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If a military pilot is captured by an enemy, how can he indicate that he has run out of ammunition to engage in combat or is not in a position to retaliate? Does he use lights, radio, and/or flares?

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  • $\begingroup$ The question is stil unclear to me: If a military pilot has been captured by an enemy, he/she's being held prisoner in a way or another. On the other way, if the crew is still in the aircraft, the only scenario i can think of is a pretty large aircraft (transport/tanker, SIGINT/ELINT, AEW, ecc) being intercepted by one or more fighter aircraft like in event of an airspace violation. In an event like that, I think standard signaling (like wings waving, nav lights flashing ecc.) can occur. Otherwise, if I'm in a maneuverable plane, why not trying to go defensive and evade incoming threats? $\endgroup$ – Marco Sanfilippo Jun 11 at 6:58
  • $\begingroup$ It needs two for a successful surrender. You would need an extraordinarily principled opponent - most enemy pilots would relish the chance of an extra kill with no risk. $\endgroup$ – Peter Kämpf Jun 11 at 16:59
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There is no universally accepted means of surrendering an aircraft. According to Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research at Harvard University,

Aircrews of a military aircraft wishing to surrender ought to do everything feasible to express clearly their intention to do so. In particular, they ought to communicate their intention on a common radio channel such as a distress frequency.

They can do other things like rocking the wings, jettisoning the weapons, flashing navigational lights etc. However, none of these are universally accepted or even have a clear meaning in the heat of combat. So the best course of action will be to bail out.

If a pilot is captured by an enemy, there would be no need to surrender.

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    $\begingroup$ Lowering landing gear is also often considered a sign of surrender. A combination of dramatically slowing, turning navigation lights on, dropping landing gear and rocking the wings will likely signal clearly enough that you intend to surrender... if the enemy can see you. In the age of guided missiles, however, they probably won't. The best surrender is to be out of the aircraft and clearly no longer a threat. $\endgroup$ – Jon Story Dec 4 '15 at 11:19
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    $\begingroup$ I just had an idea: what about turning on the transponder? Provided the aircraft is equipped with one, of course. Surely, broadcasting "here I am, shoot me if you want!" is going to get the enemy pilot's attention, and hopefully in the right way. $\endgroup$ – Jörg W Mittag Dec 4 '15 at 23:08
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    $\begingroup$ And will likely get you shot! $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Mar 1 '16 at 21:33
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If the pilot engaged in combat, and simply ran out of ammunition, surrendering isn't something that has to be accepted by the opposing party. The rule is, you need to surrender on first sight of the enemy. Once you engage in combat all bets are off and you can be destroyed even if you release the canopy and throw up your hands (not recommended!) See, people get a peculiar sentiment when you shoot at them. They appreciate that you missed, but they don't take kindly that you offered surrender after you go winchester on the missiles and bullets.

Also, while you are surrendering. Assuming you didn't engage in combat, consider learning the other side's language and make sure you surrender in a top of the line aircraft. For example, Viktor Belenko defected in a Mig-25 in 1976 by flying it to Japan. This was a very valuable aircraft which he traded for a carton of American cigarettes and a million dollars. (ok just kidding, but he did get a nice trust fund set up for him when President Ford accepted his asylum plea.)

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enter image description here Generally theres no surrender bail out, In the pacific theater during the Second World War there was no aircraft surrenders. In fact even if the pilot chose to bail out of his aircraft (American Pilots) they would be strafed while in their parachute, and even if they had made it to the water. ( Japan did not sign the Genova accord) For this reason many American pilots returned the favor and would go so far continue shooting at the already critically damaged Japanese fighter.

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    $\begingroup$ Hi and welcome to the site. Do you have any sources to back up those claims you make? $\endgroup$ – AEhere supports Monica Jun 10 at 23:41
  • $\begingroup$ One reason to keep shooting at Japanese aircraft that were clearly damaged was that the Japanese had a tendency to suicide by ramming something as long as they had any control left, not because the Americans were cold blooded killers out for revenge. $\endgroup$ – jwenting Jun 11 at 5:32
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In WW2, USAAF bombers would some times signify an intent of the aircrew to bail out of a shot up bomber, by dropping the landing gear. The hope was that the attacking fighters would stop shooting, and not kill more of a crew that was just trying to get out and would be captured upon reaching the ground.

This was not official policy on either side, but it was occasionally done, and occasionally respected.

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