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HuggyU2

Fingertip and Formation Landings

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Posted (edited)

Since the topic of "formation approaches and wing landings" has come up elsewhere, I want to ask the fighter/attack folks about fingertip:  is it still relevant to what you do?   

Or if IMC, do you depart/arrive via some sort of radar trail?

What about the A-10's?  Do they use fingertip more?  Or do they split up to singletons?  Do A-10's do wing takeoffs if there is a 600' ceiling on departure?

 

I realize fighters can come up initial in fingertip... but is flying initial in tactical better/preferred/more common, as compared to fingertip?  

Bottom line:  is fingertip still relevant to what you do as a fighter/attack pilot?  Is the answer different if we are talking about the F-22/F-35 instead of the F-16/F-16?

My personal opinions don't matter any more.  Just looking to see if technology has moved us further away from fingertip.  According to what I've read, formation landings aren't operationally necessary for y'all.  

Edited by HuggyU2
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Fingertip, yes; form landing, no. 
Why?  Short answer (and applies to 4th and 5th gen) - Aerial refueling in the weather. Gotta fly close without killing everyone. 
 

Long answer - Fingertip isn’t used tactically, but it is a good skill to have, as I have simply rejoined my wingman to fingertip to get through a cloud layer as opposed to drag him to radar trail only to have him rejoin 6-9k’ later (when going to/from the airspace in 2+2 route or even offset container it’s a lot faster to rejoin to 1/2 and 3/4 in fingertip with 3 maintaining radar trail, rather than string the whole 4-ship out).  Note: this is when the weather is good enough to depart/recover VMC but a layer is between you and the airspace. You can easily depart in trail, but to go to trail on RTB only to rejoin under the weather for initial is a lot of comm and work. They are both right answers, it’s just nice to have the option of rejoining two versus waiting for a “tied saddled” call.  Also, being able to fly close in order to accomplish a BD check without scaring everyone else in the formation is desired. Finally, beyond looking good up initial (but tac arrivals at 500KCAS are also cool), being close is required when you have to do that formation approach through the weather - which is really the only time you NEED to do a form approach (but not landing). 

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Posted (edited)

Close formation and form approaches are a skill worth practicing, especially in UPT when developing the basics of aircraft handling. It’s a skill you need to have, however, we don’t use it often in the A-10. Initial, occasionally having to get close during the BD check, and tanking are the only regular uses of it. The hawg is a large aircraft and route usually works fine for most things if wedge or combat trail is too far.

We can, but don’t, do formation takeoffs. They aren’t authorized with live weapons or different SCLs on the aircraft. If the weather is bad we do an instrument trail departure. We’ll stay in a travel formation until we break out of the weather. If we are in a visual tactical formation and there’s a weather deck to get through we’ll typically use some sort of deconfliction method such as sectors or blocks to descend or climb through it. If we don’t break out or require an instrument approach we’ll split.

Edited by Hawg15

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Why are you just asking fighter/attack folks?

image.jpeg.e778de528cdbc2ee3ea66c32d0dd6b25.jpeg

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Fingertip and formation approaches are especially useful skills for getting under the weather after an avionics failure. Once the bad jet gets under the weather you can just drag or go around for another approach 

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, skibum said:

Why are you just asking fighter/attack folks?

 

Side Eyes.jpg

Edited by SocialD
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images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQH2Wn_c5YQBuug-X5xsjL

05fourhorsemen.jpg?auto=webp&format=pjpg

...can't imagine the runway which the 4 Horsemen could've form-landed ...near Edward's maybe?

Oh yeah, ...A long time ago in an Air Force far, far away...dinosaur Herk pilots ruled the sky in 4 ship fingertip form

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Formation landings are still taught in the F-18 FRS/FTU. You must also demonstrate the ability to fly them as lead during one or two of your 2-Flug sorties. Good thing because I've used it a handful of times due to maintenance issues with weather. 

Plus they look cool af. 

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3 hours ago, VMFA187 said:

Formation landings are still taught in the F-18 FRS/FTU. You must also demonstrate the ability to fly them as lead during one or two of your 2-Flug sorties. Good thing because I've used it a handful of times due to maintenance issues with weather. 

Plus they look cool af. 

on a boat? 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, stract said:

on a boat? 

Since you mention that...

I'm guessing VMFA187 is a Marine C or D model Hornet driver.  And I just read that the Marines are going to (or may have already started) doing the T-45 Carrier Qual (CQ) stuff after they get their wings.  And only for the Marines going to a Hornet squadron with a boat commitment.  Obviously, those not going to a boat unit will not see the boat in the T-45.  Maybe never. Pretty big shift for the Naval Aviation community.  

 

Many moons back, one of our U-2 guys came to us from the F-14.  We went and flew a T-38 two-ship and he and I were paired up in the same jet.  We RTB'd for a formation approach and landing, and I had him fly it (I was an IP).  He did a great job.  On taxi back, he says "That's the first section landing (e.g. formation landing) I've ever done.  Ever."  I didn't expect that... but it made sense.  

Edited by HuggyU2
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On 5/6/2020 at 2:25 PM, Motofalcon said:

Fingertip, yes; form landing, no. 
Why?  Short answer (and applies to 4th and 5th gen) - Aerial refueling in the weather. Gotta fly close without killing everyone. 
 

Long answer - Fingertip isn’t used tactically, but it is a good skill to have, as I have simply rejoined my wingman to fingertip to get through a cloud layer as opposed to drag him to radar trail only to have him rejoin 6-9k’ later (when going to/from the airspace in 2+2 route or even offset container it’s a lot faster to rejoin to 1/2 and 3/4 in fingertip with 3 maintaining radar trail, rather than string the whole 4-ship out).  Note: this is when the weather is good enough to depart/recover VMC but a layer is between you and the airspace. You can easily depart in trail, but to go to trail on RTB only to rejoin under the weather for initial is a lot of comm and work. They are both right answers, it’s just nice to have the option of rejoining two versus waiting for a “tied saddled” call.  Also, being able to fly close in order to accomplish a BD check without scaring everyone else in the formation is desired. Finally, beyond looking good up initial (but tac arrivals at 500KCAS are also cool), being close is required when you have to do that formation approach through the weather - which is really the only time you NEED to do a form approach (but not landing). 

Shack.  Furthermore EP's can drive fingertip flying as well.  I had a pretty severe MMC/electrical fail a while back and had to rejoin on my lead to get below the weather and back to the field.  I didn't need to do a form approach/landing since the ceilings and vis were good but the ability to get below the weather and trust your flight lead is definitely an important skill.

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Form landings have officially been removed from the T-6/T-38 syllabi in UPT now. Still practice form approaches though. 

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Posted (edited)

That makes the most sense. Still need basic skill of flying close and doing tasks while close (radio changes, gear down, etc.), but there’s almost zero need for a form landing, and the increased risk of doing them so a student is “ready” for that 1 in a million chance in the CAF is not worth it.

Edited by brabus
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I'm still perplexed as to why people suddenly believe that formation landings are this massive risk.

Compared to the number of times they are performed (with regularity) incident-free (also with regularity, even with student pilots at the helm), the rate of incident/accident is phenomenally low. By definition, based on that data, they're not "risky".

Yes, there is a small margin of error (just like a vast many things in high performance military aviation), and the consequences of some modes of error can be severe and/or fatal (just like that same vast number of things in high performance military aviation)...so what makes formation landing now some kind of exception?

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26 minutes ago, Hacker said:

I'm still perplexed as to why people suddenly believe that formation landings are this massive risk.

Formation landings and takeoffs have always been considered a risk with pilots being against them as long as I’ve been in fighters. The Vance incident was just the perfect example of why. TRs are written in blood. It shouldn’t have to be a daily occurrence before it’s addressed.

Risk in our world has to be accepted for a purpose. There is no benefit in a form landing or takeoff to justify acceptIng the risks. I don’t want to be near someone if I lose an engine, have to punch off my stores, or punch out. 

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On 5/7/2020 at 3:14 PM, stract said:

on a boat? 

Hornets don't always land on the boat. Most Marine Hornets are expeditionary (land based). My first two-ship flight in the Hornet my lead asks me about 5 min prior to landing - "Hey dude, want to do a section landing?" "Sure" I answer. We land and he walks up to me and says not to say anything to anyone because it's not authorized unless its briefed. They're not difficult - Fly parade, maintain your side of the runway, lead keeps the power up for a few seconds.

23 hours ago, HuggyU2 said:

Since you mention that...

I'm guessing VMFA187 is a Marine C or D model Hornet driver.  And I just read that the Marines are going to (or may have already started) doing the T-45 Carrier Qual (CQ) stuff after they get their wings.  And only for the Marines going to a Hornet squadron with a boat commitment.  Obviously, those not going to a boat unit will not see the boat in the T-45.  Maybe never. Pretty big shift for the Naval Aviation community.  

 

Many moons back, one of our U-2 guys came to us from the F-14.  We went and flew a T-38 two-ship and he and I were paired up in the same jet.  We RTB'd for a formation approach and landing, and I had him fly it (I was an IP).  He did a great job.  On taxi back, he says "That's the first section landing (e.g. formation landing) I've ever done.  Ever."  I didn't expect that... but it made sense.  

That's a shame. I understand why - Its a massive investment. We started cutting CQ for poorly performing students or passing them to land-based squadrons only if they failed CQ when I was a Hornet FRS/FTU IP. It also use to weed a lot of the poor performers out before the fleet had to start spending so many extra sorties training "qualified" wingmen. Shame it hasn't been so in a while. Probably has something to do with the fact that only about 80 or so of our F-35s will be C variants as well. 

I wonder if that'll effect numbers of Marines signing up to be aviation contracts hoping to be fighter guys. I remember sitting down during my T-45 CQ indoc and being told, "This is it, you each have passed Weapons Phase, ACM, etc... And you can be the best at dropping bombs or shooting down another airplane, but if you can't land on the boat you're just another Air Force guy." 😆

Regarding the Tomcat, I'd venture a guess because with their wings spread they might be too wide to do a section landing on typical fighter bases like Miramar, Oceana, etc...?

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7 hours ago, Hawg15 said:

Formation landings and takeoffs have always been considered a risk with pilots being against them as long as I’ve been in fighters. The Vance incident was just the perfect example of why. TRs are written in blood. It shouldn’t have to be a daily occurrence before it’s addressed.

Risk in our world has to be accepted for a purpose. There is no benefit in a form landing or takeoff to justify acceptIng the risks. I don’t want to be near someone if I lose an engine, have to punch off my stores, or punch out. 

Shack.  Not once has anyone ever given a convincing argument for the need to do a form landing or takeoff that could possibly justify the increased risk.  Given that a significant percentage of fighter accidents happen at takeoff or landing and another significant percentage involve mid-airs, why combine the two risks?

 

I've brought guys back to land who had significant issues at night in the weather, but I dropped them off in the flare.  That is nothing more than flying fingertip.

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Firstly, I agree on no longer seeing the need to an actual touchdown and rollout.  With that said, did many in the F4 and loved the challenge and experience.  Later taught them In UPT and also enjoyed it.  However,  later when in the ANG,  my F-101 Squadron, and another state's ANG, both lost two crews doing formation takeoffs within 2 years... made me rethink the need on both doing takeoffs and landings.   Good discussion on the merits.  Back to my wine....

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19 hours ago, Hacker said:

By definition, based on that data, they're not "risky".

I hear you. I think it’s more a balance of risk vs. utility. We do a thousand things in fighters that are way more risky than a form landing, but they also meet the “required” bar for mission accomplishment. Form landings don’t meet the “required” bar. 

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Posted (edited)

  As a student at UPT the ability to accomplish a formation landing was just another hurdle to earning your wings. Fix to fixes fell into the same category.  They are challenging, difficult to master in the time allotted  and rarely utilized in the real world, but it did help separate those who could from those who couldn’t.  I kept a lot of  my UPT manuals,  one day I found my T-38 In-Flight guide and was amazed at the complexity of the departures procedures, arrivals and some of the approaches. There were numerous step down altitudes, way too many speed restrictions etc etc. 33 years later, As a very experienced pilot, I question my ability to fly some of those SID’s, STAR’s etc today without an auto-pilot, FMC etc.   We were all young, inexperienced kids flying very high performance aircraft In an artificial environment designed to overwhelm and load us up. I always thought formation   landings and fix to fixes were  tools to weed us out, nothing more.

Edited by Vito

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Complex solutions are the hallmark of a poor problem solver. There are plenty of skills to learn in any trainer that would translate directly to tactical employment in a follow on aircraft.

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Posted (edited)

what would the phase-III formation MIF item roster look like if y'all were king?  

-What items would you take out (form land is already out btw)?

-What would you keep?

-What you you introduce that isn't currently included? 

Edited by hindsight2020
emphasis added on formation

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As a fighter guy, aside from that stupid departure out of Spangdahlem, I've never flown a single published departure or arrival.  No SIDs/No Stars is an integral part the few DD175s I've ever filled out.  

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Don't think I ever once wrote no sids/no stars on a 175.  Just assumed it was standard knowledge in ATC that we would never accept one.  Until one day bringing a jet back cross country, clearance was "xwy69 SID."  I responded with a very purposefully jacked up read-back including "..umm... SID?"  Controller asked if I had a copy, umm,... no.  He started to read me the SID, then wisely changed his mind and said "on departure, turn right 090, climb and maintain 10K".  That read-back was flawless.  I think they got the picture.

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On 5/7/2020 at 3:49 PM, HuggyU2 said:

Since you mention that...

Many moons back, one of our U-2 guys came to us from the F-14.  We went and flew a T-38 two-ship and he and I were paired up in the same jet.  We RTB'd for a formation approach and landing, and I had him fly it (I was an IP).  He did a great job.  On taxi back, he says "That's the first section landing (e.g. formation landing) I've ever done.  Ever."  I didn't expect that... but it made sense.  

Reminds me of the time I let my copilot fly the ILS in IMC into Gimhae, only for him to try to take a sucker hole when we still had clouds in front of us and were inside the final approach fix.  I got his attention refocused on the instruments and we landed safely.  Turns out that was his first ever ILS in IMC conditions, ever.  He was a former Apache driver, and IMC/IFR is an emergency procedure for them.

This was after I had to declare an emergency to force the controller to let us land.  Which is a whole nuther story best told over beers.

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