TRANSITIONING FROM CLOSE FORMATION TO COMBAT SPREAD
After visually checking the area clear, the lead usually advises the wingman of his heading, altitude, and
airspeed and then signals the wingman to assume combat spread by pushing his palm out and away. At
the signal, the wingman goes to MRT accelerating to a 10-15 knot airspeed advantage and takes a cut
away from the lead to establish a 10-15 degree heading differential. He varies pitch and angle of bank
(AOB) to arrive 3/4-1 nm abeam with 1000 feet of vertical separation.
A common tendency of the wingman while moving into position is to take too great or quick a cut to
combat spread, resulting in a sucked position. Patience is the key. If you find yourself looking directly
down your 3/9 line or forward, correct immediately by reducing your heading differential and/or varying
your rate of climb and/or airspeed to maintain bearing.
COMBAT SPREAD STRAIGHT AND LEVEL
While flying combat spread straight and level, the wingman must maintain position, giving priority first to
the abeam bearing, second to lateral distance, and third to vertical separation. To determine the abeam
position, the wingman looks straight out over his shoulder on a 90-degree relative bearing.
Once abeam, the wingman should match the leads airspeed by adjusting power and nose attitude for
level flight. The gouge for straight and level combat spread is approximately 1800 pph to maintain
To remain in combat spread, the wingman must employ a continuous inside/outside scan. Look inside to
scan heading, airspeed, and altitude and outside to check the leads position and scan his primary/
secondary lookout areas.
If the wingman is sucked or acute, close or wide, the lookout suffers, increasing the sections vulnerability
to attack. Whenever necessary, trade altitude for airspeed to maintain bearing.
If the wingman is sucked, he should lower the nose, add power, and accelerate until arriving on the abeam
bearing. When on the bearing line, raise the nose to maintain the bearing and readjust power for 300
KIAS. During this climb the indicated airspeed will be in excess of 300 KIAS. By raising the nose and
climbing on the bearing line, the wingman increases his altitude and decreases his airspeed while
maintaining position with the lead. The wingman may lose as much altitude/airspeed as necessary to
regain the bearing line.
If the wingmans position is acute, he pulls the nose up and reduces power. Approaching the bearing line,
he lowers the nose and resets his power to arrive on the bearing at 300 KIAS.
In an acute and wide/close position or a very acute position, the wingman goes to MRT and executes a
series of hard turns at 11 units and at least 30 degrees off heading in the direction necessary to regain
position. He then returns to the original heading and readjusts power when in position, being careful not to
overcorrect, which may lead to a sucked position.
If the wingmans vertical separation is less than 1000 feet but he is on the bearing line with proper distance
abeam, he adds power and raises the nose to climb while maintaining 300 KIAS. He readjusts power
when back in position. The amount of any correction depends on the amount of the positional error.
Small errors require minor maneuvering to finesse the aircraft into proper combat spread. Trading altitude
for airspeed is more fuel efficient than adjusting power. Gross errors require more aggressive flying to
correct into proper position.