The Meaning of
Life Closure Rate
Closure rate ( VC ) is a concept every Pilot or RIO should be familiar with; it is the only parameter always present on the TID besides the antenna elevation angle and height.
Any fairly modern fighter aircraft shows it, but it is a variable often not understood or underappreciated.
The closure rate represents, in elementary terms, the rate at which the distance between the two aircraft is decreasing (closing) or increasing (opening).
A more appropriate definition can be found in the familiar P-825:
Rate of Closure (VC) – Sum of the components of fighter and bandit velocities that contribute to downrange travel.
VC tells a lot about an engagement. For example, a high closure rate probably indicates that the contact is hot (or has low TA). A minimal rate (to the point of becoming negative) probably means that the target is cold or even running away.
The closure rate depends on several parameters, and both aircraft can affect it. Not only speed and heading have an impact on the value of VC, but the value that describes the relation between the two aircraft as a drastic effect on the rate of closure. This value is the bearing from one aircraft to the other.
The closure rate is determined as the difference of the two velocities (remember that Velocity &diff; Speed; the former is a vector, the latter a scalar, although they are often mixed and I’m very guilty of that).
Each velocity can be calculated by using simple trigonometry (in order to keep the discussion short, I am skipping the steps used to determine the following formulas. They are quite straightforward, feel free to Google them yourself):
VCTGT = VTGT * cos (BRG – HDGTGT)
Finally resulting in:
Let’s see a first example, using two generic aircraft, AC1 and AC2. It will be later used for further analysis:
The following examples show some common but peculiar situations: True Head-on, a notching target and a target hiding in the ZDF.
Example I: True Head-On
|360°||600 kts||180°||600 kts||0°|
This scenario sees two aircraft flying head-on at the same speed. Intuitively, VC will be equal to the sum of the two speeds. In fact:
VC = 600 * cos (0 – 360) – 600 * cos (0 – 180) = 600 – (-600) = 1200 kts
Example II: Notch Filter
|360°||600 kts||270°||450 kts||0°|
In this scenario, TA = 90, so the Target’s component of the equation is zero.
VC = 600 * cos (0 – 360) – 600 * cos (0 – 270) = 600 – (0) = 600 kts
Therefore, VC depends only on the F-14.
However, note how this result is possible only because the cosine of the difference between BRG and HDGTGT is zero. Since the two aircraft are moving, at some point the Target will appear again on the radar (if the status quo is maintained and the target leaves passes the gimbal limits).
Example III: Zero Doppler Filter
|045°||600 kts||360°||600 kts||15°|
I mixed up the number a bit in this example. The result is a closure rate of:
VC = 600 * cos (15 – 45) – 600 * cos (15 – 360) = 520 – (580) = -60 kts
The target in this example is probably invisible to the F-14, unless the RIO switches to Pulse mode. The reason is the familiar Zero Doppler filter, which is ±100 kts wide, enough to include a target with VC = -60kts.
VC Over Time
Considering two aircraft flying at constant speed and heading, we may notice that VC changes. As long as the relative positioning of the aircraft changes, then VC will consequentially change. However, recalling the study about the Intercept Geometry, we know that there is a specific scenario where this does not happen: Collision course. The explanation is straightforward: when two aircraft are on a Collision Course, the ATA does not change; hence the target does not drift. Since we are already assuming that the other parameters (speed and heading) are constant, we then have that VC is constant as well.
The following scenario instead shows two aircraft, one chasing the other. However, the pursuer is slower than its target. Let’s see how the closure rate changes if the status quo is unaltered.
|T0||45°||250 kts||330°||300 kts||75°||294 kts|
When the BRG ≤ ~14°, VC becomes negative.
Since the aircraft are not following a Collision Course, the angle is changing no matter the other parameters, ergo affecting VC.
A proper and in-depth discussion of Collision and Drift is already available in this site; therefore I will not go into the details of the topic again.
Conclusions: Practical Usage
The closure rate is a topic discussed here multiple times. There are a few practical applications of this value or, even better, of the changes over time of VC.
- Improve your Situational Awareness: the closure rate can reveal important information about a target, such as his aspect. Along the mission intel, it can help to identify if the contact is, for example, a fighter or a bomber (a B52 hardly goes supersonic);
- Bandit jinking or manoeuvring: variations in the VC tell a lot about the target. Besides the point mentioned above, the RIO can identify a target jinking or manoeuvring (e.g. defending) even before the change is reflected by the track displayed on the TID. This can make the difference between a trashed and a connecting shot;
- Controlling the fight: the RIO can actively and intentionally manipulate the closure rate, for example to slow down an approaching hostile or kinetically defeat a missile. The equation above shows how important the Bearing and how varying the Bearing immediately affect the VC. A virtual RIO should now be more aware of the effects of a manoeuvre such as Cranking.
I hope this short article was clear and helped you to have a better understanding of this simple yet essential parameter.
Any question, feedback or anything else, give me a shout 🙂