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Late Flightline Friday: ACEVAL/AIMVAL November 9, 2015

Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, awesomeness, Flightline Friday, fun, history, non squitur, pr stunts, silliness, Society, technology.
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Well, late or early, depending on how you look at it.

In the Korean War, the United States, in spite of fighting against MiG-15s very close in overall capability to the F-86 Sabre, managed to achieve a 10:1 kill ratio in air to air combat.  In Vietnam, that fell to 2:1, over the course of the war.  For extended periods, it was 1:1. Now part of that was silly – F-105s, which were really long-range light bombers and should have been B-78s or something like that – were counted in the kill ratios.   The Air Force fighter mafia got hoisted on their own petard in that one by insisting on calling everything a “fighter.”

Nevertheless, even if you restricted the comparison to Phantom vs. MiG, the exchange ratio was still not very good: about 2.75:1.

Even worse, new technologies emerging in the 70s made clear that small, maneuverable fighters armed with all-aspect IR-seeking missiles would win a close-in fight about as often as not.  Restrictive rules of engagement have long negated the advantage large US aircraft with powerful radars had, since the ROE demanded visual ID before launching a missile. By that time, the smaller adversary may have already tossed off an all aspect IR homing missile at you.  Exchange ratios were forecast to be really bad.

In order to figure out just how bad, and to help drive future procurement decisions, two important (and unusually long, complex, and involved) studies were undertaken, in the air, for realz, at Nellis Air Force Base: the Air Combat Evaluation (ACEVAL) and the Air Intercept Missile Evaluation (AIMVAL).  Some brief description:
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The Air Combat Evaluation (ACEVAL) and the Air Intercept Missile Evaluation (AIMVAL) were two back-to-back Joint Test & Evaluations chartered by the United States Department of Defense that ran from 1974-78 at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Both the U. S. Air Force and Navy participated, contributing a team of F-15 Eagle and F-14 Tomcat fighter aircraft and using the local F-5E Aggressor aircraft as the Red Force. The fundamental question that needed to be answered was one of “quantity vs quality”. Mock engagements showed that cheaper, lower-technology fighters armed with all-aspect missiles were able to destroy the more advanced, expensive F-15’s and F-14’s. These results of the AIMVAL/ACEVAL testing led to the Air Force decision to structure its fighter forces with a balance of cheaper F-16’s along with the more expensive F-15’s, and the Navy took a similar strategy in procuring cheaper F-18’s along with the more expensive F-14’s. The results had other impacts as well, such as decisions regarding missile development……..

Northrop Grumman released a helpful series of videos covering the history of ACEVAL/AIMVAL and its finding, especially from the Tomcat community perspective.  The four videos below take you through the history preceding the trials, the genesis of the trials, the outcomes, and their impact on tactical aircraft development. Yes they’re really an extended commercial for the Tomcat from the 70s, but that’s ok.  Sometimes informecials are informative.  Most of all,though, they have some really awesome air combat footage, which I know you’ll enjoy.

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