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How do helicopters avoid being shot down by fighters (besides the obvious).


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I tried to look for examples of RL shootdowns of helicopters by fighters in the recent past (like 1980s and later) to see if I could learn anything and I can't really find a comprehensive list or anything. But the few examples I do find sort of paints the picture that helicopters getting shot down by fighters (Radar-guided missiles from fighters, specifically), is surprisingly rarer than I had expected, even if one side has complete air superiority over the other, like the first Gulf War in Iraq. 

 

In DCS, getting shot down by a fighter (as a helicopter) is rather easy so it makes me wonder what do RL helicopter pilots do to not get shot down so easily, (besides the obvious "don't operate in an area with enemy fighters".) 

 

I guess a better question is, if a RL helicopter pilot was forced, or had no choice but to operate in an area where enemy fighter presence was a threat you couldn't ignore, but at the same time you have no RWR or chaff to fool any radar guided missiles (as they are in DCS like the Huey or the Mi-8), what would that RL pilot do to ensure his own safety and the accomplishment of his mission?


Edited by WelshZeCorgi
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https://theaviationgeekclub.com/attack-helicopter-crews-explain-why-an-attack-helicopter-if-properly-flown-would-defeat-most-fighter-airplanes-in-1v1-air-combat

 

"‘A well equipped attack helicopter flown by a trained crew will defeat most fighter airplanes in 1v1 air combat, should the fighter be foolish enough to drop down to try and engage,’ Nick Lappos, Technical Fellow Emeritus at Sikorsky and former U.S. Army AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter pilot, said on Quora. ‘A helicopter immersed in ground clutter is very hard to detect by almost any means, and so is hard to engage. Meanwhile, the helicopter can be equipped with air to air missiles and large caliber guns that easily engage fighters as they maneuver at low altitudes against a blue sky in their attempts to engage the helicopter. The helicopter if properly flown will always maneuver to cut off the angle from the airplane, forcing impossibly steep closure maneuvers for the fighter. Typical helicopter turn rates are 30 to 40 degrees per second, three times that of the fighter, even at high g, so the fighter will find the helicopters weapons always engaging it during any serious contest. If the helicopter gun and missiles were selected for anti-aircraft (like the 30mm guns on the Mi-24 and KA-50/51), the results are that the attack helicopter becomes like a rapidly mobile SAM site, a very dangerous target.’"

 

"‘When I said clutter, I really meant “intelligent tactical use of clutter, obstructions and terrain”. In the blue sky you always envision, there is nowhere to hide and terrain is to be avoided as a potential threat, in Army combat, terrain is your friend, savior and battle buddy. Fighter pilots who face a trained, deadly and sneaky adversary in an attack helicopter will always see its missiles and guns, and never see a fleeing bunny to add to the kill list. While the fighter is in a blue sky, exposed to everybody within 10 miles, that attack helicopter is now sneaking below the ridge line with no clear line of sight, ready to pop up when the fighter shows its two hot tailpipes. And as far as Doppler radars seeing rotorblades, I have hundreds of hours in a 4th gen helicopter that made that statement quite problematic.’"

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Just now, WelshZeCorgi said:

So is DCS incorrectly modeling helicopters' visibility to radar? Cause it feels like they're always able to find me. 

 

That is very difficult to really say. In DCS the radars are not so well modeled. The ground clutter and such doesn't really exist.

Radars act more like a AESA in their capabilities to detect something in their mechanical steering function. 

 

Like the Mi-8 that got blown by a laser guided bomb was hovering at low altitude and evaded gun solutions, AIM-9 locking and radar lock in multiple attack runs. But because it was so low, the crew decided to use a laser guided bomb. 

 

The UH-60 incident was again Visual ID error, AWACS operator error and finally as well that those helicopters were flying high above the terrain to be picked in the first place, not trying to hide or evade when fighters flew the VID from couple hundred meters distance. 

 

 So fighter should really go just high and fast and try to circle around to get the helicopter make a mistake (come out of hiding, increase altitude greatly and get to go fast) so they would become easy prey.

 

Now it is more about even so easily visually spotting a helicopter on the ground that you can just surprise them with a gun or IR missile if they don't see you first (their rear and side visibilities are low, and especially to top side) as the IR simulation isn't so great either so you get easily IR lock in DCS. 

When you can be spotted visually (before 2.7 you had large generator for white clouds when you flew at NOE) then the surprise can be very easy. 

 

Again we don't have any proper ground units protection (MANPADS and such) or early warning (again local area troops reporting low flying aircraft) that could tip you off. 

 

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I would “assume “ its because in real life, they don’t coexist in the same airspace?  
For the most part, it seems that air superiority generally exists before helicopters are deployed into the zone of combat.   
my thought anyway.  

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1 minute ago, Mr. Big.Biggs said:

I would “assume “ its because in real life, they don’t coexist in the same airspace?  
For the most part, it seems that air superiority generally exists before helicopters are deployed into the zone of combat.   
my thought anyway.  

I think you are right. In RL choppers won't stand a real chance against F- or A- aircrafts and therefore are only deployed in air superiority conditions or with cover from jet-fighters.

It's just an opinion though, not knowledge.

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Tldr version

 

Results in DCS do not match with real life in ANY topic, because there is absolutely nothing about it that resembles real life. Not the behavior of the pilots, the objectives of the missions, the cooperation between units, the layout of the combat environment, etc etc etc. There is almost nothing about how anything is done in this game that even remotely resembles what you would see in real life... So, unsurprisingly, the results do not resemble real life, either.

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3 hours ago, Mars Exulte said:

Tldr version

 

Results in DCS do not match with real life in ANY topic, because there is absolutely nothing about it that resembles real life. ...

Thank you, Cpt. Obvious! Now, fly away......

For some it‘s interesting to think about how and why (and how far) reality and dcs deviate and discuss it. If that‘s not your cup of tea... feel free to read somewhere else. Perhaps something shorter?

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spinning rotor equals a higher RCS. 

 

Please remember to treat everyone with respect when you reply. 

 

thanks

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4 hours ago, Hiob said:

Thank you, Cpt. Obvious! Now, fly away......

For some it‘s interesting to think about how and why (and how far) reality and dcs deviate and discuss it. If that‘s not your cup of tea... feel free to read somewhere else. Perhaps something shorter?

  You'll have to go elsewhere if you want an echo chamber, I'm afraid. I did not try to shut him down. However, the ''besides the obvious'' part is silly, the ''obvious'' part IS the reason.

 

Real life helicopters operate as a group and don't yolo off by themselves where they can get farmed. They survive and accomplish their mission by working together with a larger force, and by actively avoiding getting themselves in that situation. DCS diverges because helo pilots do the exact opposite of what they should be doing in a great many cases and operate alone without coordination with others, as a result... they get farmed by fast movers. Just like would happen in real life if they did that.

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Bear in mind some parts of a radar's performance is still classified many years after they leave service. DCS programmers do have to guess sometimes and don't always get it right.

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On 4/26/2021 at 6:46 AM, Hiob said:

I think you are right. In RL choppers won't stand a real chance against F- or A- aircrafts and therefore are only deployed in air superiority conditions or with cover from jet-fighters.

It's just an opinion though, not knowledge.

So during gulf war one and two, the coalition gained air superiority in the span of days and never lost it throughout the conflict. And yet I can only find 1 helicopter that was shot down by fighters between them. I'm guessing Iraq had more than one helicopter. Yet what happened to all the others? Did they just not fly them at all? And why only one? If the doctrine was for helicopters to work in groups, shouldn't the fighters that attacked the Mi-8 have also found others to destroy? 

 

I don't know, I feel like the kill rate should be a biiiit higher in RL if helicopters are that easy to pop in DCS as in RL. In that conflict at least. 

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On 4/26/2021 at 6:46 AM, Hiob said:

I think you are right. In RL choppers won't stand a real chance against F- or A- aircrafts and therefore are only deployed in air superiority conditions or with cover from jet-fighters.

It's just an opinion though, not knowledge.

If this were true, then why was it that US Apaches fired the opening shots of the Gulf War in 1991?  Apaches were sent in deep behind enemy lines to take out Iraqi radar sites.

 

Written article:   https://www.airforcemag.com/article/1091apache/

Video:

 


Edited by Baaz
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A large part of this (rotary shot down by fixed wing assets) is how people play DCS.  Most missions and scenarios are completely unrealistic and written for player enjoyment.  Look how many kills a DCS player will get, and compare it to real life combat pilots.  Many DCS players will become an ace in one mission, with several hundred AA and AG kills within a few sorties.  This is just not how it works in real life.  Aircraft will be sent on a particular mission, and that is very rarely 'just fly around and find something to kill'.  Unless downing a helicopter is an expressed mission objective it will probably be left alone, as AA weapons would be better employed against high threat targets.  If for example you are flying a self-escorted strike mission, bumping into a helicopter is unlikely to prevent you from completing your mission, so you will not want to waste fuel, weapons or expendables engaging a target, while at the same time risk missing your TOT for the actual reason you are flying.  Even a CAP mission is unlikely to waste time engaging rotary in a contested airspace, as the fixed wing assets present a greater threat.  Let the SHORAD deal with the angry palm trees.  The only time I can realistically see helicopters being engaged is like in ODS when everything else was stuck on the ground or hiding in Iran, and coalition forces had such numerical superiority that they could afford to spend the resources downing the odd helicopter.

 

TLDR;  The main reason helicopters don't get shot down by fighters is that the fighters usually have something more important to do.

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8 hours ago, Lace said:

TLDR;  The main reason helicopters don't get shot down by fighters is that the fighters usually have something more important to do.

 

  Very true, in real conflicts aircraft are a strategic level asset.

 

@Baaz

In Desert Storm, as I recall the majority of the Iraqi Air Force fled well ahead of allied arrival to foreign countries. They didn't stand much chance against the numerically and technologically overwhelming coalition forces and would have been doing little more than feeding them kills. Basically, the Apaches were operating in conditions of more or less unchallenged air dominance. SAMs and AAA were a threat, but flying 10-15ft off the ground is a pretty viable defense against them up til you get right on top of them, at least. Even if they Iraqis didn't flee and came out to engage the Apaches, they'd have been almost immediately swept up. ''Heading out first'' and ''completely unsupported'' are not the same thing.

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In Falklads, British helos got few times uncomfortably close to Argentinian jets but they were busy going for moored ships and did not recognized them against the ground. And yes they were lonely helicopters bringing recon squads up the mountains so everything can happen. 

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On 4/30/2021 at 11:05 AM, Mars Exulte said:

@Baaz

In Desert Storm, as I recall the majority of the Iraqi Air Force fled well ahead of allied arrival to foreign countries. They didn't stand much chance against the numerically and technologically overwhelming coalition forces and would have been doing little more than feeding them kills. Basically, the Apaches were operating in conditions of more or less unchallenged air dominance. SAMs and AAA were a threat, but flying 10-15ft off the ground is a pretty viable defense against them up til you get right on top of them, at least. Even if they Iraqis didn't flee and came out to engage the Apaches, they'd have been almost immediately swept up. ''Heading out first'' and ''completely unsupported'' are not the same thing.

Actually, you are mistaken.  At the start of the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq had one of the largest air forces in the world.  It wasn't until nearly 2 weeks into the war that reports of planes being sent to Iran began to emerge in the papers.  That's only after nearly a quarter of his entire force was destroyed on the ground.  Do you really believe Saddam would order his planes to Iran (and yes, he himself actually gave the order), knowing he had one of the largest battle-hardened air forces in the world (remember, this is only a few years after the Iran-Iraq war), before they ever fired a shot??  If the US led coalition had such a, "numerically and technologically overwhelming" force, why did he sacrifice his fourth largest army in the world to that same coalition??  Fact is, up until the second week of the war, Saddam believed he still held all the cards.

Getting back to my original statement, Apaches were sent in first because the US led coalition actually feared Iraqi air defenses.  Better to send in Apaches flying 50 feet off the deck under the radar, than to risk coalition aircraft getting destroyed by radar guided SAMs.

 

EDIT: A very interesting article worth reading that will help back up my statements:  https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/remembering-desert-storm-and-gulf-wars-odyssey-iraqs-air-force-part-1


Edited by Baaz
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On 4/26/2021 at 10:24 AM, BIGNEWY said:

spinning rotor equals a higher RCS. 

 

Please remember to treat everyone with respect when you reply. 

 

thanks

I don't think anyone will argue that, "spinning rotor equals a higher RCS."

However, I do believe ED is overlooking one very simple fact.  The technology to determine what the RCS is (radars couldn't see the difference between a slow moving helicopter and a fast moving car), wasn't developed until the mid to late 90's here in the US, and apparently not until the early 2010's in Russia.  Based on apparent patent information, Boeing didn't even get patent approval for the technology until 1997.  

So, depending on the date of the aircraft ED wants to model, and the origin, the model may not be able to recognize the RCS as a helicopter. 

https://patents.google.com/patent/US5689268A/en

If that truly is the case, then maybe ED needs to develop technology that would allow for radars to detect street traffic.  This would make it more realistic for helicopters to blend into cities and road traffic.


Edited by Baaz
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9 minutes ago, randomTOTEN said:

....how many cars on the road go 300knots+????

I think he means a helicopter flying at 20-50 km/h NOE vs car moving 60-120 km/h.

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2 minutes ago, Fri13 said:

I think he means a helicopter flying at 20-50 km/h NOE vs car moving 60-120 km/h.

thanks but I know what he meant

4 hours ago, Baaz said:

Do you really believe Saddam would order his planes to Iran (and yes, he himself actually gave the order), knowing he had one of the largest battle-hardened air forces in the world (remember, this is only a few years after the Iran-Iraq war), before they ever fired a shot??

He didn't order them to engage the waves of invading enemy aircraft, or the history books would look very differently. So if there weren't airborne fighters to engage enemy jets, I doubt there were available AI for engaging Apaches in the desert.

 

Thus, I also believe this statement is basically correct:

On 4/30/2021 at 12:05 PM, Mars Exulte said:

Apaches were operating in conditions of more or less unchallenged air dominance. SAMs and AAA were a threat, but flying 10-15ft off the ground is a pretty viable defense against them up til you get right on top of them, at least.

 


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On 5/2/2021 at 11:40 PM, Baaz said:

Actually, you are mistaken.

  Ok, so he waited a few days before ordering them out of the AO. Point still stands.

 

Quote

  Do you really believe Saddam

  Grossly miscalculated? Yes, I do.

 

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Knowing he had one of the largest battle-hardened air forces in the world

  Helping buy him a few days

 

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If the US led coalition had such a, "numerically and technologically overwhelming" force

  They did, that's not really debatable. The size of Saddam's air force is irrelevant, considering how badly he was outmatched. The Iraqis did well lasting as long as they did, inflicting as much damage as they did. Had the coalition been less careful and charged right in, the Iraqis were positioned to inflict significant damage. End result would've been the same, but they would have caused a lot more damage before going down. Unfortunately for them, the Coalition did not deploy in Leeroy Jenkins formation.

 

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Why did he sacrifice his fourth largest army in the world to that same coalition?

  It was not his intention to do so, but once shooting began what happened next was not up to him. It is vastly simpler to evacuate some planes to a neutral territory in a matter of hours than to evacuate tens of thousands of troops and tanks.

 

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  Fact is, up until the second week of the war, Saddam believed he still held all the cards.

  Very possible, that's what happens when you screw up. You often don't realise it until it's too late.

 

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Getting back to my original statement, Apaches were sent in first because the US led coalition actually feared Iraqi air defenses. 

  I never said they didn't. Iraq was well entrenched. Their air defenses were extensive and relatively well planned. Their air force did not participate in the fighting to a large extent, however, which IS what I originally said. The Iraqi defense did not hinge on their air force, which would have been slaughtered by coalition CAPs had they attempted to intervene on a large scale. You don't evacuate a force you're depending on for victory and that is proving highly effective. You evacuate a force you don't want to lose and recognise they can't significantly affect events.

 

Quote

Better to send in Apaches flying 50 feet off the deck under the radar, than to risk coalition aircraft getting destroyed by radar guided SAMs.

  You can send in Apaches into a SAM and AAA network, particularly when they are operating in largely uncontested air space, which again, was my original observation.


Edited by Mars Exulte
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