The third-generation jet fighters growth in air combat capability focused on the introduction of improved air-to-air missiles, radar systems, and other avionics. While guns remained standard equipment, air-to-air missiles became the primary weapons for air superiority fighters, which employed more sophisticated radars and medium-range RF AAMs to achieve greater "stand-off" ranges, however, kill probabilities proved unexpectedly low for RF missiles due to poor reliability and improved electronic countermeasures (ECM) for spoofing radar seekers. Infrared-homing AAMs saw their fields of view expand to 45°, which strengthened their tactical usability. Nevertheless, the low dogfight loss-exchange ratios experienced by American fighters in the skies over Vietnam led the U.S. Navy to establish its famous "TOPGUN" fighter weapons school, which provided a graduate-level curriculum to train fleet fighter pilots in advanced Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM) and Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) tactics and techniques.
Third Generation Jet Fighter Aircraft:
|Jet Fighter Aircraft||Picture||Spesifications||Country||Year|
|British Aerospace Harrier II||UK||1989|
|Atlas Cheetah||South Africa||1986|
|Dassault-Breguet Super Étendard||France||1978|
|British Aerospace Sea Harrier||UK||1978|
|Yakovlev Yak-38||Soviet Union||1976|
|Dassault Mirage F1||France||1973|
|Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23||Soviet Union||1970|
|Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25||Soviet Union||1970|
|Sukhoi Su-17||Soviet Union||1970|
|Sukhoi Su-15||Soviet Union||1967|
|Saab 37 Viggen||Sweden||1967|
|Tupolev Tu-28||Soviet Union||1964|
|McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II||US||1960|
|Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21||Soviet Union||1959|
This era also saw an expansion in ground-attack capabilities, principally in guided missiles, and witnessed the introduction of the first truly effective avionics for enhanced ground attack, including terrain-avoidance systems. Air-to-surface missiles (ASM) equipped with electro-optical (E-O) contrast seekers – such as the initial model of the widely used AGM-65 Maverick – became standard weapons, and laser-guided bombs (LGBs) became widespread in effort to improve precision-attack capabilities. Guidance for such precision-guided munitions (PGM) was provided by externally mounted targeting pods, which were introduced in the mid-1960s.
It also led to the development of new automatic-fire weapons, primarily chain-guns that use an electric engine to drive the mechanism of a cannon; this allowed a single multi-barrel weapon (such as the 20 mm Vulcan) to be carried and provided greater rates of fire and accuracy. Powerplant reliability increased and jet engines became "smokeless" to make it harder to visually sight aircraft at long distances.
Dedicated ground-attack aircraft (like the Grumman A-6 Intruder, SEPECAT Jaguar and LTV A-7 Corsair II) offered longer range, more sophisticated night attack systems or lower cost than supersonic fighters. With variable-geometry wings, the supersonic F-111 introduced the Pratt & Whitney TF30, the first turbofan equipped with afterburner. The ambitious project sought to create a versatile common fighter for many roles and services. It would serve well as an all-weather bomber, but lacked the performance to defeat other fighters. The McDonnell F-4 Phantom was designed around radar and missiles as an all-weather interceptor, but emerged as a versatile strike bomber nimble enough to prevail in air combat, adopted by the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. Despite numerous shortcomings that would be not be fully addressed until newer fighters, the Phantom claimed 280 aerial kills, more than any other U.S. fighter over Vietnam. With range and payload capabilities that rivalled that of World War II bombers such as B-24 Liberator, the Phantom would became a highly successful multi-role aircraft.