by Mace

One of the most frequent questions trainers get is “how do I get someone off my six?”. Well, let’s talk about the overshoot.

When you’re defensive, everything you do needs to focus on moving your opponent from behind your wing-line to in front of it. Sometimes, your opponent is simply diving in at the speed of heat with too much speed and blows by. He’s doing your work for you and it happens all the time. The more complex scenario is when you need to force him past either through speed control or by putting him into a situation where it's not possible for him to "square" the corner to get on your six and forcing him outside your turn. These are both called “overshoots”.

Simply speaking, an overshoot occurs when your opponent flies past you. This can be either by passing directly by you because he’s too fast or by flying through your flight path in a turn. Just blowing past you (a wing-line overshoot) is pretty clear and, once he’s in front of your wing-line, you can pick away but in a flight path overshoot, he’s forced outside of your turn where you need to reverse your turn to put him in front of your wing-line. The difference between the two is that a wing-line overshoot is due to speed difference and a flight path overshoot relates to relative turn radius.

Note that there are degrees of overshoot. It may be only mild which, while working in your favor, will not allow you to immediately reverse the situation. On the other hand, a significant overshoot may allow you to immediately reverse the tactical situation and put you behind his wing-line changing your tactical situation from defense to offense.

This is a very important point about overshoots; you have to recognize one when it happens. A straight wing-line overshoot is easy to see, he’s either in front of you or behind you, a flight path overshoot is more difficult. If you think your opponent has overshot your flight path but hasn’t and you reverse, you’re going to turn right in front of him and just make it easy for him. If you don’t recognize it or you’re late all he will do is a high yo-yo or drop into a lag position and be right back on you. To recognize the overshoot, you need to pay attention to his speed, track crossing angle (approximate number of degrees between where his nose is pointing and yours) and his position relative to your flight path. Speed helps carry him across behind you and through your flight path while large crossing angle tells you how much he needs to turn to get his nose on you. Combine that information with what you know of his aircraft performance and you should get a good idea of what sort of turns he can make so your first question should be “can he hack this turn?”

Identifying the point at which he overshoots can be pretty easy as long as you’re looking. Let’s say you’re in a hard left hand turn into him so you’re watching him approach the left side of your tail. As soon as he crosses behind to the right side of your plane he’s outside of your turn and he’s overshot. If it looks like he’s got sufficient speed and enough aspect that he will fly significantly outside of your turn that would be the time to reverse. An important tip here is to ready for the overshoot, not just so you can reverse but so that you can quickly shift your view to keep track of him. Following a hard reversal generally look for him from your high six to directly up through the canopy.

Now, how do you create a flight path overshoot?  There are three factors to consider: 1) closure, 2) angles, and 3) timing. How you force the overshoot varies but all three of these factors come into play to some degree. Usually, one will be the predominant factor.

For instance a Zeke is at 200 mph and a 109 dives toward it from 5k above and 60 degrees off the Zeke’s tail. The 109 is screaming along at 400mph trying not to compress. In this case closure is going to do 99% of the work for the Zeke and all he has to do is dodge the 109's shot with a momentary break turn and the 109 will overshoot. There is no way a 109 can square that corner so the Zeke needs to be primed for a reverse if he intends to get a shot in as the 109 blows by.

Now, take the same two aircraft but this time they’re co-alt with similar E. The 109 is on the Zeke's tail closing at a moderate but controlled rate. Since the Zeke can easily out turn a 109 he keeps in a moderate turn and waits until the 109 pulls lead for his shot and then breaks into him. The 109 cannot "square" the corner and overshoots. In this case angles are doing 50% of the work and timing the other 50%. Timing becomes important because if the Zeke breaks too soon the 109 will simply high yo-yo and be right back on him. By waiting until the last second the Zeke makes sure the 109 is committed and is unable to pull up until after the overshoot has occurred. Once the Zeke recognizes the overshoot he reverses his turn toward the 109 and is now neutral or even offensive on him.

Now, take a different example. Instead of very dissimilar aircraft consider two similar ones; in this case let's say an F6F and F4U. Again, they are co-alt with similar E. The F6F is firmly in the driver's seat with no closure and is picking the F4U apart piece by piece from 400 yds. Since both airplanes have similar performance this is a very difficult spot for the F4U and he’s going to lose unless he does something drastic. A break turn doesn't help because it gives the F6F a nice big target to shoot or the F6 can just do a slight high yo-yo and, since there is no significant difference in speed, they both have comparable turn radius. A break turn isn’t going to do much for him so the F4U goes for the last ditch effort. He keeps jinking to spoil the F6F’s shot then chops the throttle and, as I have cleverly selected the F4U for this example, he drops his gear. The F6F is concentrating on getting a kill shot and doesn't realize the F4U is rapidly decelerating and his 0 mph closure all of a sudden becomes 100 mph of closure and an unavoidable wing-line overshoot. Once it’s obvious the F6F will cross the F4U's wing-line the Corsair pops his wheels up, slams his throttle forward, hits WEP and is now in a position on the F6F's tail (or is hopefully at least neutral).

One catalyst that often bring these factors into play is your opponent's greed for the shot. When someone is setting a guns solution, they are typically in lead pursuit. Lead pursuit inherently causes closure. Not only that, but it also temporarily sets up an intercept course. By that I mean that at any given moment in time the extended 12 of the two planes are intersecting the same point from different angles. That's two of the conditions being affected by your opponents maneuvers.

The third one, timing is primarily in your hands though. If you can get them to follow you deeply enough into a turn that forces your flight paths to cross at a hard angle...And If you can deny that shot opportunity at the last second...you have the makings of an overshoot.

So, the moral of the story is that you need some combination of closure, angles and timing to create an overshoot. If you don’t have some element of these you need to create them using turn or deceleration to force your opponent past.