Air Combat Terms
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Air-to-Air Refueling. The process of transferring fuel between two or more aircraft in flight.

To cancel a flight mission, either before takeoff or in the air, because of aircraft or other problems.To terminate a preplanned aircraft maneuver.

Air Combat Maneuvering. US Navy term for techniques used in air combat. See also BFM.

Air Division. Consists of several AF wings of aircraft operating out of different bases.

Air Force Base. Airfield and military installation under the jurisdiction of the Air Force.

Air Medal
A U.S. decoration for valor or meritorious achievement during aerial flight.

Air Wing
The composition of squadrons deployed to an aircraft carrier, distinctly separate from ship's company. Typically 2 VF squads, 2 VFA squads, 1 VAQ squad, 1 VAW squad, 1 HS squad, & 1 VQ Det.

alpha strike
A large air strike conducted by an air wing where a majority of the air wing's aircraft types are used.

US Navy term for altitude. Given in thousands of feet, so "angels 6" represents 6,000 feet.

Air Training Command. Trains all USAF flying and support personnel.

To crash an aircraft.

B & Z
Boom & Zoom. A style of fighter attack utilizing energy as opposed to manueverability. The method consists of "booming" the target by diving on it from higher altitude, and then after the firing pass "zooming" back up to relative safety.

Any hostile or enemy aircraft.

BARrier Combat Air Patrol. Air patrols designed to protect an asset by flying some distance from the it between it and the expected threat.

Bomb Damage Assessment. Intelligence gained by overflight or reconnaissance assessing the bomb damage of an air strike.

Air Force regulations, which often begin, "There will be no..."

Basic Fighter Maneuvers. US Air Force term for techniques used in air combat. See also ACM.

Minimum fuel level plus reserve for safe return to ship or airfield.

Any unidentified aircraft.

A missed trap.

For one aircraft to be unexpecedly attacked by another.

Base Recovery Course. The heading of an aircraft carrier when naval aviators are ready to recover on their mobile airbase.

1. The point at which a formation "breaks" for landing, usually over the intended touchdown point.
2. The 'maximum g' displacement of an aircraft's flight path. (see break turn)
3. The call given in extremis to get someone to execute a break turn. ie "Rider 21 BREAK LEFT NOW!"

aka briefing. To plan and discuss the tactics of a combat mission prior to takeoff.

Beyond the Horizon. Over the horizon, hidden from view.

bug, bug out
To run away.

Beyond Visual Range. Out of sight of the unaided eye, usually refers to radar-guided missile engagements. The downside to a BVR engagement is that without visual ID of the target the possibility of "friendly fire" increases.

Combat Air Patrol. Air mission designed to protect air or surface assets.

Close Air Support. An air mission that provides support in close proximity to ground troops, usually directed by an Air Liaison Officer and/or Forward Air Controller.

Carrier Air Traffic Control Center. The air traffic control authority for an aircraft carrier. Pronounced cat-see

Combat Information Center. The room onboard ship that contains all the systems necessary to direct the ships weapons in a combat situation.


combat pay
Hazardous duty pay.

COMmunications INTelligence. Intelligence gained through the analysis of enemy communications.

Combat Search And Rescue. SAR conducted under combat conditions.

When a flight of aircraft refuels in turn from a tanker while in formation.

Detachment. A portion of a squadron or unit detached for temporary duty.

Distinguished Flying Cross. A US decoration for heroism or extraordinary achievment during aerial operations.

Ice cream served aboard aircraft carriers. 3 flavors--red, white, brown

To be out of commission; not heard from, e.g., "The MiGs were down during our strike."

down the slide
To dive to release ordnance.

Nickname for Hanoi, and to a lesser extent Baghdad, taken from the song of the same name made popular by Petula Clark in the sixties.

Energy. "Speed is life" is not entirely accurate. It is actually Energy which is life for a combat pilot. Generally thought of in two forms: Kinetic Energy, represented by speed, and Potential Energy, represented by altitude. To some extent one can be traded for the other, but hard and frequent maneuvering will bleed E away until you are a sitting duck.

E & E
Escape and Evasion. The training and tactics to be used by downed flyers in hostile territory which with luck will prevent their incarceration and get them back to friendly forces.

A type of fighter aircraft suited to high speed attack, but not dogfighting, or a pilot who practices B & Z energy tactics. Usually refers to WWII aircraft.

To depart a target area.

Punch out. To be catapulted from an aircraft in an emergency and then parachuted to earth.

ELectronic INTelligence. Intelligence gained through analysis of electronic signals.

EMissions CONtrol. The shipboard/airborne condition of conducting operations with no electronic emissions.

Field Carrier Landing Practice. Practice carrier landings at a land base outfitted to represent a carrier deck. Also called bounce practice.

Unintended loss of combustion in turbine engines resulting in the loss of engine power.

Two or more aircraft flying in formation under the command of a flight leader in the number one aircraft.

flight load
The total weight of an aircraft during flight.

fluid four
A formation of four aircraft just prior to arriving at a target area; flying at the same altitude about 1500 feet apart laterally, they may vary 500 feet in fore and aft alignment, thus maximizing their electronic jamming capabilities and permitting them to protect each other's tails from enemy aircraft.

Forward Quarter. An angle coming from or towards the front portion of the airframe.

The scheduled target and tactics for a specific combat mission; v. to schedule a certain target and tactics.

Radio frequency.

A thickly populated dogfight.

A unit of force equal to the force of gravity times one. See Load Factor.

Ground Controlled Intercept. An agency which effects aircraft inflight joinups by radar and voice directions.

Government Issue. US government issue; also, an American fighting man.

golden BB
A projectile destined by fate since time began to be the one to shoot down a flyer.

Greyout occurs when gravitational stresses impair the flow of blood to your brain. Loss of vision and, eventually, consciousness, can occur when you pull heavy G's.

Practicing air-to-air combat.

hazard pay
Hazardous duty pay, or combat pay.

hit the silk
To eject or otherwise bail out of an aircraft.

Medium Helicopter Squadron. US Navy designation for a medium Helo squadron.

home drome
The base where an aircraft is permanently stationed.

A hut or building; fighter pilots both live in and attack them.

ASW Helicopter Squadron. US Navy designation for Helicopter training squadron.

Helicopter Training Squadron. US Navy designation for Anti-submarine Helicopter squadron.


Heads-Up Display. A plate of glass placed at an angle in front of the pilot, focused so that it appears to project all critical flight information directly in the pilot's line of sight.

Infra-red. A range of light not visible to the naked eye. Primarily used for night vision or weapons targeting.

Iron hand
USN term for SEAD missions; can also refer to naval pilots or aircraft tasked to such missions.

Electronic or mechanical interference which may disrupt the display of aircraft on radar or the transmission/reception of radio communications/navigation.

Airborne release of external stores, either because of inflight emergency, to prepare for air combat, or in some cases for safety's sake prior to landing.

1. Launch Acceptability Range. The acceptable range within which a weapon should be used.
2. Looks About Right. A very complex method of weapons delivery utilizing hand/eye coordination, divine inspiration, and luck; akin to "using the Force."

The act taking off on a mission, and especially the catapulting of aircraft from an aircraft carrier.

Load Factor
The proportion between lift and weight commonly called "g."

The ratio of true airspeed to the speed of sound. Mach 1 is the speed of sound.

MiG CAP. Combat air patrol for the interdiction of enemy fighters.

Millimeter; e.g., 20 mike-mike refers to a 20 mm gun.

Incremental settings for the aiming reticle of an airborne weapons delivery sight. Short for milliradian or 17.5 degrees of arc.

mil power
Military power. Standard engine levels as compared to War Emergency Power or use of afterburners.

milk run
A relatively safe combat mission.

Missile Launch. Usually used in briefings or debriefings.

Naval Air Station. Airfield and military installation under the jurisdiction of the USN.

Naval Fighter Weapons School, aka Top Gun. School at NAS Miramar (Fightertown USA) where top fighter crews are sent to hone their skills even further, and in turn take the knowledge gained back to their fellows in the fleet.

NO RaDiO. Refers to aircraft that do not have or have lost the ability to communicate by radio.

Relative position of another aircraft or object to yours; dead ahead would be at twelve o'clock, directly behind would be at six, and so on.

Officer's Club.

Offset Aiming Point. Used in radar bombing.

Operations (Ops)
An operational office that directs, schedules and monitors air combat missions.

Above the layer of clouds or other obscuring phenomena forming the ceiling.

P(K); Pk
Probability of Kill. A ratio expressing the effectiveness of a weapon system under a very specific set of conditions. NOT an indication of actual combat effectiveness; it is used to quantify a systems performance for varied conditions, the increase or decrease in performance as changes are made to the system, or to compare a different system of the same type.

To dive or lunge at a hostile aircraft; a dive run over a target; over a heavily defended target, the motto was "one pass-haul ass!" which meant to release all the ordnance in one run.

per cent
Usually refers to throttle or acceleration speed, e.g., 80 percent of maximum speed available.

The higher altitude position from which one dives on (hopefully) unsuspecting enemy aircraft and then climbs back to after the firing pass in an attempt to conserve E.

The button to release ordnance. To push said button.

Position of Intended Movement. The projected position of an aircraft carrier given to briefed flight crews for finding the carrier at mission completion.

pitch out
A sharp bank to the right or left to position a fighter for landing.

Petroleum, Oil, Lubricants. A designation for petroleum and fuel storage sites.

pop up
To climb rapidly.

To fly below a pre-planned weapon release altitude.

The lair of the Air Boss, it allows a fairly unrestricted view of his entire domain, the flight deck.

prohibited area
Designated airspace within which flight is prohibited.

pucker string
An apocryphal part of the pilot's anatomy which when figuratively pulled causes one's bottom end to constrict in fear.

punch, punch out
To eject from an aircraft.

Purple Heart
A US military award to those wounded in combat.

R and R, R & R
Rest and Rehabilitation. Leave; military jargon for a vacation away from one's normal place of duty.

Air reconnaissance.

See 'trap'. The landing of aircraft aboard an aircraft carrier.

Redout occurs when negative gravitational stresses force blood to the brain. The excess blood causes ones vision to go red.


REScue Combat Air Patrol. Air operations providing cover for rescue operations.

To drop a number of bombs in a series of closely timed releases on a single bomb run.

Rules of Engagement. The guidelines governing whether one is allowed to open fire or return fire. In normal peacetime conditions, the ROE generally boil down to "Do not fire unless fired upon."

Replacement Training Unit. AF unit which trains aircrew members stateside for operational duty.

Situational Awareness. The concept of tracking the local conditions which most directly affect your decision making process.

Strategic Air Command. The USAF agency responsible for strategic aircraft and missiles during the Cold War; now Strategic Command.

safe zone
A relatively safe helicopter pick-up zone for a flyer downed in hostile territory.

SAM break
Evasive action taken to avoid a SAM.

Search And Rescue. Mission for the search and recovery of downed airmen.

Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses, aka Wild Weasel, Iron Hand. Neutralization of enemy radar installations, SAMs and AAA sites.

A direct hit on a target, usually radar directed.

Being near the end of one's combat tour.

Sierra Hotel
An exclamation of high praise; also, the mythical place where pilots deserving of such praise reside.

Six o'clock, or behind an aircraft's tail.

A white phosphorus marker used by a FAC to indicate a ground target to an attacking aircraft.

soft load
An aircraft armed with rockets, cannon, or napalm, rather than bombs.

squawked my parrot
To set an airborne emergency signal transmitter on automatic and continuous transmission.

A dogfight occurring near stall speed. A stallfighter is an aircraft that excels at slow speed turns and maneuvers. See B & Z.

stand down
A period of non-flying because of poor weather, required maintenance, or the like.

A compass heading to a destination.

TAC departures
Tactical aircraft departing on a combat mission.

Temporary DutY assignment. A short-term release from your regular duty post for the purpose of performing duty elsewhere.

Three Letter Acronym. One of the basic building blocks of the language of the military.

Tactical Operations Center. The tactical operations center of an AF fighter wing.

top rudder
During knife-edge flight, the rudder position angling upwards.

Time Over Target. The amount of time spent engaged over the mission target.

One behind the other in a straight line, as in "aircraft in trail" or "bombs in trail."

See recovery. A landing aboard an aircraft carrier where the tailhook engages a cross-deck pendant, bringing the aircraft to a halt; the act of successfully making such a landing.

Operationally active and a threat to aircraft; e.g., "The SAMs/MiGs/acks were up."

Attack Acft Squadron. US Navy obsolete designation for dedicated attack squadrons.

Electronic Warfare Squadron. US Navy designation for Electronic Warfare squadron. Primary acft the EA-6B.

Airborne Early Warning Squadron. US Navy designation for Airborne Early Warning squadrons. Primary aircraft is the E-2.

A compass heading to fly.

Fighter/Interceptor Squadron. US Navy designation for Fighter/Interceptor squadrons. Primary aircraft is the F-14.

Multi-role Fighter Squadron. US Navy designation for Fighter/Attack (multi-role) squadrons. Primary aircraft is the F/A-18.

Patrol Squadron. US Navy designation for Patrol squadrons. Primary aircraft is the P-3.

Antisubmarine Squadron. US Navy designation for fixed wing Anti-submarine warfare squadrons. Primary aircraft is the S-3A.

Training Squadron. US Navy designation for Training squadrons. Primary aircraft is the S-3A.

Experimental/Op Eval Squadron. US Navy designation for test and evaluation squadrons.

A landing rejected by the Landing Signal Officer.

War Emergency Power. Refers to WWII aircraft.

Wild Weasel
USAF term for SEAD missions; also, the pilots and aircraft tasked with such missions.

In the AF, consists of several squadrons of approximately 25 aircraft each, plus the men and equipment to support them; the smallest USAF unit capable of completely independent operations.

Wind Over Deck. The relative wind caused by an aircraft carrier's motion. Usually the carrier is turned so the actual wind is aligned down the axial carrier deck during recovery.

To get hit by enemy antiaircraft, missile, or ground fire.