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After having watched the rather horrible yet fascinating F-16 avoiding multiple SAM launches:

I'm left wondering why he doesn't increase his speed? There are, however, some moments when he's pulling rather high G's where he must have given it some more throttle to sustain any speed at all. Does he need to preserve fuel to get back? Or is it better to maintain somewhat lower speed to have a better turning radius when avoiding SAMs in an F-16?

I understand this is basically asking for an entire lecture in how to avoid SAMs, and I'm trying my best to refrain from doing so. I will keep it to a few specific questions:

  • Assuming he has the fuel to do so, should he have increased his speed, full afterburner?
  • Is it possible to see in the video, if chaff/flares are deployed?
  • Was it wise of him to reduce his altitude by as much as he did, or would he have been safer higher up?
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    $\begingroup$ He won't outrun the SAM, so his best option is to out maneuver it. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Dec 13 '19 at 13:36
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In re Question #1: No he could not as the jet was probably in full burner at the time of the maneuvers and he needed Max AB plus exchanging potential energy for kinetic energy in a dive to make the jet maneuver at its fullest potential.

In re Question #2: I can’t see any chaff or flares in the video but it’s very likely he did so as that would be a standard defensive tactic employed if his jet was being shot at.

In re Question #3: He didn’t have a choice in that situation. The Viper is doing something called ‘postholing’ ie putting the airplane into a steep, turning power dive and holding the missile perpendicular to his centerline in an attempt to 1) defeat a doppler fire control radar and 2) turn inside of the missile and avoid it. If given a choice, altitude and airspeed would be preferred; right then more primal survival motivations call for more drastic measures.

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  • $\begingroup$ I posted an answer to my own question after I realized this: airforcemag.com/PDF/MagazineArchive/Documents/2016/… (see p. 62). Apparently he stayed in military power to preserve fuel. However, I accepted your answer, maybe you could update question #1 to reflect the Package Q magazine? $\endgroup$ – AlphaCentauri Dec 13 '19 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the article. I’ll read over it. $\endgroup$ – Carlo Felicione Dec 13 '19 at 21:05
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The missile works by predicting where the airplane will be. If you maneuver, it has to re-adjust, wasting energy.

When the missile has lost enough energy, it'll eventually fail to re-adjust.

Now you can try to beat the missile by being far away and fast or you can try to make the missile lose a lot of his energy by doing turns, at low speed. (You can even nodge the missile into the ground by making some close-range, low altitude dives)

In this instance, the pilot was probably already low. Or needed more energy for maneuvering and traded his altitude for energy by descending.

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One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet is the missile's speed.

From the List of Gulf War military equipment, Iraq had different SAM missiles. All SAMs share a single characteristic, they are designed to be faster than the plane being shot at.

The F-16 has a maximum speed of 795 to 1,147 knots (the higher, the faster). The modest SA-6 "Gainful" is designed for targets flying at 820 to 1,170 knots; the missile itself is faster (Mach 2.8).

If the F-16 is going to climb, it won't be able to speed up, and vice versa. Trying to outmaneuver the missile is the way to go.

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This incident is documented at p. 62 in:

https://www.airforcemag.com/PDF/MagazineArchive/Documents/2016/January%202016/0116packageq.pdf

it is even linked to in the Youtube video, however, these video description fields are not usually that useful, so I overlooked it initially. Sorry about that.

He opted for maneuverability by dropping his fuel tanks, but preserved fuel by staying in military power -- hoping this would be sufficient to survive.

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  • $\begingroup$ Does the PDF say what SAM was used? $\endgroup$ – ymb1 Dec 13 '19 at 16:27
  • $\begingroup$ @ymb1 SAM SA-2's (S-75 Dvina, I believe?). $\endgroup$ – AlphaCentauri Dec 13 '19 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. That's a Mach 3.5! $\endgroup$ – ymb1 Dec 13 '19 at 16:36

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