End of an era

End of an era

The shooting-down of a Syrian jet by the United States is believed to be the first air-to-air kill by a manned US aircraft since 1999.

Despite Hollywood blockbusters showcasing aerial dogfights, they have almost vanished from modern warfare.

In the 20th Century, skilled pilots who clocked up kills were often referred to as aces.

The US considers a pilot with at least five confirmed kills to be an ace - but no serving pilot holds the title.


"The era of dogfighting is largely over," says Justin Bronk, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, specialising in combat airpower.

"After the totally lopsided kill-to-loss ratio attained by the US Air Force and US Navy during the First Gulf War, it is a very rare thing for regimes under attack by the US and its allies to send fighters up in defence - since they know how it will end."

In that war in early 1991, Iraq lost 33 planes to coalition forces. In return, they shot down just one coalition F-18.

That lesson led many countries to abandon competition with the US and its allies.

"Even in the latter stages of the First Gulf War, many Iraqi pilots chose to fly their aircraft to Iran to escape certain destruction - no light decision, soon after the brutal Iran-Iraq war," Bronk says.

During the Second Gulf War, Saddam Hussein "had most of his remaining air force buried underground to escape destruction rather than send fighters up".

And when Nato intervened in Libya in 2011 to aid the rebellion against Col Muammar Gaddafi, the country's air force did nothing to defend its airspace.


Most kills in the last two decades have been against enemy planes too far away to see with the human eye - which means technology often trumps pilot skill.

That gives the US a clear advantage.

It spends more on military technology than any other nation, has more aircraft carriers and deploys specialist ships with sensor arrays to aid its aerial fleet.

Faced with such a prospect, many air forces choose not to engage a technologically superior force - and leave their planes to conduct patrols or attacks on ground targets.



Add Comment

all comments

  Other news

more
Blistering Southwest heat wave easing, but winds fan wildfires

Blistering Southwest heat wave easing, but winds fan wildfires..

25-Jun, 15:36

Men jog along the consolidated canal at sunset, Thursday, June 22, 2017,...

Perrie Edwards HITS BACK at Instagram trolls who claimed she had 'Photoshopped' her peachy behind while holidaying with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Perrie Edwards HITS BACK at Instagram trolls who claimed she had 'Photoshopped' her peachy..

25-Jun, 07:57

Perrie Edwards has clapped back to Instagram trolls who accused her of...

Cross placed on lost grave of concentration camp survivor

Cross placed on lost grave of concentration camp survivor..

25-Jun, 12:12

The grave of a Nazi concentration camp survivor which was unmarked for...

Stella McCartney proud of her Beatle dad's song

Stella McCartney proud of her Beatle dad's song..

25-Jun, 09:36

Fashion designer Stella McCartney has chosen her dad's song Blackbird as...

'This Week' Transcript 3-5-17: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Josh Earnest, and Sen. Al Franken

'This Week' Transcript 3-5-17: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Josh Earnest, and Sen. Al Franken..

05-Mar, 09:46

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT FOR 'THIS WEEK' on March 5, 2017 and it will be...

ABC News says 3 of its Twitter accounts were hacked

ABC News says 3 of its Twitter accounts were hacked..

23-Mar, 09:18

ABC News says three of its Twitter accounts were hacked Thursday morning...

Delphi, Transdev to partner on self-driving buses

Delphi, Transdev to partner on self-driving buses..

07-Jun, 07:30

Auto supplier Delphi is partnering with French transport company Transdev...

Paris police warn people to avoid Champs Elysees area; French media report 2 police shot

Paris police warn people to avoid Champs Elysees area; French media report 2 police shot..

20-Apr, 15:32

Paris police warn people to avoid Champs Elysees area; French media...