WWII Air Combat Techniques

The American Volunteer Groups –– or Flying Tigers –– were volunteer air combat units organized by the United States government to assist China against Japan in the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Erik Shilling, a former Flying Tiger, describes the air combat techniques required to engage with Japanese fighter aircraft:

We used to listen to Tokyo Rose quite frequently. On several of her broadcasts, she called the Flying Tigers cowards because we refused to stay and fight, then challenged us to stop running away. We thought this was quite humurous, and at the same time, knew our tactics were hurting.

Also on some of Tokyo Rose’s broadcasts, the number of AVG aircraft that the Japanese claimed to have shot down, was the exact number Japaese aircraft that we had destroyed. (We only lost 4 pilots in aerial combat.) This was the figure I used in giving our kill ratios. It had no bearing on the number of aircraft we or they destroy. Even [Daniel] Ford has said that we killed approximately 400 air crew.

To show a couple examples of attacking enemy fighters: If you attack head on, which the enemy was reluctant to do, because our guns outranged the fighters, they would normally pull up. (If he started turning away, he would already be at a disadvantage.) You started firing at Max range, and then dive away, under these conditions we didn’t turn and tangle with a Jap fighters.

Attacking the enemy from a 3 to 6 o’clock position.

Why roll rate was important, is that one must remember that all maneuvers, except for a loop, started with a roll. The slower the roll rate the longer it took before the turn began.

1. If he turned away, he set you up on his six. A most undesirable position for him, because he would be a dead duck.

2. The enemy invariably turned toward you which was normal and anticipated. With his slower roll rate, you could beat him into the turn, get a deflection shot at him, and when you slowed down to where he started gaining on you in the circle, you rolled and dove away before you were in his sights. If you haven’t tried it don’t knock it.

via AVG Flying Tigers combat tactics (Erik Shilling)

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