The goal of BVR is to kill the other guy without him killing us back.
That's pretty much it.
We'll start with the weapons. There are missiles like the AIM-7 that require constant radar guidance in order to hit their targets, and there are missiles like the AIM-120 that don't. The former is mostly useless and easily defeated. We only care about the latter type here.
The 120 is initially guided through datalink from the firing aircraft, until it reaches the point where the missiles own radar can take over and guide it to the target aircraft. This doesn't always have to be the case though. If the firing aircraft cannot maintain missile guidance, the missile will attempt to guide itself using the target aircraft's last known position and heading.
This makes the AIM-120 sort of like an air to air cruise missile.
The upside and downside is that there is no launch warning. Newer enemy aircraft will have similar weapons available. You may get a hint or two if they decide to crank left or right after firing, but you must always assume that if you're within firing range then so are they. The only other way to know for sure is if the missile is already tracking you.
When we engage in BVR we need to take into account several things:
- How close is the target?
- Is it a MIG-29 or a Su-27/30/33/37?
- If the target doesn't go defensive before your missile begins tracking on its own, it will afterwards. How much energy will the missile have left when it reaches the target?
- When do we go defensive?
- Are there any friendly aircraft in the target area?
- Are we sure the target is an enemy aircraft?
1. If a peer adversary (one with similar capabilities to us) gets too close, we have to assume that it has already fired at us and take immediate defensive action. If it's further away we can assess the threat and engage it.
2. The RWR in the F-16 variants flown in the standard Korean theatre show both the MIG-29 and all Flanker variants with the 29 symbol. This is vital to keep in mind as the MIG-29, while still a major threat, is fairly simple to shoot down (Correction: later versions of the MIG-29 have access to the AA-12/R-77, which has a longer range than the AIM-120 as modeled in BMS and similar capability), whereas the Flanker has capabilities which rival our own and needs to be taken much more seriously.
3 and 4. The best way to defend yourself is to not be shot at in the first place. Other than that, the best way to defend yourself is to go defensive as soon as possible. We need to guide a missile and so does our target. The longer we guide it the better the shot quality will be and the more we put ourselves at risk, and this applies for the enemy as well. You might guide the missile for 5 or 10 seconds and hope it hits as you burn away, or you might choose to take your chances and wait as long as possible until you hear the RWR audio tone of an incoming missile. This also applies to the enemy. If we launch from too far away our missile will not have enough energy to catch the target when it decides to turn and run.
5. If we leave our outgoing missile to its own devices, it will attempt to find its way to the target and hit anything it sees. You may be tempted to help out someone who got a little too close to the enemy, but if your missile tracks him instead he's toast anyway. Again, this also applies to AI aircraft, so spacing and situational awareness can be very important as you don't want to take a missile that was meant for somebody else.
6. No clue, go and find out. We either have to rely on an AWACS declaration or use our targeting pod in air to air mode to gain a visual confirmation of our target. A third option is our FCR, which may be able to display aircraft type at the top of the MFD in certain situations, but don't count on it.
The engagement process will be explained through video (below) of an actual engagement that occurred shortly after takeoff and caught us off guard:
At 25 seconds, a threat appears just as we make our fence in call, which delays our response. At this point, all we have is a 29 partially obscured by a friendly on our RWR. I could have used the TGT SEP button to separate them, but I didn't consider it necessary.
40 seconds: After the fence in call is taken care of, we need to find the threat aircraft. The RWR is fairly accurate at longer ranges, so all I have to do is search in the general heading. Once we find a contact in the right direction, we ask for an AWACS declaration, which my wingman receives first because I have text turned off and have to wait for the audio.
At around 55 seconds I call for my wingman to go spread, and then give him permission to take a shot if he has one. At 1:13 you can see me switch to Track While Scan on the left MFD, which will let me fire on multiple targets if necessary.
1min 20: I pull up according to the steering cue and send a missile downrange. My normal criteria for a launch is below the circle on the range scale, but as a bit of a bonus the bar jumps upwards to account for our slight loft.
After launch I immediately pull off to the right while maintaining lock on the enemy aircraft in order to reduce the closure rate to the enemy (and therefore the chance of being hit) as well as drag any potential incoming missile outwards into a lead pursuit and waste some of its energy.
1min 45: I make the decision to abandon my missile and go defensive with 6 seconds to go (M06, below the range scale), assuming (correctly) that I've been launched on and (incorrectly) that a missile would be stopping by to deliver mail shortly. It turns out I could have waited another ten seconds or so, but I didn't take any chances. When going defensive I dive down and away to force the missile into thicker atmosphere to waste its energy while maintaining moderate G (under 5) and speed (under 550kts) to avoid damaging stores or the aircraft and forcing an aborted mission. This defensive maneuver is also shown in a second video I'll put below as well. This move is not safe below 16,000 ft. over enemy territory, as MANPADS will take you down. This limits the effectiveness of the tactic and means we have to be even more cautious over enemy territory.
At 2:35, the missile has been defeated and the enemy aircraft has been shot down by #2, though we don't know it right away. I turn back in prepared to re-engage and look around, while #2 eventually calls AWACS who confirms no more threat. Other times the only way you know for certain is when you look all over and can't find it anymore.
Below is a more extreme version of the defensive maneuver, which includes an emergency jettison:
Hopefully this will be of use, and will prevent people from dying while playing with military combat aircraft on the internet. Other BVR tactics are available, some of which require extreme bravery and testicle radius.