The Computation of Aerial Victories

During the Spanish Civil War claims of aerial victory and loss by the Nationalist and Republican air forces were always in dispute. Any aircraft forced to land outside its own airfield was classified as being shot down, conversely the loss of an aircraft was admitted only if it had been destroyed. This formula explained the great disparity between claims, conceded losses by the enemy, and the payment of bonuses based upon spotty confirmations by multinational flyers. To confirm a "kill," one had to see the opponent catch fire, blow up, or hit the ground, or to see the pilot bail out. To follow a crippled adversary down was suicidal, as one became exposed to other enemy fighters in the vicinity.

Fortunately for Tinker and company, the Fiat CR 32’s vulnerable point lay in its oil and water cooling systems as well as the location of the gas tank. The frontal positions of all three made the Italian fighter terribly exposed in a head-on attack. Red pilots always attacked from the front or below, and all Fiats lost burned in the air, thereby making confirmations easy. Unfortunately for Tinker, however, most enemy pilots learned to offer him as poor a frontal target as possible, displaying great knowledge and skill in aerobatics.


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