Title: 21st Century Air-to-Air Short Range Weapon Requirements

Subject: An examination of the requirement to place a short-range weapon system on future Air-to-Air fighters.

Author(s): Stuart O. Nichols; William C. Watkins (Faculty Advisor)


Abstract: Historically, a short-range weapon system was all that was available for air-to-air fighters. As a result, the gun has been a constant in aerial warfare. However, the advent of air-to-air missile technology and sophisticated airborne radar systems has changed the fighter pilot's primary weapon of choice to longer range missiles. This trend is evident by highlighting the percentage of gun kills in relation to over all air-to-air kills. The percentage has shifted from 100% gun kills in WWI and WWII to 0% gun kills in the Persian Gulf War. The improvement in air-to-air missile performance has made the necessity of a gun system suspect. This advancing trend begs the question; is there a need for a short-range weapon in 21st century air-to-air fighters? This paper examines the requirement of equipping future fighters with a short-range capability by conducting a varied literary review. An examination of historical aerial engagements, modern training and technologies, as well as future trends provides sufficient information to make procurement decisions. Additionally, a prediction of future combat situations assists planners in developing air-to-air requirements. In conclusion, technology will surely allow for beyond visual range employment, although future missions will be predominantly low intensity conflicts restricted by political rules of engagement. These restrictions will limit the utilization of stealth benefits and missile advantages because fighters will be drawn into the visual arena where a short-range weapon system will be required.

Last updated 1998 Dec 09