Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Maneuver Warfare: A Wargamer's Notebook - OODA Cycles - In the Air: Sabres vs Migs

This series of blog entries are about the so-called "maneuver warfare" as explained by William Lind. The writings of Robert Leonhard will also be included. I claim neither expertise in the subject nor devotion to this way of waging wars and thus I am not trying to convert you into anything. This series is not an analysis or a review of all ideas about maneuver warfare but rather some explorations about the topic based on computer war games and simulations. Future entries will be delivered based in readership.

In the previous entry, I mentioned how John Boyd got the idea of the OODA cycles from the air combat realities of the Korean War. Apparently, the F-86 Sabre had no advantage over the Mig-15 in thrust, turn or climb rates. It was the ability of the F-86 Sabre to quickly transition between maneuvers what made the difference against the Mig-15.

In this entry, I fly through the virtual skies of North Korea looking for some edu-fun-meint.

The choice of flight simulator was easy: Rowan's Mig Alley. I don't think any mod out there for more modern combat flight simulators can replicate the dogfight experience of the good ole Mig Alley. A thing I never got over with fan-made mods to flight simulators is the lack of information about their flight models. Since flight models are really very important for this entry, I just sticked with Mig Alley. BTW, this flight simulator (ugly as it looks by today's standards) has a lot of personality. Maybe I should write a few more entries about it.

So, I went on and flew the Sabre and the Mig in empty skies. On the issue of maneuver transitions: yes, I can invert, roll and shake the stick with an almost immediate response in the Sabre. Not so fast with the Mig-15. Check, issue is closed.

Can the fast transitions of the Sabre translate in faster observation-orientation-decision-action  cycles that can be used to gain an advantage? Seoul, we have a problem ... Of the OODA cycle, 3 out of 4 steps (observation, orientation and decision) depend exclusively on the man and just one (action) step partially depends on the machine. Yours truly is a terrible combat pilot ... 

Even when the Mig-15 was mentioned above in having the advantage in sustained performance, this advantage is not gigantic. For air-combat purposes, the Sabre and the Mig can be considered as "similar aircraft". I experienced this in the flight simulator: flying the Sabre in turn-and-burn dogfights (angles fights would be the academic term), and in particular at the very end of flat scissors maneuvers, I frequently ended up in a head to head zoom ins. In other words, both aircraft can turn almost at the same rate and with the same radius.

Head to head zoom in. Scary stuff ...

I still have to work my flying skills to take advantage of the supposedly faster transitions of the Sabre. All I can report today is how I took advantage of a bad OODA cycle of a Mig-15's pilot.

So here it goes: a mano a mano with a Mig-15 (computer opponent set to "hero", the maximum skill available).

A Mig-15 in my tail ... Just another day in the office.

The Mig-15 is turning with me.

He tries hard to saddle. Here is to hope that the Mig-15 overshoots.
The turns into me, I turn into him ... A tad late but that's what the books say I am supposed to do.

Another opening of the scissors. The Mig is shown turning into me. Note that this maneuvers are not actually textbook rolling scissors, as the Mig-15 has still  positional and angles advantages over me.
BAM! The Mig-15 pilot, now spooked by the multi-story buildings, is short in airspeed and altitude and abandons the turn in order to regain both. I can see him struggle to regain control of the aircraft without stalling. I turn into him immediately.
The Mig-15 is trying to get away. I struggle to regulate my airspeed to a perfect closure rate that avoids an overshoot. 
The Mig-15 is in the background, it gained some airspeed but it is still low and flying away in a gentle turn. My inability to regulate airspeed forces me into a lag pursuit roll, here shown in its initial stage.
In a surprising move, the Mig-15 reverses his turn into me and climbs to meet me. Fortunately, he started to climb at a relatively low airspeed and to add insult to injury he turns into me. He made an awful decision and is flying really slow. That's why I got a chance for a couple of on-target snapshots. Shown here, a few seconds after my two cannon bursts (smoke can be seen from the Mig's tail).

I let him to pass by my aircraft. He goes down in a gentle spiral turn. It's a confirmed kill.



Vulcan said...

Well done!

Anonymous said...

Loved that game but never got it to work properly on my WinXp with a Geforce 8800. Upgraded to Win7 and now I can get the game to work. Albeit with a lot of fiddling and some lag and control issues.

Shame Rowan's gone. I would have loved a sequell to this beauty.

JC said...

Thanks for your comments, fellows!

Sorry to hear that you are having issues in W7. I am running this on my old XP computer with a generic joystick.I had no success installing it on my newer W7 computer.



Lieste said...

That is a flat scissors - a rolling scissor has you going vertical, and rolling to lead your opponent while pulling back over the top.

To do it well takes a fair bit of practice, but it doesn't involve losing energy in the way that a flat scissor's does - you need to retain vertical manoeuvring speed by the bottom of each cycle in order to not lose immediately.

If you can do this then you retain far more options for disengagement than the slow speeds used in the flat scissor - particularly when it drives down to low altitude...

Anonymous said...

I thought that you were supposed to be busy and pinned down by your job? ;)

Great posts JC!


Bryan said...

Holy s#@t! I've haven't played that games in ages. Man oh man what a pure blast I had with that sim. Hat's off to you JC for reviving it for a excellent article/blog post. I thoroughly enjoyed that.

Anonymous said...

Nice moves JC. I'm usually the guy that hits the building because I pushed it too far. :D

JC said...

Thanks for your comments!

As a guy who can't walk and chew gum at the same time, my on-the-fight repertoire is quite limited. :)

Still in the fight!

Wasn't this thing a beauty? I have to post more about this one.


JC said...

Thanks for reading this thing. Are we in Normandy yet?


Anonymous said...

Hey JC,
The Great Crusade will soon be upon us (although I really have no idea when, but it's looking better with updates to the beta every couple of days). There is a lot of talk on the forums about previews held by beta testers. I will not be giving a preview, but several people based in different parts of the country/world will be. I don't know where you live, but it may be worth it to check it out if you're near one. ;)


Anonymous said...

Found your blog via Steel Beast's forum reading the thread about novels. I figured you'd like to see pictures of a real MiG-15 that sits at a museum I volunteer at.

I only have 3 pictures of it but I hope you enjoy them anyway :)

JC said...

Thanks for your comments, gents.


The wait is on!

Thanks anonymous for the photos. The look fantastic. You get to see these wonderful birds very closely, I get.


Anonymous said...

Glad you liked the pictures! And yes I do! Of course when I'm not at school or studying :)