Nicoeddf
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Military Reason For Formation Flying

Thu Oct 23, 2008 8:52 am

Hey folks,

what is the pristine reason for formation flying in the military for the different war birds?
How has this manner evolved in the jet age up to now?

Anyone some details and insights, please?  Smile
 
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kc135topboom
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RE: Military Reason For Formation Flying

Thu Oct 23, 2008 10:02 am

There are two primary reasons, navigation and target strike. They also fly formation for mutual defense.
 
Nicoeddf
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RE: Military Reason For Formation Flying

Thu Oct 23, 2008 11:58 am



Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 1):
navigation

In respect to this, does formation flying as term only include close formations or is any "flying together" referred to as formation flying?

Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 1):
target strike

Sorry, don't exactly understand what you mean with that.

Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 1):
They also fly formation for mutual defense

I guess this was just the more important in the days of machine guns as the primary anti-air weapon where heavy bombers flew together to bring as much defense guns in a small area.

Is this still true today? And again, is the typical leader and wingman flying already referred to as formation in order to not be alone up there?

What are the chances you can use formations to deceive radar pictures?
 
f4wso
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RE: Military Reason For Formation Flying

Thu Oct 23, 2008 1:42 pm

Another reason are to keep the element together when penetrating weather.

Aircraft carrying live ordnance will not take off in fingertip formation. I was in a large formation at a 1983 Red Flag where the flight and element leads departed off of one runway while their wingmen rolled simultaneously off of the parallel.

Formation flying simplifys air traffic control by keeping the flight together until over the airfield.

Gary
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UH60FtRucker
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RE: Military Reason For Formation Flying

Thu Oct 23, 2008 2:25 pm

We do formation flying in helicopters because it offers mutual protection, and mission integrity.

If you ever get a chance to see a true air assault, with multiple aircraft, I highly suggest it. When I flew with the 101st, the division was renowned for having perfected the art of formation flying, and air assaults. I always got a rush when we performed an assault, landing 6 birds together - all touching down at the exact moment, all unloading the troops, and flying off together.

Not to mention, there is a psychological impact on the enemy when they see a formation of aircraft coming their way. A nice, "We're coming for you" message.  Smile

Now a days, I don't do as much large formation flights, but I do get the opportunity to do some aerial refueling, which is quite the rush. Nothing like being up close to a C-130 at altitude!

-UH60
Your men have to follow your orders. They don't have to go to your funeral.
 
Lemmy
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RE: Military Reason For Formation Flying

Thu Oct 23, 2008 3:35 pm



Quoting F4wso (Reply 3):
Formation flying simplifys air traffic control by keeping the flight together until over the airfield.

How does ATC handle formations? Is one plane designated as "the guy that talks to the controllers"? How does a formation show up on the controller's flight plan strip?
I am a patient boy ...
 
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Moose135
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RE: Military Reason For Formation Flying

Thu Oct 23, 2008 3:52 pm



Quoting Lemmy (Reply 5):
How does ATC handle formations? Is one plane designated as "the guy that talks to the controllers"?

Yes...while in formation, the flight lead talks to ATC, and are handled as a single entity.
KC-135 - Passing gas and taking names!
 
dragon6172
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RE: Military Reason For Formation Flying

Thu Oct 23, 2008 6:41 pm



Quoting NicoEDDF (Reply 2):
In respect to this, does formation flying as term only include close formations or is any "flying together" referred to as formation flying?

All different kinds of formation flying. Parade formations are typically what you see at airshows, it is the close formations that everyone can easily recognize. They are not very good for individual manuevering though. For example, with a flight in a tight echelon formation, the lead is somewhat limited in that it would not be very good to make an evasive break turn towards his wingmen. Sure it is the wingmans responsibility to maintain seperation, but if he is not expecting the turn, it can get ugly.
Tactical formations are typically more spread out to allow for manuevering. Still considered formations though, with flight leads and wingmen. Usually you do not want to be so far that you can not cover your wingman with your weapons though. I was a helo guy, we usually tried to stay withen 500-800 feet laterally of each other because thats withen the effective range of our door guns. Now jet guys, they could be quite a bit further apart, because their weapons range is much further.

Another reason for formations is for emergencies. If a plane goes down, his wingman is right there to mark the spot, circle, radio relay, etc. Also, for single cockpit planes with inflight emergencies, the wingman can handle radio calls, back up reading emergency procedures, troubleshooting, visually inspect the other aircraft, etc. This allows the guy with the actual emergency to focus on the flying of his broke bird.

Quoting NicoEDDF (Reply 2):
What are the chances you can use formations to deceive radar pictures?

This is possible. Basically you are trying to hide the number of aircraft you have. You can fly close enough that a radar will only pick up one target. The closer you get to the radar, the more difficult this is though.
In lay mens, think of a radar picture as a bunch of cells going out. As long as both aircraft radar returns are coming from the same cell, they will show up as one blip. The cells get smaller the closer you are to the radar reciever, so it is much harder to keep both aircraft in one cell. Same idea behind chaff clouds. A plane comes along and drops a long string of chaff, causing a whole string of cells that are giving returns, and the radar reciever can not see the blips of the aircraft moving because his screen just shows a whole mass of blips. Eventually as the aircraft get closer, the radar returns from them will be stronger than the returns from the chaff, and the reciever can see the aircraft again. Usually called burn through.

Thats it in a nutshell. I am sure there are those who are more knowledgeable on the topic who can give ya more details or correct anything I was off on.
Phrogs Phorever
 
ferrypilot
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RE: Military Reason For Formation Flying

Thu Oct 23, 2008 10:22 pm



Quoting NicoEDDF (Reply 2):
In respect to this, does formation flying as term only include close formations or is any "flying together" referred to as formation flying?

In a battle formation pair the wingman could be split by as much as 4 nautical miles from his lead and only just able to keep him in sight.
 
MissedApproach
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RE: Military Reason For Formation Flying

Thu Oct 23, 2008 11:04 pm

Some of these lack a bit of detail, but you get an idea for the kind of spacing used in an actual combat formation.

http://www.combataircraft.com/formations/index.aspx

The main purpose is so that each aircraft can provide mutual support to the others, in the same way that an infantryman in a trench is supported by the trench to either side of him. There are other benefits, as mentioned- in the bad old days of unreliable INS systems, it was better to have 4 guys checking the route navigation rather than just one.
As for the tight airshow formations- I think they're mainly for training value. You would certainly learn to pay attention & keep your corrections small!
Can you hear me now?
 
SlamClick
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RE: Military Reason For Formation Flying

Fri Oct 24, 2008 12:43 am



Quoting NicoEDDF (Reply 2):
is any "flying together" referred to as formation flying?

Only by the USAF Thunderbirds.

signed
- The US Navy Blue Angels
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Venus6971
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RE: Military Reason For Formation Flying

Fri Oct 24, 2008 1:20 am



Quoting UH60FtRucker (Reply 4):
Now a days, I don't do as much large formation flights, but I do get the opportunity to do some aerial refueling, which is quite the rush. Nothing like being up close to a C-130 at altitude!

Did not know our Army brethen were doing AR's with their UH-60's, you flying MH-60's now in the USAF or just catching a ride with the blue to see how they do it.
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ferrypilot
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RE: Military Reason For Formation Flying

Fri Oct 24, 2008 1:42 am



Quoting SlamClick (Reply 10):

Quoting NicoEDDF (Reply 2):
is any "flying together" referred to as formation flying?

Only by the USAF Thunderbirds.

signed
- The US Navy Blue Angels

Is that a quote SlamClick or are you telling us you have been a Blue Angel?????
 
SlamClick
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RE: Military Reason For Formation Flying

Fri Oct 24, 2008 3:13 am



Quoting Ferrypilot (Reply 12):
are you telling us you have been a Blue Angel

Heavens no! I'm nowhere near that good. But having watched:

The Thunderbirds dozens of times in F-4, T-38 and F-16 over more than thirty years
The Blues hundreds of times in F-11, F-4, A-4 and F-18 over more than forty years

...I just thought it sounded like something they might say. Let's say it is easier to get all four in a single frame with the Blues than it is with the Thunderbirds.

My bragging rights - I was once in a 144-ship of mixed fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. We were in cells of six (two vee-of-three) of each of 12 different aircraft types, but we sequenced ourselves past the airshow crowd as if we were a massed group. I was in the next-to-last element. The OV-1 Mohawks followed us. It looked to my 23 year old eyes like the bomber stream out of England.

I should mention for the o/p that if a dozen or so military aircraft departed point A for the same point B at about the same time they would probably have collisions if they were not in formation. It is safer to keep sight of each other. Talking non-combat mission here.
Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
 
LAXintl
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RE: Military Reason For Formation Flying

Fri Oct 24, 2008 6:01 am

Another reason is for radar signature, particularly a tight formation can appear as a single target on more basic radar systems.
I've known more then one occasion when either civilian ATC, or even military controllers identified only a single target that turned out to be a flight of 3+ planes.
From the desert to the sea, to all of Southern California
 
ferrypilot
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RE: Military Reason For Formation Flying

Fri Oct 24, 2008 10:14 am



Quoting SlamClick (Reply 13):
I was once in a 144-ship of mixed fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.

...Cool !!
 
dragon6172
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RE: Military Reason For Formation Flying

Fri Oct 24, 2008 8:26 pm

I remember doing an EMCON launch with about 50 or so helo's out at Yuma, AZ. Pretty amazing to get that many helo's started, taxied in sequence, and then take off without a single radio transmission. The whole idea is to keep anyone from listening to the freq's and knowing we are coming. Tower ruined the whole thing as we made our turn on course though. Cessna was approaching towers airspace...."Cessna N27275 cleared for the downwind, you have traffic at 1 oclock, a whole bunch of helicopters". Geez thanks, haha.
Phrogs Phorever
 
Nicoeddf
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RE: Military Reason For Formation Flying

Sat Oct 25, 2008 6:33 pm

Hey altogether,

thank you lots for all the insights!  Smile

Always a pleasure to learn here!

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