's.
    The AMRAAM missile has a far more usable range than does the Adder! In performance the two aircraft are very similar but, if there is an edge, it MUST go to the Mig.-29! The Mig.-29 has a thrust to weight that is in between the F-16 and F/A-18. There are tactics the F/A-18s can use that equalize the advantage the Mig.-29 has over them in the WVR fight! There are tactics the Mig.-29 that equalize the advantage the F/A-18 has in the BVR fight! The "beam maneuver" is just one of several tactics that can be used to defeat attempts to battle in BVR!!

    In one exercise (2V4) two F/A-18C's were up against two MiG.-29's and two F-4 Phantom II's playing the part of MiG.-23's.
    The encounter started with GCI detecting the two MiG.-29's first and declared them to be "bogeys" (an unknown contact) at about twenty-eight thousand feet. The F/A-18'c at twenty-five thousand feet also made radar contact near maximum range. Shortly after that GCI warned of two more contacts trailing the first contacts by more than twenty miles but, are closing the distance, traveling at a higher speed. A minute or so later GCI declared the initial two contacts as being "bandits" (known hostiles).
    As the F/A-18C's got well within the envelope of the Slammer Missile the F/A-18C's detected the trailing contacts at about thirty thousand feet. The two Hornets fired two Slammers at the MiG.-29's. The MiG.-29 realizing they were being fired on, dove towards the ground in an effort to evade the missiles. The judges felt only one missile killed its target!
    Rather than searching for the MiG.-29 that escaped and probably down near the hard deck, the Hornet pilots existed the area.

    In another exercise one F/A-18C (with an aggressor pilot), one MiG.-29UB and, two F-4's were pitted against two F/A-18C's. This exercise not only helped the fleet pilots but also gave instructor and aggressor pilots experience on how the real MiG.-29 fights in air combat. This will add greater realism when the instructor or aggressor pilots get back home.

    In essence, this exercise is for the entire F/A-18 community to insure all F/A-18 pilots will be proficient in killing the MiG.-29

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    In a casual session the pilots discussed the merits of each of their aircraft! The Mig.-29 is better in performance than the F/A-18C in the following areas;
    1) The Mig.-29 has a better thrust to weight ratio.
    2) The Mig.-29 is better at high speed maneuvering, slightly.
    3) The Mig.-29 is the most highly exported threat in the world.
    4) The Mig.-29 is more difficult to fly.
    5) The initial purchase price of the Mig.-29 is "HALF" that of the F/A-18C! Far less costly avionics.
    6) The MiG.-29 is more capable of disengaging from a dogfight than the F/A-18's. This was something the MiG.-21 could NOT do!
    7) The Mig.-29s accumulate more information on how best to defeat Western air combat systems!! Then the Westerners can then adjust to make themselves less vulnerable.
    8) In this two week training syllabus the Mig.-29 was restricted in "some" of its performance, in some exercises! This exercise is to teach not to judge which aircraft is more capable.

    The F/A-18C is better in performance than the Mig.-29 in the following areas;
    1) The F/A-18C is better than the Mig.-29 in most of the important specifications. Reality is different!
    2) The F/A-18C has a much better radar than the Mig.-29. Despite the Soviets claim that the MiG.-29's radar has a faster clock speed. The through put of data shows the F/A-18's radar has a more efficient "circuit logic" design and therefore, is able to calculate faster than the MiG.-29's radar.
    3) The F/A-18C/radar using the AMRAAM has much better range and capability than does the Mig.-29/radar with the Adder. Giving the F/A-18C a distinct edge to the F/A-18C in the BVR combat arena. Dis-guarding the usage of tactics. (The Slammer [AMRAAM] Missile has a far larger no escape zone.)
    4) The F/A-18C has better pitch control and high AOA at low speed. Despite the fact the F/A-18 must land on an aircraft carrier, the advantage the F/A-18 has over the Mig.-29 is so slight, that for practical purposes it doesn't exist!
    5) The "gun symbology" for the F/A-18C is far easier to use than the Mig.-29's HUD. This provides the pilot with a far better situational awareness than what the MiG pilot would have. During a dogfight the MiG.-29 pilot would have to work harder to accomplish the same result of the F/A-18 and its pilot.
    6) The Soviet concept of HOTAS is "less complete" than it is in the West. Soviet pilots with aircraft that have HOTAS still must look down to set switches and gather information of which is presented on the HUD in Western fighters.

    The "hard deck" (minimum altitude) on these syllabus sessions was eight thousand feet.
    The 73rd Fighter Squadron have found that doing high "G" maneuvers before entering air combat improves ones "G tolerance"! Scientist have known for quite a while that G tolerance improves with experience.
    While watching the program, one of the instructors was pointing to something on the black board. The sketches show the Mig.-29s using the beam maneuver to get in close to the F/A-18s.
    The first course was two F/A-18s against two Mig.-29s and two F-4 Phantoms (simulating the Mig.-23s). GCI contacted the F/A-18s and told them where the "bogeys" were coming from. (They are "bogeys" while they are unknown, they become "bandits" when they are determined to be bad guys). The F/A-18Cs detected two bogeys of which after interrogating with "IFF", assign them to be bandits. There was a group of two followed by another group of two, many miles back. The F/A-18 fired two AMRAAM missiles while still in BVR. One missile was determined to kill one of the Mig-29s. The other Mig.-29 dove towards the deck and almost took himself out of air combat arena, coming close to the hard deck. The F/A-18s blew through the Mig.-29s and set up for BVR shots against the next two aircraft, Mig.-23s. The F/A-18 fired two more AMRAAM missiles and killed the Mig.-23s. The last Mig.-29 re-entered the combat arena, fired two missiles at the F/A-18s. The performance parameters of which the missiles were fired, made the probability was low. The F/A-18s pulled six "G" maneuvers and the missile shots were deemed as misses. Combat was broken off by the F/A-18.
    During one of the air combat sessions one F/A-18 departed from control flight!! This was caused by a new F/A-18 pilot trying to stay with a MiG.-29 at slow speed in a vertical maneuver.
    When all was said and done, USAF/USN "air intelligence" was correct on almost everything they suspected about the Mig.-29! That the tactics the air intelligence people suggested for US Navy aircraft, thought would work well on the Mig.-29 were indeed capable of doing the job. It also validated additional tactics the F/A-18 community decided would be the most effective the against the Mig.-29. These tactics were somewhat different than what air intelligence had first concluded. The syllabus also allowed the F/A-18Cs to develop a tactic to defeat the "Cobra"maneuver. The narrator referred to it as the "vertical maneuver"! Don't get sucked into a "guns envirement."

    In a casual recreation times pilots from all squadrons would get together and one could not tell the pilots from one side or the other without being able to hear them speak (their accents) or their uniforms! They liked the same video games and they all wanted to win!
    The "Type A" personality is very evident in all of them! They are all strong in personality, very competitive in virtually everything they do. During a rest session one the last day in Germany, three of the F/A-18 pilots were allowed to use the simulator for the Mig.-29! The last person to use the simulator was the squadron commander for VFA-106. After flying for a while he did some touch and goes. As he was comming in for the final landing. The rest of the squadron and the Luftwaffe pilots decided to play a joke on the commander in the control room. They entered into the computer that the runway was "iced over" and added a cross winds of thirty-five miles per hour! Needless to say, the commander wiped out!!!! Everybody had a good laugh! ;-)

    At the conclusion of the two week syllabus, the pilots said goodbye to their new friends. Some of which still stay in contact with their friends!

    While the date was not given on the programs, the initial two hour special of this program, the first group of F/A-18C/D's had to route their flight around Hurricane Michael coming up from the south. The hurricane in that portion of the USA occurred from October 17th to 20th, 1996.


  • #2
    Interesting reading. I don't understand the reasons why "dip down" works. I know that this manuevre is trained to avoid missiles. Highsea told that this helps to make the intercept of missile below the ground. I heard that there is some minimal hight at which air to air missiles can operate.


    • #3
      RE: Operation Red October

      Originally posted by Garry
      I heard that there is some minimal hight at which air to air missiles can operate.
      I think you are referring to doing a vertical notch. It isn't the altitude that causes the problem but, rather the target diving and pulling out of the dive at maximum G-load, causes an angular rate of change most missiles have trouble dealing with.
      This has to be timed, which means the pilot must see the missile. The target aircraft goes into a dive, lose 10,000 feet or more in a matter of seconds, the missile is diving after the target then, the target pulls hard out of the dive and climbs to regain altitude. The missile trys to stay with the target intercept but, the sudden rate of change in angles and orientation is more than what most of todays can handle. While the target aircraft may pull 8G's, its speed is below Mach 1.0. The missile is traveling at Mach 4.0+, the number of G's the missile can pull may not be enough, especially if the pilot times the pull out correctly.

      Now, most missiles also do have a problem with minimum altitude, around fifty feet above the ground or sea. A target flying over hot desert sand at a very low altitude and high speed could lose the target in the background. This is a problem before the infra red imaging (IČR) missiles. IČR missile sense an IR image not the hot spots previous generations IR missiles did.
      The SARH missiles can also have a problem at very low altitude. Their problem comes from the illumination signal from the launch aircraft's radar is hitting the ground or water shortly after it has reflected off the target and the missile sensor can not discriminate between the two different reflections. Therefore the target gets lost in the background. This is more of a problem when the missile approaches the target from a steep (vertical) angle. (Launch aircraft is at 10,000 feet [3048 meters] altitude and about five miles behind the target.) It is less of a problem when the missile approaches from a slight angle. (The launch aircraft is at 500 feet (150 meters) altitude from a couple miles behind the target.)

      A target flying very low can be detected with the newest airborne radars but, at a reduced range. An example the Tomcat's AWG-9 radar is known for its ability to detect airborne items at a long range. From 20,000 feet (6,000 meters) the distance at which a cruise missile flying fifty feet above the water can be detected is down to 40 miles!



      • #4
        I have the program on tape,you neglected to mention the most interesting bit.While on the tail of a Mig-29 in a vertical climb,the F-18 stalls at 16000 ft and goes into an uncontrollable spin,only recovering at 6000 ft.Hard deck was 8000ft.In real life he'd be splat!.Camera records both HUD view and pilots face,he was visibly shaken,fight was called off,didn't seem like he would be up to getting back into the scrap,an option you don't have in combat.With all these aviation '"experts" on this forum,it would be interesting to see a thread on a"real world analysis",perhaps with feedback from a few "real"pilots,of the F-18's combat handling.See what all these armchair theoreticians can dig up,I've got a few tidbits to add,..another day..cheers.


        • #5
          I think this was the same exercise where F-15s and Mig-29s teamed up against F-14s and F-18s and beat them hollow.


          • #6
            Here is some more stuff on Red October:


            (I know I just posted this in the MiG-29 vs. F-18 thread, but I didn't see this one before posting it and the subject is more related to this thread.)
            Last edited by Insomniac; 26 Jan 06,, 22:40.


            • #7
              RE: Operation Red October

              Originally posted by Visigoth
              you neglected to mention the most interesting bit.While on the tail of a Mig-29 in a vertical climb
              No, I did not neglect, there are many items I left out in my outline of the program.
              Yes, the MiG.-29 has a greater T/W and therefore the F/A-18 should be careful fighting aircraft with higher T/W ratios (F-16, su-27, etc.) in the vertical plane. The strength of the F/A-18's dogfight is the high AoA, low speed or rapidly changing airspeed type of fights.

              Originally posted by Captain Drunk
              I think this was the same exercise where F-15s and Mig-29s teamed up against F-14s and F-18s and beat them hollow.
              No, this were all separate exercises. Operation Red October was F/A-18C/D's only against MiG.-29'd and F-4's simulating MiG.-23's.
              As the ultimate MiG.-29 simulator for NATO, the 73rd Fighter Squadron of the Luftwaffe, the German MiG.-29's have faced all of the types of NATO aircraft. While I have not heard about it, I am quite sure the Pan Avia Tornado has verified its tactics against the MiG.-29's.

              The US air forces exercise against many nation's air forces. Sometimes for evaluation purposes and other times to improve inter-operability. Sometimes the ROE's are even and other times they are not.
              I have a 'late' Tomcat pilot close friend who told me of an exercise between his squadron and Egyptian MiG.-21's. Before launch his squadron was informed of the ROE's. No pulling more than six "G's" and there would be no "tanker support!" Translation -don't use your afterburners or you won't have enough fuel to get back to the boat.
              COPE INDIA was an exercise wher the ROE's were not even. Read an enlightening article from AW&ST;

              Originally posted by Insomniac
              Here is some more stuff on Red October: