How does aerial combat work? Is it even a thing anymore?

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How does aerial combat work? Is it even a thing anymore?

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Dogfighting is still hypothetically a thing, but in most practical scenarios, aerial combat is an issue of using radar to locate the target and launching a missile at them from Beyond Visual Range.

Then the target either cause the missile to miss by maneuvering and countermeasures… or they don’t.

The definition of “aerial combat” has changed a lot over time. The WWI “chase them down machine guns blazing” stuff hasn’t been around for years. In [the Gulf War](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_engagements_of_the_Gulf_War), guns were not used in any airplane kills, though an unarmed EF-111A did score a kill by flying a course the Mirage F1 following could not execute leading to the F1 crashing (and a Distinguished Flying Cross for the EF-111A crew). An A-10 also shot down a helicopter with it’s flying-cannon, but generally guns are used for strafing ground targets.

Air combat like you’d think of in WWII with dog fighting doesn’t really happen anymore. It’s also extremely rare for technological and military peers to directly engage each other. Mostly what you have is things like modern U.S. aircraft engaging 30 year old Syrian ones. A lot of combat is planes firing missiles at each other from beyond visual range. Also, a lot of the role of combat aircraft has now gone to surface-to-air missiles. For example, in the current conflict in eastern Ukraine, almost all aircraft shot down on both sides were shot down by surface0-to-air missiles and never actually engaged by other aircraft.