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Author Topic: Fighter of the Week, Special Issue #001 (repost) - The Dicta Coburn  (Read 5750 times)

Trace Coburn

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Tactical Essentials of Aerospace Fighter Combat
AKA: ‘The Mantras’ or ‘The Dicta Coburn
Originally posted 20 Apr. 2005.

  What follow are the compiled ‘Mantras’ of AeroTech 2 “Total Warfare” fighter combat — though perhaps ‘Commandments’ might be a better word.  These are the rules of aerospace combat which don’t appear in the game mechanics and which, occasionally blindingly obvious or not, make all the difference between victory — and going home in a thimble.  :D  These are not really ‘new’ laws — the fundamentals rarely are — but are the products of game mechanics, common sense, shameless cribbing from the guidelines of every fighter-ace I can think of (chief inspirations being the WWI ‘Dicta Boelcke’ and ‘Sailor’ Malan’s “Rules of Air Fighting” from WWII, though others, both real-life and fictional, are used as well), and a good healthy respect for the Demon Murphy.  :D
  These points are not numbered; this is deliberate, as each one is as vitally important as any of the others, as are the details of each point.  Remember them all, and you’ll have as good a chance as anybody playing the game.  Forget one of them, and you will pay the price.  :'(  Forget them all, and God couldn’t save your ass.  >:(

  “When the going gets tough, the tough call for [their wingmate].” — #36, The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries.

  I don’t care if you’re a Clanner, a Spheroid, a Priff-rat, a merc, or a frickin’ Tetatae: never, EVER leave your wingmate.  The contract between you and him is that if you protect his back, he’ll protect yours.  A mutually supporting wing-pair of fighters is a thorny tactical problem for an attacker; an ASF operating on its own is pleading for a bleeding, and barring a miracle it’ll get its wish.  Pilots need to look out for enemy fighters trying to manoeuvre against their wingmates, as well as against themselves; if someone gets a favourable firing angle against your wingmate, axiomatically you should get one on him and make him pay for it.

  “Teamwork is essential.  (It gives the enemy other people to shoot at.)” — #23, Murphy’s Laws of Combat Operations.

  As an extension of the above bullet-point: when fielding a whole squadron, the three (or more) wing-pairs therein must look out for each other at all times once the furball starts — this is essential, not optional.  If one element gets isolated and destroyed, you’ve got that much less firepower left to deal with the rest of the bad guys.  Stick close to each other, don’t go haring off on some cowboy solo run, and let the other guy make the dumb mistakes — like breaking up his formation.
  On the flip-side of the above, if you can catch an enemy wing-pair (or even a single plane) on its own, or if you can separate it from its companions, do so and kill it without hesitation or compunction.  The faster you cut down the odds, the faster you’ll win the fight.

  “There is no ‘overkill.’ There is only ‘open fire’ and ‘time to reload.’” — #37, The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries.

  Another facet of mutual support; CLG isn’t only for BattleMechs.  Wing-pairs that aren’t having to watch each others’ backs should put all their fire on the same target and try to put it out of the fight quickly.  If a squadron of six Corsairs scatters their fire across a squad of six Transgressors, they’ll likely damage all six, but not enough to put any of them out of the fight completely; if those same six Corsairs concentrate their fire on only two of those Transgressors, admittedly they’ll give the other four a free ride, but those given two will likely be disabled in one or two exchanges, reducing a nasty 6 v. 6 ‘fair fight’ to a much-more-preferable 6 v. 4, in which one or the other Cappy wing-pair will find itself double-teamed by the Corsair pairs, depending on their relative threat indices.  Fair fights are for losers; a smart pilot stacks the odds every chance he gets.
  If you can arrange a cooperative engagement, with fire-support platforms on the fringes of the fight adding their throw-weight to your cause, do it.  The more those fire-support birds soften up the target(s), the easier it (they) will be to kill when you engage it (them) directly.

  “Whenever you have plenty of ammo, you never miss. Whenever you are low on ammo, you can’t hit the broad side of a barn.” — #70, Murphy’s Laws of Combat Operations.

  BattleMechs can afford to overheat, to a certain degree; fighters cannot.  The ‘Random Movement’ rolls on the heat-scale can be the difference between making your planned attack run and blundering right into a Stuka’s field of fire, and the importance of the ‘to hit’ modifiers is self-evident, so avoid them whenever you can.

  “If you take more than your fair share of objectives, you will get more than your fair share of objectives to take.” — #40, Murphy’s Laws of Combat Operations.

  When you launched, you were given a job to do: “protect the bombers”, “kill that DropShip”, whatever.  This is your only concern during the sortie.  If you’re in a Stingray and you’ve been assigned to escort a flight of Rievers, you cannot and do not go swanning off to mix it up with a Transit just because it’s there; leave it alone and stick to your job of protecting the bombers.  If you go off and kill a pair of Transits solo, but someone smoked a bomber you were supposed to be protecting, you lost your battle.  Gloryhounds get medals because they do something stupid and are lucky enough not to get caught out; Murphy is just waiting to punish those who take unnecessary chances — so lead him not into temptation.  Believe me, he can find it well enough on his own already.

  “Go in quickly - Punch hard - Get out!” — S/Ldr. Adolph ‘Sailor’ Malan, 74 Squadron RAF.  27 confirmed kills.

  Do your job, then go home.  If you’re assigned to knock down a DropShip in atmosphere and you do it in two passes, don’t make a third ‘to make sure’; all you’ll do is waste ammo on a target you’ve already mission-killed while running the risk of getting blown away by the defensive batteries or bounced by enemy fighters.  The less time you spend in hostile airspace, the less chance you have of getting smoked by some hotshot interceptor-jock.

  “Do unto others.” — #13, The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries.

  Know your bird’s strengths and weaknesses; exploit the former, cover the latter as best you can; never accept battle on the enemy’s terms.  Cheetahs have no business trying to shoot up DropShips; Chippewas should never get into turning fights with enemy interceptors.  Use your plane for the mission it’s suited to and only do other stuff if there’s nobody available who can do it better.
  Never stay in another plane’s forward fire-arc if you can manoeuvre to his flanks, or better get behind him; wing and rear armour is almost invariably weaker than the nose’s, and his sternward arsenal is rarely a match for your forward-facing guns.
  If you’re in a Shilone with an LRM-20 and large laser, and the other guy has a Transit with quad MLs and an AC/20, don’t get into a knife-fight with him: stand off and kill him from Long or Medium range, where he can’t reach you.  If you’re the Transit driver, grab the other guy by his belt-buckle, haul him into the phone-booth with you, and don’t let him extend.
  If you’ve got a pair of Stingrays and you’re offered a Stingray and a Lucifer as targets, don’t get into a fight with the other F-90; the Lucifer will give him fire-support and you’ll get smoked.  Blow away the Lucifer instead; it’s slower and thinner-skinned, making it a softer kill, and if you take all that fire-support out of the equation, the other Stingray will be a much easier target.

  “[Electronic Warfare] support covereth a multitude of sins.” — #4, The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries.

  Related to the above point about picking the time, turf and terms: since I last reposted the Mantras, Strategic Operations introduced Electronic Warfare (E.W.) to aerospace combat, and that can be a game-changer.  For the first time, fighters in space combat can find something akin to ‘cover’ within (or better yet, behind) the ECM fields of friendly Large Craft, and to a lesser extent those of fellow small-craft and fighters.  Depending on the number, size, and nature of any friendly intervening E.W. coverage, enemy fighters trying to hit you can suffer from as much as a +4 TH penalty from your allies’ ECM fields, and that does a lot for your survivability.  Think of it as smoke-screens, or lurking within clouds.
  If EW is in play (remember: all Strat Ops rules are optional and require player agreement), you’ll need to read the terrain of the electronic battlefield, as well as the physical one, and exploit/shape it as best you can.  As much as is practical, based on your mission profile, stick close to friendly EW protection and avoid enemy jamming platforms.  Freely mix jamming and ECCM spaceframes into your force if you can — a couple of Hellcat IIs or Sabutai-Bs can do a lot to clear the fog from your scopes (and spread it on your opponent’s).  High-enough TH penalties will force your opponent to get closer to improve his chances, so it pays to give EW ships bodyguards of ‘brawler’ fighters like Lightnings, Xerxes or Sabutai-As.  Conversely, if you know you’re going to be facing a force with heavy EW support, a force/weapons mix biased towards LB-X autocannons, pulse-lasers and TarComps will help offset its worst effects (assuming no-one’s going to scream about ‘meta-gaming’ ::) ).

  “Only turn to kill; otherwise, run away and fight another guy.” — Maj. Ambler Furry, 45th TFW, USAF.

  Once it turns into a furball, only stick with a single target for as long as it’s safe to keep trying to kill that one alone; if you tunnel-vision on the guy in front of you, someone will get behind you and you’ll meet the same fate.  You’ll either kill your target, or someone will threaten your flanks or aft; when either happens, break off your pursuit and look for another victim, preferably one that doesn’t know you’re there — a wandering singleton is perfect.
  Only chase someone if you can do it safely, without their reversing on you (if they’re more agile) or some of his buddies coming after you.  Never try to turn with an aircraft that has a better thrust-profile than you do; make one attack pass on him, then blow through him before he can react and find someone else to beat up, preferably someone slower and easier to kill.

  “Have a plan.  Have an alternate plan.  Be prepared for the plan not to work.” — Lt. Randall ‘Duke’ Cunningham, VF-96, USN.  Vietnam ace.

  This was raised during the discussion of the original posting: there will be times when strict adherence to one or more of these rules will be more dangerous than violating it/them — or indeed, when these rules will actively contradict each other.  Unfortunately, the only way you can judge the difference between ‘acceptable breach’ and ‘catastrophic brain-fire’ is during the post-mission debriefing, and you only learn to do so through constant training and actual experience, so until you accumulate the necessary nouse, trial-and-error (in exercises) and sheer gut-instinct often have to serve in their stead: this is called taking a ‘calculated risk’.  The rule of thumb would be that you might want to give serious second thoughts to any idea that might prompt the following conversation with your C.O. if you survive enacting it:
  CO: “You really believe in taking risks, don’t you?”   [tickedoff]
  You: “Calculated ones!”  :-\
  CO: “Calculated on what - your fingers?”   @p?  >:/!

  Well, this concludes “The Mantras”.  :-\  Laugh at my pomposity if you wish; lampoon my gravity if you will; forget these rules at your peril.

  People have been clamouring for the URGENT!!! re-run of this particular column for several weeks now, and I hope those worthies find it was worth the wait now that it’s arrived. ;)
« Last Edit: 28 June 2013, 06:50:09 by Trace Coburn »


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Re: Fighter of the Week, Special Issue #001 (repost) - The Dicta Coburn
« Reply #1 on: 22 February 2011, 00:29:31 »
Nice to see the EW update to the mantras.  O0 Ya know, these really should be stickied...
"The real question is, just how badly do you want to pound your opponent?  You can do things to your opponent with an ASF that are illegal in 39 states and 14 countries, and that's without even trying hard." - Paladin1
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Re: Fighter of the Week, Special Issue #001 (repost) - The Dicta Coburn
« Reply #2 on: 22 February 2011, 01:19:17 »
sweeeeet! this was the article i've been waiting for! and i agree with GBG, this should be stickied
"Warriors, not war machines, are the backbone of the Hell's Horses. While others worship the BattleMech as the ultimate weapon, the men and women of this Clan see even this awesome piece of technology as the tool it is. We have held to this philosophy since the days of our first Khan, who knew that the value of the common soldier far outstripped the brute force of the BattleMech. It is one reason our Clan possesses fewer mechs than most, and has led many to underestimate our fierceness and courage. Our survival against all challengers when others have fallen proves the folly of such arrogance, and testifies to the wisdom of our founders."
- saKhan Tanya Delaurel
Star Captain Logan Cobb-666th Assault War Cluster, Star Commander Octavian-The Thunder Heart Cluster
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Re: Fighter of the Week, Special Issue #001 (repost) - The Dicta Coburn
« Reply #3 on: 22 February 2011, 01:20:16 »
this is awesome! thanks very much for posting this!!!!

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Re: Fighter of the Week, Special Issue #001 (repost) - The Dicta Coburn
« Reply #4 on: 22 February 2011, 02:50:29 »
Glad to see these are back up.  Words to live (or die) by.  O0


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Re: Fighter of the Week, Special Issue #001 (repost) - The Dicta Coburn
« Reply #5 on: 22 February 2011, 03:26:09 »
Thanks for getting here in your reposts and remembering to add the EW 'terrain'.

Time to polish the dice and fool around with fighters again.
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Re: Fighter of the Week, Special Issue #001 (repost) - The Dicta Coburn
« Reply #6 on: 22 February 2011, 04:10:05 »
Glad to see that this much needed article is up.

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Re: Fighter of the Week, Special Issue #001 (repost) - The Dicta Coburn
« Reply #7 on: 22 February 2011, 04:11:36 »
This is what was needed. If you add more, no one will complain.
May no one ever know less then me......


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Re: Fighter of the Week, Special Issue #001 (repost) - The Dicta Coburn
« Reply #8 on: 22 February 2011, 04:56:26 »
Yay! The Mantras are back!

You know, these also work quite well in 'mech or vehicle or protomech..or, well, pretty much all
Battletech Combat.
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