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F-15 vs. Su 27?

by Tom Murphy


An F-15C Eagle takes off from Langley Air Force Base (US Air Force Photo)


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To DACT or not to DACT?


Twice in the last month there have been threads on HyperScale’s Discussion Group talking about Flankers fighting Eagles in Summer 1992 and having their lunch.

I was surprised, first of all, that I had never heard about this before. I flew Eagles in the 94FS at Langley, which was the squadron that went to Russia then hosted them when they visited the U.S. With my usual impeccable sense of timing I managed to leave the squadron shortly before all this happened, but I still personally knew, and had flown with, 90% of the pilots assigned to the squadron at the time and 100% of the pilots that flew in these exchange visits. Somehow in the 10 years that have passed they had failed to mention to me in numerous conversations about this very subject that any DACT occurred - I don't think so! In addition to still flying for the Air Force Reserve I work as an F-15 sim instructor at Langley; which means I'm current on the latest F-15 programs and performance. Surely there would be some record (classified or unclassified) of this apocryphal event and the lessons learned if the Eagle had been beaten so badly. There isn't. Period. Dot.

After reading the last thread I decided to check it out.

Rather than relying on hearsay, I contacted three pilots with whom I was stationed at Langley. These pilots flew in Flanker backseats, gave Russian pilots Eagle rides and flew Eagles in formation with the SU-27's and are still flying the F-15. I passed on the Air Forces Monthly "story" as quoted and, after they had stopped laughing hysterically, they told me was this: the amount of DACT that took place between Eagles and Flankers in Summer 1992 was...NONE, nada, zip, zero, nyet, a big doughnut.

DACT was not just frowned upon or discouraged; it was forbidden, for two main reasons.

Nobody wanted the political heat/fallout that would result if one of the jets went out of control and crashed or, worse, if they had a mid-air in the hard manoeuvring that DACT implies.

Second, despite recent warm feelings toward the Russians nobody was going to allow anything remotely classified to be passed on, so the F-15s were flown radar, TEWS, PACS panel, ICS off. When all your weapons systems are turned off it becomes pointless to fly DACT, unless you're planning to recreate WWI, WWII, and Korea by fighting guns only. In which case give me an A-10 that can turn up it's own ass and has a big gun.


What actually did occur (and probably formed the loose basis for this "dramatic story") was that, in addition to single ship backseat rides, the F-15's and SU-27's went out and flew tactical formation with each other (line abreast 1 to 2 miles apart with 2000 to 3000 feet vertical spacing). During 90 degree turns in this formation one aircraft turns first and passes 3000 to 4000 feet through the 6 'o clock of the second jet to go, at which point that second jet starts its turn in order to roll out line abreast but with both jets pointed 90 degrees off the formation's original heading.

During one of these turns the Flanker, rather than continuing to the expected heading, stopped at the Eagles dead six for 3000 feet. After several seconds of wondering what the Hell the SU-27 pilot was doing the F-15 pilot spent 20 seconds trying to shake him and was unable, and then stopped, which proves? Basically nothing.

In the fighter community nobody starts 3000 foot perch setups at the defender's dead six, because staying behind somebody after that kind of start is on a par with clubbing baby seals in its level of difficulty. Instead the offender actually moves to the defender's 4 or 8 'o clock for 3000 feet before starting the fight. Even then in this more difficult setup the offender still stays in an offensive position 95% of the time. The 5% he doesn't is usually a result of him grossly porking up his BFM. It should be emphasized this was a single event, unplanned, unexpected, and half-heartedly done and not some series of "mock dogfights”.

As Paul Harvey says "that's the rest of the story" straight from participants in the event not some second, third, or fourth hand magazine article or internet rumor which just repeats what somebody else wrote.

In the future if you want to argue the merits of the two aircraft please spare us the repetition of this non-event as proof and stick to comparing them based on their airframe/weapons performance as published.


Text Copyright © 2002 by Tom Murphy
Images Copyright © by US Air Force 
Page Created 08 June, 2002
Last updated 08 June, 2002

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