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Chapter Twenty-six














Figure 204.

Chapter 26


Understanding of the control of aircraft within large-surface dispositions first requires a review of the organization of the force itself. Numerous types of task forces may be called upon to control aircraft, but those which are of primary concern in this discussion are the carrier task forces. These may be divided into two principal types: fast carrier task forces and escort carrier forces.

The fast carrier task force consists of two or more task groups, each of which is built around the aerial offensive power of large carriers. Each group has a nucleus of three or more CV's and CVL's, a heavy support unit of several BB's and CA-CL's, and a screening unit of approximately 20 DD's. The size and composition of a task force and its constituent task groups is variable, changing frequently to conform with tactical requirements and ship availability.

Escort carrier forces correspond broadly in organization to the fast carrier forces although the slower and smaller CVE's take the place of CV's and CVL's. Neither heavy or light support units are normally present, however, and DE's commonly are used for the screen in place of DD's.


A fast carrier task force is under the command of an officer who flies his flag on one of the CV's. Similarly each task group commander flies his flag in one of the carriers in his group, and is directly responsible to the task force commander.

Normally the task force operates as a tactically concentrated disposition of task groups which cruise in a single huge disposition close enough together to permit VHF/USF and visual communications at all times. Task group stations in the force disposition are such that the group containing the force commander's flagship is always near the center. At other times the groups may be widely separated, in which case the task force commander exercises only a broad strategic command. Since the fast carrier force represents the major fighting strength of a modern fleet, the fleet commander,


to whom the force commander is immediately responsible, is embarked in one of the vessels of his force. His flag is normally flown in one of the heavy ships.

The term "Officer in Tactical Command" (OTC) refers to the officer in immediate command of a task organization. In order to exercise tactical command, it is necessary for all units to be within effective communications range on a large number of VHF/USF and visual channels. When a task force is tactically concentrated, the task force commander is OTC.

When a task group operates independently the task group commander becomes the OTC. If two or more task groups operate together and the force commander is not present, the senior group commander is OTC. Finally, when any part of a task group is detached for special duty the senior officer in the detached unit becomes the OTC.

In carrier forces the OTC and task group commanders are always carrier admirals during normal air operations. If surface action is imminent, however, tactical command may be transferred to the senior battleship admiral present. The latter will be prepared to execute a battle plan drawn up in advance in which the ships other than carriers play a major role. At the conclusion of a surface engagement tactical command reverts to the senior carrier admiral.


Task force and task group CIC ships are the flagships of the force and group commanders respectively. The force CIC ship coordinates and the group CIC ships direct all phases of aircraft control and CIC activities. Although the facilities and personnel of these flagships are put to use for the flag, their efforts are directed by the force and group CIC officers whose authority stems directly from their respective admirals. The duties of these officers differ somewhat. The force CIC officer is primarily concerned with coordination of the work of all the group CIC officers. He rarely takes a direct part in the" defense of the force but summarizes the total tactical situation for the OTC and insures that each of the group CIC officers ( knows what the others are doing at all times. During night attacks he may assume positive control of the night fighter defense of the force to good advantage, but the complexities of the day control picture are so great that the task is better handled by group CIC officers independently.

The group CIC officers have duties of assigning air and surface radar guards, air control, designation of group raids, and challenging unidentified surface contacts. They carry out the directions of the force CIC officer with respect to radar counter-measures and conditions of radio, radar and IFF silence.


As their name implies, air control ships are responsible for controlling fighters assigned for intercepting enemy raids. They are not normally assigned radar guard duties but are free to use their equipment to best advantage for the control of aircraft. Air control ships are designated by the group CIC officers. Normally the CIC of the carrier whose CAP is airborne will control its own planes, but if a raid is picked up the interception will be assigned to the ship which has the best information. Battleships, cruisers, and destroyers are frequently assigned air control duties for training; when operating independently--as pickets or on detached bombardment missions--they control both day and night CAP provided for their own protection. Each task group contains several air control ships which operate simultaneously and as a closely knit team. When the need arises to shift control of interception, the task group CIC officer does so, giving control to the ship with the most comprehensive picture at the time. It is therefore unnecessary to designate specific standby air control ships. Air control ship functions are coordinated on the Air Control Net.


In order to obtain maximum coverage of the task group's radar area, the CIC officer assigns special guard duties to specific ships. On the


basis of capabilities and past performance of I the CIC's in the group, the group CIC officer assigns long, medium and short range air searches, low-flying and zenith air coverage, long and short range surface search, and the like. Such assignments may be given individual ships for the duration of an operation, or ships may be paired so that the guard duties rotate daily. Ships assigned special radar duties are called radar guard ships. Any ship having special electronic gear aboard may be assigned the specific guard which utilizes that gear to best advantage. The heavy work load carried by the group CIC officer may be spread more equally, however, by his assigning ancillary responsibilities such as control of radar countermeasures to one of the battleship CIC's in the group.


Picket vessels, which may be DD, DE, or SS types, function as advance warning scouts for other vessels of the force or group. They are stationed by the task force and group commanders according to standard plans set forth in the operation order. They are employed on occasion during the day but their principal task is performed at night. It is customary to station pickets in pairs at ranges within which VHF/USF radio communications can always be heard. If pickets are deployed in a scouting line well ahead of the force, linking vessels are normally provided to act as communications relay units.


The function of approach, or scouting line, pickets is similar to that of night pickets. They serve as advance scouts for the force during the critical period of the high speed approach toward the target area. They consists of DD's designated by the force and group commanders and are stationed 50 to 60 miles ahead of the force in a line normal to the line of bearing of the target.


On strike days the fast carrier forces station special early warning and fighter control picket units according to special plans in the operation order or in fast carrier task force instructions. These picket stations normally consist of an entire destroyer division (4 DD's). Their functions are to provide advance warning (radar or visual) of approaching enemy aircraft, to act as forward air control ships, to assist in homing and inspecting all returning friendly strike groups and to rescue downed pilots as required. These pickets are generally stationed 40 to 50 miles from the task force center approximately 60° on either side of the target bearing line. By means of radar and frequent navigational information these pickets maintain station with great accuracy throughout the day's operations.

At least one destroyer in each strike picket station is equipped with aircraft homing gear (YE or YG) to assist returning strike groups in following proper approach procedure. Such groups home on the pickets where they orbit and are inspected by the picket CAP to insure that no enemy aircraft have trailed them. When the groups have been cleared by their respective group CIC officers they follow a prescribed course to their base. This procedure not only insures positive control of the aircraft but helps to keep radar screens clear of miscellaneous confusing tracks in the areas of most probable enemy air attacks.

Sections or divisions of destroyers are also employed as "watchdogs" whose function is to act as forward air control units at ranges approximately the same, but between, the strike pickets. They are provided with their own CAP, but are not used to control returning strikes.


There is no specific CIC chain of command apart from the normal echelon of command within the force and group organizations. Task force, group and individual ship CIC officers are responsible to their own respective admirals and captains. Nevertheless, for the routine air control functions which come under the cognizance of CIC, there is a chain of tactical control which extends downward from the force and group CIC officers as the


representatives of the admirals. Even though many normal and routine actions may be ordered by a higher authority in the CIC chain of control, the individual CIC is in no way relieved of the responsibility of keeping its command completely informed of all information passed and actions taken.


As a member of the staff and the representative of the OTC, the force CIC officer acts as coordinator for all CIC activities within the force. His primary concern is with the group CIC officers, and he normally works through and with them. Although he has his battle station in the CIC of the ship in which the OTC is embarked, he has no aircraft at his immediate disposal, controls no radars directly, and, in general, exercises direct control only at night or when the situation of the force demands it and then only within the limits of his broad responsibility as representative of the OTC. When several task groups are operating together, he may be called upon to perform any of the following duties:

1. Designate the number of divisions of CAV to be used over the force as a whole.

2. Designate force raids by number for all enemy contacts threatening the force, leaving the initiation and planning of the actual interception, however, to the group CIC officers.

3. Coordinate the activity of group CIC officers in controlling multiple raids, advising them of interceptions in progress and counselling them, when necessary, on the best means of defending the whole force.

4. Evaluate intelligence provided by the staff of OTC and the task group CIC officers and ship's CIC officers. Such information may include the disposition of friendly and enemy forces, in the area; the possible composition of enemy attacks reported by intelligence or other sources; establishing the identity of friendly search planes encountered and maintaining up to date information on their whereabouts; and all other data vital either to the exercise of command or to the functioning of the CIC's of the force.

5. Maintain, as a responsibility to the OTC, an accurate summary of the availability of air and surface units of the force as well as information regarding the progress of missions undertaken by the task groups or units.

6. Coordinate all night fighter activity within the force, specifying the number of aircraft to be flown by each task group, assigning their stations, and assigning deck spots to allow for both scheduled and emergency landings.

7. Collate all radar countermeasures information, and, in conjunction with the force radar countermeasures officer, recommend appropriate action to the OTC.

8. Disseminate vital information to task group CIC officers, radar countermeasure ships, staff intelligence, and other interested activities.

9. Arrange the disposition of radar picket ships, make provision for an adequate CAP for these ships, receive information from them on returning strikes, rescue missions; and all other activity effecting the force.

10. Specify the conditions of radar and IFF silence and, at the direction of the OTC, designate the use to be made of radar counter-measures and deception.

The force CIC officer, in substance, may be said to coordinate rather than control CIC activity in the force. It is important to remember that as representative of the OTC he is responsible for the best and fullest employment of the CIC facilities of the force both defensively and offensively.

Figure 205.



The group CIC officer occupies the same position on the task group commander's staff as the force CIC officer does on the task force commander's staff. The group CIC officer, however, exercises, a far greater degree of direct control over the radars, aircraft and radio frequencies than does the force CIC officer. Primarily his function is to insure the execution of orders and directives of the OTC and his task group commander. Since the duties of the task group are clearly defined in the operations plan, his function in relation to the CIC's of the ships in the group is executive rather than advisory. In brief, the group CIC officer is the officer charged with the defense of his group and the integration of all CIC activity in the group.

The group CIC officer normally maintains his battle station in the CIC of the task group flagship. There he receives information from all the ships of his task group and is in a position to initiate action immediately. Although he utilizes the facilities and employs the personnel of the group flagship CIC, he is primarily concerned with the task group as a whole rather than the ship. Specifically, the group CIC officer--

1. Coordinates the air and surface search radar within the group, insuring that conditions of radar and IFF silence set by the OTC are maintained, designating radar guard ships, and executing orders concerning jamming and deception.

2. Receives, plots, evaluates, and reports to the OTC and, where necessary, disseminates to other ships in the group, all pertinent air and surface radar contacts, pilot reports of interest, intercepted radio messages and enemy radar emanations reported by the ships of his group.

3. Maintains an air-borne CAP according to the specifications of the OTC in sufficient strength and at stations appropriate for the defense of the group.

4. Designates the ship which is to control an interception, shifting control from ship to ship as necessary in terms of available radar information and the tactical situation.

5. Provides for the over-all employment of fighter aircraft in defense of the group. He arranges, for example, for sufficient numbers of aircraft in conditions of readiness and provides for the launching of adequate reliefs. He also maintains an accurate summary of the status of their fuel and ammunition and orders the scrambling of planes after consultation with the task group commander.

6. Arranges, after consultation with the task group commander, for the assignment of surface pickets, linking and communications vessels, scouting forces, radar pickets, jamming and intercept ships, and other detached missions, and specifies the schedule of launchings, landings, and reliefs.

7. Arranges for the execution of radar coun-termeasures plans specified by the OTC or task group commander.

8. Maintains an accurate information summary of the status of strike, sweep, and search and attack planes in his group, informing CIC officers of changes in target assignments, whether over targets, and either makes recommendations or initiates action to counter jamming or to utilize deception against enemy radars.

9. Maintains up to date information on the flight-deck conditions of all carriers in the group.

10. Schedules and supervises varied and complete training exercises for aircraft and ships in the group.

11. Designates raids which approach his group when the force CIC officer has not already done so.

12. Maintains liaison with the force CIC officer and the ship CIC officers of his group, with the aim of keeping the OTC, task group commander and the commands of the vessels of his group fully informed on all information derived from the CIC's of the force.

The group CIC officer should make sure that necessary information goes to the OTC and the task group commander and also to the individual CIC officers. He must be prompt, decisive, and fully informed. He must know the capabilities of the radars and the aircraft in his own group, and he must be letter perfect in understanding both the broad outlines and the details of the operations plan.


Figure 206.


The ship's CIC officer is the representative of the commanding officer of his ship. In the task force organization, he is responsible for the final execution of the orders of the OTC and the task group commander and for dispatching upward the information gathered by his CIC. Besides integrating CIC activity with the rest of the ship under cruising conditions or in action, he, or his representatives, the CIC watch officers, should:

1. Carry out the orders of the group CIC officer in employing the ships radars in air and surface search.

2. Intercept raids with fighter aircraft when directed to do so by the group CIC officer.

3. Handle virtually all communications with his ship's planes, whatever their mission, relaying pertinent data from the pilots to his own ship and to the group CIC officer whenever necessary.

4. Maintain an accurate information summary on the status of fuel and ammunition in the aircraft from his ship and insure that the group CIC officer is kept fully informed of their status.

5. Home lost planes, notifying the group CIC officer of all downed pilots and aircrewmen conducting rescue missions as the latter directs.

6. Maintain accurate, up-to-the-minute information on the status of all aircraft air-borne from his ship in CAP, strike, search and attack, rescue, or other missions.

7. Exercise fighter pilots and CIC personnel in problems in air control and CIC operations to insure a continually high peak of fighting efficiency.

8. Brief pilots on the details of all patrols, frequently coaching them on details of R/T procedure, methods of interception, and, in general, acquainting them with air control and CIC procedures.

9. Maintain close liaison with all departments of the ship--notably, gunnery, navigation, air, and communications--whose operations concern CIC.

Figure 207.


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