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streakeagle

F-8 Crusader vs MiG-17 in Vietnam

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In my many debates in the F-4 vs F-8 battle, I always encounter assertions about how much better the F-8 was because it had guns and was more maneuverable. The gun argument is easy to refute as aircraft that had both guns and missiles available almost always scored their kills with missiles, especially the F-8 units as they were privileged to be converted to the AIM-9D as soon as it was available. The maneuverability issue is harder to prove since I have never found any charts showing the sustained or instantaneous turn performance of the F-8. The F-4, on the otherhand, has detailed information for almost every version/configuration flown by the US military. Crusader fans always loosely paraphrase pilot anecdotes from Crusader pilots that flew rings around Phantom pilots in mock dogfights. So, let me quote a Crusader pilot anecdote that should spell out just how maneuverable the F-8 was against the MiG-17, its principal foe:

 

"At one point, while I was pursuing the lead section of MiGs in a high-G, left turn, the second section got behind me. Tracers from the leader streaked over my canopy. The knee-jerk reaction to such a dire situation would have been to pull hard, putting more Gs to 'throw the shooter out of the saddle'.

However, I remembered an incident a few months before when MiG-17s had surprised two other VF-111 pilots by popping out of the clouds behind the F-8s. The Crusader pilots tried to out-turn the MiGs, which shot down one F-8..."

 

While this pilot lived by pushing his nose down into a negative 'g' roll forcing the MiGs to overshoot, one of the F-8s that showed up to help him out tried to turn with one of the MiGs, which resulted in the MiG getting on his tail. His wingman then scared the MiG off of his tail, but "each time Lt Wyman tried to fire a Sidewinder, the MiG would shake him off in a tight turn."

 

Ultimately, the fight went down to treetop level and the MiG was shot down by Lt Wyman. But it took four F-8s in an extended dogfight to trap this one MiG-17 into AIM-9D firing parameters. This was not a typical MiG-17 pilot. He was aware of all the F-8s around him and as such maneuvered repeatedly to deny shot opportunities.

 

CVW-21 scored 9 of the 18 official kills on one cruise and attributed their success compared to other units to:

1) Being the only air wing exclusively tasked as fighters (no bomb racks, only very rarely carrying Zunis).

2) Using the AIM-9D instead of the AIM-9B.

 

If you review all of the F-8 kills scored in Vietnam (originally scored as 18, now at least 19, but possibly 20 or 21 depending on how you score a probable and one in which the pilot bailed out before the F-8 could kill the MiG), then you will find that in many cases the MiG-17s were either flying straight while disengaging, setting up a shot on another aircraft (typically A-4s), or just popped up in front of an F-8 unaware that the F-8 was there and had a good firing opportunity. Many of the pilots clearly reported that they were pulling little or no G at the time of firing the fatal shots since their targets were pulling little or no G. If the MiG-17s had been aware they were under attack and utilized their turn capability, Even the AIM-9D would have been much less effective. Guns were used effectively only 2 or 3 times of the 18 or 20 kills scored. The peformance capabilities the F-8 used against the MiG-17 were: acceleration, climb, and speed, NEVER turning. Separation and mutual support were almost always used to allow turns/reversals with the general exception being quick breaks used to cause overshoots by rapidly appraoching attackers. The only way an F-8 could convert onto a MiG-17s tail is if the MiG-17 wasn't using its full turn performance.

 

Suggested reading:

USAF Red Baron reports (covering every air-to-air engagement between US and enemy forces during Vietnam in detail).

MiG Killers A Chronology of U.S. Air Victories in Vietnam 1965-1973 (solid data on who, when, where, aircraft type destroyed and what weapon was used)

Clashes Air Combat over North Vietnam 1965-1972 (seriously bashes USAF leadership for ignoring the results of its own studies)

F-8 Crusader Units of the Vietnam War (recounts the MiG kills fairly well including quoted anecdotes)

 

List of known kills (including some not officially recognized)

01. 660612 MiG-17 AIM-9D Disengaging Cdr Harold L. Marr "he rolls and heads straight for his base... At a half-mile, I fire my last winder, and it chops off his tail and starboard wing."

 

02. 660612 MiG-17 Cannon Bounced Cdr Harold L. Marr "climbed to 6,000 feet and engaged the second pair of MiGs, firing 25-30 cannon rounds. He saw fragments coming off the right wing of one of the MiGs, but he quickly ran out of ammunition and had to break off."

 

03. 660621 MiG-17 Cannon Headon pass Lt Eugene J. Chancy "Lt Chancy's desparate fire hit the MiG wingman as the section slashed through the Crusaders, blowing a wing off the MiG."

 

04. 660621 MiG-17 AIM-9D Disengaging Lt jg Phillip V. Vampatella "the North Vietnamese pilot seemed to have turned back toward home, probably low on fuel himself. Seizing the opportunity, Vampatella reduced his speed and turned back toward the departing MiG. At approximately three-quarters of a mile, he tried on Sidewinder, then the second. The second finally came off the rail and guided straight toward the MiG, detonating immediately behind the fighter, which crashed."

 

05. 661009 MiG-21 AIM-9D Undetected? Cdr Richard M. Bellinger "One of the delta-winged MiGs split-essed toward the ground, and Bellinger followed, firing two Sidewinders...one of the Sidewinders found its mark, and the MiG-21 crashed into the rice paddies below."

 

06. 670501 MiG-17 AIM-9D Target fixated Lt Cdr Marshall O. Wright "He got on the MiG's tail as it attacked an A-4 and fired a Sidewinder, which sent the jet tumbling into the ground."

 

07. 670519 MiG-17 AIM-9D Unexpected Lt Cdr Bobby C. Lee "a MiG-17 crossed their noses. Lee fired a Sidewinder, shich cut the MiG in half."

 

08. 670519 MiG-17 AIM-9D ACM? Lt Phillip R. Wood "hauled his F-8 around and fired another AIM-9D. The missile hit the MiG, sending it diving toward the ground."

 

09. 670519 MiG-17 AIM-9D ACM Cdr Paul H. Speer "engaged the North Vietnamese fighter in a series of maneuvers until the MiG pilot finally offered the Crusader pilot a shot. Speer's first Sidewinder fell away, but his second missile hit the MiG in the tail."

 

10. 670520 MiG-17 AIM-9D Undetected? Lt jg Joseph M. Shea "fired two Sidewinders, both of which hit the MiG, sending it also into the Hanoi suburbs."

 

11. 670721 MiG-17 AIM-9D ? Lt jg Philip Dempewolf details not clear, "probable" possibly confirmed after the war?

 

12. 670721 MiG-17 AIM-9D Target fixated Lt Cdr Marion H. Isaacks "A-4s were attacked by an estimated force of ten MiG-17s...got above and behind one MiG...The third missile came off the rail and tracked perfectly, right up the MiG's tailpipe."

 

13. 670721 MiG-17 Cannon Bounced Lt Cdr Robert L. Kirkwood "I was in good position at his 6 o'clock and not pulling much G...I squeezed the trigger and closed to 300 ft. I could see my shells hitting theMiG's fuselage"

 

14. 670721 MiG-17 Rocket Overshoot Lt Cdr Ray G. Hubbard Jr. "forcing the second MiG to overshoot...fired his remaining two Zunis, which blew up close enough to the MiG to cause major damage."

 

15. 671214 MiG-17 AIM-9D ACM Lt Richard E. Wyman "got behind the MiG and fired another Sidewinder. This time the AIM-9 guided perfectly and took off the MiG's left wing, the enemy fighter diving into the ground only 50 ft below." (4 F-8s to 1 MiG-17 from 16,000 ft down to treetop level).

 

16. 680626 MiG-21 AIM-9D ACM Cdr Lowell R. Landers "The MiG made a head-on pass against the three VF-51 fighters, and Myers wrapped his Crusader into a turn, which put him at the MiG's six o'clock, and he fired his Sidewinder." (appears to be no dogfight, MiG-21 continued straight?)

 

17. 680709 MiG-17 Cannon Novice Lt Cdr John B. Nichols III "The MiG pilot suddenly stopped his turn, rolled to wings level and lit his afterburner. Nichols saddled in and fired a second Sidewinder. This time the missile hit the MiG, causing major damage. The fighter remained in the air, however, much to Nichol's amazement, and he began firing his cannon, obtaining a few hits." (Intel provided briefing on pilot shot down: newly converted MiG-17 pilot with relatively low hours)

 

18. 680729 MiG-17 AIM-9D ACM Cdr Guy Cane "ended up turning with the enemy fighters until Cane got off a missile, which detonated just behind the MiG's tailpipe."

 

19. 680801 MiG-21 AIM-9D Damaged Lt Norman K. McCoy "When they reacquired him, McCoy was in the driver's seat, close to a minute after Hise's call. He pickled off a 'winder and nailed him." (Damaged by Hise's AIM-9D one minute earlier, lost in clouds, re-aquired flying straight?)

 

20. 680919 MiG-21 AIM-9D ACM Lt Anthony J. Nargi "He climbed and went into a loop, and I was able to get into position behind him."

 

21. 720523 MiG-17 Fear? Lt. Jerry Tucker "Suddenly the MiG's canopy flew off, followed by the pilot." (MiG-17 pilot bailed out for no apparent reason.)

 

While only 3 or 4 F-8s were lost to MiGs, this was less related to the performance of the aircraft and more related to how it was operated and where it was operated. F-8s were seldom bounced since they almost always practiced fluid two mutual support and usually had Red Crown vectoring them to MiGs being tracked on radar or spotted MiGs engaging other aircraft such as A-4s.

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Whatever, the Crusader still owns!!!11!! :tongue:

 

Besides, I'm well aware that the Crusader was only more successful against the MiGs (according to the kill-loss ratio) simply because their pilots trained ACM due to their (pretty useless) primary gun armament...and I guess that anybody who know a bit about the Crusader would say the same.

 

That would also explain why most of the initial Topgun instructors were Crusader pilots.

 

It's all about training.

Edited by Gocad

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Good contrarian stuff streak.

 

Assuming the F-8 had some advantage in "agility" or similar theme, did or could have the Phantom back seat (NAVY) help even that advantage in these engagements, before and after Top Gun?

 

If you care to think about it, how would you predict Super Crusader in place of the F-8 in Vietnam? Would they have added a gun, Sidewinders? F8U-3 was the F-4 contemporary in design.

 

pre-thanks!

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Lexx, two words: pilot training.

 

And to answer your question, the F8U-3 would have done worse, since it was meant to be used as an interceptor, so its pilots would have had the same problem as the F-4 pilots had in Vietnam....no emphasis on ACM training in their syllabus.

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Debates over which aircraft is "better" are always amusing. I'm always left wondering "better" in what regard?

 

If enough pilots claim the F-8 is a better dogfighter, then I would tend to believe them. I don't think this is the case because it possessed guns, rather because it maneuvered better in a dogfight. The analysis above clearly proves it could not maneuver as well as the Mig-17. This is clear and everybody knows that up front anyway. It does NOT prove that it's maneuvering capacity was similar or congruent to the F-4.

 

Yet both were fighters that racked up an impressive number of kills. So which is better? I think it's a matter of personal taste. My fighting style with the F-4 is completely different from my fighting style with the F-8. With the F-4, I use those awesome J79s to keep distance between me and my target, then squeeze off a sparrow when I lock him up. In the game at least, using the sparrow is practically an assured kill. I avoid using the sidewinders because effective use of them means I have to get in close and that means maneuvering with the target which the F-4 does only marginally well. With the F-8, I still can't exactly turn with the Mig-17; energy fighting is still important here. But I CAN still maneuver more aggressively and operate effectively in knife-fighting range. Just like in real life, I still get a lot of kills with the 'winder, but at least with the F-8 I can often get into position to use them. With the F-4, it's rare that I have a "successful" 'winder attack.

 

If the F-8 could have maneuvered on a par with the Mig-17, I think we would've seen a lot more more gun kills. As it was, F-8 pilots had a struggle to even get into missile-firing position with the sidewinder (not the far easier targeting with a sparrow). If pilots of the time had been formally trained to maneuver for gun kills (instead of relying on missile technology) we would've seen even more. The gun wasn't useless. Situations for it to excel were not available at the time nor was creating those situations taught at the time.

 

I don't see either the F-8 or F-4 as better than the other. They are different fighting concepts designed for different fighting styles.

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Shrike you can downsize the game Sparrow effectiveness if you like, using Weapon Editor, or in SF2 just editing text file maybe...? I don't have SF2.

 

Gocad: Think beyond training, after Top Gun if you wish. Think well trained aircrew in second seat. Did the F-4's extra seat "help" make up for less "agility" or less well handling or some similar theme when compared to F-8?

 

Streak's study of this field may be useful. Do the F-8 engagements indicate that 180lbs of gold ballast stashed behind the pilot would not have helped? I love this quote...

 

George Spangenberg::

Anyway, we were talking to the Israelis, and they brought up one-man versus two-man, they were probably getting ready to buy F-4s at the time. When I made the statement the Commander said, "I don't disagree." He said, "having that second guy in back, radar operator, is just like having a wing man who doesn't get lost." Even in the air combat arena that second guy was worth his weight in gold.

 

Page 2 ~> http://www.georgespangenberg.com/history2.htm

 

 

Put on thinking helmet. F-4 was meant to be used as an interceptor, also without guns. Single seat F8U-3: add gun and Sidewinders. No gold ballast. How would it have done? This can be a fun thread. Make it so.

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If you review all of the F-8 kills scored in Vietnam, then you will find that in many cases the MiG-17s were either flying straight while disengaging, setting up a shot on another aircraft (typically A-4s)

 

06. 670501 MiG-17 AIM-9D Target fixated Lt Cdr Marshall O. Wright "He got on the MiG's tail as it attacked an A-4 and fired a Sidewinder, which sent the jet tumbling into the ground."

 

 

 

unsure.gif Does it mean: firing a heat-seeking missile while a friendly aircraft was also presenting its nozzle right ahead? Wasn't it completely against any rule of engagement?

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unsure.gif Does it mean: firing a heat-seeking missile while a friendly aircraft was also presenting its nozzle right ahead? Wasn't it completely against any rule of engagement?

I *think* Michel's Clashes book described a similar situation, maybe the same. The friendly pilot out front was 'OK' with it.

 

edit -- Not sure if I recall this correctly, and could just as well have been Air Force or NAVY I don't recall.

Edited by Lexx_Luthor

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F-8 is superior to F-4 in a furball where you absolutely intend to fight, and can't risk BVR shots (lest you lock and fire on a friendly). The reason is because it turns better. But NOT because you want to turn with the enemy.

 

When using the F-8 as an energy fighter, it is nearly unstoppable. The Phantom, though it needs to be used in the same manner, bleeds off so much speed when trying to change direction, that J79s or not, you are very soon left floundering and need to consider running for it. It also sucks down fuel so quick that you need to keep one eye on your gauge at all times. The Crusader does not have that handicap either (allowing one's head to be out of the pit more, and thoughts focused more).

 

Hammerheads, yo-yos, immelmans, chandelles, even dives into zoom climbs all require the aircraft to change direction of flight (and many og them 180*). The better the plane can turn, the less speed it's going to scrub off in that process, and thus, the more E it will hold, and the more it will let you do.

 

 

 

In cases where you know the only thing ahead of you is enemy, the F-4 is superior, because of the Sparrow. But then, it could be an F-6 Missileer too in that case.

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Its interesting information of course but it doesn't really change the fact that in a straight comparison between the two aircraft, the F-8 comes out as the better optimized for ACM--which shouldn't come as any surprise since that is what it was designed for.

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well, can't agree more with the points given in this thread... speaking from my own experience that extended, close-turning fight in an F-8 would get you killed if no energy management are employed, not counting the jammed guns by the abrupt maneuvering and missing excellent firing parameters as the result...

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With the F-4, I use those awesome J79s to keep distance between me and my target, then squeeze off a sparrow when I lock him up. In the game at least, using the sparrow is practically an assured kill.

 

AFAIK, in the time of Vietnam war Sparrows were very unreliable (about 9% hits, against 18% for Sidewinders). Anyway, neither Sparrow nor Sidewinder were dogfighting missiles; they were designed as bomber interception weapons.

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The big advantage of the F-4 was its outstanding range and the multitask capability. A F-4 driver could act as bomber or Flak suppresser in a normal combat mission (what meant in Vietnam, that no MiG's were in the air), but if the MiG's came to play catch me if you can, then the F-4 could drop the bombs and could switch to fighter role. The Crusader was unable to do this.

The F-8 was a pure fighter in Vietnam, so that in most cases the flighttime and fuel were wasted, because no MiG's came.

 

And because Lexx qouted George Spangenberg with his words about the Israelis, i want to quote the israeli Test pilot who testet the MiG-21F13 1966. He said: With this bird we would have had shot down much more Arabs than with the planes we had.

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Yes, the multi-mission ability was the F-4's strongest attribute. It's no surprise that the Navy went this direction. A carrier has only so much space for aircraft. So planes that can carry out many different missions will almost always get the nod from the Navy. Unfortunately, the infamous "they" in the upper echelons of government decided the dogfight was dead and there was no longer a need for agility or even a gun in planned fighters such as the F-4. Luckily, McDonnell-Douglas still made a very good airframe that overcame the shortcomings of thinking from "they." More so, our pilots got the most out of a weapons platform rather than a traditional fighter.

 

It would've been great if only the F-8 had a better ground-attack ability. Or what if we'd stuck a J79 and an afterburner on the Skyhawk? That would've scared the bejeezus out of the Mig-21 pilots!

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The F-8 was in the end almost as versatile as the F-4 and used accordingly...it just couldn't carry the same payload.

 

[...]

Gocad: Think beyond training, after Top Gun if you wish. Think well trained aircrew in second seat. Did the F-4's extra seat "help" make up for less "agility" or less well handling or some similar theme when compared to F-8?

 

Streak's study of this field may be useful. Do the F-8 engagements indicate that 180lbs of gold ballast stashed behind the pilot would not have helped? I love this quote...

[...]

Put on thinking helmet. F-4 was meant to be used as an interceptor, also without guns. Single seat F8U-3: add gun and Sidewinders. No gold ballast. How would it have done? This can be a fun thread. Make it so.

 

1.)A well trained GiB won't help much if the driver is quite inexperienced...I know that this setup is used when you start training new pilots, but still, once you at SHTF moment there isn't much he could do.

 

2.) Don't think of the F8U-3 as an uprated version of the F8U-1/2. It was a whole different aircraft, designed for a totally different purpose. And, despite its projected performance, an inferior aircraft compared to the F-4. That of course my armchair pilot's opinion, but I still think that it's quite valid. :tongue:

Besides, even if, I don't think that it would have been that easy to add a gun or Sidewinders to it once they had realized the need for those.

Edited by Gocad

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In either case F-8 or F-4 it was pilot training that made the difference. You fought the airplane using its best parameters.

The Mig-17 and Mig-21 were just like the Zero in WW2,you should not get in a turning fight with them. It was zoom and boom tactics. Most kills were made because the Mig driver made a mistake.

As far as the missiles go,if you read about the fights during Vietnam,most pilots would fire 2 Sparrows or 2 Sidewinders to ensure that one would work.

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I love the f-8, but if you take the 2 aircraft and do a comparison the f-4 is a superior aircraft, take several things into acount if all things are equal

 

1- the f-4 can dictated when and how the fight is going to happeng

2- the f-4 can track the f-8 at longer range and get a BVR shot 1st

3- if the f-8 can get close to the f-4 the f-4 can run away an come back when it is better for the f-4 to fight

 

the real cuestiong is training

 

The aim-7 at BVR did very good in vietnam like everything else it was not desing to docfight, it was force into that arena by rules of engament

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I love the f-8, but if you take the 2 aircraft and do a comparison the f-4 is a superior aircraft, take several things into acount if all things are equal

 

1- the f-4 can dictated when and how the fight is going to happeng

2- the f-4 can track the f-8 at longer range and get a BVR shot 1st

3- if the f-8 can get close to the f-4 the f-4 can run away an come back when it is better for the f-4 to fight

 

the real cuestiong is training

 

The aim-7 at BVR did very good in vietnam like everything else it was not desing to docfight, it was force into that arena by rules of engament

 

 

This assumes a lot of things.

 

It assumes that there are only 2 aircraft in the air. (Or that there are only 2 friendlies and everything else is enemy)

 

It assumes that a BVR shot will hit.

 

It assumes that the Crusader can not hide from the Phantom.

 

It assumes that the Phantom is running clean.

 

It assumes that fuel is not an issue.

 

 

Let's look at it from a more plausible scenario:

 

BVR is great hype, but very limited in usefulness, even today. 99% of the time, you will either be afraid of shooting a friendly, or flat out prevented from BVR by the Rules of Engagement from the top brass. That slashes the F-4s "effectiveness" dramatically.

 

It might be able to run away, but when it does, it's burning fuel at a prodigious rate, and will run dry far sooner than the Crusader will. And when it backs off the burner, it leaves a nice trail behind it to identify it.

 

If the Crusader dives to the weeds, it'll get lost in the clutter and the extending Phantom won't see crap, even if it could get away with a BVR shot.

 

When in close, the vaunted power of the "mighty" J79s can actually only just try to compensate for the F-4's drag and weight and lack of wing. As it tries to manevuer, it will pull greater AoA for a given turn and bleed off more speed, requireing more power. And if you've ever tried it, you'll know that it just doesn't have enough, it bleeds speed at an alarming rate and then you must level off, extend, and show your tail for a heater shot.

 

Likewise, lacking all-aspect IR, the chance of getting a missile shot is next to none in this close in engagement, and even if you get a shot, it's easily evaded. The greatest attribute the Phantom can bring (climb, speed and thrust) is of little to no effect in this case because it lacks a gun, so it can't just run in and shoot the Crusader, unlike the other way around.

 

 

Yes, in ALL cases training is paramount. But the only way to do a machine to machine comparison is to ignore pilot ability, so it's pointless to even bring up.

 

Basically, if the enemy stold some Crusaders, the Phantoms would have to just run away. Granted, they could, so that's a good thing for the Phantom, but it's hardly a victory.

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BVR today is very effective. It's very useful and gets proven results. There is no hesitation to use it with the way IFF, datalinking and the likes have advanced over the years. In fact with those advancements cut the probably of a blue in blue kill has gone done into the low single digits. The USAF doesn't fly with handcuffs like it did in Vietnam. If we can kill it from 50 miles away, it's going to die and will never know what killed it.

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BVR today is very effective. It's very useful and gets proven results. There is no hesitation to use it with the way IFF, datalinking and the likes have advanced over the years. In fact with those advancements cut the probably of a blue in blue kill has gone done into the low single digits.

 

 

Perhaps it was a bit of an over-statement with the added "even today", however.... to explore a little, IFF can be faked. In general, early on, I can se great usefulness in it, but once there is a total mix of planes and massive furballs, are you going to have the equivalent of Ctrl-R (visually target radar locked target, bringing up the target info on the 'speedbar')? That's something I've long wondered about.

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Don't modern radars have a database of signatures? Not to mention that if you monitor where all your planes are and know who tracks what, then picking enemies isn't that hard.

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As per usual, I'm with the "it's not the aircraft, it's the pilot" crowd, but I do recall one F-8 driver who had two cruises in Vietnam with the Crusader relate that (after getting some Phantom hops) initially he understood why the F-8's beat up on the Phantoms so often. But after gaining some experience with the F-4, especially with its raw power and vertical performance, he stopped understanding how they had been beating up on the Phantoms so often, and began to think the F-4 should win every time...if its crew were aggressive and lusting for a knife fight.

 

I'm personally a fan of the F-8, but don't know enough about it to make an educated argument against the F-4; of course, as I've said about other aircraft vs. aircraft debates, and indicated in my first sentence, the majority of the time, it's the pilot that decides the outcome moreso than the plane.

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Well, look at it this way...decades after their introduction into service, which plane is still in front-line use?

 

Just the F-4. Upgraded, sure, but still the same airframe, and no better a dogfighter today than it was in the 1950s.

 

However, which was the last to serve on carriers? The F-8 for France, years after the US and UK retired their carrier-borne F-4s.

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