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Would a traditional dragons similar to ones that appear in the video game Skyrim be a match against modern day war machines such as anti-aircraft weaponry and fighter jets?

The dragons have different abilities such as fire breath, super strength, frost breath, and acid spit.

If not, what could I do to make them a challenge to a modern day army?

For this question I am talking about a small number of dragons, maybe up to around 5.

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    $\begingroup$ Also relevant: How would a dragon be used in a modern military? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Feb 12 '17 at 20:34
  • $\begingroup$ Although similar, my question is regarding the full force of an army, and under what circumstances would make it difficult to take the dragons out. $\endgroup$ – Terry Feb 12 '17 at 20:42
  • $\begingroup$ In that case, you may want to emphasize the difference (and maybe even link to the other question) in your question itself. Emphasizing the difference between your question and existing questions not only reduces the risk of your question being closed as a duplicate, it also helps people to focus specifically on those differences. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Feb 12 '17 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ She is meat on the table once the humans figure out what they're up against. Once both sides know what they're up against, her best chance for survival is to avoid any conflict aside from the the hit-and-run variety. $\endgroup$ – EvilSnack Feb 13 '17 at 14:46
  • $\begingroup$ @EvilSnack -- I don't think even hit-and-run would work... $\endgroup$ – Shalvenay Feb 15 '17 at 4:12
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The main points as I see them:

  • Arrows in skyrim can hurt the dragons so it is reasonable to assume we don't need any special armour piercing bullets to hurt them.
  • Some dragons can resist fire, however the force of a missile would still hurt them.
  • Dragons would be better at maneuvering in the air than jets, however they don't seem to move at particularly high speeds during the game so whether they could catch a jet is an entirely different matter.

As such I don't believe the dragons could do much in open combat against a modern prepared army. Several methods could make them more dangerous:

  • Death from above: landing ontop of a jet and forcing it downwards, potentially using it as both a weapon and cover.
  • Quick fly-overs with frost or acid: Here you could damage weapons, acid potentially melting protective casing on missiles and such causing explosions.
  • Hit and run on air fields: The radar would see you coming unless you flew low but if you could hit planes whilst they're landed you have a better chance in the air.

It all depends on range, what the real-world effects of shouts are (if you're including those) and the size of your modern army. A single army base surprised by the existence of dragons combined with dragons with knowledge of modern weaponry and you could have a fight on your hands. The main factor, however, is that bullets can clearly damage the dragons if arrows can.

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    $\begingroup$ Dragons aren't necessarily better uniformly at maneuvering than a jet is -- sure, a dragon has a tight turn radius, but that's just a function of being optimized for precise, slow-speed flight. Most air combat maneuvering relies on having energy to turn into an advantageous position, and being as slow (and incapable of high-altitude flight) as they are, dragons simply don't have the energy to keep up with what folks in WWII were doing, never mind today's jets. Or in short: "Dragons don't do dirty double Immelmans!" $\endgroup$ – Shalvenay Feb 13 '17 at 2:30
  • $\begingroup$ Also, re: "death from above" -- the only way a dragon could do that is from a frontal merge, and the kinetic energy involved in the collision would probably be catastrophic for both parties involved (if the jet pilot didn't just unload slightly to dive under the dragon, that is, setting said jet up quite nicely for the ensuing dogfight). $\endgroup$ – Shalvenay Feb 15 '17 at 3:51
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Modern military forces focus on using sensors to identify the target, then sending fairly high precision weaponry to deal with the problem. Since Dragons are usually depicted as being subsonic, it is highly unlikely they can outrun missiles, and opposition fighters will probably launch several at a time (either a volley from one fighter, or several fighters firing from different angles) to overwhelm any fire/acid/cold etc. breath weapons. Heat seeking and radar guided missiles can also manoeuvre at more than 9"G", so out turning an oncoming missile is going to be problematic as well.

Ground based surface to air missiles have similar properties, so coming into the air defense umbrella isn't going to be very healthy either.

Ground combat will be equally problematic. Unless the dragon is fighting 1950 era Communist Chinese troops advancing in a Zerg rush, submachine guns blazing, it is also going to be in trouble.

Artillery can strike at distances of 40km using guided shells like "Excalibur". A 155 shell will have a considerable amount of kinetic energy, so even a strike by a dud shell will be devastating, and a direct hit by a 155mm Excalibur is considered sufficient to destroy a modern tank. All the gunners need is a good fire mission from a well sited forward observer, UAV or trained infantryman hiding in the woods and death will descend from the sky.

Of course, if you don't have Excalibur, then filling a grid square with HE can have a similar effect, either batteries of cannon firing traditional shells or multiple rocket launchers can rapidly fill a 1 X 1 kilometre square with enough fire and steel to disrupt or destroy a modern mechanized formation, so any dragon in the square is also in for a world of hurt.

Moving closer, the dragon will be subject to direct fire weapons like ATGM's launched from helicopters or ground mounts (effective ranges measured from 10+k to several hundred metres [the point where the missile is stabilized after launch and can assume a flight profile towards the target]), tanks (APDS-FS) rounds are effective against enemy tanks to @ 3 km) or even rapid fire automatic cannon from infantry IFV's at 2km range. And the dragon isn't going against these systems one on one, military forces move and fight as combined arms teams, so the dragon is being hit by a multitude of rounds ranging from direct fire from tanks and hand held ATGM's (like Javelin), indirect fire like mortar rounds and even infantry machine guns (.50 cal is pretty dangerous at 2km, but even 7.62mm medium or general purpose machine guns have effective ranges of 800m +).

About the only thing the Dragon would not find dangerous is the dismounted infantryman armed with a 5.56 assault rifle or light machine gun. The soldier could give a good account of himself if he has something like an AT-4 or RPG for close range anti tank use.

At sea, much the same thing will happen, just different weapons systems will be in play (the modern USN is very close to adding 100kW laser weapons into the mix as well).

So short answer is the dragon or dragons will be relentlessly hunted down by sensor units, then targeted by the longest range weapons that can be brought to bear.

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