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USAF is the Best because of Superior Training

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posted on Apr, 9 2008 @ 03:05 AM
The USAF is the best Air Force in the World because of superior pilot training.

I've heard this for decades, and I'd like to hear someone justify the statement.

Historically, WWI nor WWII did not provide the basis for such a claim, so one must assume that it comes from the Korean War, where there was no clear US superiority in numbers or technology, but a clear advantage over Chinese and North Korean adversaries flying aircraft with similar capabilities.

My understanding is that during the Vietnamese conflict the North Vietnamese did quite well considering the small numbers of aircraft (mostly obsolescent) that they fielded and the manner in which they did so (for instance they didn't even attempt to engage B-52s with interceptors).

However, since the Korean War the US has not engaged another Air Force in air to air combat without overwhelming numerical superiority. So is the claim valid, or is it an urban myth rooted in the 1950s?

Any disparity with Communist Bloc countries could be put down to the different tactical approaches of the nations involved (that is the rigid GCI tactics employed by the Ruskies, etc).

If I make the assumption that the amount of training that a country can afford is related to their economy, and the tactics employed are, in some ways related to the amount of oppression within the nation, then one would have to question any skill shortfall when it comes to the emerging powerhouse economies of China or India.

So is the training superiority thing just propaganda or can someone actually validate it.

The Winged Wombat

posted on Apr, 9 2008 @ 03:26 AM
Hi The Winged Wombat, I disagree with you on this thread.

If you put America up against an opponent with the same aircraft it would come down to the pilots skill and how he/she can push the boundries.

Just a little insight the best pilots in Australia teach your top guns and we have proven time and again that we can outmatch your pilots, army and navy in the past 3 wargames that have been held in N.T.

posted on Apr, 9 2008 @ 03:29 AM
Boom boom boom. Boom goes Iran. Best aviation and artillery in the world. They are so proud of us.

posted on Apr, 9 2008 @ 03:40 AM
I'm not sure what you are disagreeing with - I'm only questioning whether it is an urban myth or not, and looking for some concrete evidence.

We all know that believing one's own advertising can lead one into a great deal of trouble.

Would any current Aussie pilots like to comment upon the Pitchblack 'results' quoted?

Certainly I personally remember an F-16 squadron turning up in 1990 that was very unhappy to learn that they were required to fly at night as well as during the day because they were a 'day fighter squadron' - that doesn't sound like superior training or skills to me, it sounds like greater resources, enabling specialization.

Just because I am questioning something, doesn't mean that I am anti anything.

If one is not permitted to question and validate, then one does not learn anything worthwhile!

posted on Apr, 9 2008 @ 03:42 AM
Take two pilots, exact same equipment, exact same weapons, everything identical. Which would you rather have, the pilot that has flown 1000 hours over the last year, or the pilot that has flown 200 hours over the last year. The pilot with more experience is going to be able to flip switches and fire weapons without having to look, or even think about it anymore. The pilot with less training is going to have to be thinking, and looking for switches, etc. You can overcome SOME of that by doing ground training, simulator training, etc, but the pilot with less training isn't going to have as good idea of what his airplane is capable of. It's a simple matter of the more training you have, the better you know your systems.

During Vietnam our pilots weren't allowed to train using DAC, and it showed. We got our heads handed to us several times. Our kill rate was almost non-existant. That's when Top Gun and Red Flag came about. I've known pilots that have said flying combat was easy compared to flying in Red Flag.

Yes, we fought in overwhelming numbers since Vietnam, but why wouldn't you? If you had the chance to fight someone, and almost ensure a victory SHOULDN'T you? It just makes sense, doesn't it?

posted on Apr, 9 2008 @ 03:42 AM
reply to post by jpm1602

Well, last time I looked Iran was still there, and I hardly see your statement (if that was what it was) as evidence of anything, really.

An emotional comment, yes, but not particularly rational.

The Winged Wombat

posted on Apr, 9 2008 @ 03:43 AM
Not disagreeing or implying anything. It is what it is. Sorry, so sorry, McCain seems to like metaphorical remarks towards Iran. Or are they.

[edit on 9-4-2008 by jpm1602]

posted on Apr, 9 2008 @ 04:00 AM
reply to post by Zaphod58

I agree wholeheartedly with everything you say, but that doesn't even suggest that USAF training is better today than, say China's or India's.

Certainly the US has numerical superiority when it comes to India (but considering fleet age, probably no technical advantage to any great extent).

As you said, it was actually a reversal of the skill situation Korea to Vietnam that established DAC in the US services. And having established that training, exactly where (other than the very controlled environment of Nellis) has it been tested and been shown to have been successful. I mean, it is assumed to have been successful, but while you are fighting with overwhelming forces then it is only an assumption. I'm not suggesting that you fight in underwhelming numbers just to demonstrate, but until that comes about it is very difficult to say that the lesson has been successful.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but hasn't the DAC system been reduced drastically since the heyday of Top Gun?

Now, I'm quite prepared to accept is that US and other Western aircrew had better skills and tactics due to the basic tactics employed by the Soviet Bloc, and I'm quite prepared to accept that a 'richer' country can afford to do more training, and therefore you end up with more aircrew that can flip switches faster.......

However, with the demise of the Soviet Union, and the rise of economies that can afford the flying hours (bearing in mind that, for instance, F-15 crews have been a little short of flying hours lately - and that it appears that the US is in - or is about to go into - recession), and that the balance could change quite rapidly.......

What I'm saying, I guess is that to say that any particular force has better training, is not something that can be projected forward form the 50s, or 60s or 70s, but rather something that is particularly generational and dependent upon recent action.

The Winged Wombat

posted on Apr, 9 2008 @ 04:03 AM

Originally posted by jpm1602
Not disagreeing or implying anything. It is what it is. Sorry, so sorry, McCain seems to like metaphorical remarks towards Iran. Or are they.

[edit on 9-4-2008 by jpm1602]

I'm not sure what you are getting at - are you endorsing someone who seems to want to start a nuclear war?

The Winged Wombat

posted on Apr, 9 2008 @ 04:09 AM
Every year around the start of the Fiscal Year, when the units had money, we had various fighter squadrons out to Hickam doing DAC with the HiANG. We'd have 5-9 squadrons a year come through. Everything from F-18 Hornets, to F-16 Falcons, and when there was a carrier near by sometimes they'd fly against them. We even would get bombers out to play against them. It might not be as realistic as Red Flag, or have the ground threats, etc, but it was a wonderful opportunity. The first time some Hornets came out, they handed HiANG pilots their heads. The last time they went out before I left, it was a pretty even fight.

The problem is that no other country, with the exception of a VERY close ally is going to do any kind of combat training with the USAF and show off what they have. So there's no way to judge if their training is better. India has an excellent training program, and their pilots seem to fly very well. They could probably give the USAF a run for their money in a fight. But I'd still put my money on the USAF, just because we DO have Red Flag, Top Gun, and squadrons travelling all over doing DAC. So they know what their planes can do, and what to expect.

A country that doesn't fly as many hours (but does fly enough that the pilots know what the planes can do), and had a training program like Red Flag or Top Gun, then I would say they would be a very formidable force.

posted on Apr, 9 2008 @ 04:20 AM
No sir. Beginning a nuclear war is the farthest thing from my mind or consceince. The recent posts of even local nukes ie pakistan/india blowing holes in our ozone layer should be enough to deter anyone.

posted on Apr, 9 2008 @ 04:21 AM
Certainly, I would agree with you.

Is there any evidence that US pilots get more hours than Australian, Indian, Chinese, British or French pilots ? Certainly I could understand if they did, as a reflection of the economies of the countries involved, And I could also see such a situation with some of the smaller countries, who perhaps can barely afford the airframes, never mind the training.

I would also remind you that it is not only the US that knows about DAC and most countries take every opportunity to avail themselves of it, both externally and internally. What one learns from other forces is questionable, as you say, due to limitations placed upon one side or the other (example Indian Su-30s in the UK).

The Winged Wombat

posted on Apr, 9 2008 @ 05:17 AM

Originally posted by The Winged Wombat
so one must assume that it comes from the Korean War, where there was no clear US superiority in numbers or technology, but a clear advantage over Chinese and North Korean adversaries flying aircraft with similar capabilities.

Pilot quality was not a problem, the problem is the way figures are represented. The Soviets had many seasoned pilots during the war which flew more planes than the Koreans or Chinese. Ivan Kozhedub the leading allied ace of WW2 being one of them

The US never enjoyed a large ratio of Kill/losses in the Korean war for aircraft types. They did enjoy a better ratio vs MiG-15 fighters mainly because the MiG-15 was employed to attack B-29 bombers and other ground-attack aircraft while the F-86 was employed to directly challenge the MiG-15.

The US lost some 230 to "all causes", of which the USAF likes to include aircraft who crashed landed as a result of enemy action but to does not include them in the "ratio" because they did not kill them as a "direct" result of enemy action. They also liked to propagate the myth that they killed close to 800 MiG's even though post-war research only "confirms" 379 some of which received serve damage but was able to land. This is a ratio of less than 2:1 even though the MiG-15 was attacking aircraft like the B-29 (which had to resort to night-time bombing) and Mustangs/F-4U/F-80s who were primary assigned as ground attack planes

Now here are some figures for all USAF/ FEAR/ UN losses which amount close to 1700 aircraft (rough total in my head, There is a large percentage more) of all causes

Notable losses

F-86 271 fighters
F-80 275 fighter-bombers
F-80 23 reconnaissance
B-29 107 Bombers
F-84 234 fighters

Other major losses

F-4U 487
Mustang 409 fighter-bomber

This totals 234 910 supersonic and major bombers compared to 379 MiG-15s. As the figures show, the MiG-15 had a good kill to loss ratio with its "primary" adversary even if we use only half of aircraft losses as direct or indirect kills. The reason why the MiG-15 enjoyed success in Korea was because of its better performance. MiGs would normally attain a higher altitude and then "bounce" incoming planes and would scooter back towards the border. The Soviets who flew their planes would try and dog-fight but the Koreans and Chinese (who only averaged 2 hours training before combat) would use these techniques which minimized training and losses but was not entirely successful against more nimble aircraft like the F-86, which is the major reason why the Soviets lost more planes in the conflict.


posted on Apr, 9 2008 @ 07:58 AM

I must say that I had never really looked into the Korean War kill/loss ratio and just took it as presented by the 'west' that there was a skewed ratio in favour of the F-86.

So from what you are saying, then the original concept of 'better training' achieving greater success in Korea, is also a myth. Albeit there was a training issue that dictated the tactics of the relatively inexperienced Chinese and North Korean pilots.

The Winged Wombat

[edit on 9/4/08 by The Winged Wombat]

posted on Apr, 9 2008 @ 12:27 PM

The pandora's box question Wombat. Well...why not?

I think the USAF itself is the best judge of whether they fly their jets better than the countries they sell them too.
There must be loads of exercises that can be used to answer this question.

An off-topic note from me:

The InAF learnt through the Garuda series of air exercises that the L'Armee D'Air flew their Mirage 2000s in 'ways' that were not conceived by the InAF before then.
Another way for saying: "the French flew the Mirages much better than the Indian AF"? Maybe... I look at it as a augmentation of capability and not so much a 'lack' of it.
Would French Mirage-2000s kick Indian Mirage 2000 butts in a real war?
Again, maybe..

posted on Apr, 9 2008 @ 08:03 PM
Yes, a couple of interesting points.

There is also the matter of 'customer' aircraft not necessarily being as capable as the original, although this is more a matter of capability rather than an advantage bestowed by better training.

With the Mirage 2000 example are you talking of using different areas of the flight envelope to achieve a result, as this might indicate the evolution of tactics due to better / broader training. Would this situation arise from broader 'investigative / innovative' training rather than training based upon an established tactical sortie model. That is, exploiting characteristics peculiar to that airframe that may not be overtly obvious. In that case, yes, that would result in superiority due to 'better' training.

The Winged Wombat

posted on Apr, 10 2008 @ 08:31 AM
The improvement in US pilot training occured during and because of Vietnam, with the advent of weapons qualifications, as well as the institution of Red Flag. It isn't just the pilot training, it also things like the Tactics Analysis and Reporting Program, the adversary squadrons, and real focus on providing accurate threat representation during training. The sum of all this is a qualitative advantage, though whether it is substantially greater than other countries such as India, Great Britain, or even Australia, is a point that is best argued in a bar over a few drinks. I think other air forces, where they have the capacity to do so, are trying to match the US model. Because the model is good, and leads to skilled, highly capable pilots.

As for the claim about USAF kills on, and I quote, "we can outmatch your pilots, army and navy". Yep, gunning choppers is pretty tough. One day you might even get a kill on a fighter! Jokes aside, Pitch Black typically utilise an Aussie Squadron providing threat representation, which means that they are simulating the weapons and tactics of a particular adversary. It certainly isn't a full up versus full up fight between Australian and US aircrew. Where such encounters have occured, the honours are fairly even.

posted on Apr, 10 2008 @ 04:31 PM
I notice that whenever foreign air forces take part in Red Flag and similar excercises they always seem to do exceedingly well, and it seems always to the astonishment of the hosts (F-15's failing to stop Vulcan and Jaguar raids being an example).

Is this the sign a superiorly trained combat pilot, one has to ask?

posted on Apr, 10 2008 @ 05:58 PM

Originally posted by waynos
I notice that whenever foreign air forces take part in Red Flag and similar excercises they always seem to do exceedingly well, and it seems always to the astonishment of the hosts (F-15's failing to stop Vulcan and Jaguar raids being an example).

Is this the sign a superiorly trained combat pilot, one has to ask?

If you don't have the numbers or resources you tend to focus on what you can work on which normally involves your human resources.

In the late 1980s, Canadian fighter pilots were at the top of the charts in NATO, flying more hours per year than all other allied forces in Europe (German pilots came in second, and USAF pilots placed third). In 1996, the famous American pilot and author, Colonel Walter Boyne, USAF (Retired) rated the Canadians and Israelis as the two most challenging foes for top US fighter pilots on exercises. That same year, a Canadian fighter team defeated all comers (six US Air Force and Air National Guard teams) at the prestigious William Tell competition. Some say no team in history had been as dominant as the Canadians were (they won accolades for Top Gun, Top Team, Top Operations, Top Element, and Top Weapons Director Team.) In 2001, US Secretary of State (and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs), General Colin Powell, US Army (Retired) informed the new US Ambassador to Canada that the Canadian Forces, despite their tiny budget, are œquite good.

Even though the US defense budget is thirty to thirty-five times greater than Canada, Canadian naval and air units are often better trained, and in some instances better-equipped than US Navy units. For example, in the early 1980s it was revealed that the average pilot in the Canadian Air Force flew about 300 hours a year, whereas his US Navy counterpart flew only about 160 hours annually. Although the Canadian pilots fly fewer hours these days, they can still hold more than their own with US Navy and Air Force pilots. During the days of Royal Canadian Navy carrier aviation it was well known that the pocket carrier HMCS Bonaventure, which had just one catapult, could put more planes in the air than much larger USN ASW carriers of the Essex-class. Furthermore, although the diminutive Bonaventure (which displaced only about 19,000 tons) operated RCN Banshee jet fighters for years, US Navy Banshee pilots did not wish to risk a landing on a smaller carrier. One author put it this way: In joint RCN-USN exercises, aircraft from both fleets regularly landed on the other's carriers. However, the American Banshee pilots straight-out refused to attempt a landing on Bonaventure. The task was becoming so routine for the Canadian pilots that they were doing it before sunrise. Or rather :

That's from the section titled "Top Gun" section about half way into the paper. It's a good read overall and i have no particular reason for singling out the Canadians other than their relative proximity and the small budget.


posted on Apr, 10 2008 @ 07:12 PM
They are spending more actually.

With 300 hours per pilot per year, they should be able to do magic shows with the jets they fly!
I don't know of any AF that gives more ~200 per pilot.
300 hours!!

Are they planning an invasion? Canadian Bacon anyone?!!
God I loved that ridiculous movie!

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