Preflight planning is the most important factor in the performance of a successful mission, especially
for the pilot of a fast tactical aircraft. As a Naval aviator, you will need to spend much time planning
and studying your low-level missions. An experienced attack pilot will spend twice as much time in
planning and study as in the actual mission. You will spend more than that in the training command,
but probably not as much as the fifty hours of planning nominally required for one nuclear mission.
Route selection for attack routes and route selection in the training command cover the same items,
but the requirements are different.
Weather does not affect attack missions to the extent it once did. All-weather aircraft may launch
day or night and in all weather. Their navigation and radar systems will get them through inclement
weather to a target. On the other hand, weather may well be a factor to single-piloted aircraft or to
support planes. Weather minima for training command low-level missions will be discussed later in
When planning airspeed you must take many factors into account. Among these are flight
composition (the slowest airplane will control planned airspeed to a great extent); fuel (a higher
airspeed burns more fuel at low altitude); exposure to enemy defenses; maneuverability and
ordnance on board (G restriction); reconnaissance requirements (you have to go slower if you spend
time looking for targets); target time versus time en route; and type of attack.
Altitude selection is more important for getting to the beginning of the low-level than with the route
itself. If there is any threat from electronic detection, attack altitudes should be as low as possible,
varying to accommodate terrain. Altitudes will be selected according to fuel required (cruising at
high altitude takes less fuel than at low altitude) and weather (an all-weather attack aircraft can go
above a ceiling and penetrate it, but another might have to stay below). You will also want to
consider radar avoidance plus type and intensity of enemy defenses (high altitudes to avoid small-
arms fire and AAA; low to avoid SAMs). Finally, consider aircraft capabilities if more than one type
of aircraft is involved (an aircraft with terrain avoidance radar can fly lower than one without);
reconnaissance requirements (if you or sensors have to look farther, you have to fly higher); and
type of attack (a steep dive angle requires a higher altitude and consequently more time in a climb
from low altitude).
AREAS OF AVOIDANCE
Avoid enemy defenses whenever you can. Intelligence personnel can tell you locations of radar
installations, surface-to-air missile sites and other known threats, so you can plan to avoid them. It
is also helpful to avoid towns and lines of communication (roads, railroads, rivers) in enemy territory.
You attempt to get to a target undetected.
TYPES OF ATTACK
Weapons are dropped from aircraft in level flight. Release point is usually determined by weapons
systems. Weapons use high drag devices to allow the attacker to avoid the fragmentation pattern.