How Much Do You Know About the History of Air Combat?


Mark Lichtenstein

6 Min Quiz

Image: YouTube

About This Quiz

Are you a history buff or an aircraft aficionado? Both? Awesome. Then this quiz is for you. We've compiled a list of 35 interesting aspects of the history of air combat. Let's find out how well you know the history of air combat.

It was only a matter of time before humankind used the skies to wage war. After all, the ground and the seas have been covered for centuries. But, understandably, the history of air combat paved its own path based on the technology that allows us to fly.

Indeed, early airplanes were not sophisticated enough or technologically advanced enough to be used for warfare. But since the first flight by Wilbur and Orville Wright in 1903 to the use of the first airplane in combat in 1911, it sure didn't take long to advance air maneuvers to the point where they were used in war. 

By the time World War II was in play, aircraft had advanced enough to be used for strategic bombing. Today's combat aircraft are more advanced than Wilbur and Orville could have imagined, with pilotless aircraft on the horizon and the use of drones as commonplace in the air combat arsenal. 

Let's get started to find out how much you know.

For what what nation did The Red Baron fly?

Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, AKA The Red Baron, flew for the German Empire. He was one of the first great flying aces, and a feared opponent of many a British or American pilot.


What is an inside loop?

An inside loop is a "loop the loop", executed simply by pulling on the control stick and climbing into a dive and returning to the original course.


What was The Red Baron's fighter wing called?

Richthofen's Circus was so called because it moved around a lot, like a traveling circus.


What is a Chandelle?

A Chandelle is an air combat maneuver in which the pilot rapidly climbs to a high altitude, then turns the plane around for an attack.


What is fighting ace Max Immelmann credited with inventing?

An Immelmann turn or loop is a maneuver designed to quickly turn the aircraft 180 degrees, so it can rapidly face an enemy in pursuit.


What is a Split-S?

A Split-S is basically a backward Immelmann Loop. It begins by turning and diving, then pulling up to level, having turned around.


Who was credited with defeating the invincible Max Immelmann, shooting him down for the last time?

G. R. McCubbin was the pilot who, with his gunner, J. H. Waller, shot down Max Immelmann, killing him. He was given the Distinguished Service Medal.


What is an outside loop?

An outside loop is a downward loop the loop, diving, then rising and leveling in the original vector.


What is a "military style landing"?

A military style landing involves a steep descent without the use of flaps, often in a corkscrew, and then the sudden cut of power a few feet off the ground.


What is the most dangerous part of performing a tailslide?

Not all aircraft can handle a tailslide. In a tailslide, the pilot climbs vertically, deliberately stalling the aircraft. The plane rotates, nose down, into a dive, restarting the engine at great speed. The danger is that many aircraft's control surfaces cannot handle the extreme forces exerted on them during this dive, and things happen, like wings ripping off.


What is the Aresti Catalog?

The Aresti Catalog is simply the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale's list of maneuvers allowed in competition. Most of these go back to WW1.


What is the angle of attack?

The "chord" is the imaginary line from the leading edge to the tailing edge of an aeronautical surface, such as a wing. This line is constant relative to the angle of the plane, but the angle of airflow changes as the airplane moves.


When did the Boeing P-12 first take wing?

The Boeing P-12 was a lightweight fighter with an engine designed for its heavier predecessor. It was used as a fighter, then a trainer, and now a museum piece by the U.S. It is still in service elsewhere in the world, including Brazil, and the Philippines.


What famous automaker is the builder of the G.55 Centauro?

Yes, back in WW2, Fiat made the G.55 Centauro, a single-seat, single-engine fighter, which mostly saw action as a torpedo bomber.


What was the A6M7 Type 0 Model 62 intended as?

Mitsubishi designed the A6M7 Type 0 Model 62 variant of the famous Zero fighter as a Kamikaze plane. Boys, sometimes in their early teens, would be shown how to take off and fly these planes, told their mission objectives, and sent off to fight the American Navy in these planes, loaded with explosives.


What was the last night fighter built by America during WW2?

The Northrop P-61 Black Widow is a twin-boom, twin-engine fighter with enough guns to start a war all on its own, including a couple remote-controlled BARs on a dorsal gun turret.


What was the US Navy's first aircraft that used jet propulsion?

The Ryan FR Fireball was the first plane in the US Navy with jet propulsion, but it was a hybrid of sorts, using both a jet and a traditional motor to generate its lift and speed.


What year was the Boeing B-29 Superfortress introduced?

The Boeing B-29 Superfortress was the final evolution of the old fashioned sort of bombers. Designed to survive heavy flack and defend itself from fighters, the B-29 was bristling with guns, and loaded with enough bombs to turn a town into smoke.


What was the must-have fashion accessory of British pilots in WW2?

British pilots jackets (and sometimes scarves and other clothing items) would have linings depicting escape maps, in case pilots were downed behind enemy lines and needed to get out.


Which of these is true of the Tupolev TB-3?

The Tupolev TB-3 was developed in the late 1920s and early 1930s as the new, powerful, Soviet bomber. The version the Germans faced was, ironically, powered by the Mikulin M-17, an engine design licensed from BMW.


What year was the legendary P-51 Mustang finally retired from service in any military?

The Dominican Air Force kept this baby in service right into the Reagan era. The Mustang was truly one of the longest-lived fighters of all time.


What dangerous duty did the P-51 Mustang pull repeatedly throughout the Second World War?

Assigned to the Eighth Air Force, Mustangs were often sent as bomber escorts over Germany, where many were downed through a combination of enemy aircraft fire and flack.


What WW2 fighter is still incredibly popular among collectors who fly?

The Grumman F8F Bearcat was the most advanced piston-driven fighter of WW2, and the last made by Grumman, which shifted to swept-wing jet fighters. These planes, in various modified forms, have been used in air races and acrobatics shows for decades.


Why is Erich Hartmann venerated among pilots?

Erich Hartmann is the greatest ace of all time with 352 aerial kills. Number two on the list is Gerhard Barkhorn with a paltry 301. The top American on the list is Richard Bong with a whopping 40 kills. Of course, the Germans had the best planes in the war and Hartmann was facing a lot of badly equipped, badly trained Soviet pilots, but still, a win is a win is a win.


How doesn't Ilmari Juutilainen figure into the pantheon of fighting aces?

Ilmari Juutilainen's accomplishments as an ace pilot are made more impressive by the fact that he fought the Soviets in the Winter War between Finland and the USSR, becoming an ace for the first, but not final time. Throughout his flying career, Juutilainen compiled 94 kills, more than twice the greatest American ace.


What do Hubert Strassl, August Lambert, and Emil Lang have in common?

Hubert Strassl, August Lambert, and Emil Lang were all German WW2 pilots who made triple ace in one day, meaning they each shot down at least 15 aircraft in the span of 24 hours.


What is notable about Giora Epstein?

Giora Epstein is the ace of aces of the Israeli Air Force, and of supersonic fighter jets, meaning he leads in kills for both. Being an ace is a big deal. Being an ace of aces is a bigger deal. Epstein is the only double ace of aces.


What aircraft is the F-35 not intended to replace?

The F-22 Raptor is intended primarily as an interceptor, with some electronic and ground attack capabilities. The F-35 has been an experiment in disappointment, with versions developed for every branch of the U.S. military, none being better than the older aircraft they were meant to replace. This stunningly expensive mistake continues to this day, with many older aircraft remaining in service due to the F-35's unreliability.


What quality isn't one of the prized qualities of the A-10 Warthog?

The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II aka "Warthog" is technically a WW2 plane somehow still in service. This is mostly because it is very good, and its intended replacement, the F-35, is not capable of doing what it can. It is tough, it can fly low and slow, carry a lot of modern weaponry including guided bombs, and it packs a ridiculous, 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger autocannon that can fire (in its current setting) 3,900 rounds per minute, or 65 rounds per second.


What is not special about the Boeing F-15SE?

The F-15SE Silent Eagle is Boeing's fifth generation fighter upgrade to the venerable F-15, the fighter made famous by Tom Cruise in Top Gun. The new F-15 would take full advantage of modern advances in radar-absorbing materials. electronic countermeasures, and avionics. It is being designed with a radar visibility acceptable for export by the US, so its target market will be allies like Israel.


What American pilot has at least three kills from two wars that came after the Vietnam War?

Cesar Rodriguez got two kills in the First Gulf War, against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Later he got his third kill in Yugoslavia, shooting down a Mig-29.


What do Stephen Dingee and Mark McKenzie share?

Both pilots took down an Mi-8 helicopter, giving each half a kill in the First Gulf War.


In what aircraft did Robert Swain achieve his one kill?

When Robert Swain shot down an Iraqi Mi-8 helicopter with his A-10 Warthog, it must have been a toss up as to who was more surprised: the helicopter pilot or Swain. The A-10 is definitively not designed for air to air combat, but when you've got a big gun, that hardly matters. The A-10's 30mm canon shredded the Mi-8.


What is Russian pilot T. Kuznetsov known for doing in WW2?

T. Kuznetsov was shot down by a German pilot who then landed nearby so he could pick through the wreckage for a souvenir. While the German did this, Kuznetsov climbed into the German's Messerschmitt Bf 109 and flew back to Russia, dodging Soviet bullets along the way.


How did Owen J. Baggett get his air to air kill?

Owen J. Baggett was copilot on a B-24 shot down in combat with the Japanese. After he and his crew bailed out, the Japanese pilots committed a major faux pas and began to strafe the parachuting crew. As the lead fighter bore down on him to finish him off, Baggett drew his .45 and fired on the plane, downing it. After his capture, he learned that while he had successfully damaged the plane's engines, he had also shot the pilot in the head, killing him instantly.


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