title graphic

Chapter One







Figure 1.

Chapter 1


Aircraft in modern warfare have assumed a role of tremendous tactical importance. The speed, flexibility, and striking power which insured their rise to equal partnership with ground and surface forces created new requirements in planning and directing modern naval operations. The day of the pilot as a one-man fighting unit, strictly on his own, has definitely passed. Today pilots are members of highly trained tactical teams which include not only aviators and aircrews themselves but also controlling personnel afloat, ashore, or airborne.

Control of aircraft is vital in present-day operations because of the number of aircraft involved, the complexity of modern, round-the-clock air tasks, and the vastly speeded-up tempo of air warfare. Briefing of pilots prior to any mission is still essential, but it can never be sufficiently comprehensive to cope with all of the exigencies which arise from our newer and vastly broadened sources of tactical information.

Control of aircraft is a technique fashioned to meet these needs and made possible by rapid developments in the field of electronics. Control is accomplished by skilled use of radar and radio. There are many types of radar but the


Figure 2.

basic equipment used for aircraft control are air search and surface search sets. From these, regardless of conditions of weather or visibility, the presence of an object, its bearing, range, altitude, and composition can be determined with a predictably high degree of accuracy. Radar has extended many-fold our knowledge of the immediate area of operations. The second instrument essential to aircraft control is electronic communication. Through radio the flight leaders and individual pilots can keep in constant touch with their controlling base. The basis of all aircraft control is the closely integrated and skillful employment of aircraft, detection devices, and communication.


The purpose of RADEIGHTABLE is to summarize in one nontechnical publication the principal means and methods used in the control of aircraft in current naval operations. This discussion will be general rather than specific, for changes and improvements in equipment and techniques are both constant and inevitable. However, the developments that have taken place during and since World War II have been the result of sufficient combat experience to create a firm nucleus of practice and doctrine.


Aircraft control is defined as the direction of and/or the assistance to flights of aircraft by personnel not actually engaged in the flights themselves. It includes such aircraft control functions as Landing Traffic Control, Ground Controlled Approach, Carrier Controlled Approach, and Air Intercept (formerly called fighter direction). By using sources of information not available to the pilots, air controllers

are prepared to exercise whatever operational control may be desirable for the successful accomplishment of a mission. In effect, control means immediate, voice-radio effected briefing of pilots during their missions to enable them to meet any situations which may arise.

The degree of control which is required varies considerably according to the type of mission on which the aircraft are engaged. In the case of routine air searches or antisubmarine patrols, control may be limited to simple communications and identification checks and landing instructions. Control of spotting planes, rescue missions, and "Call Strikes" is more complex and the control of defensive night fighter planes in the protection of own forces may be regarded as the most exacting technique of all. While Fighter Direction, now known as Defensive Air Control, was the parent of all types of air control depending on electronic information, and still remains the most highly developed technique, it must not be forgotten that air control has many other vital uses. New equipment will undoubtedly lead to the development of many additional functions of air control, particularly with respect to offensive missions.


The cooperative nature of aircraft control calls for a high degree of mutual understanding between controllers and pilots. On board aircraft carriers it is possible and highly desirable for the controllers to become intimately acquainted with the aptitudes, personality traits, and reactions under pressure of the individual pilots and leaders. Through practice, patience, and persistence coordination of effort and teamwork leads to success in action. Carriers, however, are not the only ships which control aircraft; any ship with the proper equipment and qualified personnel embarked may be called

Figure 3.


upon to control planes. It is, therefore, the responsibility of carrier air control officers to insure that their pilots are uniformly trained in standard techniques which are in accordance with the latest effective doctrine. Only if this is accomplished can the fleet depend on uniformity of results.

Combat Information Center is the main nerve center for the control of aircraft. CIC is a space wherein are located the personnel and equipment tor the reception, interpretation, evaluation, and dissemination of information. Briefly, CIC furnishes a continuous accurate picture of the current tactical situation and takes positive action in controlling assigned aircraft and in protecting the force from attack. Using the authority delegated to them by higher command, CIC personnel work as a team within the force to coordinate the air activities of forces afloat and ashore.

Figure 4.

If the force experiences enemy air attack, CIC directs the pilots out to meet the enemy. From the information available, size of raid, course, speed, altitude, location, condition of readiness and number of own defensive fighters, the Group CIC Officer decides how many defensive planes to send out to intercept the raid. It is his responsibility to make immediate tactical air control decisions for the safety of the force.

Defensive Air Control is a flexible and ever changing art. Interception techniques differ depending on whether the interception is made at night or in daylight, or from a ship, shore base, or other aircraft. Different tactical situations naturally call for different techniques) but defensive air control and intercept work constitute only one phase of the broad field of aircraft control. Patrols, strikes, search and attack, and the other special missions must be tracked, kept accurately located, and kept in communications contact wherever possible. Information must be made available to traffic control centers so that they may issue landing orders and guide planes in to landings under restricted visibility conditions. It is the responsibility of CIC, as representative of the OTC to exercise, or be prepared to exercise, immediate control over all aircraft assigned. It is the Force CIC Officers' responsibility to the OTC to exercise for him or be prepared to exercise, immediate control over all aircraft assigned. (See USF 15, ch. 3, fig. 1.)


Certain fundamentals in the control of aircraft must be clearly understood by all CIC personnel who may be called upon to exercise control. A firm theoretical grasp and a practical working knowledge of the following basic subjects are mandatory for effective control of aircraft:

  1. relative motion at aircraft speeds (subsonic, sonic, and super-sonic).

  2. weather conditions affecting flight operations and combat tactics.

  3. voice radio (R/T) vocabularies and procedure.

  4. radar scope and plot interpretation.

  5. aircraft performance.

  6. control technique for all missions and under all conditions.

  7. organization, functions, and responsibilities of CIC in task organizations.

Aircraft control demands a thorough comprehension of the above list. But rote learning of these broad subjects is not enough. The


controller must bring to his task an alert mind and bo capable of quick action based on sound and rapid judgment. The requisite skills can be developed only through long and arduous practice. But such skills are vital, for effective control of aircraft can mean the salvation of an operation, its misuse may mean the destruction of the fleet.


Table of Contents
Next Chapter (2)

Transcribed and formatted by Larry Jewell & Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation