The Flat Scissors
The flat scissors is the simpler of the two to explain. The flat scissors maneuver commonly results when two fighters of similar capability encounter one another at similar speeds and in the same plane of motion, and the fighter approaches the defending "Bandit" (enemy fighter), usually from the bandit's rear hemisphere, and has failed to press an initial positional and angular advantage into a kill, and has "overshot", or passed behind the bandit. (To overshoot is to fly from an AOT (angle-off-tail: the angle between the nose of the attacker and an imaginary extended line from the nose through the tail of the bandit and extending behind it into the air) of less than 90 degrees to an AOT of greater than 90 degrees.)
As such, an attacking pilot who finds himself in a flat scissors has transitioned from an offensive to a neutral engagement, and has lost his offensive advantage, as it represents a failure to press an initial attack into a kill, and the scissors can be difficult to disengage from without being exposed to the weapons of the bandit at close range. The bandit pilot is often surprised initially by what was likely an unobserved attack from the rear, and while he has survived a highly defensive situation that has become a somewhat neutral encounter after the overshoot, the bandit pilot must still react quickly. After the co-planar overshoot, if the bandit chooses to remain engaged with a nose-to-nose turn (that is, a turn toward the attacker in the general direction of the attacker's direction of flight) to either gain the advantage, or maintain the neutral situation, the flat scissors is a common result.
Once initiated by the bandit, it is also very difficult for the bandit to disengage from a flat scissors without being exposed to danger from the weapons of the other aircraft. An experienced and patient bandit might be able to turn the scissors to his advantage, however. The bandit possessing superior turning capability may also initiate a flat scissors offensively, although this is certainly a dangerous gambit (as it involves allowing the attacker to approach to close range from behind), but one that may be forced upon the bandit by the attacking fighter's superior engine power or speed: after becoming aware of a more or less co-planar attack from his rear hemisphere, the bandit uses co-planar energy techniques (using power reduction, uncoordinated flight, flaps, slats or speed brakes) without moving out of the initial plane of the attack. By remaining in the same plane of the attack, the bandit might be able initially to deceive the attacker about the two airplanes' rate of closure, quickly placing the attacker into a position in which a successful attack cannot be made due to close proximity, too much angle-off-tail, or both; in the same circumstances, by not adopting hard evasive maneuvering, the bandit might also convince the attacker to reduce speed to prevent the overshoot, (the attacker has thereby given up a major advantage in the hopes of getting a quick kill, believing that the bandit has not seen him), and thereby, however, mistakenly played into the strengths of the slower but better turning bandit.
In any case, if both pilots' reaction to a co-planar overshoot with only a minor air-speed differential is a co-planar nose-to-nose turn, then a flat scissors will often result.
The goal of the flat scissors is to get into a successful firing position; the attacker and bandit each pull their fighters' noses toward the other, executing consecutive reversing nose-to-nose turns, while trying carefully to use energy depletion methods, or using slightly oblique, out-of-plane turns to get behind the enemy. The resulting flight path looks like scissors in the sense that both fighters approach each other, cross over, and then separate again, over and over while the scissors continues. The maneuver results when both fighters initially bank (or "roll") about 90 degrees toward the opponent and turn (In the theory of fighter combat turning is often called "pulling", due to the pilots' efforts to tighten their turns by pulling back on the control stick - the banked attitude would cause the aircraft to turn in any case in a sustained "1 G" turn, but pulling back on the stick serves to "tighten" (decrease the radius of) the turn. All level turns result in a loss of speed and energy, and the tighter the turn - the more "pull" used - the greater the resulting loss of speed and energy, and in the pilot experiencing higher "g-forces" in the turn) toward the opponent until their flight paths cross, at which point each pilot flies outward trying to assess if he has an offensive advantage or disadvantage, and then reverses his turn (to avoid flying out too far into a disadvantageous position, where a quick turn "reversal" (a 180 degree roll accompanied by the resulting turn) by the enemy would result in the enemy pulling in behind the pilot) by rolling opposite the initial turn by 180 degrees of bank, and pulling toward the opponent again.
During the repeated brief passes it is occasionally possible to get off what is called a "snap shot" (A snap shot is an opportunistic shot of brief duration, brief because of the rapid change of the LOS (line-of-sight) to the target caused by the aircraft's maneuvering in different planes of motion. The preferable "tracking shot" opportunity lasts longer; as long as the attacker can maintain a constant LOS to the bandit, accomplished by maneuvering in the same plane of motion as the bandit. The process of getting into the same plane of motion as a bandit and setting up a tracking shot is called "getting into the saddle" or "saddling up".) at the opponent fighter, although due to the typically close range of the scissors, usually only guns may be used for this "snap shot". This process of 180 degree rolls and reversed turns can be repeated many times while each pilot seeks a positional advantage through energy management, and seeks to avoid a disadvantage.
In the flat scissors, the turns and maneuvering are accomplished approximately all on one plane, an imaginary flat surface (thus the term "flat" scissors) that is not necessarily horizontal, although the horizontal is a common case. The flat scissors continues until either one fighter (usually the fighter with better rolling or instantaneous turning characteristics) gains an advantage (usually due to an ability to reduce speed effectively while retaining sufficient roll and turn response from his aircraft) and gets behind his opponent and successfully shoots him down (with either a snap shot or tracking shot), or one of the pilots maneuvers successfully to disengage from the scissors, and gets to a safe distance to make an escape, or attempt a new attack.
The flat scissor if flown to its conclusion is usually a contest of who can fly more slowly while maintaining sufficient controlled maneuverability to get into position for a kill as quickly as possible.
Read more about this topic: The Scissors
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