T-38 LOW LEVEL NAVIGATION
Low altitude navigation is a tactic used to penetrate enemy defenses and avoid detection. As
enemy defensive capability grows and the technology to engage aircraft with surface-to-air
missile (SAM) systems proliferates, the ability to survive may depend on one's ability to fly low.
Unfortunately, flying low also has some disadvantages. While terrain masking and flying
below enemy radar line of sight offer safety from some enemy defenses, it is also hazardous
because of the close proximity to the ground. Things that were "out of sight and out of mind" at
medium to high altitude now require mission planning to avoid. Towers, buildings, mountainous
terrain, trees, and wires are very unforgiving to any aircraft that tangles with them. We can
minimize the danger of low altitude flying through proper mission planning and safe flying
Here at Whiting, we cannot teach fighter tactics at 300 feet, but we will teach good low-level
flying fundamentals and skills, both single-ship and two-ship. In your follow-on training, the
skills you learn here will provide the basic building blocks and foundation for advanced tactics.
By learning all you can now in the T-34 at 1000 feet, you will be better prepared to fly lower and
faster in the T-38 track at Vance!
LOW ALTITUDE ENVIRONMENT
Do not worry, this is not going to be a review of your high school or college physics class. We
are simply going to use physics to analyze how much time we have before the aircraft could hit
the ground during a low level. Flying an airplane at low altitude requires a great deal of
attention, and carelessness or complacency must be avoided. Analyzing the time to impact for
aircraft in the following situation stresses the importance of being vigilant during low level
operations. The chart below shows time to impact at typical fighter speeds when the aircraft is
allowed to descend at 5 degrees or when the aircraft is overbanked by 10 degrees in a turn. As
you can see in each scenario, the pilot has less than six seconds to react before hitting the ground.
STRAIGHT AND LEVEL
(+10 DEG OVERBANK)
(-5 DEG DEVIATIONS)
100 feet AGL
300 feet AGL
500 feet AGL
T-38 LOW LEVEL NAVIGATION 7-1