Rather than beginning by explaining each phase of this structure in depth, I start by giving a brief overview in very simple terms, then increasing the profundity the analysis and eventually getting into the details of the decision-making process and comms in Part III (which is, spoiler alert, five times the length of this introduction).
NOTES: Intercept techniques are rarely applied outside more simulative contexts and deserve a dedicated article, so they won’t be covered here.
For the purpose of this article, the intercept will be a simple turn into the hostile, resulting into a zero-TA scenario (Target Aspect angle) but for simplicity’s sake, the LS (Lateral Separation) will not change.
This article is written from the point of view of a Section in DCS: DCS is a sim, not reality and fighters rarely fly alone in an operative environment.
The Timeline is a reference. It is not set in stone, its values can and must be changed according to the situation. Each step of the timeline is 5nm long and, at the speed of 600kts, it means that 30″ separate one phase from another. Each distance is also considered as NLT (No Later Than).
This is the flow of the Timeline, divided in three logical sections, explained the simplest possible manner:
The picture is built, SA improved;
the Section declare its intention of engaging a specific target;
The Section defines a plan;
their radars are focused on the target;
at a pre-contracted distance, the missiles are released.
The Section follows the plan and, depending on their situation and the outcome of the launch, define the next step.
First step into the (in-)depth
Each block of the list can be further broken down. The following analysis does not yet reach the details of comms and criteria but should provide a better understanding of each phase of the timeline.
The Picture provided by the Controller (in DCS usually a human or AI AWACS) provides information about the airspace surrounding the aircraft. The reference used is the YY.
Depending on the mission goals, the information provided and other parameters, the Section can Commit to the tactical picture. Such parameters are, for instance, the range, the angle and separation, fuel status (Tiger) and so on.
When the commit criteria are met and the aircraft Commit, the target is Correlated to the radar of the fighter, if necessary by leaving the sanitized radar profile (this situation explains why I sketched the third radar profile when I discussed the radar mating and sanitization). Then, by means of the pro-word Declare, he requests the identification on the target pointed by the BRAA. If the Controller returns a BRAA that match the aircraft’s (within 3nm and 3°) and the target is declared Hostile, then the Timeline can proceed.
Section II: Target, Meld and Sort, Employment
Following the Correlation, the fighter broadcasts his intention to Target the correlated aircraft/group. At this point the intercept geometry should be evaluated (not covered in this article).
Now that the target is confirmed as hostile and the intentions of the aircraft to engage are confirmed and acknowledged, the attention goes to the organization of the Section. Meld signals that the radars are now to be focused on the target rather than the sanitization. The Meld call includes the BRAA of the target. Ideally the target should be in the centre of radar cone in TWS or locked in STT.
After the Meld, if the target Group strength is greater than one, the targets are Sorted. Default sorting techniques usually suffice the requirements for this step.
The last step of this section is the Employment: when the aircraft reaches the predefined distance for the release of the missile, the contracted flow is executed.
When preset criteria are met (such as target lost or missile timeout), the situation is re-evaluated.
Section III: Decide
The assessment of the tactical situation, taking into considerations sensors and SA, leads to the decision to Abort or continue with the same of different tactic.
This explanation should have given the general idea, the bigger picture, of the flow of the Timeline. Having a general understanding of what the Timeline involves is very important going forward to the details of each phase in the next article.
The following is the Navy timeline from the employment of MRM (from the usual CNATRA P-825). Part III of the series will go into the details of the timeline and the draft I made for the F-14 and the employment of the AIM-54 Phoenix, based on the result of the AIM-54 PK Model.