AG51TM 1.0 Tactical Formation Flying
TACTICAL FORMATION FLYING
TACTICAL FORMATION FLYING Flight integrity is the ability to provide mutual support in offensive and defensive maneuvering. Proficient formation flying is crucial to flight integrity. Tactical Formation is employed to achieve the following objectives: 1. To achieve maximum maneuverability for offensive airto-air operations (Offensive Tactical Formation). 2. To achieve maximum mutual support and visual crosscover for defensive air-to-air operations (Defensive tactical Formation). 3. To assign definite responsibilities to each member of the flight and provide a chain of consecutive command authority in order to maintain unity within the flight throughout the mission regardless of any unforeseen difficulties. 4. To enable each member of the flight to perform "cruise control" consistent with the requirements of the mission and to accomplish his own navigation in addition to fulfilling the duties required from all members of an effective combat team. All tactical formations are a compromise between maximum maneuverability and maximum mutual support. The extent of the compromise depends on the requirements of the mission to be flown. The following is a basic foundation that will allow you to be an effective tool to your flight lead. BASIC PRINCIPLES Formations are broken up into smaller units. The smallest unit in a formation is the section. A section is composed of two aircraft, a leader and wingman. Two sections create a division. A flight can be composed of multiple divisions, single sections, or a lone aircraft.
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AIRGROUP 51 FIG. 1 COMPONENTS OF A FLIGHT
It is paramount that members of a flight maintain proper position relative to their lead, or guide aircraft. The proper position is determined by the formation that is called for by the flight lead. A section normally flies in echelon formation. FIG. 2 SECTION IN ECHELON FORMATION
Echelon formation is most common. It allows pilots the visibility to ensure the flights protection and enough room to fly comfortably without much concern of a mid-air collision. In all formations, the members of the flight use the flight lead as a guide aircraft. In echelon, members of the flight should maintain a position on the bearing line stepped down slightly in altitude.
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AIRGROUP 51 FIG. 3 BEARING LINE
To maintain position pilots focus on visual references on the guide aircraft, watching closely for changes in the position of those references relative to the pilot's own aircraft. Pilots make appropriate corrections to maintain position. For example, if a reference point begins to move rearward action must be taken to stop the change. In this case, with the reference points moving rearward, the pilot must reduce speed to slow the overtake on the guide aircraft. If the reference points are moving forward, the pilot must increase speed to reduce the change relative to the guide aircraft. Maintaining position requires the constant change of inputs. A single power setting, or trim profile will not maintain formation throughout the flight. The trick to maintaining formation is to anticipate the change relative to the guide aircraft and react smoothly and methodically. Most often, new pilots are prone to overreact. This tendency must be compensated for. New pilots should remember that slow is smooth and smooth is fast. methodical. Formation flying is initially overwhelming for new pilots. However, mastery in maintaining formation needs to become second nature so that mental concentration can be devoted to more vital tasks.
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AIRGROUP 51 BEARING LINE "SUCKED" It is important to maintain position on or in front of the bearing line. Being "sucked" causes an exponential breakdown in flight integrity. Figure X shows an wingman in the "sucked" position. FIG. X BEARING LINE "SUCKED"
A "sucked" wingman creates many disadvantages for the flight. Most apparent is the inability of the flight lead to provide mutual support to the wingman. BEARING LINE "ACUTE" A wingman "acute" of the bearing line is shown in Figure X below. Some formations call for an "acute" dimension, such as the combat spread. FIG. X BEARING LINE "ACUTE"
Although the disadvantages of an acute wingman are less severe than a "sucked" wingman, there is a significant 4 TACTICAL FORMATION FLYING
AIRGROUP 51 detail the "acute" pilot must be aware of; maneuvering to maintain position becomes more difficult the closer the desired position is to the 3-9 line. requiring the experience of the wingman to be such that the pilot is comfortable. TURNS The figure below shows a snapshot of how turns should be conducted in formation. Note each individual aircraft flies a different flight path through the air; this requires different inputs based on a particular position in the formation. FIG. 4 FORMATION TURNS
The flight above is in a right turn. The turn must be conducted in the manor labeled correct to allow visual contact to be maintained throughout the turn, reducing the risk of a mid-air collision. From the initiation of the turn, both the inside and outside aircraft match the bank angle set by the guide aircraft. The inside path requires the pilot to descend slightly and reduce speed. This reduction in power is necessary because the inside flight path is shorter than the path etched by the guide aircraft. Maintaining pace with the guide aircraft while flying a shorter path will cause an overshoot. The magnitude of the reduction varies based upon the severity of the turn. In contrast, the outside aircraft must ascend and increase speed to maintain position due to a longer flight path.
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AIRGROUP 51 FORMATION DIMENSIONS The position of an aircraft relative to the guide aircraft has two dimensions, angular and spread. The angular dimension is best described by the bearing line defined above. The spread dimension is the distance or lateral separation between aircraft. A tight formation looks pretty, but has many tactical flaws. In a tight spread formation the risk of a collision is high. The majority of the flight's concentration will be on maintaining position to avoid a collision and not on scanning for enemy aircraft, navigating, etc. A formation that is loose could lead to a loss of visual contact or an inability to react quickly to threats in a supported manor. Either case is a severe break down in flight integrity. The best formation balances the requirements of room to maneuver and mutual support ensuring all sectors of sky are monitored and support can be provided quickly and decisively. FORMATIONS Each formation has tactical advantages and disadvantages. The formation chosen should best fit the tactical situation. Below are diagrams showing various formations used by Air Group 51. FIG. 5 ECHELON
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AIRGROUP 51 FIG. 6 VIC
FIG. 7 LINE ABREAST (a.k.a COMBAT SPREAD)
FIG. 8 TRAIL
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AIRGROUP 51 FIG. 9 FINGER FOUR
FIG. 10 DIAMOND
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AIRGROUP 51 PILOT RESPONSIBILITIES FLIGHT LEAD Flight lead has the final responsibility and authority for the flight's effectiveness. Leads are tasked with planning and thoroughly briefing the flight. As lead, ensure every member understands their job. In flight, lead is responsible for the deployment of the flight, delegating tasks within the flight, establishing formations and maximizing the flights effectiveness ensuring mission accomplishment. To achieve these ends a lead must know the capabilities and limitations of each flight member. ELEMENT LEAD Element leaders are responsible for maneuvering their element in support of flight lead. WINGMAN (DASH 2 & DASH 4) Wingmen operate as the primary lookouts for their immediate leader. They perform back-up navigation. Wingmen engage as briefed or when directed by the flight lead. It is essential wingmen understand their briefed responsibilities and execute their mutual support role with discipline. VISUAL RESPONSIBILITIES Different members of the flight have a different focus to ensure that no piece of sky is left unchecked. A good ruleof-thumb is to focus in towards your flight and scan sky behind your fellow flight members. This rule allows a pilot to maintain position, by monitoring references points, and allows the sky around the flight to be scanned. Think of sectors of sky in a manor of fresh or stale. As you check sectors they become fresh. As time passes the sector just scanned becomes stale. The amount of time for a sector to become stale depends on the era being operated in. In the Korean era, with speeds in excess of 500 knots, sectors should be scanned every 1-3 seconds. In the WWII era, the time is longer probably around 5-7 seconds. The most important responsibility of any pilot, not matter the era, is to LOOK AROUND!
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AIRGROUP 51 NAVIGATIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES All members of the flight should be monitoring their progress in the flight and should have an idea of where their flight is along the planned flight path. Remember, final authority rests with the flight lead. In the event flight is rendered incapable of leading the flight all pilots must be aware of the flights position to continue the mission and/or return to base. FORMATION MANEUVERING Formation-wide maneuvers are critical tools in flight lead's ability to maneuver the flight effectively. Your knowledge of and ability to execute these maneuvers should be second nature. Once in combat it will be muscle memory that will allow you to be an effective member of your flight. FIG. 10 SECTION MANEUVERING
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AIRGROUP 51 FIG. 11 DIVISION MANEUVERING
The rule of thumb for a divisional "tac-turn" is if the turn called for is towards your aircraft, go over the top. If the turn is away from your aircraft you go underneath. COMMUNICATION Radio transmissions must be clear and concise. Radio transmissions are expected to be pertinent to the situation at hand. Poor radio discipline will quickly degrade situational awareness with invariably disastrous results. Consult the communications manual for a list of terms often used by Air Group 51. Communication is also important to ensure all pilots of the flight are operating in harmony. When time allows flight members must be notified of an upcoming maneuver prior to execution. Execution will take place upon the final flight members acknowledgement of the upcoming maneuver. If the maneuver must be executed immediately, the maneuver will be transmitted and executed on the third and final NOW! Example 1 (Time available): Lead: "Red flight tactical turn 090" Dash 2: "2" Dash 3: "3" Dash 4: "4" - Maneuver is executed 11 TACTICAL FORMATION FLYING
Example 2 (Must execute immediately): Lead: "Red flight hard left NOW, NOW, NOW!" Maneuver is executed on the third and final NOW.
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