200/100 feets seems the minimum for the terrain following mode in hilly terrain. Also, on modern terrain following system, preloaded maps can allow a terrain following flight with the radar turned off, like the american TERPROM.
But fighters can go under it, especially when the terrain is relativelly flat the Jaguar pilot say he was at 20 feet just after releasing its bombs and did not go up before leaving the danger zone.
Here a footage of tornados at roughly 15 feets above the ground during GW1 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTPlk70eSLY#t=4m47s
Here above sea, you can see planes that are merely 15 feets above water : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeYnhMC_nM0#t=0m27s
Here in hilly terrain and in mountains : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVgSlaNXHeg#t=1m08s and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQU1f_bgPFE
Skyhawks attacking Brirish ships : http://i.imgur.com/phezd5z.jpg
Or you have the famous example of the Russian SU-24 buzzing the US Navy planes.
You also missed this in the artciles :
On the night of May 16, 1943, 19 RAF Lancasters from 617 Squadron took off for Germany in darkness. This was no ordinary bombing raid. These 19 aircraft were tasked to fly low into Germany to hit Ruhr Valley dams with a “bouncing bomb” developed just for the purpose. To avoid detection the aircraft flew at low altitude — so low that more than one wingman observed the tops of the treeline above other Lancasters’ twin tails and several Lancasters flew under powerlines that would have destroyed the aircraft. No radars detected them; no night fighters were scrambled to intercept. Alerted by the drone of the four-engine bomber, only gun and spotlight crews knew they were there. Delivering their weapons at a scant 60 feet above the water, the attacks successfully breached two of three primary dams and flooded the Ruhr and Eder river valleys.
And this :
B-52s received a structural modification to strengthen the fuselage for routine low altitude flight, where B-52s training for penetration of Soviet airspace flew so low that they needed to climb to turn the aircraft lest they drag a wing on the ground
My point being, when the conditions are good, planes do fly very very low if necessary, it's not exceptionnal.
But If you don't want your plane to fly this low, you could siable the NOE setting, and then, they won't. Otherwise, it will all depends of weather, skills, etc, like in real life.
Furthermore, ingame the relief layer even though precise, still doesn't allow for a very precise path plotting across the valleys, unless it's big vallleys, so allowing the planes to fly lower would compensate for this.
Even though we have proof ofaircraft flying operationnally at 10 feets ASL and 20 feets AGL or even lower, I think 50 feets ASL and 100 feets AGL would be a good minimal theorical altitude for the OPTION 2.
And about heavy loaded plane maneuvering at low altitude, it all depends of the airframe.
A Rafale with an heavy load with 3*2000L fuel tanks, 4 AAMs and 6 250kg bombs or 2 cruise missiles can still pull +5.5G, 20° AoA, 150°/s Roll rate, which is largely enough to stck to the ground.
When it comes to aicraft airframe fatigue, it doesn't work like that. Every aircraft has an airframe life expectancy, often counted in hours (usually about 30 000H). Military planners try to keep their fleet in an homogeous state. After each flight, depending of the mission profile, the airframe fatigue is registered.
Now, during operations, planes fly low as long as necessary, they are largely able to take it, however the airframe fatigue of the aircraft will be more important than if the aicraft had flew high altitude mission, but when they came back home, the planes that eated more of their potential will stand down in controlled athmosphere hangards, until the rest of the fleet airframe fatigue reach their level, then they will fly again.
Meaning that if you want, you could fly an aircraft at low level during all its flight time, but you will have to refurbish the airframe after 10 years instead of 30 years. That's why airforces use stand down times, and make aiframes fly different kinds of missions, to preserve the global potential of the fleet.
But, on the scale of C:MANO, aircraft airframe fatigue doesn't really matters, because those things are managed on 6 month periods, not after every strike. Now, the 3rd world war was supposed to last at max 2 weeks, the life expectancy of a pilot was 45 minutes on the european theater, do you really think military planners would have care of the airframe fatigue ??
Well, I gave my opinion, bring sources, proposed solutions, I think ther is no point carrying on this. Hope it will make it in though.
Meanwhile, this thread can still be used for anythings that is talking about tactics of penetration of the ennemy territory, Hi vs Lo, Stealth or jamming, or combinaison of those solution, etc, etc
< Message edited by FoxZz -- 6/4/2016 8:07:09 PM >