Dicta Boelcke

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The Dicta Boelcke is a list of fundamental aerial maneuvers of aerial combat formulated by First World War German flying ace, Oswald Boelcke. Equipped with one of the first fighter aircraft, Boelcke became Germany's foremost flying ace during 1915 and 1916. Because of his success in aerial combat and analytic mind, he was tasked with writing a pamphlet on aerial tactics. Completed in June 1916, it was distributed throughout the German Air Service some two years before the French and British militaries followed suit with their own tactical guides. Air combat tactical manuals based on the Dicta Boelcke have become more elaborate over time, and have become a mainstay for air combat training for American, German, Dutch, Norwegian, Turkish, Italian, and Greek fighter pilots.

The author[edit]

Hauptmann (Captain) Oswald Boelcke

Oswald Boelcke was the first effective warrior with an airplane, as he was one of the original German pilots successful in air-to-air combat. During mid-May 1915, he began to fly one of the original fighter aircraft equipped with a synchronized gun. As he began to shoot down enemy airplanes, he became one of the first German fighter pilots. As he gained experience in the new realm of aerial combat, he discovered the utility of having a wingman, of massing fighter planes for increased fighting power, and of flying loose formations allowing individual pilots tactical independence. Based on his successful combat experiences, he used his training as a professional soldier and his powers as an analytic thinker to design tactics for the use of aircraft in battle. He would codify these tactics in the Dicta Boelcke, which was the world's first tactical manual for an air force.[1]

Boelcke was withdrawn from combat on 27 June 1916, and assigned to Fliegertruppe (Flying Troops) headquarters. His reassignment was in line with the German military doctrine of auftragstaktik (order tactics)--the belief that the junior officer on the battlefield best knows the tactics needed there. As part of his staff duties revamping the Fliegertruppe into the Luftstreitkräfte (Air Force), Boelcke wrote the Dicta, which was then distributed throughout the Luftstreitkräfte as a tactical manual. It was two years before the British and French followed suit in 1918.[2] Spurred by the example of the Dicta, the world's military forces would develop their own tactical manuals, codified as tactics, techniques, and procedures.[3]

The Dicta Boelcke[edit]

According to Boelcke's first biographer, Professor Johannes von Werner, the eight dicta were written for Colonel Hermann von der Lieth-Thomsen.[4] One version can be found online.[5]

1. Try to secure advantages before attacking. If possible, keep the sun behind you.

2. Always carry through an attack when you have started it.

3. Fire only at close range, and only when your opponent is properly in your sights.

4. Always keep your eye on your opponent, and never let yourself be deceived by ruses.

5. In any form of attack it is essential to assail your enemy from behind.

6. If your opponent dives on you, do not try to evade his onslaught, but fly to meet it.

7. When over the enemy's lines never forget your own line of retreat.

8. For the Staffel (squadron): Attack on principle in groups of four or six. When the fight breaks up into a series of single combats, take care that several do not go for the same opponent.[4]

Prototype of the Fokker Eindecker, first fighter airplane with a successfully synchronized gun.

There are various versions of the Dicta. One that varies somewhat from the above:

1. Always try to secure an advantageous position before attacking. Climb before and during the approach in order to surprise the enemy from above, and dive on him swiftly from the rear when the moment to attack is at hand.

2. Try to place yourself between the sun and the enemy. This puts the glare of the sun in the enemy's eyes and makes it difficult to see you and impossible for him to shoot with any accuracy.

3. Do not fire the machine guns until the enemy is within range and you have him squarely within your sights.

4. Attack when the enemy least expects it or when he is preoccupied with other duties such as observation, photography, or bombing.

5. Never turn your back and try to run away from an enemy fighter. If you are surprised by an attack on your tail, turn and face the enemy with your guns.

6. Keep your eye on the enemy and do not allow him to deceive you with tricks. If your opponent seems damaged, follow him down until he crashes to be sure he is not faking.

7. Foolish acts of bravery only bring death. The Jasta (squadron) must fight as a unit with close teamwork between all pilots. The signals of its leaders must be obeyed.

8. For the Staffel (squadron): Attack in principle in groups of four or six. When the fight breaks up into a series of single combats, take care that several do not go for one opponent.[6]


The simple Dicta Boelcke manual has, over time, evolved into widespread use of tactics, techniques, and procedures manuals for air forces worldwide. The United States Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), the United States Navy (USN), and the United States Air Force (USAF) each have their own air tactics manuals. Under the auspices of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the USAF trains German, Dutch, Norwegian, Turkish, Italian, and Greek fighter pilots, using air tactics manuals descended from the Dicta Boelcke.[3][7]


  1. ^ Head (2016), pp. 14-15, 100-101.
  2. ^ Head (2016), pp. 59, 96-98.
  3. ^ a b Head (2016), p. 101.
  4. ^ a b Werner (1932), p. 209.
  5. ^ Historic Wings The Online Magazine of Aviators, Pilots and Adventurers Since 1997 [1] Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  6. ^ Head (2016), pp. 97-98.
  7. ^ Joe Pappalardo, 23 June 2014, "The Texas Air Base Where NATO Fighter Pilots Are Forged", Popular Mechanics [2] Retrieved 24 August 2018.


  • Head, R. G. (2016). Oswald Boelcke: Germany's First Fighter Ace and Father of Air Combat. London, Grub Street. ISBN 9781910690239
  • Werner, Johannes.Boelcke der Mensch, der Flieger, der Führer der deutschen Jagdfliegerei. Leipzig: K.F. Koehler Verlag, 1932; translated and published in English as Knight of Germany: Oswald Boelcke, German Ace. Havertown, PA: Casemate 2009, first edition 1985. ISBN 978-1-935149-11-8.

Further reading[edit]