Energy fighting explained (feedback / review welcomed)

Hello everyone.

I have been around for quite some time (will be 5 years soon), and I still believe that War Thunder Forum lacks of a proper guide about energy fighting. The main reasons I am writing this guide is to fight the “categorization” of the planes and to unpin a few guides which I am utterly unhappy with, as they are built upon this categorisation and some fundamental misunderstanding of energy fighting.

Do not get me wrong. We have a huge content in the academy with videos demonstrating great skill and good ACM understanding. But while the concept of maneuver is often explained very well, the “why doing it” is too often neglected. Knowing how but not why can lead to the opposite effect from the one you seek.

The purpose of this guide is to get an insight of a few concepts related to flying, and how to use them effectively (which hopefully will be well balanced between simple concept, theory and examples).

Disclaimer:

Spoiler

-       I might have simplified a few concepts / equation to make them usable / understandable

-       English is not my native language. I learned American English at school, I am quite confident to be fluent in English. However please refrain yourself from arguing for every single word / phrasing using Oxford dictionary definitions unless it really damages the meaning.

-       I have not pretension to provide a complete guide about the subject. Reading this will not allow you to be #1 in the next Top Gun promotion.

-       In case you have not guessed it already, there is a wall of text incoming.

-       WiP. Feedback appreciated.

Acronyms & Definition:

Spoiler

BnZ: Boom and Zoom.

BnR: Boom and Run

E-M: Energy-Manoeuvrability. Theoretical Model of plane capabilities.

TnB: Turn and Burn. I prefer to use Turn fight.

Energy state: current energy (speed and altitude) of a plane at a specific instant. Does not consider drag and thrust, nor the evolution of energy over time.

Top speed: maximum achievable speed by the pane at current altitude

Energy fighting: the principle of assessing your opponent (attacker or defender) energy, compare with yours and maneuver accordingly to enhance your success / survival rate. As stated, it can be used offensively or defensively depending on your position.

Excess energy: Linked to the available trust (thrust you produce minus the drag you produce). The higher your excess energy, the more you accelerate.

Context:

I told you about categories. People LOVE to put things in boxes. It makes everything more simple. “This goes to A, this goes to B” etc. Unfortunately, flying is not simple, and we are not in a world of black and white. To fully understand how to push your plane to its limit, you need to see these (50) shades of gray, and not just bound yourself to diving attack or turning fights.

Some would like to say that “we have BnZ planes and Turn fight planes”. Some say “we have energy fighters and turn fighters

The former implies that a turn fight plane cannot BnZ, or a BnZ plane cannot turn fight; back to our comfortable boxes, it is so nice (and wrong) to once again see the world in black and white.

The latter is basically someone trying to look clever while not understanding a thing. Flying is energy fighting. So unless turn fighting is not flying and turning, I fail to understand how it is not energy fighting as well.

This is the whole point of this thread: to explain (and hopefully you won’t fall asleep, die of boredom, or not understand) what is energy fighting, what it means, and how you can use it.

Flying is energy fighting, and the question everyone one wants to know the answer is: “how can you fly to get out of trouble, or even better, how to get your guns on the target

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Pre-work: E-M diagram and excess energy graph

Energy-maneuverability theory is a model of aircraft performance. It was developed by Col. John Boyd, a fighter pilot, and Thomas P. Christie a mathematician working with the Air Force. It is useful in describing an aircraft's performance as the total of kinetic and potential energies (or aircraft specific energy) in relationnto its flight envelope.

It allows you to understand where and how you can beat a plane in a sustained fight. The information you can draw from this require a little bit of understanding beyond this guide, but one step at a time.

At this point, it is not important to understand fully these graphs. I will simply often refer to them, so I put them here as reference.

On the picture below, I attached some explanations about how to understand this diagram. I won’t provide a procedure to create one in this thread (or ever). If you do not know how to create one, giving you a ready to be used one will not do any good. The values used below are made up.

Spoiler

X Axis is your speed, TAS, at current altitude, [100-900 km/h]

Y Axis is your angular speed, in °/second, a current altitude, [0-50 °/s]

Lines are for the turn radius (flat turn, G felt by the pilot, not 2G flat turn), [100-500m]

Left curves are the stall speed of 2 different planes, at current altitude. It obviously increases as you are asking for more G to pull.

Right lines are VNE at current altitude (if the airplane goes past this, it crashes). IAS limitation for simplification purpose, no MACH considered.

Graph is bound to 9G, which I find already outrageously high.

The peak of the graph is your corner speed. This is the maximum angular velocity you can achieve. In reality, you might be bound by command stiffening, and not be able to follow the 9G curve at all. Neglected for simplicity purpose.

The two curves on the bottom are the excess energy curve. The point where they intersect the X axis is the top speed of your plane.

The point where they intersect their respective stall speed is the sustained turn rate (your turn time if your stat chart is up to date).

The purple line is where the energy advantage shifts.

What you can tell from this graph:

Red has a top speed of 620km/h TAS, a Sustained turn of ~13°/s, at 250km/h TAS, about 2.2G, and a best G turn of 2.5G at 500km/h.

Its stall speed is 180km/h, VNE is 850km/h.

Blue has a top speed of 540km/h TAS, a Sustained turn of ~17°/s, at 240km/h TAS, just below 2G, and a best G turn of 2.8G at 400km/h.

Its stall speed is 160km/h, VNE is 750km/h.

When it comes to energy fighting, and energy comparison, it is more convenient to use the Ps / Excess energy graph.

The E-M diagram shows your excess energy relatively to the G-loading/turn rate and speed. It is a good tool to understand your options depending on speed (i.e when to turn fight), but it is not very practical for energy fighting.

The excess energy graph displays a much more tangible information when it comes to understand energy fighting. It simply shows you what Rate of Climb you can achieve at what speed. It basically converts your available thrust into RoC, but that is the same thing. If you have more excess energy than the opponent, you can accelerate / climb faster, and generate more energy.

Spoiler

This graph tells us the following:

Blue can maintain a rate of climb of 25m/s, at 270kmh.

Red has "only" a RoC of 20m/s, at 300kmh.

Blue has more excess energy (more thrust/mass thus more acceleration) than red below 540km/h,

Red got the upper hand past 540km/h.

Blue top speed is 600km/h, Red is 625 km/h.

Effect of climb rate / dive rate on excess energy:

Spoiler

Climb removes it:

Climbing or diving do not change the speed where you have the advantage. Thrust is based on speed, and if both plane do the same maneuver, the "bonus" apply on both.

It is however affected by mass.

Effect of mass on Excess energy:

Spoiler

As you can see, for equivalent aerodynamics (same top speed, roughly same engine / propeller), mass has a negative effect on thrust (same traction, heavier mass, more inertia), but a positive effect to fight drag (same drag, more inertia).

Effect of G-load on excess energy (for E-M diagram):

Spoiler

High G maneuver is like magic: it always comes at a price

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Chapter 1: what is energy and energy fighting

I do not want to copy-paste any fancy definition from the web. I’ll simply give mine, with all the inaccuracies and simplifications it implies:

For a plane, energy is a quantity (expressed in [kilo]joule), which relates to your current altitude and speed (E = ½ m v² + m g h). It does not consider drag or thrust, nor gives any indication about its trend (increasing, reducing, stable).

I would like to emphasize the fact that energy is combination of both speed and altitude, for yourself and the opponent. Being at 3'000m with a speed of 400kmh IAS is much better than being at 100m with the speed of 400kmh. It gives you much more total energy (as the altitude / potential energy adds up to the kinetic energy), therefore, an opponent with a higher altitude and or energy state will have a lower advantage, proportionally.

Example:

Spoiler

If you fly at 400kmh, at 100m, and the attacker is at 400kmh at 1100m (1km altitude advantage), he has about 2.4 times your energy. You are totally outmatched.

If you fly at 400kmh, at 3000m, and the attacker is at 400kmh at 4000m (1km altitude advantage), he has about 1.3 times your energy. You almost reduced by half his advantage and you give yourself more (vertical) space to maneuver and counter his maneuver.

This is why I will often refer to energy state. The energy state is the instantaneous (value at a specific time) energy you evaluate on your the target as well as yours when looking for a few second at your HUD / instrument.

Energy fighting is the principle of assessing your opponent (attacker or defender) energy, compare with yours and maneuver accordingly to enhance your success / survival. It can be used offensively or defensively.

We have the following 3 scenarios:

-       If your energy state is higher than the opponent, your goal during the fight is to keep that energetic advantage.

-       If your energy state is equal to the opponent, your goal is to gain the energetic advantage.

-       If your energy state is lower than the opponent, your goal is either to gain energetic advantage (go back in control), or like martial art performers, to use his advantage against himself.

For all of them, you need to play your strength to either keep or gain the advantage. For the latter, you might not always be able to play with your strengths, and you might have to force the opponent into a mistake, which can sometime be extremely difficult, even impossible if he plays right. Going "martial art" style is definitely cool, but balancing out the energy disadvantage you have by playing your strength is always the best move IMHO.

Note: Using the opponent's energy against him only works if you can lure him to over-commit; if he sees you coming, you might be in a situation even worse than before.

The whole point of understanding energy fighting is to understand when you can or cannot turn fight, BnZ and other hat trick, as the world is not black and white. You do not need to be a better turn fighter to win a turn fight, just as you do not need a heavy good climbing plane to perform BnZ.

You just need to know what you and your plane are doing, and make the enemy do what you want him to do.

Energy fighting is for Blue to keep Red in the blue zone, and for Red to keep Blue in the red Zone, or alternatively, for both to force the other plane to deplete more energy than themselves, despite the fact they are not in their "comfort" zone.

Spoiler

Remember this: We are not in a world of black and white. Being Blue plane in Blue zone doesn't grant you an instant victory. Same goes for Red.

Comfort zone is not a win zone. There is no such thing as such.

If you are maneuvering to attack / defend yourself, you want to always be at corner speed. This means that a slower target will have a harder time to avoid, and a faster target will have a hard time leading you. The following rule of thumbs apply:

"In a fight, the attacker want to be at corner speed and target is ideally slower. On the other hand, the defender wants to be at corner speed to maximize his chances and force the attacker to stiffen at high speed."

The goal for the defender is once again to balance out the energy gap by forcing the enemy to be too fast, while the attacker wants to keep the advantage by forcing the defender to stay slow and easier to lead.

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Chapter 2: Excess energy and energy generation

As per my definition above, energy state does not take into account the plane thrust and drag. And this is how inexperienced player can be trapped (and call other planes UFO), because they thought they have it all figured out, but they did not.

Having an energy advantage is great, but it does not mean it will remain as such forever. Depending on how you spend your energy and how he spends his, as well as how quickly you can recover it, the outcome hunter can become the hunted.

Let’s use a fake example: I have 12 units on a board game, you have 8. Every time one of my unit reaches yours, we both lose one. But every turn, you can regain 2 units, while I can only regain 1. If I do not beat you in 3 turns, the 4th we will have the same number of units. The 5th, you have the number advantage.

Same goes for energy: If the enemy can accelerate more than you, the balance of power will eventually shift in favor of the defender.

In other word, you need not only to assess your energy state and the opponent one, but also to know what are the capabilities of the opponent versus yours (at various speed) to ensure that you do not fall into a situation which eventually favors the opponent. Assuming that your plane had the capabilities to maintain this advantage, falling in a situation where the enemy get the advantage implies that you did something very wrong.

The whole principle of energy fighting is to deny the enemy energy generation, and optimize yours. If you only believe that having a combination of speed and altitude greater than your opponent makes you invincible, you will very soon be burning.

To regain energy advantage, or keeping it, you need to carefully keep your energy generation higher than the opponent. Excess energy graph are quite useful to understand the concept behind this.

Understanding how climbing, diving, attacking, avoiding and turning affects your options and the enemies will make a difference on how to survive and vanquish.

Back to red versus blue, with a spoiler / reminder:

Spoiler

If you want to close the energy gap between the opponent and yourself, a "Blue" plane wants "Red" to remain in the blue zone (as shown below). Blue will eventually have more energy than Red. On the other way around, as long as Red stay in a speed in the red zone, it will eventually have more energy than Blue.

By no means it means that a Blue plane fighting a Red plane attacking it will win by staying below 540kmh.

While it might seem unfair, in a fight, area doesn't matter.

Think about it: If Red is the defender, by simply accelerating, it will out energize Blue. By simply gathering speed (and increasing maneuvering options) it will eventually deplete Blue energy.

On the other hand, if Blue is the defender, it might generate more energy than Red, but defensive maneuver might require more energy depletion as well. And Blue has no way to deny the fight, and even though Blue has recovered from its energy disadvantage, Red can still run away because blue has no way to prevent this.

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Chapter 3: How does this relate to the 2 basic fighting styles

Boom and Zoom requires you to have more energy than the target and aims at keeping that advantage.

First thing to understand: I said energy, not altitude.

Boom and Zoom contains 2 parts: Boom (striking the target) and Zoom (Running away, if possible in a shallow climb). Making a distinction between BnZ and BnR is a mistake.

There is no rule in the process telling you that you should be higher than the target at any point, nor that you need to climb back. That's more of a myth.

You must be faster than your opponent to close by, and faster after the shot to run away. This is a mandatory rule.

Diving can be a need (your top speed is below target's top speed), a consequence (you being higher than the target).

Shallow climbing is just a bonus to get back some altitude while extending, to anticipate the next pass on a target that cannot shoot back. If your survivability is at stake, don't climb.

Once again,the requirement for BnZ is to have an energy advantage. You cannot BnZ a target higher than you in energy. You can BnZ a target higher in altitude than you if you have the speed to climb, shoot, and run away. Having a higher top speed at current altitude make it easier to do, being higher allow a slower plane to catch up, but that is all.

Turn fighting is slightly different. It relies on having an reasonably equivalent energy state than the target, and the capacity to stick (for a moment) to its 6 and point your guns to it. It can be split into 2 phases.

-Either both planes are high in energy state and more specifically, at high speed. At that point what does matter is mostly your stall speed, the plane responsiveness and your pilot G-tolerances. The goal is to lead your target and lower stall speed allows you to turn tighter (if the plane and the pilot allow it), therefore leading your target at equivalent speed. However, due to the speed of both aircraft, and the effect of small variations on your control surfaces having a big effect, it is reasonable to say that as long as you turn little bit, and roll, while staying at 500kmh or more, you are reasonably safe from being shot down. It is close to impossible to lead a target flying at 500km/h+ without blacking out; this is because you have to lead a lot due to the target speed, and to lead you need to pull an incredible amount of G.

-Or you reach a low energy turn fight. I mean that you are not in the position to maintain a speed of 400kmh IAS or more. At this point (and I might surprise you), having a lower stall speed than the opponent is not required to win a turn fight anymore. We reach a point where you need a balance between stall speed not being overly different (not 150 vs 180km/h), but also on having an excess energy (available thrust) bigger than the opponent. The reason behind this is that although you might have a lower stall speed (and turn radius), if you do not have the thrust to maintain a certain speed, you won't be able to lead your target. Your target will literally run circles around you. The ultimate maneuver based on this is a climbing spiral: you rely on the target not to be able to both lead you and climb enough to hit you.

Both together must be considered and understood. You can turn fight a Spitfire with a Focke-Wulf for some time. You can Boom and Zoom a P-51 in a A6M Zero for some time. It is all about how you manage your energy and the opponent energy.

By looking at the graph below, in the case A, Red can turn fight Blue for some time, as long as he can maintain a speed advantage over Blue. Red might not be able to lead Blue for the whole maneuver, but it will eventually close the loop quicker.

A FW-190 at 550kmh can easily keep up with a Spitfire at 400kmh for at least 3 seconds, during which you can close by and lead your target.

B is the same scenario, assuming that Red has a higher thrust/mass output. Red will win the turn fight, despite the fact its stall speed is higher than blue, because it can turn faster, therefore remaining out of gun range, while being able to maneuver. Typically an succession of high and low yo-yo would do great.

Spoiler

Bear in mind that these graphs do not cover the angle of approach.

This angle, to optimize your firing solution, attack and escape maneuver, is not covered in this guide. It is also quite situational depending on the speed, terrain, and other available information.

As rule of thumbs, the attacker try to keep a small angle of approach, but not 0. 10-30° is good. It will give you enough option to lead your target, then cancel the attack or engage if you feel like it.

The defender want to have an angle of approach of 90° (to reduce as much as possible the firing time of the opponent, and force him to pull the lead with high G for a long time, to bleed his energy).

The picture below shows why a higher angular speed and a higher speed is important on a target. It illustrates the maneuver of a Spitfire finding a FW in its tail, 400m behind:

Spoiler

Conclusion:

Despite the worse stall speed of the FW on paper, the superior speed allows it to turn at a greater rate.

As shows, if both planes were to pull hard, the FW would actually cover 3 times the necessary area to hit a spit.

That one shows what happen if the target was aware of the attacking plane, and kept a 90° angle between its fly path and the attacker:

Spoiler

Conclusion: while the target is not fundamentally safer (I told you speed is critical), it reduces the time when the attacker can shoot him down.

In that case, to get a 2 seconds firing solution, the Fw had to pull hard since the beginning, and will eventually overshoot the target in a way which allows it to retaliate if still alive.

Thanks to the courtesy of @Dobs_, I can add some extra examples from here: Turn circle and application.

It contains some extra information about the turn circle, including the additional effect of a turn performed on a non parallel plan (high / low yo-yo to modify your curve relatively to the target)

Spoiler

What must be taken from this part is that you can use your energy to perform maneuvers that "you aircraft doesn't excel at" compared to the opponent. More energy means mot options to solve problems. Angular problems, positioning problems, duel problems.

Excess energy will allow a Spitfire to BnZ a 109 if you do not want to commit to a sustained turn fight and save your energy. It will allow you to dictate the fight. To avoid the fight. To force the fight. Losing it on a sustained fight immediatley is giving away a precious advantage to the opponent, lurking around.

By using excess energy (creating a high rate of turn), as well as offsetting your turn circle, you can "outturn" an enemy fighter. The lower energy state of the target makes it impossible to sustain the same rate of turn, giving you a firing solution, if a proper path was flown.

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Chapter 4: how does this relate to ACM ?

-       Climbing spiral

A climbing spiral relies mainly on two things.

You are fighting at "low" speed, i.e at climb speed or below. Above this, you are not in a sustained maneuver but in the transition phase, which might be quite different, as the target might be able to burst maneuver to lead you, damage you, then go in a sustainable situation.

You have a higher excess energy (at 2-3G load) than the opponent. It is important because otherwise, you give the opponent a chance to out-energy you !

The principle is simple, yet difficult to put in place:

You want to climb while turning, let's say at 2G, about your climb speed. The more G you pull in the climb, the slower the climb.

If your pursuer want to shoot you, he must climb at about the same rate, but also lead you. By leading you, he needs to pull more G, therefore more drag, he slows down, therefore he cannot lead you and shoot you down. In the meanwhile, you increase the gap between him and you, eventually putting you in a position to attack him with an excess energy.

As simple as it looks, the trick is to ensure the transition between your "actual" situation and the spiral climb. Underestimating the target energy and turning capabilities will allow you, during the slowing down phase, to lead you and possibly shoot you down.

Spoiler

-       Chandelle

The energy trap by definition. It requires you to have an generous energy advantage over the target, and more importantly, to "hide" it from the opponent.

The principle is simple: while having a higher energy state (if possible at high speed), you will initiate a shallow climb with a shallow turn. The idea is to remain at a distance which makes the opponent willing to commit, but safe enough so you won't be shot by a salvo.

If you have a higher excess energy at this speed range, you should be able to climb while the opponent slowly close by, being lower and more importantly, slower. As the opponent closes by, you will slowly trade your speed for a higher angle of climb. The target, slower, lower, will have to pull up even more to lead, bleed energy and eventually stalling before you, because it bled more energy, and has less to start with.

Spoiler

No picture for this =(

It wouldn't help. Just be faster than the opponent, and if possible with the capability to have a higher excess energy at high speed, which will give you an extra boost.

Doing it with an opponent having a higher excess energy is possible, but you should no wait, because the longer you postpone the maneuver, the closer the gap becomes.

-       Energy bleeding / Defensive dive

My all time favorite. That's my signature move to trap opponent in a chandelle, create a stall fight or simply out-energy him.

I spent so many lines in this forum explaining the damn mechanics involved in there, I have the pretention to be *the* master of the maneuver.

You will need 3 preferably things:
1) A top speed roughly equivalent (preferably higher) than your target / pursuer

2) A higher mass than your opponent. Go big or go home

3) Awareness. If you want to start a defensive dive versus a target closing in fast, a few kilometer away, you FAILED. You are "1 km too late". You missed the train. The money is gone. You are out.

The principle behind a defensive dive is much more complex than "higher mass higher top speed at current altitude (and below)"; It involves drag, thrust and inertia and angle of dive. It can be summarized with a good level of accuracy by the following considerations:

For the same reason that your heavy plane cannot accelerate as fast as a light plane, he won't decelerate either. It goes both way.

You can only accelerate to your top speed at current altitude (otherwise it wouldn't be your top speed). Going faster requires an extra thrust (i.e given by diving a little, using gravity to pull you).

Your goal is to spend as much time as possible at your max speed, while the opponent has to dive to go faster than you (and catch-up). While diving, he will bleed energy (mostly altitude to maintain / gain speed) while you will be neutral.

If done properly, a defensive dive can not only even out an opponent with extra energy, but also give you advantage if the opponent doesn't realize what you make him doing.

The trick is speed: If you are fast, the attacker need to be faster. To be faster, he needs to dive steeply. If he dives steeply, he will soon be at the same altitude, and will bleed energy. If he doesn't do a steep dive, he will simply never get you. Both cases, he loses.

In short, you want to be as fast as possible, while forcing the enemy to be faster, and for a duration as long as possible. Diving is actually only require if the opponent closes by too quickly, or if your top speed is lower, but your mass higher. Any dive higher than 15° should be considered as too steep (i.e you failed point 3) Awareness).

Spoiler

-       Split S

Split-S is a maneuver which aims at making the opponent overshoot and not leading you for a shot if he commits into following you. The principle is to trade altitude to keep you speed, while pulling a reasonably high G maneuver (which bleeds energy). If the opponent follows, he will have to pull more (if possible), and he might suffer from control stiffening due to the additional energy gained while diving even further.

Practically, 3 scenarios can emerge:
1) He doesn't follow you and pull up again. This gives you the opportunity to create separation, build up energy and prepare for the next defensive move.

2) He does follow you and do not cut the throttle. He will be very fast and overshoot you while trying to have a firing solution. It is up to you to try to turn and try to shoot him, but depending on its current speed and direction, it might be smarter to let go and build energy instead of wasting it chasing him. He might also simply crash due to overspeed.

3) He does follow you, but cut the throttle. He will have a similar / slightly higher speed than you. That's the most dangerous scenario, because the attacker will not have a high risk to overshoot you, will have a long time on target (you) and depending on its turning / accelerating capabilities, will simply stick to your 6 without you capable of doing anything.

The good news is that obviously, by doing this, the opponent voluntarily reduced his energy to a state similar to yours; at least you got rid of his energy advantage.

Spoiler

-       Scissors

Scissors are generally split into flat and rolling scissor. I tend to not consider vertical scissor as as they tend to evolve very quickly into rolling scissors.

The principle of flat scissors is to dodge the opponent's attack have him to commit into a turn to follow you, and reverse toward him. The maneuver happens in a unique plane that is mostly horizontal, but it can be a climbing flat scissors or a descending one.

If the opponent has more energy than you and you should be able to have a firing solution after one or two reversal.

What is likely to happen however is the attacker to cut its throttle and try not to overshoot you. Then, the flat scissors end up in a ballet of two planes crossing each other path, trying to be the one "slower" and "behind" the other. If the attacker pulls up on top of this, it becomes quickly a rolling scissors.

The flat scissor if flown to its conclusion is usually a contest of who can fly more slowly while maintaining sufficient controlled maneuverability to get into position for a kill as quickly as possible. Stall speed is as important as roll speed in this scenario; turning tight is one thing, turning before the opponent is another one playing a role here.

Rolling scissor, unlike its flat twin, is a maneuver which plays actively with the vertical as well.

You initiate a rolling scissors by dodging the attacker and performing a barrel roll instead of a regular turn. At this point, the attacker should be in a position to overshoot you, because he was faster in the first place and you traded speed for altitude in the evasive pull-up. To intiate the rolling scissors, bopth aircraft must try to permantly keep their lift vector toward each other, starting from the moment your started the barrel roll.  And the goal is now to keep your vector pointed toward the opponent, while staying behind him. In practice, you want to go up to slow down, and dive down again to attack the target overshooting you. The aircraft at the bottom of the scissors is the fastest one (and the one being shot at), while the one on the top is the one being aiming for a firing solution while diving again. The goal if of course to avoid a simple scissor situation but to use roll and stay "on the barrel walls" while defending, and "cut through the barrel" while attacking.

The rolling scissors favors an aircraft with a power advantage over an opponent, although it is a difficult maneuver. A higher power / mass ratio allows you to get steeper (and longer) climbing phases, better acceleration (and thus turn rate due to higher speed), allowing you to eventually force the opponent to remain in front of you, therefore to shoot him down.

Spoiler

No funny picture =(

Too complex to show on a E-M and Excess energy graph

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Chapter 5: Basic mistakes explained:

1. Maneuvering past your corner speed:
If you maneuver past your corner speed, you will stiffen and lose your angular speed advantage. If the opponent is at his corner speed and you are closing in faster (which makes you be past your ideal maneuvering speed), he will beat you in a turn. He can use this to force you to overshoot (due to excess speed) and get guns on you (due to angular speed advantage).

2. Accepting a prop-hanging enemy's head-on:
If the enemy is prop-hanging, it doesn't have the energy to commit to an attack themselves. There is no reason to risk your plane on an enemy that cannot hit you unless you give him the option. By simply by pulling up a little bit, or flying straight if it is safe to do so, the fight will extend in the vertical for him, and he will eventually stall. You can then dive on him, without risking anything, on a slow (if not spinning) target.

3. Prop-hanging:
It makes you slow, vulnerable, without any option and do not guarantee a firing solution. If the enemy out-energize you, a prop-hanging will not grant you a kill (unless the enemy does point (2.) like an idiot. It slows you down further from the corner speed, which is the exact opposite of how to use energy to fight and win.
Prop-hanging without a good situational awareness is suicide, and prop-hanging with situational awareness is generally a gamble, unless you properly assessed enemy energy and you were not too far from it.

4. Engaging without an exit strategy:
In short, attacking a plane and forgetting about it. Typical example, adapted from Paingod85:
The most common version of this is diving on the highest enemy, passing past him and then instead of zooming away and rebuilding your advantage, you go for the next highest plane below you. You will give up extra altitude, overshoot and fly below the opponent #1 you just engaged. And you keep going up to the ground. You are then low in altitude, with an energy advantage which was greatly reduced (good luck diving from 450kmh IAS at 5000m and climbing back even to 2500m at 300kmh IAS with your plane).
For planes without great energy generation (or retention), going down to the deck instead of keeping your energy advantage and slowly flying down is a death sentence. For the P-47 in particular, which is extremely slow, even at its BR, below 5000m, bouncing from one target to one another, lower and lower, without climbing back and dealing with what you attacked before, is asking for being out-energized and shot down.

5. Being caught up by a "slower plane":
Which is basically when you are far from being at your top speed, and the enemy blatantly out-energize you.
You can be in a speed regime that favors your (or not), it doesn't mean that a slower plane (top speed) with more energy won't lose it instantly and be in an inferior position. Even a Zero can catch a P-51 if the Fiddyone is slow and the A6M higher.

Depending on feedback / experience

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I spent too much time on it to be able to step back and be critical.

Any feedback appreciated.

Update log:

Spoiler

- 04/09/17 2 graphs about angle of approach, Chapter 3

- 06/09/17 Chapter 5 started based on initial suggestion

- 14/1/18 Chapter 5 point 5 added

Appendices:

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Massive work / bibliography from @Dobs_available here:

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Wow! This is nothing short of spectacular Rapitor!

By far the most comprehensive explanation of energy fighting I've seen.

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The first thing is 10/10 would recommend to any aspiring Air Forces player

some thing you touch on but could go into more detail is the fact that by just having more energy is not always a advantage. so basically energy tactics and theory.

As far as basic mistakes I see guys making it's mostly in timing ... so maybe a bit about how to time a defensive turn will help.

You need to factor in your turn radius and translation time around your turn Vs. your opponents. The basic premise is turning to early is bad but turning to late is death.

Also maybe a few examples of good defensive maneuvers performed both #A badly and #B well with a explanation as to why it worked in #B but not #A.

the reason I recommend about the defensive side is ... It is more palatable to abandon a attack and reset than to abandon a defensive turn. So more help with how/when to defend is probably needed.

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@GregKjr can you specifiy a little please?

In my opinion, having more energy is always an advantage.

It can be turned back on you, but that is a misplay from the advantaged plane.

A good pilot with energy advantage and  not falling for a trap will always be in the 'good' position.

About timing and defensive turn, I'll write that down in chapter 5, thx.

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@Rapitor  The idea of having more energy being an advantage might lead some one to think more speed + more height is better when in some cases having correct energy is better than just having more...

a good example is take two of the same aircraft ... (bf-109-f4) if pilot #A is just over corner speed but only say 500m lower than pilot #B but pilot #B is 25% over corner speed .... pilot #A will have the advantage even in a climbing fight as he will have better efficiency than #B.  his advantage gives him the chance to get guns on target first with out having more energy.

also when we look at those two same aircraft but with both of them traveling with sum over speed *(far over corner speed but under breakup speed) as thy attempt to slow down to corner the aircraft that don't have to slow as much will have a marked advantage in just the time he will need to get back down to corner.  additionally we have the advantage of rolling efficiency by not over speeding by to much.

I know it's hard to put into words .... maybe I can make a reference video at some point to help elaborate more if you want.*edit

Basically more is good but not all ways better.  But knowing how to efficiently use your energy differential Vs. your target wont let you down.

I think that's why most guys now call it "differential air combat" or "dissimilar air combat" because it's the difference in energy state and efficiency you are using as an advantage.

Not so much just the surpluses you can build. <- but maybe that's a whole new guide

* so I just found an old video that shows what I'm talking about... In this we can see the F-82 has far more energy than I do.  But he has no effective way to use it.

As I try to stay aggressive and in my efficiency range.  I can fight him with impunity until I eventually win. now this is not a "look how good I am" thing just a example of how it works.

Edited by GregKjr
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Yeah, I think I got the idea.

It is very situational though.

I'll try to put something like:

"In a fight, the attacker want to be at corner speed and target ideally slower. On the other hand, the defender wants to be at corner speed to maximise his chances and force the attacker to stiffen at high speed."

You video is more about a 109F4 pilot aware of his flying versus a F-82 not having any idea what he is doing (the last move when you intiated scissore, his attack angle was the worse ever, he should have extended)

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yes with his excess energy his turning radius was garbage.  he would have had a better chance if he was only 200kph slower and did looping reversals as well.  but that's my concern he may have been under the Impression that by just having more energy he was all good. that is the kind of beginner mistake guys can make when thy start energy fighting.

but thx for making a guide no matter how you decide to post it.  a good reference like this should go a long way helping

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@Rapitor regarding chapter 5: Basic mistakes include, but aren't limited to:

1. accepting a prophanging enemy's headon - if they're prophanging, they don't have the energy to commit to an attack themselves and should thus be easy pickings for you in your superior energy state simply by pulling the fight into the vertical.
2. prophanging - it gets you slow, being slow gets you dead. When there is any doubt about the enemy's disposition, don't commit.
3. engaging without an exit strategy - the most common version of this is diving on the highest enemy, passing them and then, instead of zooming away and rebuilding your advantage, you go for the next highest plane, another 2000 m or so down from the one you just engaged. It's especially hilarious to see P-47s do this as without strict energy management, these will soon flounder near SL and be easy pickings for the rest of the opposing team. You'd think they'd learn, but WT proves otherwise.
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Very detailed and informative, still digesting. Excellent post and very interesting.

EDIT: One question - is it possible to find these E/M graphs for most planes, and if so, where can these be found (pardon my ignorance).  Would be an incredibly useful tool for turn-fighting planes and understanding their peak turn speeds, etc.

Another question: Does the excess energy/RoC graph represent a constant altitude?  So basically (assuming both planes at sea level) the blue plane will be able to hold a higher angle of climb at 250kph but the red plane will hold a higher angle of climb at 600kph. Is that correct?

Edited by *walfreyydo

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You can make them. I created these. Although they are approximation anyway. You cannot use them without a pinch of salt, because even with WT giving many values in a much more accurate way than real life, there are still approximations there, as I do not use the FM files but flight testing.

And about how to make them, I'm afraid that I will stick to my initial statement before the first E-M diagram I put in there:

Quote

On the picture below, I attached some explanations about how to understand this diagram. I won’t provide a procedure to create one in this thread (or ever). If you do not know how to create one, giving you a ready to be used one will not do any good

You can still find plenty of literature on the web about how to make E-M diagram, it is not secret anymore

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3 minutes ago, Rapitor said:

You can still find plenty of literature on the web about how to make E-M diagram, it is not secret anymore

Thanks, I will certainly look into that.

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When I was talking about prophangs, I actually meant it makes you more vulnerable to the other enemis around you. 1v1 with known enemy disposition and FBW instructor, prophanging without the requirement to kill your target may actually be an advisable course of action.

That said, the energy differential must be reasonaby small so you can chase your target up at close range, after which he will hopefully not recover until he's dropped past you and thus giving you his tail.

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I personally failed to see when proohanging is a good offensive maneuver.

Dope-a-rope, yes, as a defensive maneuver, using energy advantage. But stalling your plane facing a higher in energy opponent, expecting the enemy to make a mistake, is not a viable option from my perspective.

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10 minutes ago, Rapitor said:

I personally failed to see when proohanging is a good offensive maneuver.

Dope-a-rope, yes, as a defensive maneuver, using energy advantage. But stalling your plane facing a higher in energy opponent, expecting the enemy to make a mistake, is not a viable option from my perspective.

I agree in general, but in specific cases it can make sense. I had a 47N push up a G.55 a few days ago like that, right into my guns.

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I'll adapt my text later today. But if you were capable of sticking to the G55 long enough to pepper him, that's likely because you were not prophanging hard up to a really slow speed.

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2 hours ago, Rapitor said:

I'll adapt my text later today. But if you were capable of sticking to the G55 long enough to pepper him, that's likely because you were not prophanging hard up to a really slow speed.

No, I mean the 47N pushed him up and I killed him coming in from the side - the ally saw me coming and forced the G.55 up for an easy kill on my part.