Chapter 10
Aircraft Operations

Section I. Aircraft Employment

1000. The employment of naval aircraft depends on:

  1. Mission to be accomplished.

  2. Types of aircraft available.

  3. Characteristics and capabilities of types available.

  4. Nature of bases from which operated.

  5. Weather.

1001. In general the functions to be performed by aircraft operating from ship or shore bases are:

  1. Patrol.

    1. Fighter (carrier and shore based aircraft only)
    2. Antisubmarine

  2. Search.

  3. Scouting (includes tracking).

  4. Bombing.

  5. Torpedoing (Carrier and shore based aircraft only).

  6. Mining.

  7. Interception (Carrier and shore based aircraft only).

  8. Observation.

  9. Reconnoitering and photography.

  10. Smoke laying.

  11. Aerial escort of convoy.

  12. General utility, which includes sea rescue, message dropping, and transporting personnel and freight.

1002. Detailed information concerning the various types of naval aircraft is found in current fleet publications. Commanders who are responsible for aircraft operations acquaint themselves with type characteristics.

Section II. Forms of Air Attack

1003. Forms of enemy air attacks which may be currently encountered are described in fleet tactical publications. The following are commonly used:

  1. Bombing.

    1. High, medium, and low level.
    2. Skip.
    3. Dive.
    4. Glide.
    5. Depth charging.
    6. Remote controlled.
    7. Parachute.
    8. Rocket.

  2. Torpedoing.

  3. Strafing.


Section III. Tactics of Attacking Aircraft

1004. The following types of tactics are used by aircraft in attacking dispositions and formations:

  1. Concentrating sufficient strength to sink or completely disable individual ships, the main attack being directed against selected heavy ships.

  2. Remaining out of sight of all ships until approach is started.

  3. Attacking when target is under fire, firing, or otherwise restricted in its antiaircraft fire and maneuvers.

  4. Reducing opposition from screening ships by attacks with light bombers and fighters.

  5. Coordinating two or mote types of aerial attacks.

  6. Protecting bombers with escorts of fighters.

  7. Commencing approach not below 15,000 feet if ceiling permits, and from the direction of the sun if practicable.

  8. Using cloud concealment if available.

  9. Approaching from the dark side at twilight and during moonlight.

  10. Delivering the attack as quickly as possible. For this purpose the approach on a large disposition is often made from the original direction of contact, rather than to take time to circle to another bearing more favorable in other respects.

  11. Approaching down wind to hasten the attack and decrease one component of bombing error.

  12. Approaching over that part of screen threatening least antiaircraft fire.

  13. Approaching in radar blind spots; for example, over adjacent land at low altitude.

  14. Splitting up of large raid and attacking from all sectors simultaneously.

  15. Diverting fighters to throw off fighter interceptors from bombers.

  16. Using flares or searchlight for illuminating target.

1005. Similar tactics are used against shore-based objectives when feasible, emphasis being placed on strafing planes on the ground and gun emplacements.

Section IV. Aircraft Operating in Vicinity of Friendly Ships

1006. Our aircraft flying within sight of friendly ships will always be in one of the following categories:

  1. Aircraft engaged in a task which does not require them to remain or come within antiaircraft range of friendly ships.

  2. Aircraft engaged in a task which requires them to remain within antiaircraft range of friendly ships, such as a patrol of fighting planes over a disposition.

  3. Aircraft required to come temporarily within aircraft range of friendly ships.

1007. Aircraft engaged in a task which does not require them to remain or come within antiaircraft gun range of friendly ships must keep outside of such range. The burden of avoiding antiaircraft fire against such aircraft rests with the aircraft. They take such measures for identification as are prescribed.

1008. Aircraft engaged in a task which requires them to remain within antiaircraft range of friendly ships depend upon the assumption that their presence and task is known to the friendly ships. The burden of preventing antiaircraft fire against such aircraft rests with the ships. Such aircraft, however, avoid maneuvers which could be construed as attacks on the friendly ships. They take such measures for identification as are prescribed.

1009. Aircraft required to come temporarily within antiaircraft range of friendly ships, when proceeding to or returning from aircraft operations or in the course of their operations, avoid


maneuvers which could be construed as attacks on the friendly ships. They take such measures for identification as are prescribed.

1010. The measures for identification of aircraft include distinctive formations, painting with distinctive markings, special maneuvers, silhouette recognition, signals, and aircraft IFF, the employment of which conforms to current doctrine and instructions.

Section V. Night Operations

1011. Night operations, although more hazardous than day operations, are necessary to take advantage of:

  1. Element of surprise.

  2. Placing enemy under constant pressure.

  3. Striking objectives which during day times are out of reach of a fighter cover.

  4. Less fighter opposition.

  5. Inaccurate antiaircraft fire.

  6. Searching undetected.

  7. Spotting for bombardments.

  8. Mining undetected.

  9. Attacking enemy units which operate only at night.

  10. Fighter protection (night fighters).

1012. Hazards which influence night operations are:

  1. Absence of normal aids to aerial navigation.

  2. Possibility of disclosing landing field or deck to the enemy, if illumination becomes necessary for aircraft taking-off or landing.

  3. Added difficulty of aerial navigation, due to inability to determine the drift angle without use of flares.

  4. Undesirability of using homing devices, due to restrictions on the use of radio or imposition of radio silence.

1013. Concerning visibility, details of terrain and objects on the land or water surface can be seen from aircraft only under favorable circumstances, while on the other hand, aircraft cannot be seen from the surface except during twilight or under unusually favorable circumstances. Numerous conditions affect visibility:

  1. The use of searchlights renders the searchlight location visible to aircraft at great distances.

  2. The visibility of objects illuminated by searchlights depends on the angle at which the illuminated surface is viewed. Thus it is probable that, from aircraft, objects illuminated by searchlights are more readily seen at long ranges and are much less readily seen when directly under the aircraft.

  3. Aircraft beacons, surface lighthouses, street lights of cities, and the lights of an undarkened ship are plainly visible to aircraft, in clear weather, at great distances.

  4. Airplane flares and the flares of star shells are themselves visible to aircraft at great distances.

  5. Surface objects illuminated by aircraft flares or by star shells are visible to aircraft only at short distances.

  6. The flashes of gunfire from guns larger than 3 inches in caliber, are visible from aircraft at great distances.

  7. The glow from smokestacks, the wakes of vessels, and the reflected light of screened wake lights are visible from aircraft at only short distances.

  8. The exhaust from aircraft engines is visible at short distances only.


  1. The reflection of moonlight from the water may, under favorable circumstances, silhouette darkened ships and render them visible to aircraft.

  2. Objects silhouetted against the sky are more readily visible than similar objects not so silhouetted, at the same range. This applies to visibility from both aircraft and surface vessels. Thus in evening or morning twilight aircraft can be seen from surface vessels and from other aircraft at lesser altitudes, when the surface vessel is invisible to the aircraft.

  3. During darkness, exclusive of twilight, aircraft are invisible from the surface except:

    1. When carrying lights or when illuminated by searchlights.

    2. Momentarily when silhouetted by moonlight, airplane flares, star shells, or the reflected light of illuminated cloud areas.

1014. The location of a darkened ship, force, base, or aircraft may be disclosed to aircraft by:

  1. Radar.

  2. Following vectored courses.

  3. Information of the geographical location and knowledge of geographical outline.

  4. Radio bearings of transmission by enemy or of transmission by trailing vessels.

  5. Intermittent or continual showing of lights, gunfire, or high speed wakes.

  6. Use of guide or directional lights, searchlights, or star shell by trailing vessels or the use of airplane flares by the aircraft themselves.

  7. Approaching the approximate location from the opposite side to the moon and silhouetting the darkened objective against the reflected light of the moon.


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Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation