I am wondering whether most dogfights ended decisively and if so, whether many relatively inexperienced pilots knew they were probably going to die or at least have to eject from their planes. Or was it possible for even a new fighter pilot to at least have a chance of running away rather than engaging either a better pilot or a numerically superior group of planes?

  • Dogfights weren't very common during World War 1, but definitely in World War 2.
    – Jake
    Feb 19, 2018 at 20:57
  • 5
    do you have a reference for that assertion? @Jake Feb 20, 2018 at 8:54
  • 3
    I doubt there is a "typical" air battle in WW2. You have everything from massed naval air battles in the Pacific, running fights with bomber groups or fleets of ships in Europe, small fighter sweeps, and lone recon or attack aircraft. And the nature of air combat changed immensely as the war went on: the planes, the tactics, and the experience levels of the pilots. That said, I can think of a few famous examples of one pilot standing against many.
    – Schwern
    Feb 20, 2018 at 19:33
  • 3
    @Jake - very much the opposite, dog fights in the time of the Red Baron were abundant, pilots would seek them. I'd be curious how often a WWII engagement ended due to lack of fuel or ammo compared to a decisive victory.
    – Twelfth
    Feb 20, 2018 at 19:50

1 Answer 1


Not a conclusive answer per se, but for WWII at least:

  1. A large fraction of fighters shot down in aerial combat weren't dogfights per se, but rather the victim being unaware of the enemy on their six before it was too late. Sorry, I don't remember the reference for this.

  2. Clostermann, in "The Big Circus", explains that towards the end of the war (WWII, that is) on the Western front at least, the Luftwaffe became very divided capability-wise. There was a small number (maybe 10% or so) of experienced pilots, often having been in the business since the Spanish civil war, who knew their planes in and out, and the capabilities of the enemy planes as well. These pilots were extremely dangerous opponents. OTOH, the other 90% of the Luftwaffe pilots were very inexperienced, as due to fuel shortage actual training was limited and apparently a lot of time was spent on ideology instead of how to fly their planes. These were easy prey. This suggests that yes, at least during that period, dogfights were pretty one-sided.

  • In World War One a similar result occurs, but due to technology and alternating between sides. Technology jumped forward by leaps and bounds during the war, each side alternating at having a substantial edge for a few months at a time. The longest surviving pilots were those who somehow avoided much action while at a technological disadvantage. Feb 21, 2018 at 19:03
  • Von Richtoffen had a maxim about 90% of the engagements were decided in favor of who saw the other one first. This was being taught in the early 80's, and probably still is, at the US Navy fighter weapons school (and it successors ...) I need to find it before I consider offering an answer. Feb 21, 2018 at 21:46
  • @KorvinStarmast Are you looking for Dicta Boelcke?. Richthofen is more "den Gegner taktisch zurechtlegen" Feb 21, 2018 at 22:34
  • @LangLangC possibly, I need to check some old notes. Feb 21, 2018 at 23:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.