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Gun camera sequence photo showing a North Vietnamese MiG-17-fighter being hit.

Gun camera sequence photos showing a North Vietnamese MiG-17-fighter being hit and shot down by 20 mm shells from a U.S. Air Force F-105D Thunderchief during the Vietnam War.

Air-to-air combat is the engagement of flying machines in warfare in which one or more aircraft tries to destroy one or more other aircraft. The Korean War saw the greatest amount of air to air combat since World War II. During the war the United States claimed to have shot down around 700 USSR fighters.[A 1][2] After the war the USAF reviewed its figures in an investigation code-named Sabre Measure Charlie and downgraded the kill ratio of the North American F-86 Sabre against the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 by half from 14:1 to 7:1.[2] One of the factors in the inflated US numbers was that because most dogfights took place over enemy controlled area the only way to confirm kills was the gun camera. USAF pilots were credited with a kill if the gun camera showed their guns striking the enemy aircraft even if no one actually saw it go down.[3] This contrasted with Soviet methodology that required other pilots' testimony, ground evidence, gun camera footage and support from the Chinese and Korean ground forces.[3]

The Vietnam War saw a move away from cannon fire to air-to-air missiles.[4] Although US forces maintained air supremacy throughout the war, there were still occasional dogfights and several US aces. The North Vietnamese side claimed the Vietnam People's Air Force had 17 aces throughout the war, including Nguyen Van Coc, who is also the Top Ace of Vietnam War with nine kills: seven manned aircraft and two UAVs. In just one day, in December 1966 the MiG-21 pilots of the 921st FR downed 14 F-105s without any losses.[5]

The Israeli Air Force has the most experience with air-to-air combat in recent decades. Since the 1948 Israeli War, the IAF has only lost 18 aircraft in air-to-air combat while Arab forces have lost 817.[6]

During the 1947 conflict over Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian Air Force did not engage the Pakistan Air Force in air-to-air combat; however, it did provide effective transport and close air support to the Indian troops.[7] The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 was the first time the Indian Air Force actively engaged an enemy air force.[8] By the time the conflict had ended, India lost between 65 to 75 aircraft and Pakistan lost 43.[9] The Imbalance in Losses explained by the IAF's higher sortie rate and emphasis on ground attack missions. The Indian Air Force lost 45 aircraft during the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971 and the Pakistani Air Force lost 94 aircraft.[10][11][12]

During the Iran-Iraq War of 1980–88, there were nearly 1,000 air-to-air engagements between Iran and Iraq.[13]

The Falklands War of 1982 witnessed air combat between Argentine and British military aircraft. The Falkland Islands' runways were short and thus unable to support fighter jets, forcing Argentina to launch fighters from the mainland, which had an adverse effect on their loiter time. The Argentine forces lost 23 aircraft in air-to-air combat, out of a total of 134 fixed wing aircraft and helicopters lost during the conflict.

During the 1990–91 Persian Gulf War, of Iraq's 750 fixed wing aircraft, 33 were shot down; compared to the single confirmed loss of one coalition F/A-18 Hornet.[14]

Aircraft lost to air to air combat

Conflict Air Force Aircraft lost to air to air combat Reference
Arab–Israeli War (1948–1949) United Kingdom Royal Air Force 5 [15]
Israel Israeli Air Force 3 [16]
Egypt Egypt Air Force 15 [16]
Syria Syrian Air Force 2 [16]
Korean War (1950–1953) China Chinese Air Force 379 (Chinese claim); 792 (US claim) [A 2] [17][18]
North Korea North Korean Air Force 270 (US claim)
United States US Aircraft 78 (US claim); 650 (Soviet-Chinese claim) [A 3] [17][18]
United Nations UN Coalition Aircraft 1,097 [A 4] [19]
South Korea South Korean Air Force 135
Revolución Libertadora (1955) Argentina Argentine Naval Aviation 1 [20]
Vietnam War (1959–1975) Vietnam Vietnam Air Force 195 [21]
United States US Aircraft 2,251 [22]
South Vietnam South Vietnam Air Force
Dutch-Indonesian Conflict Indonesia Indonesian Air Force 1
Six-Day War Israel Israeli Air Force [A 5]
Egypt Egypt Air Force
Syria Syrian Air Force
Jordan Royal Jordanian Air Force
72 [23]
War of Attrition Egypt Egypt Air Force 113 [23]
Israel Israeli Air Force [A 6]
Yom Kippur War Israel Israeli Air Force 5(Israeli claim) [24]
Egypt Egypt Air Force
Syria Syrian Air Force
277(Israeli claim) [24]
Iran–Iraq War (1980–1988) Iraq Iraqi Air Force 234 (Confirmed) [25][26]
Iran Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force 73 (Confirmed) [27]
US incursions into Soviet airspace (1950–1970) United States US Aircraft 16 [A 7]
Soviet Union Soviet Air Defence Forces 3 [A 8]
Falklands War Argentina Argentine Air Force 23 [28]
United Kingdom Army Air Corps 1 [29]
US Freedom of Navigation operations in Gulf of Sidra (1980–1989) Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Libyan Air Force 4 [30]
Sri Lankan Civil War (1983–2009) Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam 1 [31]
Persian Gulf War (1990–1991) United States United States Navy 1 [14]
Iraq Iraqi Air Force 33 [14]
Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 India Indian Air Force 60-75 [32]
Pakistan Pakistan Air Force 43 [33]
Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 India Indian Air Force 45-130 [12][34]
Pakistan Pakistan Air Force 94 (Indian claims) [34][35][36]
1982 Lebanon War Syria Syrian Air Force 82–86 (Israeli claim) [37][38][39]
1982 Lebanon War Israel Israeli Air Force 42 (Syrian claim) [40][41]
Soviet war in Afghanistan [A 9] Afghanistan Afghan National Army Air Corps 8 [42]
Pakistan Pakistan Air Force 1 [A 10] [42]
Iraqi no-fly zones enforcement United States US Aircraft 3 [A 11] [43]
Iraq Iraqi Air Force 5
Croatian War of Independence (1991–1995) Italy Italian Army 1 [A 12] [44]
1992 Venezuelan coup d'état attempts Bolivarianos 3 [45]
Operation Deny Flight Flag of the Republika Srpska.svg Republika Srpska Air Force 5 [46]
Cenepa War (1995) Peru Peruvian Air Force 1 confirmed, 2 Ecuadorian claim [47]
Aegean dispute (1996) Turkey Turkish Air Force 1 (Turkish claim) [48]
Eritrean–Ethiopian War (1998–2000) Eritrea Eritrean Air Force 8 [49]
Operation Allied Force Serbia and Montenegro Yugoslav Air Force 5 + 1 heavily damaged, later destroyed on the ground [50]
2008 Georgian spy plane shootdowns Georgia (country) Georgian Air Force 1 (Georgian claim) [51][52]
Syrian civil war Syria Syrian Air Force 1 (Turkish claim) [53]

See also

  • Project Dark Gene
  • Air to air combat losses between USSR and US
  • List of airliner shootdown incidents


  1. During the Korean War experienced Soviet pilots flew against USAF forces.[1]
  2. Differences in numbers is attributed to Soviet vs US claims of planes shot down
  3. Differences in numbers is attributed to Soviet vs US claims of planes shot down
  4. Soviet claim of planes shot down
  5. Since the 1948 Israeli War the IAF have only lost 18 planes in air to air combat while Arab forces have lost 817.[6]
  6. Since the 1948 Israeli War the IAF have only lost 18 planes in air to air combat while Arab forces have lost 817.[6]
  7. See the US Soviet air-to-air combat article
  8. See the US Soviet air-to-air combat article
  9. During the Soviet war in Afghanistan the pro-Soviet Afghan government would often fly incursions into Pakistani airspace
  10. Friendly fire incident by PAF
  11. The 1994 Black Hawk shootdown incident, sometimes referred to as the Black Hawk Incident, was a friendly fire incident over northern Iraq that occurred on April 14, 1994 during Operation Provide Comfort (OPC). The pilots of two United States Air Force (USAF) F-15 fighter aircraft, operating under the control of a USAF airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft, misidentified two United States Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters as Iraqi Mil Mi-24 "Hind" helicopters. The F-15 pilots fired on and destroyed both helicopters, killing all 26 military service members and civilians from the United States (U.S.), United Kingdom, France, Turkey, and the Kurdish community. The third loss was a UAV Predator shot down by a Mig-25 in December 2002.
  12. An Italian Army Bell 206 helicopter was shot down by a Serb Mig over Novi Marof, near Varaždin, Croatia, on 7 January 1992. One French and four Italian military observers were killed. The incident prompted the resignation of the Yugoslav Minister of Defence. The helicopter was part of an European Community mission in Croatia.


  1. Brune 1996, p. 215
  2. 2.0 2.1 Dorr & Thompson 2003, p. 186
  3. 3.0 3.1 Zhang 2004, p. 153
  4. Boyne 2002, p. 2
  5. "Vietnamese Aces - MiG-17 and MiG-21 pilots". Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Cordesman 2006, p. 119
  7. Barua 2005, p. 192
  8. Pradhan & Chavan 2007, p. xiv
  9. "The Sunday Tribune - Spectrum". Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  11. John Pike. "Pakistan Air Force Combat Experience". Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 "PAKISTAN AIR FORCE - Official website". Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  13. "Persian Cats | Military Aviation | Air & Space Magazine". Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Davis 2002, p. 300
  15. Aloni 2001, pp. 18, 22
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Aloni 2001, pp. 6–22
  17. 17.0 17.1 Walker 1983, pp. 64–68
  18. 18.0 18.1 "F-86A-5 Sabre vs MiG-15". 2010. Retrieved April 3, 2010. 
  19. Zhang 2004, p. 152
  20. Overseas Operators of the Gloster Meteor
  21. Boyne 2002, p. 679
  22. Schlight, John. "A War too Long: The USAF in Southeast Asia 1961–1975" (PDF). Air Force History and Museums Programs. Retrieved 20 February 2007.  Page 103
  23. 23.0 23.1 Cordesman 2006, p. 168
  24. 24.0 24.1 Handleman 2003, p. 146
  25. "Iranian Air-to-Air Victories, 1982-Today". Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  26. "Iranian Air-to-Air Victories 1976-1981". Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  27. "Iraqi Air-to-Air Victories since 1967". Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  28. Boyne 2002, p. 215
  29. Chant, Christopher (2001). Air War in the Falklands 1982 . Osprey Publishing, p. 67. ISBN 1-84176-293-8
  30. "Congressional Research Service Issue Brief for Congress: Libya". (2002, April 10). Foreign Press Centers, U.S. Department of State, Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  31. Ministry of Defence 2008
  32. The Sunday Tribune – Spectrum. Retrieved on 2011-04-14.
  33. [1].
  34. 34.0 34.1 [2].
  35. Wilson 2002, p. 58
  36. Mohan, P V S Jagan (2010). "AIRCRAFT LOSSES IN PAKISTAN −1971 WAR". Retrieved April 24, 2010. 
  37. Rabinovich, The Yom Kippur War, Schocken Books (2004) p. 510
  38. Herzog, The Arab-Israeli Wars, Random House (1982) p347-48
  39. Bruce Walker & the editors of Time-Life books, Fighting Jets: The Epic of Flight, Time Life Books (1983) p162-63
  40. Arab MiG-19 and MiG-21 Units in Combat by David Nicolle and Tom Cooper(2004) p.77
  41. MiG-23 na blijnem vostoke. Vladimir Ilin
  42. 42.0 42.1 (2010). "Pakistan – Pakistan Fiza'ya – Pakistan Air Force – PAF". Retrieved April 3, 2010. 
  43. One Predator was shot by a Mig-25 on December 27, 2002. Knights, Michael (2005).Cradle of conflict: Iraq and the birth of modern U.S. military power. Naval Institute Press, p. 242. ISBN 1-59114-444-2
  44. "Yugoslav defense chief resigns after attack" USA today, Jan 9, 1992
  45. Cooper, Tom; Sosa, Juan (1 September 2003). "Venezuela". ACIG. Retrieved 14 September 2012. 
  46. Lista gubitaka/ostecenja vazduhoplova u Ex-JRV od 1945 godine do danas (Serbian)
  47. Scheina 2003, p. 125
  48. "Deadly 1996 Aegean clash is confirmed". Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  49. Flankervs Falcrum in Ethiopia vs. Eritrea. What actually happened?
  50. Yugoslav & Serbian MiG-29s
  51. "Tbilisi Claims Russian Jet Downed its Drone in Abkhazia". Civil Georgia. 2008-04-21. Retrieved 2008-07-06. 
  52. "Russian Diplomat Slams Tbilisi’s Rhetoric". Civil Georgia. 2008-04-23. Retrieved 2008-07-06. 
  53. [3]

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