INTRODUCTION TO FORMATION
Military strategists have long been aware of the tactical value associated with the ability to
concentrate their forces. Formation flying provides aviation squadrons the means by which this
tactical advantage may be exploited. In addition to the ability to concentrate firepower,
formation flying also offers the inherent advantages of mutual support and improved command
and control. Military aircraft of all types are routinely called upon to perform missions which
require aviators to possess basic formation flying skills.
101. FORMATION DEFINED
A formation consists of two or more aircraft flying in close proximity with all movements
coordinated and in unison. The smallest formation unit is a section which consists of two
aircraft; a Lead and one Wingman. Next in size is a division, which is composed of two sections.
Adding sections or divisions as required makes larger formations. It should be noted that the
basic unit of any formation, no matter how large, is the section.
102. RELATIVE MOTION
Essentially, formation flying is nothing more than controlling the relative motion between
aircraft. To maintain a fixed position, the motion must be stopped. To maneuver safely in
relation to another aircraft, the direction and rate of motion are controlled. The Lead is
considered to be fixed and any movement between aircraft is considered as movement of the
Wingman in relation to the Lead. In the Contact stage, the horizon is used as the aircraft attitude
reference. In the Instrument stage, an artificial horizon (attitude gyro) is used. In Formation,
flying relative to Lead's aircraft becomes the primary reference for attitude control.
Relative motion can be resolved into movement about any one or a combination of all three axes.
Lateral movement can be controlled using power to move fore/aft and by using aileron to move
left/right relative to Lead while vertical movement is primarily controlled by elevator inputs to
climb/descend relative to Lead. Good formation is the result of anticipation and small, timely
corrections about all three axes. Always keep the aircraft trimmed and in coordinated flight.
This is one of the key fundamentals to good formation flying.
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