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Modern Jet fighters, how come they dont have rear weapons?

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I always wondered, how come MODERN jet fighters don't have rear close combat missiles, or at least some sort of rear weapon, mounted on the back of the plane to get a deadly bogey of their vulnerable six?

Does it have to do with the physics? Can projectiles be propelled from the rear of plane with pinpoint accuracy at such velocities?

I dont know, WWII gunners could do it...

It baffles me why Jet-fighter developers haven't come up with something of this nature?

I know fighters have counter measures, but what about actual weapons!!?

Is anyone capable of shedding light on this topic, any of you smart engineers? Perhaps there is something already, or in development.

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There is speculation (maybe there is, i couldn't find) that Flankers may have this capability.

The SU-35/37/34 seem to have a rear-facing radar and could be equiped with rear-firing missiles.


Don't know how far technology is right now but it's probably possible. The nose cone generally has some high-tech radar to track/lock targets. You'll need another radar like this in the rear. It's kinda expensive i think in terms of money, weight and drag.

An other point might be that the missile will always meet the target head-on. That makes it easier to outmaneuver i think.

And last: these days it's all about stealth look at the B2, F117, F22 and the JSF. If you're able to get at his six without being detected (or too late) and take a shot you live to fight another day.

If he's already at your six you already did something wrong in the first place . Maybe a autonomous missile (ie has it's own radar or something) would be something for the future. But you still need to aquire the target somehow.

For the latest stealth fighters the missile has to stored in an internal bay. Maybe the F117 may be more vulnerable since it's not really a fighter so for bombers,attack etc the rear-firing missile will be more useful. Frankly i don't have a clue maybe the F117 is more stealthy than the F22 or the new JSF.

[ 03-21-2004, 02:21 PM: Message edited by: Mano Faber ]

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Wow, interesting read. Thanks for the informative reply Mano. I really think this addition could give someone a little more of an edge in a dogfight (close combat). Even if the dominant pilot were to evade the "head on" missile, he would have to maneuver and forfeit his favorable position of being on the bogeys six. The pilot, who was once in the weaker position, could then swing back and take the dominant role.

Reading these facts, and other available critics on the net, it seems these SU-35 are certainly better planes than any aircraft the USAF have at the moment. The USAF better update their armament before more third world countries acquire these bad boys!!!

That Air dominance that the USAF loves so much, in war operations, might be a little hard to get in the future.

And in response to the other post above. From my recollection, there isn't an Air-to-Air missile that can fire from 60 miles. I believe the farthest can go 50 miles. A missile that was capable was the AIM-Phoenix, seen on F-14s, but I think the project was scarped. The missile was only used twice, both times being ineffective.

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In our modern aircraft warfare, a rear facing missile is no longer needed, if it ever was.

Most of the jets of our possible enemies are incapable of true stealth capabilities, therefore, the planes can and will be seen far before they are even close to our jets.

It is this capability that makes rear missiles unnecassary. If you see them before they are 50 miles away, you have plenty of time to turn and take them out. Our new jets have a lot of stealth built into them, so ourpossible enemies jets may find that it behooves them to have rear missiles.

Also, most of our jet aircraft have dummies, or flak that will pop out the back as a defense against a rear coming missile. Heat packes, aluminum chaff, etc. These are passive defenses, that work rather well. An active defense on an aircraft is expensive, heavy, and the possibilites of it being used are remote, therefore, they are not financially reasonable. The cost in speed and weight are greater then the advantages of such a system.

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I don't think they are better 'cos as i mentioned above it's all about stealth. If you can't see them then it will be hard to aquire/lock them. Or a stealthy fighter will see the target earlier than say an SU-37. Stealth means

1 ) Low Radar Crossing Section ( that's what they call it if i recall this correctly) meaning that the that it reflects less radar energy so it harder to detect. This is done by special coating (Radar Absorbent Material) dissipate (eat if you will ) radar energy and by "The sharp angles and triangular shapes that compose the structure of the plane as designer to reflect the radar pulses away".

2 ) It's low IR signature. Like the AH-64 later versions of the Mi-24 HIND (since their experience in Afghanistan) they would use IR supressors by mixing "cold air" with their exhaust fumes. This is just an example. I don't know exactly how they do this with fighters. special materials maybe, hiding certain areas etc.

All stealth fighters generally have a low(er) IR signature since you might not be able to pick them up on radar but an AIM-9 would be able to it's heat anyway if this was not reduced. And fighters like the SU-27/35 etc hav an IR-sensor.

3 ) The lastest fighters like the F-22 and better yet the JSF have thrust vectoring (check for more info F-22, X-31) , JSF has S/VTOL capability, their both stealthy and are all multi-role fighters. And they hope that the're relativly cheap.

Though lastest flanker have thrust-vectoring toi i think. But not very stealthy.


About the F-14 i have lotsa books on this but you can check this on the net yourself but it was designed to protect the carrier (a true interceptor) since the carrier vulnerable without aircover (exocet etc) so the AIM-54C is still being used (i assume). I have to say an Aegis cruiser will probably give them a safe umbrella.

The trouble is IFF. How do you know for sure if you have a bogey that it's an enemy? That fighter may have damaged IFF and radio maybe it's an F-14.

That's the trouble with BVR combat.

AIM-54 info

excerpt from


"F-14 to carry out a simultaneous attack against up to six separate targets while tracking a total of 24 contacts. The radar is capable of updating all of the missiles until such time as they can become autonomous, thus guiding themselves to the target in the terminal stage of flight."



F-14D, APG-71



Seems we replied at the same time Jag.

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Don't forget the "Macho Factor." When the Phantom F-4 was being developed, the designers wanted to include an internal gun. But, since it was designed to carry AIM-7 radar missiles for long-range attack, the gun was deemed unnecessary. "Wisdom" at the Pentagon dictated that a pilot "couldn't miss" with an AIM-7.

Nonetheless, the F-4's weapons systems included instrumentation for the AIM-9 IR missile.

For the USAF, the F-4D was the last model to not carry an internal gun. Operational experience proved that radar systems often failed, IR missile parameters weren't easy to achieve, and pilots often ended up in a close-quarter face-off with a MiG pilot with a gun.

So, until the F-4E could be built, D-models were fitted with an external gun.

The moral being this: it's combat realities that eventually dictate the weapon of choice. So, until an oddball weapons system proves to be a necessity, "Macho" rules.

Thanks to "Macho," we've gone back to single-seater fighters. And pilots prefer to concentrate on what's out front. Sure, you could put a guy in back, have him face backward, and give him a slew of rear-firing missiles. But, if he were to shoot down just five amitious enemy aircraft, he'd become an Ace ... still a sore spot with most pilots. They didn't like sharing the glory in Nam and I doubt the attitude has changed much, since.

BTW, the actual range of an AIM-7 depended on the closing rate to the target, which wasn't always the range used when rating it. And Jane's always seems to overestimate Russian aircraft. Just ask any USAF pilot which plane he'd rather fly when in combat.

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Marvin, I can see your points... And wow it's amazing, if I'm reading you correctly, that F4 versions were not capable of cannon fire!!!

Also, I'm not getting my SU figures from Jane's. I'm getting it from everywhere, even you people...

The Rearward missile (the topic) has not been fully tested, so we really don?t know its effectiveness yet... In theory, it sounds like would scare the sh*t out of me in a dogfight.

I've recently read that the SU-35 is the first ever craft to break the sound barrier in vertical flight... Wow, that's impressive! Their vertical flight system is very advanced compared to western Aircraft. It Makes the JSF and Raptor look like amateurs, only in this regard.

As for USAF stealth:

Well, the stealth factor is challenged by the SU-35 critics. The Su-35, apparently, is the most aero dynamic Superfighter of its kind. From the SU-website: "A large heavy super fighter with no stealth capabilities, does not need to hide from anyone". They claim, its "Ahead by century" in maneuverability and agility that it could stand against any Stealth capable foe.

I dont know if this entirely true myself, I will leave you to take swings t this one?

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There is a relatively new missile, the AIM-132 ASRAAM (Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missle) that is IR guided and that can be fired off boresight and that can hit some rear target due to the trust vectoring guidance.

This should solve the problem of launching a missle backward, that is impossible for the enormous speed change when the weapon is detached and fired since the relative speed will be negative and the guidance system will not work.

A rear mounted IR tracking device could possibly be fitted on the craft to provide reliable acquiring since the weight and cost will be more than affordable.

And however you should never be too sure that noone can get in your six.... and it's not always easy to outmaneuver an enemy fighter in dogfight....

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Originally posted by Extinct_Reptilia:

I've recently read that the SU-35 is the first ever craft to break the sound barrier in vertical flight... Wow, that's impressive!

I assume you mean going uphill. I think the Brits broke the sound barrier going vertically downhill a long time ago.

About stealth: it's not very useful in a dogfight or in most situations where you have one fighter attacking another. It was developed to thwart ground defenses and acquisition radar. Nonetheless, if Russia ever goes back to its tactical philosophy of using GCI to control all stages of air combat, stealth will play a factor ... because if GCI can't see the enemy, then they can't properly vector their planes for the kill.

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The key question is when will a non-stealth fighter detect a stealth fighter? If you are at visible range engaged in a dogfight maybe it 'll be less useful. But you still need to aquire/lock the target by radar/IRST maybe even laser etc. How powerful does the SU-35 radar need to be to track/lock the target at say 10 miles? how low is it's IR signature? I'll bet in al these cases the F22 (or JSF) can take the 1st shot.

But i assume if you have to strike target somewhere you'll do it at night you'll have to use the sensors which will be less effective against a stealthy target.

I think a Su-35/37 is a powerful fighter compared to F-15, F-16 , EF2000, Rafale etc but i think The F-22, JSF etc have the edge.

Who knows anytime soon a lot of UAV wills do the dogfighting. They already did some attack with hellfires. Kinda like the early HiMat i think it was called.

It's even used/tested on different areas:



More on stealth:

"A conventional fighter aircraft has an Radar Cross Section (RCS) in the region of 6 square metres. The much larger B-2B bomber, using the latest stealth technology, displays an RCS of only 0.75 square metres. By comparison, a bird in flight displays an RCS of 0.01 square metres."



CodeOne(Lockheed) claims:

"The Offensive Advantage

The ability to move against an adversary at high speeds gives fighter pilots advantages they call ÔÇ£first look, first shot, first kill.ÔÇØ The first pilot to see an adversary is more likely to get off a successful shot and survive the encounter. The kinematic range of an AIM-120 AMRAAM, for example, increases by fifty percent as aircraft speed increases from 0.9 to 1.5 Mach (this assumes an altitude advantage for the shooter). That is, the missile can reach targets fifty percent farther away because its initial speed coming off an F-22 flying 1.5 Mach is much faster. The Raptor easily supercruises in this speed regime. This missile range advantage intensifies the F-22ÔÇÖs sensor advantageÔÇöthe radar on a Raptor can see a bandit long before a banditÔÇÖs radar detects a Raptor."

"The Defensive Advantage

Supercruise is an added boost to the overall power of the stealth of the F-22. Although not yet a ÔÇ£cloaking device,ÔÇØ stealth does delay the enemyÔÇÖs shot opportunity until late in the engagement. Against a ground-to-air threat, high speed equates to reduced reaction times from detection to launch and reduced kinematic ranges for surface-to-air missiles or antiaircraft artillery"

Radars detection equations.



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Seems the u-35 has some (plasma)stealth features. Well that shows how much i know


Its Radar. (When) will it detect a stealth fighter?

Su-35 Radar, which can be assumed to be the starting point for the Su-37,has a range capability put at 400 km (220 nm) for air targets and 200 km

(110 nm) for ground targets. It has expanded its simultaneous track capability from 10 to 15 air targets and can engage up to six all at once. The radar also has a low altitude terrain following / avoidance capability. It will have the ability to operate in "group combat actions" which tells me it will have aircraft-to-aircraft data link in conjunction with the Su-30 or MiG-31. It also will undertake the "Effective suppression of current and future air defense electronic systems" which tells me that it will utilize on board defensive warning and active jamming systems as well as the capability to employ some or all of the many ARM air-to-surface missiles developed by the Russians.


And also interesting:

MIG-39/1.42 MFI (plasma stealth)



S32/37 Golden Eagle


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The Russian I1-28 Beagle jet powered medium tactical bomber had a tail gunner. This plane is a Post-WWII design, but was produced in large amounts during the Cold War. It was finally retired from the Russian Air-force and Navy in the eighties.

Tail gunners were essential during WWII due to the fact that fighters did not have the range of the bombers. Bombers would only have escorts for a limited amount of time, and then would have to fend for themselves in deep enemy territory. Covering you six, as well as every other possible line was necessary.

In our modern warfare, the role of the large bombers have greatly diminished. We now have tactical long/medium/short range super-sonic bombers that can carry a nuclear payloads. One bomb can finish the job.

But we are also in the age of electronic warfare were we can jam enemy radar (missiles too), and counter measures for the heat seekers.

As far as covering the six, most planes have a wingman to cover him, while he is engaging targets. It is a system that has worked, and has not created a demand for rear-fired missiles.

If they did ever create those missiles, it would probably be for close range dogfights, and I would love to see the "oh sh##" face of the first victim before he ate it.

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What about aerial mines? A cylindrical tube that can be released to hover in air from behind - and when following aircraft is aquired, boosts into missile phase, ejecting a small missile from the cylindrical shell?

Just a brainstorming I had from reading through this... assuming that the fleeing aircraft aquired it's faster pursuer while pursuer is getting into range, would make for a nasty surprise....

Bogey: "Yeah I'm almost in range and you haven't even seen me..."

*Threat indicator lights up and he is toasted*

U.S. Pilot: "hehe"

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LOL, thinking about that last post, I have a feeling the Russians have lost their touch. There used to be a saying: The U.S. is known for taking NASA technology and using it to build a vacuum cleaner. The Russians (back when they were known as "Soviets") were known for using vacuum cleaner technology to build their space stations.

Instead of all that high-tech stuff, they could come up with a F.O.D. bomb (Foreign Object Damage). Just spew a bunch of nuts, bolts and other useless parts out the back end. If the enemy is close enough at your Six, the stuff will be sucked up the intake(s).

Bye, bye jet engine.

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If you've ever read a Dale Brown novel you'd know that aerial mines are an idea that he has suggested for years. Dale Brown is a retired USAF pilot and he speculates that one of the "black ops" planes the USA has is what he calls the EB52 Megafortress. It's a modified B-52 with tons of toys and such and one of it's features is a rear firing aerial mine launcher. Basically it fires a rocket behind the plane which explodes into thousands of metal pellets. Good stuff.

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How about a more futuristic approach (more BCMG/UC like )?

Like a small version of this laser as defence or a

vulcan mounted in te rear (like the CIWS: phalanx or goalkeeper).

Airborne Laser:





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Wow! I heard about this The Airborne Laser thinger before. I saw it on television. They USAF rep, in the tv program, couldn't show much though, "top secret" sort of dealy. To have that on a fighter, with a rotational mount, would be b*tchin!!

Nothing could touch that jet.

Well, at least until they develop counter measures against it.

For all of you who don?t fill like reading all that, thi is what the ABL does:

"The pointing and tracking system tracks the missile and provides launch and predicted impact locations. The turret at the nose of the aircraft swivels towards the target and a 1.5 metre telescope mirror system inside the nose focuses the laser beam onto the missile. The laser beam is locked onto the missile, which is destroyed near its launch area within seconds of lock-on. Where the missile carries liquid fuel, the laser can heat a spot on the missile's fuel tank, causing an increase in internal pressure resulting in catastrophic failure."

Cool eh? If that captures your interest, read Mano links provided above.

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Rear firing missiles are not practical on a fighter craft because there its not practical nor cost effective to mount a rear facing radar system/targetting system for it. Remember, no fighter has rear scanning radar... its all aimed foward.

Using a fire&forget 'mine' missile brings the issue of the fighter dropping the missile ...and then the missile having a chance of picking the aircraft that fired it as the target.

Mines or throwing debris into the air to have it hit the other plane is also largely impractical.. as 2 manouvering aircraft will very rarely follow the same flight path or even be in the same plane of motion (because if they are, that means the guy behind you will already have a firing solution and you're toast).

In the vietnam era the radar system and radar guided missiles were in its infancy..but today id say its fairly safe to say that is not the case. However, the guns on the fighters will remain, as stealth tech has made radar rather unreliable.

And there is a rear-firing weapon system fighter planes use though.

Its called the Wingman.

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Whoo, this thread really took of.

Extinct_Reptilia, the russians have some long range AAM's (well, missiles; they look like small planes). Some of the R-73 family have ranges above 100 km and the "RH-41 AR" tops the bill at about 175 km.

And on rearfiring weaponsystems: The thing that attacks you from behind is probably an anti-air missile and not another fighter so the target you're aiming for is significantly smaller and more (maybe too) difficult to hit.

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  • 2 weeks later...

You know, it's kinda' funny. We contemplated rear firing missiles back in the '80's when it looked like we were going to go toe-to-toe with the Warsaw Pact. I'm curious that nobody from Boeing or Lockheed has anything to add to this thread.

The missiles were intended to be pointed aft on some "future combat aircraft" but I don't know what they intended to target the missiles. I seem to remember the missile itself had thrust vectoring.

This all became academic because nowadays most planes fly around with their radars off, waiting for AWACS to vector them to a target. If they have to fire up their radar at all, it is only to illuminate their targets.

Why worry about rear-firing missiles when we haven't had a real dogfight since vietnam?

(I blame American complacency. It would be little trouble to mount a simple thermal sight, or utilize the IR threat warning reciever pointed aft from the tail to target such a rear-firing missile.) The missile tech to maintain stability in a rearward boost would be the biggest hurdle.

It's all feasable, just not something anyone will push until we need it.

But I'm sure those Vietnam F-4 pilots would have surely welcomed such a trick against the pesky Mig-17s and Mig-19s they ended up in knife fights against.

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