What to learn to improve dogfighting in DCS

by | Apr 14, 2016 | DCS Guides, Guides | 0 comments

So there’s two types of dogfighting. That which is practiced in the real world and that which gives you PvP kills in DCS. Some topics are shared, some only fit with one or the other.

I’ve collected a lot of information but I still find it hard to leave what I think is the real world behind. Just a quick example… Some practices will result in huge danger in DCS, but your life doesn’t matter. Launching every missile you have maybe a DCS method, it’s not in any Navy ops book. Would you really go up against 6 incoming fighters as a singleton? Do the currently modeled physics of weapons agree with doctrine? Sometimes, in principal, but with differences.

So whatever comes next, remember, some will preach PvP and others will preach doctrine and physics or mixtures of each. And the answer may be a blend of either or one or the other.

Generally there are useful topics to break this huge topic up into, I’ve done a little work on this, it’s a bit like maths, you need to learn multiplication before you can divide. All students should cover the basics first, may sound obvious but missing out on missile physics theory will not help you to understand why you always miss.

General Aviation

Flying a plane, energy, angle of attack, as well as how to fly about. Holding patterns, landing, taking off, standard turns, tac turns, hard turns, fuel management, handling characteristics under load….topic goes on forever. But at the end of the day, you need to fly and do it in a way thats standardised and understood by all.

Understand the module

Again, isn’t this obvious? But you would be amazed how many people don’t understand the difference between high, medium and auto PRF, the way their SPO or TEWS works, what STT vs TWS appears like on the opponents cockpit and all this jazz. Where is the pitbull timer? what does T or M mean? If this knowledge isn’t known the rest will be fundamentally harder or impossible to understand.

Understanding DCS’s limitation

DCS is the simulation, its not real life. To be successful you need to understand it. ECM? Spin up timer? How many vertical bar scans does the F-15 have? Why is this an unrealistic limitation? Why does DCS show a helicopter stationary on the ground on the Radar? Realistic? ECM burn through distance – consistent? What distance? Is that realistic? SPO bars to distance from signal source. Is that consistent, measurable? the SAME?! Note, i’m not giving away all the answers here, but these little pieces aren’t in a Navy manual and tricky to pull out of the forums. So its generally a long and hard learn, but fundamentally vital!

The Missile Theory

Rmax, Rmax2, Epole, Apole, Fpole. Active vs Semi Active, Energy, Skate, short skate, Maddog, Pitbull, MAR, Cranking and TACVIEW.

Short story long. Understand the above, then go and watch tacview and look at missile launches and watch the launch and the range and the energy and the bandit and after some hours, it begins to sink in.

BFM Theory: BVR

Long topic that talks about a lot of theory and physics. It discusses the BVR dogfight, the missiles involved and the rough key concepts. It has to explain being offensive and defensive at the same time. It’s going to explain how to fire a missile with the best chance of hitting and it’s going to discuss how not to make it easier for your opponent.

From an F-15 point of view you maximise your Apole whilst maximising your opponents Fpole. it’s a lot like boxers reaches. Except their arms change lengths and you leave bits behind!. Additionally you need to consider group tactics and movement as a group and versus differing groups, ie Brackets, postholes, cranking, notching, offsets and so on. This one is probably the meat on the bones and fairly long and hard to teach.

BFM Theory: WVR

So this is the section of combat where BVR is over, you merged and you are dogfighting in visual range. If the above was hard, this one is worse, it’s even more abstract. Whats more its not always one on one either. I gave up trying to create learning on this, if anyone thinks watching The Art of the Kill or reading Shaw’s book is going to make them a dogfighter, i’d hasten to break their illusion. In fact, most of it seems to be innate. You can either visually picture your engagement or you can’t. I’m terrible. One circle fights, two circle fights, energy, manoeuvers, corner speed….gah, it’s horrible.

Threats and technology

Radar is a bit of a tricky one as its very simplified in DCS but the theory generally fits, despite some clangers. Big plane, shine radar at it, comes back on your screen further away than a smaller one. Doppler raadar covers relative changes in return, so slow moving or side aspect targets are detected later, if at all.

RWR/TREWS/SPO awesome tools. But give you only the reception of the radar. What type is it, how strong, how long was it presented, is it nails or is he spiking you? Often if you are radar off, this is your primary way of gathering situational awareness. Can you understand aspect at the gimbals? What can you interpret from his facing, aspect height, history, ECM use, radar type, speed etc that can help you defeat him? Ever SEEN a missile launch at 20nm just from his aspect change to 60 degrees off nose? Do you understand everything you see on the TEWS? Difference between a 23 mud and a 23 nails? Whats the difference between notching and beaming? Know how to critically break his lock at just the right range? Which fighter is more suited to this? WHat might you need to do to the engagement flow to create your killer opportunity by exploiting how radar works…or DOESN’T!


There’s generally a lot to this and its actually fairly translatable into DCS. How to communicate to the flight what you are doing and what you want them to do. Without some typical aids in real life like HSD’s and datalinks, it is hard, especially hard for us mortals. Attached to this is the topic of Brevity which is covered well online.

Luckily, its mostly learning from someone that already does it well, applying a word you never heard spoken can be difficult. Doing it under stress is harder. But it is documented so all you need is practice. I recommend listening to some radio tapes of red Flag exercises and others.

Usually you start by not understanding anything. But translate it manually with the pause button and it begins to drop clear. Keep it consistent. Recognise when you need to use it. Analyse your own radio use….how long did you press for?

It’s a language of it’s own, but in combat it’s actually rather useful. How else can you convey to your friend you want him to shoot that guy, go out right a bit, see if he goes for you or me, then press or defend?

“2 target bandit, 120 for 25 miles 8 thousand, bracket right, split.”

It’s worth knowing and using. I’m not even covering brevity for using AWACS and how to use an Air Battle manager, of your relative roles. Most of that isn’t well documented and we don’t have the same tools.

The PvP “Game“

This is a final but separate topic that is another one fundamentally picked up over time. It’s all about the relative strengths and weaknesses of the SU27 vs F-15C engagement, either in large maps or mass combat of some sort.

What are the key strengths? How do you play to them? It is fundamentally Asymetric. They are not equal. The fights are dictated on the mission and the patience of one or the other. A patient SU-27 (and this is an important skill for the reds) will dictate the altitude and range of his engagement and bring the Eagle in closer, typically terrain masking, making use of EOS and the ET ninja combination for a deadly surprise attack. Those kills…are.. awesome and equally disappointing for the Eagle driver. It’s not to say an Eagle can’t move in the weeds in auto acquisition mode down a gulley, of course he can, but that Sukhoi can snap on you faster and without warning. It can be very 50/50 for the first part but it slides to the Sukhois advantage after a couple of turns…if you make it that far.

Equally, the Eagle would retain energy for his Slammer shot, higher, faster and out of reach. He can turn off when the missile is active and have the epole advantage that makes him, technically invulnerable in a one v one…unless the Sukhoi wants to risk his defensive BFM on a slammers terminal active phase. Repeatedly. Risky. Then there are the ECM games, the hide and seek, the carrot and the stick, the posthole ambush and so on. You need to die in many ways before learning them.

Parting message, dying isn’t optional, the young have come to assume there is a silver bullet for games, an absolute procedure to perform that is not able to be overcome. An ultimate answer. But no matter how good you are, you will eat a missile, despite your best defensive BFM. All you simply do is minimise his chances as best you can and maximise your own. When it comes to 4v8 engagements, this all goes out the window and network latency can be more an issue.

This topic is a repost of MULE’s post from the 42nd Virtual Fighters Group.

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