|Article from Sim HQ|
pilot ‘slang’ has invaded the vocabulary of everyday folk.
Prior to the movie Top Gun, I can’t recall ANYBODY outside of
the tactical flying community using the word ‘ballistic.’
I hear it often now. Most folk that use this term cannot define
it, nor explain its origin. I guess slang is ‘cool’ to use,
but ‘Fighter Pilot Slang’ was very serious business to those
warriors that first developed it. It’s a protocol that met a
wartime requirement for effective tactical command and control of a
‘Flight.' In combat, good R/T discipline could mean the
difference between life and death. The official term is ‘Brevity
The objective is to
communicate the maximum amount of information with minimum words.
The requirement for concise, timely, and understood
information in air combat has been present ever since man first took to
the air to kill his fellow human being. It all began in World War
1 with visual hand and aircraft signals (still in use today, although
not as tactically important as then).
Between the World
Wars, air combat technology evolved to include the radio. The
early radios were notoriously unreliable. This was probably the
most likely reason for the development of official brevity code
terminology. A second impetus was only realized after the great
WWII air battles had begun… mass confusion. As soon as a fight
began, everybody talked on the radio at the same time. Factor in
fear, low situational awareness, inexperience, possible radio jamming,
and you can easily imagine a scene of total chaos. So much for
post merge mutual support! The solution, although only a partial
one, was official ‘brief’ radio terminology…Brevity Code.
Brevity Code, when
used properly, can be a very powerful tool in air combat. There
are a few caveats, though. The first is; everybody must understand
all of the terminology. Secondly, it must specifically
describe an event, observation, action, or status.
The radio call ‘Bandits,’ is worthless unless
accompanied by who it applies to and a relative position
call. Third, it must be structured to insure that
it’s understood by whom it’s intended for. Conversely, it
mustn’t be misinterpreted by other flights on the same frequency.
An example would be the typical ‘bad bandit call.’ Imagine
you’re escorting a flight of strikers, and out of the blue you hear ‘BANDITS!
BREAK LEFT!!’ What do you think EVERYONE on that
frequency is going to do?
By now I can almost
hear everybody thinking…yeah, yeah, very interesting, but… how does
this apply to PC flight simulations? WELL…today’s multiplayer
flight simulations are rapidly reaching the realism level where
effective ‘Comm’ is an advantage. The addition of tools like BattleComm
and other voice programs make effective Brevity Code desirable, if
not essential. The best ‘Comm’ scenario would be at a LAN meet
where everybody can talk to each other. Imagine a 4v4 guns only
furball. All the same requirements of the real thing are present,
along with some additional limitations imposed by the single dimension
monitor we view the fight through. Online multiplayer scenarios
impose even more factors that require effective communication.
"Good R/T discipline" can be a force multiplier that improves
your performance, hence your satisfaction, in the modern PC flight
Now that we’ve
established a need... exactly how do we implement a logical solution?
My answer: Mimic the protocols and structure of the US fighter force -
why reinvent the wheel? The USAF considers this so important that
it’s a graded item on pilot ‘TAC Checks’ and combat readiness
inspections. Later in this article there’s a summary of the
‘Code words,’ but a few general concepts must be understood in order
to ensure effective use.
There are two
distinctive types of Tactical R/T. They’re Directive, and
Descriptive. Each has their own unique function and
structure. The Directive radio call is just what it sounds
like, you tell someone (like your wingie) to do something. The Descriptive
call is used to describe an event, status, or object. Here are
examples of how each of these calls are ‘built’:
(Call Sign of whom you are talking to) + (Brevity Code words)
Skull one two, Break left!"
(Your Call Sign) + (Brevity Code words)
Studly one one, Tally two left eleven, one mile, slightly high!"
once the action is initiated, are generally followed by a Descriptive
call. If, for some reason, the Directive call is not
complied with, it should be issued again until it is. Only then
should the accompanying Descriptive call be issued. In
other words, get your wingman turning to negate the threat before
you describe the situation to him. This would be a textbook
example of a ‘combo’ Directive / Descriptive radio call:
Descriptive: (Call Sign of whom you are talking to) + (Brevity Code words) + (Your
Call Sign if required for clarity) + (Brevity Code words)
Example 1: "Numb
Skull one two, BREAK left! (He begins his break turn) Bandit
YOUR left seven, one mile, level."
Example 2: "Numb
Skull one two, hard right! Numb skull one one tally two right three, one
It can be! But that is exactly why this stuff needs to be so
structured and organized. Remember, our objective is to convey our
exact meaning in as few words as possible. The next consideration
is R/T technique.
The first and most
important technique is to Think before you Talk. It
is much more expeditious to pause a second, think about what you are
going to say…Then key the mic and talk. The most common
error I see is holding the mic button while the individual is thinking.
This is what it sounds like : " ahh…um..ah Numb
Skull…..ah em… one two….. um…. Ah… is Bingo plus three.
A three second Descriptive R/T call just took three times as long
as it should have! In a time critical environment this is UNSAT!
Besides, It doesn’t even sound cool!! I even see it in the
airline industry. I occasionally have a First Officer at FedEx
that stumbles on the radio in this manner. I make it a point to
SPECIFICALLY debrief him / her on it. Chicago O’Hare is no place
to ‘Comm Jam’ the radio with stupidity!
Technique two is
simple! Know your brevity code! That means the terminology
and definitions! This also applies to civilian pilots. The
Airman’s Information Manual (AIM) has a chapter on standard aviation
terminology. It serves the same, and in fact overlapping, function
as USAF 3-1 brevity code.
Ok, we now
understand the basics of R/T discipline and Brevity Code. Let's take a
look at a few examples; the good, the bad, and the ugly!
There are a few big
mistakes in this one! First is the basic structure. Too many
unnecessary words. Brevity code’s primary function is to reduce
the amount of talk it takes to convey an idea. The major error is
improper Brevity Code terminology. A ‘Bogie’ is
an UNKNOWN radar or visual contact. Why is he ‘Offensive’
on a possible friendly and / or neutral? Accidentally whack a
friendly and you’ll find yourself with a one-way ticket to "The
Big House on the Prairie" at Fort Leavenworth. If ‘Stab
12’ really means ‘Bogie,’ they may indeed be ‘Bandits,’
and you need to be cautious until you know, but the term ‘Offensive’
indicates he is maneuvering to employ ordnance. If I actually
heard this, I’d assume he’d identified the contacts as adversary.
A more correct version would be:
two engaged offensive! Two bandits right two, one mile, low!
two engaged offensive! Tally two, right two, one mile, low!"
The word ‘Tally’
is short for ‘Tally Ho!’ … meaning you see ‘Bandits’…
not an unknown ‘Bogie.’ ‘Tally Ho
Bandits’ is redundant.
Huh? What does
he mean by " left two"? Well, he most likely
means "left ten" and has confused his "clock"
position. This is exactly the reason USAF fighter units generally
preface "clock" position with a "left" or
"right" prefix. Studies have determined that most folks
will correctly identified relative position (Left or Right) with a much
higher accuracy rate than "clock" position.
Misidentification of "clock" position increases aft of the 3-9
line. If you hear a call with an incongruent relative position
versus clock position, you can almost always assume "clock"
position is wrong. By the way, this radio call means that your
wingman has two contacts identified as friendly at left 10:00, 1 mi.,
lower than your flight. Overall, it is actually a pretty good
radio call, and most people would understand the intent and meaning.
OK, here comes the
final exam. Translate the following brevity code and determine
what is good or bad about it:
This is a textbook
example demonstrating how much can be said with very few words.
This simple line translates into: I have you in sight, I see
the bandit, I am in a position to support you, I am supporting you, your
six is clear...continue your attack. This would typically be
used when the flight lead engages offensively on an unwary bandit and
the wingman’s sole responsibility is to support and protect his lead.
You now know
basically everything required to effectively communicate in the tactical
arena. Like all learned skills, practice will make you proficient.
The next time you engage in a multiplayer scenario, concentrate on the
proper use of brevity code. I think you will find the effort
worthwhile. I have included a list of the most common words useful
for PC flight simulation. This list is by all means not a complete
list; a lot of brevity code words are not really useful in PC flight
simulation. (Besides, I can’t remember all of them!!)
Check six... see you
on the "radio."
TERMS AND DEFINITIONS
Directive commentary to terminate. Applicable to a specific attack
maneuver or entire mission.
onboard radar self-guidance mode of an advanced AAR like the AIM 120
ALPHA CHECK: A
request for bearing and distance to a given point. Generally used to
confirm navigational accuracy
1.) Begin an orbit at a specific point or location. 2.) A
refueling track flown by a tanker aircraft.
Altitude expressed in thousands of feet. Angels 20 means 20,000 ft.
AS FRAGGED: Perform
the event as briefed or planned.
Known enemy aircraft. Only used when the contact is confirmed hostile.
terminology for an aircraft that maneuvered to stabilize between 70
degrees 110 degrees aspect. Can be used to describe your own action.
Example: stab 11 beaming North.
BELLY CHECK: Directive
commentary to instruct recipient to roll over and check for bandits
Inoperative or ‘bent’ system. " Stab one one gadget
BINGO / BINGO
predetermined fuel quantity that is required to safely return to base.
visual contact with appropriate friendly aircraft. Generally
means that the wingman lost sight of a flight lead. The opposite of this
An unknown radar/visual contact.
BOGEY DOPE: A
request for information about a specific target or threat. Generally
directed toward GCI/AWACS or other flight members.
Groups/contacts/formations in a square, as viewed on a radar display or
Indicates geometry where aircraft will maneuver to a position on
opposing sides of a given point / target, either laterally / vertically/
or a combination of both. Basically, it is a relatively short-range pincer
(Up/Down/Right/Left) –Directive to perform an immediate maximum
performance turn. Assumes a defensive situation that requires
radio frequency is becoming saturated/degraded/jammed and more
concise/less R/T transmissions should be used.
Illumination by friendly AI RWR.
Separate from the engagement and head for a safe area or home.
A pre-briefed reference point. It is used to describe your position or
that of the target.
1.) No radar contacts, i.e. your radar scope is clean. 2.) An
aircraft configuration without any external stores or tanks.
Requested action is approved.
Ordnance release is approved.
is decreasing its range.
1.) Attack geometry that will result in a position behind the target.
(lag pursuit) 2.) Pointed away from the anticipated threats.
Radar/IR contact; should include bearing, range, altitude (BRA),
Bull’s-eye, or geographic position information.
Continue present maneuver; does not imply clearance to engage or to
Directive R/T to assume supporting role and responsibilities.
(Spike/Missile/SAM/Mud/AAA) – Subject is in a defensive position and
maneuvering with reference to the threat. If not explicitly stated,
threat is assumed to an air/air threat.
(Direction) – Bogey/Bandit maneuvering to 60 degrees or less aspect.
Can also describe your own actions.
Maneuvering with respect to a threat or target in order to kill or
negate an attack.
(Direction) – Directive to temporally depart the immediate ‘fight’
location gain energy, distance, time, situational awareness, or a
combination of all. The intent is to reengage as soon as desired
parameter is achieved.
Radar contact is lost or has ‘faded’ from your radar display.
Transitioning from flying over water/land.
Set cockpit switches as appropriate to your location. Generally means to
arm up weapons as you enter enemy territory and safe them as you proceed
back to friendly airspace.
Target with a stable aspect of 120 degrees to 150 degrees.
the formation laterally within visual limits. Used to initiate a ‘bracket’
or to force a commit from a trailing bandit.
Simulated/actual launch of semi-active radar guided missile. An AIM 7
Simulated/actual launch of an IR guided missile. An AIM 9.
FOX THREE: Simulated/actual
launch of a fully active missile. AN AMRAAM/Phoenix.
Radar or sensor equipment.
(Direction) – Radar target of interest is approaching azimuth or
elevation limits of your radar and you are about to loose contact.
A large number of unknown contacts that appear to maneuver to a common
Radar Contacts that appear to operate together within approximately 3 Nm
of each other.
HARD LEFT/RIGHT: Directive
call to initiate a High-G, energy sustaining turn. Generally used when
entering a fight offensively. A ‘break’ turn is used for a defensive
Target altitude at or above 30,000 feet MSL.
Radar return on the Radar scope (A/A).
HOLDING HANDS: Aircraft
together in a coordinated visual formation.
1.) For an AI intercept ‘hot’ describes geometry will result in roll
out in front of target 2.) Pointing toward the anticipated threats in a
CAP (A/A). 3.) Weapons employment authorized.
(Left/Right) – Simultaneously maneuvering the whole flight in the
had several definitions 1.) Fuel state is such that the mission can
continue to the target via scheduled route and RTB, but with
little or no reserve. 2.) Fuel state is such that the entire mission can
be flown and all the ordnance carried all the way back to home plate.
Generally used when the target is obscured by WX and Higher Headquarter
directives preclude jettisoning bombs prior to RTB.
and kill specified target.
Three or more groups in trail formations. It appears as a ‘ladder’
on the radar display
A side-by-side formation.
(BRA/Direction) – Radar Lock on. DOES NOT ASSUME SORT OR TARGETNING
responsibilities are met unless specifically stated.
altitude below 10,000 feet MSL
Target altitude between 10,000 and 30,00 feet MSL.
1.) Bandits and friendlies are in the visual arena. 2.) Radar returns
have come together.
Electronic radar jamming.
Lost or no visual contact with the target/bandit; opposite of TALLY.
(Direction) – Radar missile defensive maneuver to place threat
radar/missile near the beam.
Aircrew cannot take eyes off target without risk of losing tally/visual.
Friendly AAI/APX interrogation return.
briefing given by AWACS or GCI that provides a general tactical
Request for a position report.
Continue the attack; mutual support will be maintained.
Leaving a specific engagement.
A weave or a single crossing of flight paths in order to regain
Aircraft that will employ ordnance or ‘shoot’
speed of less than 300 knots.
(object, destination, location.) – An immediate vector to the
requested target or geographic point.
Pre-briefed criteria has been met insuring each flight member have
indication of AI threat.
(Direction) – An Aircraft that has departed from the engagement.
Two or more groups with a high/low altitude separation.
Request for an individual’s tactical situation; generally described as
"offensive," "defensive," or "neutral."
Formation with single Bogey/Bandit in trail.
Indicates an attacker is changing from one aircraft to another.
Bandit in sight; opposite of "NO JOY."
Formation of two or more aircraft following one another.
The last aircraft in a formation.
Missile in flight has been defeated.
Indicates limited situation awareness, no tally, no visual, a request
formation, single aircraft in the lead and an element in trail.
aircraft in sight; opposite of "BLIND."
Three or more groups in line abreast/side-by-side formation.
Tactical formation of two or more aircraft with the single in front and
two line abreast behind: Same as a ‘Vee’ formation.
Very low altitude.
No ordnance remaining.