DCS F-14 & RIO Gaming

Intercept Geometry – Part XII: In-Depth Timeline (from “Picture” to “Crank”)

Compared to the Simplified Timeline, this overview poses a much greater emphasis on understanding and manipulating the geometry, maximise PK and improving the Situational Awareness.
Due to the length of the discussion, this Part of the study covers from the initial phases of the Timeline, down to the post-employment. There are various possible next steps after this: for example, launch-and-leave, or press for a FOX-1 employment. Part XIII will discuss one of the options.
This article is an extract from Virtual Backseaters Volume I: F-14 Radar Intercept Officer.
Download it here!

Intercept Geometry: Table of Contents

Before diving into the topic of this Chapter, a couple of observations about the radar management. This is subject to the RIO’s preferences, but when there is not much going on I have the radar fully open (as I often call it, the “sanitization mode”) and I monitor and estimate the TA of the different groups in the picture, especially the ones close to the briefed commit criteria. This helps in two ways:

  1. Situational Awareness is increased: for example, the RIO can be immediately aware of pop-up Outlaw groups or CAPping bandits leaving their track to engage;
  2. The AWG-9 often sees further than the AWACS, and new groups may not appear via the LINK4A, which is easily saturated. This helps to translate a picture from the Controller into what is seen on the TID in GS and the NAVGRID activated.

Pre-Briefed Information and Purpose

A number of contracts and steps should be pre-briefed, depending on the purpose of the timeline applied.
Pre-defining contracts reduce the requested comms, standardizes the procedure, makes is quicker to execute and clarifies them.

In-Cockpit Contracts

  1. who shoots AIM-7 / AIM-54 and in which situation: radar missiles can be launched by the Radar Intercept Officer but, for example, as the fighter transitions into Within Visual Range, the responsibility of launching the AIM-7 can be assigned to the Pilot;
  2. usually the RIO handles the comms in-cockpit, but they are subject to crew-contracts.

Intra-Section Contracts

  1. radar mating: the fighters should define how the mating and sanitization should be executed. The AWG-9 WCS in the F-14 has no “modern cursor”, so the definition of angles / Areas of Responsibility may take some time;
  2. formation to switch to at Commit: typically the Section switches to Combat Spread, separated by ~1nm;
  3. comms and tactical lead depending on the Areas of Responsibility;
  4. default employment range;
  5. default sort and “no sort”.

Section – Controller Contracts

  1. group criteria: what defines a group, by default is 5nm, 5000 feet;
  2. tactical range call.

From “Picture” to “Target”

Most timelines share the initial steps, where the picture is received, situational awareness is built and maintained by using techniques such as the Sanitization and comms. For that reason, and to avoid repetitions, I placed under the same umbrella the following steps:

  1. Pre-Commit and Picture;
  2. Commit;
  3. Correlation.

Post Correlation is where the Radar Intercept Officer acts to successfully complete his task, depending on parameters such as the mission objectives, the type of threat, the ROE and others.
Note that the doctrinal documentation covers a couple of basic examples:

  • the stern conversion turn;
  • launch-and-decide / launch-and-leave;
  • a more aggressive FOX-3 into FOX-1, with a FOX-2 re-attack (I dubbed it “FOX 3/1/2” going forward).

In every case, the bandit is cooperative (ergo, not defending. The case of a jinking bandit is barely touched).
Therefore, the considerations and the conclusions discussed later (“Gameplan Considerations”) are the product of tests and experience in DCS, most of the time in simulative scenarios. Since the variables in an engagement are endless, I will suggest some possibilities. It is up to the RIO experience, knowledge and Situational Awareness to use the best tools available to him.

After such considerations, the two other common steps to most BVR Timelines are:

  1. Targeting;
  2. Drop, Reset and Recommit;
  3. Airspace Sanitization.

Old vs New: FOX 3/1/2 vs Launch-and-Leave / Launch-and-Decide

The first difference between the two is “when”: the first intercept is discussed in the P-825/02 and P-825/08; the second in the P-825/17. Whether this is a change in doctrine (the AIM-7 is being phased out) or a simple change in the training iter, I cannot tell. It also resembles the training of the mid-70s for the F-4, sans the FOX-3 employment.
The FOX 3/1/2 is less flexible than the Launch-and-Leave / Launch-and-decide. The FOX-1 launch is included in case that:

The Fox-3 shot may not be successful (missile failure, break lock, jamming, chaff, etc.) In order to be prepared for this possibility in VT-86, you will follow your Fox-3 with an AIM-7 shot, stern conversion, and AIM-9.

P-825/08, 19-6

Launch-and-Leave / Launch-and-decide, already mentioned in the Simplified Timeline discussion, provide a more structured template. Calling “Banzai”, for example, entails a number of pre-briefed steps known to the players, simplifying the job of the fighters and the Controller.

Which one is better?

Simple answer: none. In primis because non is applicable out of the box as described; in secundis because, as DCS players, we can take what sounds interesting from any source and see if it works for us. For example, if the setting is pre-90s, then the F-14 is the only fighter able to employ an Active Radar Homing missile1, and we can take advantage of that: we can use a launch-and-decide timeline, defend post pitbull, then turn hot again and use the Lead-Collision to FOX-1 employment technique discussed in the previous timeline, then close in for a FOX-2 from the stern as the target is probably still trying to regain SA after defending.


Pre-Commit / Picture

When the fighter arrives at the pre-briefed position, it calls the Controller and asks for a Picture.

Note: Pictures can be broadcasted by the Controller to the Flights he is controlling. Note that a human AIC/GCI should not control more than a limited number of flights, usually only the ones assigned to his specific “piece of sky”. There should also be controllers dedicated to the initial check-ins and a Senior director overseeing the others. This ensures the best distribution of the workload and quick coordination between assets and controllers.
If you think about it, a single Controller giving a Picture to aircraft distributed on a third of a DCS map makes very little sense.

The Picture request (or broadcasted) follows this format:

Spectre 1-1 [Aft] ► Darkstar, Spectre 1-1, request picture.
Darkstar ► Spectre 1-1, Darkstar, Group Alpha, Mary 11 22 33 thousand, tracking South, hostile.

The RIO should take note of the group naming and labelling, with relative descriptors and fill-ins. This allows him to immediately recall as much information as possible about a Group in case, at a certain point, it meets the Commit Criteria discussed below.
Ideally, the RIO should be able to spot the Groups pertaining to the Picture on the TID (either or both LINK4 and RWS) and the classification should prompt him to think about the next step.


Labelling is, simply put, assigning a name to the Groups of interest in the picture. By using a label, the comms are vastly reduced, as BRAA are not needed any more to define the Group in the various steps of the intercept.
The label is attached to the Groups by either the Controller or the fighter after the picture is built:

Generally, geographic labels make the most sense to all players. For example, if GCI describes two groups, one of which is directly north of the other, and they have not labelled them, then you should label them in your commit or targeting call.

P-825/08 19-2

Moreover, labelling:

[…] saves you time and brain-bytes.

P-825/08 19-2

However, remember that the label assigned to a Group will not make sense to another fighter operating in a different area.

Note that the controller should:

[…] label the PICTURE based on which GROUPs are expected to be targeted in the upcoming fighter attack (e.g., fighter recommit). For example, avoid a label with a depth component (e.g., VIC or CHAMPAGNE) if the fighters do not intend to target in depth.

ATP 3-52.4/MCRP 3-20F.10/NTTP 6-02.9/AFTTP 3-2.8 14/02/2020, Page 42

This would greatly help the understanding and the memorisation of the Picture, even when the situation is very complex.

Commit [50+ nm]

If, at any time, one of the Groups meets the Commit Criteria or due to the actions of the Controller, the section Commits. Note that, depending on the Area of Responsibility, the Wingman may have to raise the situation to the Lead.

Commit Criteria

The Commit Criteria are defined during the mission planning, and determined based on the overall mission objective.
The factors considered in the Commit Criteria are:

(a) Range based (e.g., predetermined range from fighters or a defended asset).
(b) Location based (e.g., enemy assets affecting a strike route).
(c) Threat based (e.g., only COMMIT against certain aircraft types).
(d) Weapon employment based (e.g., allow fighters to employ at their first available employment range).

ATP 3-52.4/MCRP 3-20F.10/NTTP 6-02.9/AFTTP 3-2.8 14/02/2020, Page 46

Generally speaking, the Commit should occur with enough range to perform all the intercept tasks required to have the AIM-54 Phoenix activated by the WCS.
Post Commit, the Section becomes the primary source of SA, and the AIC/GCI switches to Tactical Control, providing information that the Section may not be able to obtain.

Remember that fighters Commit to a Picture, not an individual group. The Section, in fact, commits to the representation of the airspace provided by the Controller or other agency, but should Target only one group. Once the targeted group is destroyed, the Section can move to the next Group.

Note: Commit Authority

This is something hardly found in non-simulative DCS groups, but can be interesting to any player. ATP 3-52.4/MCRP 3-20F.10/NTTP 6-02.9/AFTTP 3-2.8, 14/02/2020 at Page 46 describes more in-depth the hierarchy. In shorter terms, the Commit Authority can be granted to Mission Commander (MC), Package Commander (PC) and Controller. The goal is ensuring that the fighters remain on Timeline against threats.

  • if only MC and PC have Commit Authority, they will Commit if the Commit Criteria are met. The Controllers can recommend Commit.
  • if the Controller has Commit Authority, they will direct Commit when the Commit Criteria are met. MC and PC can only recommend Commit.
  • if the Commit is directed by the fighter, the Controller transitions from pre-commit comms to tactical control or using a Leading-Edge picture (a Picture based on which Groups the fighters are expected to target on an intercept).

Commit Comms and Follow-up

Spectre 1-1 [Aft] ► Spectre, Commit
Spectre 1-1 [Fwd] ► Check Master Arm

A series of automatic events should happen:

  1. The next formation should be pre-briefed, to minimize superfluous comms. Generally, it transitions to combat spread;
  2. The radar should be used to sanitize the airspace as briefed;
  3. The Section “Points and Assesses” the Group.

During this process, the wingman should not communicate (besides acknowledging, if necessary, on Fwd) but can and has to step in in case any assumption is wrong, sees a group non communicated by the Controller or possesses information that can increase the SA. This does may not apply if the Group is part of his AoR (for example, a low-flying Group). An ad hoc contract should be discussed in the briefing.

Point And Assess: Pros and Cons

Different versions of the documentation instruct the trainee to execute the Point and Assess procedure. This step helps the flow of the intercept by:

  • clarifies the scenario, simplifying the radar management and making spotting the target quicker. This is very helpful to new RIOs.
  • simplifying the calculation of the Target Aspect (remember that DA Target means Zero ATA, so TA = Cut. Hence, TA = BR → FH. See Figure 170);
  • simplifies the next step, Correlation, by allowing the RIO to use the heading marked by the BDHI in the BRA..

At the same time, an expert Radar Intercept Officer may not need the benefit of Point and Assess, and prefers to immediately turn to lead or lag the contact according to the considerations expressed later.
Note also that a recent patch introduced the Target Aspect value in the second readout line of the TID, so the need for mental maths at this stage is drastically reduced. However, this point is relevant if the aircraft flown does not possess such indication.

Correlation [50+ nm]

The correlation happens when the fighters point their radar towards the area where the contacts are located. The Section then calls for the contacts using the Bullseye or BRAA calls (the F-14 can use the NAVGRID in place of the Bullseye, and BRAA if no bullseye is defined). The controller then replies with declaration information about those contacts.
The brevity used to request the ID of the targeted group is “Declare”.

A DECLARE call is an interrogative call (i.e., request for information) made by either the fighters or controller.

DECLARE Request Example 2
DECLARE Response.

  1. Controllers will always respond to a DECLARE request with BULLSEYE, altitude, track direction, declaration, and fill-ins.
  2. DECLARE responses may include: BOGEY, FRIENDLY, NEUTRAL, BANDIT, HOSTILE, FURBALL, UNABLE, or CLEAN (VANISHED can be used in training).
  3. ATP 3-52.4/MCRP 3-20F.10/NTTP 6-02.9/AFTTP 3-2.8 14/02/2020, Page 49

Comms example:

Spectre 1-1 [Aft] ► Darkstar, Spectre 1-1, contact BRAA 11 22 33 thousand, Declare.
Darkstar ► Spectre 1-1, Darkstar, Group north, BRAA 11 22 33 thousand, hot, hostile.

Note that as part of the Correlation fill-ins, the Controller can add Targeted (+ by whom) and Untargeted.


ATP 3-52.4/MCRP 3-20F.10/NTTP 6-02.9/AFTTP 3-2.8 14/02/2020, Page 26

The F-14 in DCS in much older than Viper, Hornet and contemporary modules, hence suppers for a number of factors that can potentially affect the precision of the calls. For example, a drifted INS. The RIO should also be aware of the difference between Magnetic and True readouts and comms (for example, the TID displays the True Course of a hooked target). The difference between Bearing and Relative Bearing should also be kept very well in mind.
The doctrine suggests that the tolerance for the Correlation is 3nm and 3°, the crew must be cautious in this phase, especially in case of complex scenarios. “Point and Assess” helps to minimize the bearing errors, but it is a step that can be skipped, as discussed in the Commit phase.

Note: By Navy training doctrine, the fighter should climb or descend to be 1,000ft below the target (Source: P-825/17. Different sources threat the altitude difference in different ways. Keep in mind, this is training material).

Gameplan Considerations

So far, the Section has Committed to the picture, it is aware of the Classification of a specific Group and the nose of the aircraft is point towards them. The discussion about the Simplified Timeline stopped any geometrical consideration at this stage. The Lead RIO, instead, should now evaluate a number of parameters and weight its options, before proceeding.
The following are some variables, in no particular order, that should be taken into account by the RIO before deciding the next step. Most of them can be pre-briefed and be part of contracts.

  • Variable I: Task

    What is the task of the Section? CAP, AI, OCA, something else? Each task comes with pre-briefed objectives and restrictions that may influence the manoeuvring freedom of the Section; hence the geometry.

  • Variable II: Classification

    Is the Group an outlaw, a bogey, a bandit or a hostile? Flying head-on towards a bogey may turn the Section into the Hostile (this is true especially if the REDFOR is human and following their own realistic rules), so the Lead RIO may want to create LS, turn to zero-cut to maintain and aim for a stern conversion turn.
    If the Group is declared hostile then, depending on the other variables, the Lead RIO may want to determine the TA, and manoeuvre to establish it at around 30°-35° (ideally not less than 30°), turn to collision to capture it and then be ready to Lead for missile employment at the pre-briefed range.

  • Variable III: Threat

    Is the Section operating in a modern scenario, with aircraft technologically more advanced than the F-14? What are the expected threats? Ranges (MAR, DR, etc), sort (default or others) gameplan (skate, rather than banzai, depending on defined conditions), and so on, should be planned accordingly.

  • Variable IV: Rules of Engagement

    What do the ROE entail? Is a VID required? The Section should be fired against first before being allowed to answer, a-la Gulf of Sidra 1981?
    If VID is required, then reducing too much the TA may not be the ideal solution. Although the TCS allows a good VID at reasonable FOX-1 range for low aspect, introducing and maintaining an appropriate LS is usually the safest option.

  • Variable V: Desired Outcome

    Should the possible threat be destroyed or just pushed back, to enable other friendly assets to operate and bug out? In such case, for long range AIM-54 employments, the TA should be reduced as much as possible, minimising the TA by using a Cut into, greater than Collision, even 90 Cut if necessary, and employing at range.

  • Additional Variables: Fuel, AoR, Intel, etc

    For example, the fighters shouldn’t Commit if the fuel is insufficient, same if a Group is close to the boundaries of the Area or Responsibility of the Section, and heading out of it.

Targeting [45+ nm]

Targeting means taking responsibility for that Group/multiple Groups from the AWACS.
The pro-word has two meanings:

  1. Directive: Target is a Directive call to target a specific group;
  2. Informative: Targeted is an informative call that somebody already targeted a specific group.

The Target with the highest Priority is defined as the highest threat in the tactical picture. This evaluation depends on a number of parameters such as the mission task (e.g. by prioritizing Strikers over Screening or Escorting aircraft).
Other criteria are:

  1. Closest;
  2. Hottest;
  3. Highest;
  4. Known Threat.

Not all Groups can be targeted at the same time, untargeted Groups can be directed to be monitored by the AWACS.

Next, the Flow Range is evaluated. The Flow Range is usually no less than the Meld range and is defined as the minimum distance between two groups to allow the Section to complete the Timeline versus the targeted group.
The Flow Range is not considered versus a single group scenarios and is always considered versus 2+ groups.

Spectre 1-1 [Aft] ► Spectre, Targeted group, Mary 11 22 33 thousand.


Spectre 1-1 [Aft] ► Spectre, Targeted group.

Whereas in a 2vsN scenario:

Spectre 1-1 [Aft] ► Spectre, Targeted lead group.

The Controller monitors the untargeted groups, providing SA if the situation changes.

The Section leader can also Target wingmen to different Groups which needs to be engaged or monitored at the same time:

Spectre 1-1 [Fwd] ► Two, Target West Group, BRAA 11 22 33 thousand.
Spectre 1-2 [Fwd] ► Two, Targeted West Group.

The wingmen usually call Split formation in order to fly their own path to take care of their targets.

Note: the sources aim to discuss only the scenario where the fighters can only kill one group at the same time. Scenarios where the Section target and kills multiple groups are more advanced and not covered.
However, DCS is game and nothing prevents you from introducing a contract or pre-briefed structure to deal with such occasions. In fact, if the range and the Situational Awareness allow, the Section can immediately target the follow-on group and employ on timeline.
That being said, remember that the Timeline is a template used for sequential, not simultaneous, engagement. If the necessity arises, the Section can Split into singles, following two separated Timelines (discussed later).

Drop, Reset and Recommit

Drop and Reset

If the target is no longer a threat, it is turning away and pursuing requires wasting too much fuel or the kill requires too long, the Section can terminate the intercept and Reset.
The most common criteria involve the evaluation of the Target Aspect: understandably, if the target turns cold and rushes for its friendly lines, perhaps baiting the Section over hostile SAMs.

Note: Unfortunately the Artificial Intelligence is DCS, especially if unscripted or not controlled by a human player, it is incapable of using advanced tactics.
In real life, in fact, many aerial battles started with aircraft baiting the opposition, either dragging them towards friendly SAMs, or executing the manoeuvre erroneously, and ending up caught in the fight. This is exemplified by the MiG-25 used as ambushers, whilst MiG-21s were used as baits (Lebanon). Even a Predator was used as a bait for a MiG-25, but it ended up splashed by the Foxbat1.
The vanilla AI in DCS is not up to the task of representing a valid and realistic opponent, at the moment.

Comms example

Spectre 1-1 [Aft] ► Darkstar, Spectre 1-1, dropping group BRAA 111-22, flanking west; resetting north.


Spectre 1-1 [Aft] ► Darkstar, Spectre 1-1, resetting north, monitor group BRAA 111-22, flanking west.

Drop” is used to announce that the fighter has no sensor awareness on the group any more, and the responsibility goes back to Darkstar (“Monitor”).

Further Reset Criteria

The following are the Drop criteria suggested by the doctrine for MRM employment, suggested by the P-825/17:

  • Outside 20nm, TA>60°;
  • Inside 20nm, TA>95°;
  • Inside 10nm, Drop is not an option as this range is considered WVR.

Due to the range and speed of the AIM-54, 20nm can be substituted with this datasheet by the Engagement Range (35nm).

Contact Monitoring Post Reset

The manoeuvre by the targeted Group may be temporary, and the hostile may turn hot immediately, as soon as they notice the Section resetting. For that reason, the fighters maintain awareness on the Group using three techniques (P-825/08, 17-8. The concepts are very similar to the geometry discussed in Part II):

  • Cut-Off (similar to Lead Pursuit). This is a Cut into manoeuvre, so the range decreases rapidly, and the offensive posture is maintained.
  • Nose-On (similar to Pure Pursuit). When the bandit is on the nose, the closure is not as high as in the Cut-Off scenario, but the posture is still offensive.
  • Stiff-Arm (similar to Lag Pursuit). A more passive posture, it is best for preserving or building range.

The choice of the monitoring technique is critical. As discussed previously, the Target Aspect, and therefore where the hostile is pointing its nose and weapons, can change almost instantly.

Do not be suckered into resetting on a bogey that is doing a 360 and then pressing downrange, as it will take away some of your intercept range and, potentially, one or more of your missile shots.

P-825/02, page 152


If the group meet the commit criteria again, the Section can recommit. This happens, for example, if the Group turns hot again post reset.

Geometry Assessment

The Radar Intercept Officer should have worked out the geometry pre-Targeting. The first goal of this timeline is enabling a FOX-3 missile launch.
Even the powerful AIM-54 Phoenix tangibly benefits from a forward quarter launch. Therefore, the TA should be ideally between ±20°, although a True Head-On approach is not recommended.
Two points should be prioritized (825/17 14-24):

  1. the geometry should manoeuvre the Section away from untargeted groups;
  2. the shortest direction should be preferred.
Timeline – Geometry assessment.

The RIO should then:

  1. Assess the Target Aspect;
  2. Manoeuvre to increase or decrease the target aspect using the many techniques discussed in Part III;
  3. Once the TA satisfies the launch parameters, the Target Aspect should be captured by turning to Collision Course;
  4. Although not necessary, turning to Lead Collision (LC) at the employment range benefits even the AIM-54. If in doubt, consider Cutting into < CB for half of the Antenna Train Angle.
    Note: This ratio between Antenna Train Angle and Lead Collision decently approximates the AIM-7 Sparrow.
    I have not tested or calculated a better angle for the AIM-54 yet. I’m still waiting for the new API to be fully developed and integrated.

Sorting Considerations

The Sort phase assigns a target to each member of the Section. Working out the sorting contract (if not pre-briefed, or a change is deemed necessary) can be done during the Airspace Sanitization.

Azimuth Range Elevation
Leader Left Lead High
Wingman Right Tail Low
Comms “side/side” “close/far” “high/low”

Usually, the sort plan tends to mirror the Section. For example, the Lead F-14 takes the Lead of the Targeted group, and so on. Whatever the plan, it does not matter as long as the execution matches the brief.

No Sort

This situation occurs when, for a number of reasons (e.g. aircraft in the targeted Group are flying very close, or one is masking the other, or perhaps there is only one contact) only one radar return is displayed on the radar.
If the fighters have different SA, the rule of thumb is:

“he who sees two, shoots two; he who sees one shoots none.”


The fighter who only sees one should hold their shot and focus on the SA (usually the wingman), and the fighter that sees two will employ out of TWS on both contacts.
However, an appropriate contract do deal with this situation can be pre-briefed, and other factors can be taken into account (such as the task and mission objectives, along more practical considerations (if potentially wasting a missile worth the destruction of the target).

Airspace Sanitization

Note: Different sources indicate this step in different ways. The common point they stress, is how important is acquiring SA of the targeted Group and the surroundings to ensure that no unknown threat is threatening the fighters before they Meld.

Sanitization techniques have been discussed before here.

Post Targeting, the fighters sanitize the airspace, to ensure that no untargeted hostile aircraft are inside the Flow Range, potentially endangering the Section.
The sanitization increases the Situational Awareness of the targeted Group, so it is a good moment to work out the Sorting as well.

Tactical (TAC) Range Call [45 nm]

In order to maintain the Simplified Timeline accessible and flexible, this part was not used. However, it is important to ensure the coordination between assets and update the Controller about the status of the fighters in relation to their Timeline.
The range is pre-briefed (45nm by default). The call can be transmitted by either the Controller or one of the fighters.

Spectre 1-2 [Aft] ► Spectre, Group north, 45nm.

Note: different sources use and explain the TAC call in different ways.

Meld [40 – 45 nm]

Meld signals the end of the sanitization, and both fighters in the Sections will focus their radars on the target. Meld occurs 5-10nm prior to the employment, depending on the situation, to ensure that every fighter has time to find its target (sorting whilst sanitizing speeds up the process).

Note: Meld, although conceptually similar in the sources, is discussed differently and with different level of details. In particular, the 825/08 includes the Sort contract in the Meld call, speeding up the overall process.

At this stage, the Lead Radar Intercept Officer can communicate the sort technique used based on the picture displayed on the radar:

  1. near/far;
  2. side/side;
  3. high/low.

If the new sort contract is not specified, the briefed contract is used.

Areas of Responsibility

Post Sanitization, the airspace is divided in AoRs. Both Lead RIO and Wingman RIO must be aware and check in which AoR the targeted Group is:

The Meld is simply putting both radars in the same piece of sky after a good sanitization of each AOR. Wingman may call meld if the picture falls in wing’s AOR and they assume tactical control until sort. If the wingman does call the meld, they should expect to call the sort also unless lead quickly sees the picture and calls for the sort first.

P-825/08, 19-11

This means that the Wingman RIO is not sitting idle, waiting for instructions, but he is active part of the process, if not the protagonist.

Meld Comms

Meld is a directive call to cease radar sanitization and focus radar energies into the targeted group. Meld can be augmented by a series of additional details: Alt (min), sort contract (A/R) and BRAA (if able):

Minimum description

Spectre 1-1 [Fwd] ► “Spectre, meld, hits 21”

Perfect description

Spectre 1-1 [Fwd] ► “Spectre, meld, hits 21, side/side”

Extra description

Spectre 1-1 [Fwd] ► “Spectre, meld, 360/40, hits 21”

When melding into a group that is a stack, the altitude should be removed from the meld call. In this scenario, selecting the appropriate radar parameters is fundamental.

Meld, Sort and The F-14 Limitations in DCS

The AWG-9 WCS can induce some delays and errors. In primis, TWS radar sweep always takes ~2″. In cases of poor SA, this can delay the acquiring operations. In case of high altitude delta, the aircraft with good radar return may pass the antenna elevation angle to the other member of the section. In fact, since the fighters are sanitizing the same amount of azimuth volume, but different altitudes, the most important part of the meld call is the altitude.

One of the most common issues with the Meld and Sort is the inability of the AWG-9 to discern two contacts very close to each other in TWS. This situation falls into the “No Sort scenario” discussed before.

Sort and Lock [40nm]

Before employing, each fighter finds its target, usually starting from the wingman. Two comms are used:

  • “locked”: if the fighter is not sure about which aircraft he locked;
  • “sorted”: if the fighter is sure and has sorted as briefed.


If the fighter is not sure:

Spectre 1-2 [Fwd] ► “Spectre 2, locked, 7000”

If the fighter is sure:

Spectre 1-2 [Fwd] ► “Spectre 2, sorted, far, 7000”

“locked” and “far/right/etc” are not used at the same time because the descriptor implies a good sort.

FOX-3 Employment and Crank [35 nm]

Note: The doctrine calls for a Leader in TWS, and the wingman in STT. However, this scenario is hardly used in DCS because in STT the AIM-54 either behaves as a SARH or it is active off the rail. For that reason, going forward, both aircraft are considered in TWS post Meld.

The section will fire and crank together.

Spectre 1-1 [Aft] ► Spectre 1-1, Fox-3
Spectre 1-1 [Fwd] ► Spectre 1-1, Crank left

In case multiple missiles are launched to separate tracks at the same time, the call is:

Spectre 1-1 [Aft] ► Spectre 1-1, Fox-3, two ships

If another missile is fired to a target whilst the first missile is still flying, the call is:

Spectre 1-1 [Aft] ► Spectre 1-1, second Fox-3


Crank is a hard turn (4 – 5 Gs) away from the target to affect his WEZ by diminish the effectiveness of his weapons, which have to travel further and correct their trajectory, whilst simultaneously reducing the VC.
If, due to the geometry, the Wingman risks losing the target (ergo, the antenna reaches its limits and can’t illuminate the target any more if the turn continues), he should call:

Spectre 1-2 [Fwd] ► Spectre 1-2, Gimbals

The Leader then must manoeuvre to prevent the loss of lock. If the LRIO is about to lose the target for the same reason, he has to immediately call Gimbals in the ICS.
In order to be effective, the introduced separation should be ~50° of ATA.
Fighter velocity vector must have more of a cross-range component than a downrange component, this is fairly easy to assess by means of the TID in Aircraft Stabilized mode.
After the crank, once steady, reference the heading:

Spectre 1-1 [Aft] ► Spectre 1, Fox-3, Group north, 23-thousand, Crank left, Reference 325

Reference” can be used to communicate the intended new heading.

Reference + Heading: Directive to assume stated heading


Post employment: Split, Kill, Lead Changes

The following considerations apply to the scenario post FOX-3.


An informative call that a flight member is leaving formation to engage a threat; visual may not be maintained.


Split is a useful manoeuvre for the wingman, meant to give him the necessary freedom to accomplish the objective. The cause can be, for example, the manoeuvres of the target that forces the wingman to either maintain the formation and pass the contact back to the Controller or leave the formation.
The comms flow includes (825/08, 19-16):

  1. Floating: target has reached 45°ATA and the wingman must turn to maintain radar SA;
  2. Split: at visual limits, request permission to leave formation to prosecute the attack. The Flight lead should follow this with a “press” or “negative” call;
  3. Crossing: Crossing Lead’s 6 o’clock to maintain radar SA/STT.

Bottom line:

Split to kill or split to live. Otherwise, stay together!

P-825/08, 19-16

Kill / Lead Changes

If the target of a member of the Section kills its intended target, it is important to move to the following step, which is usually supporting the other aircraft if it is still engaged (in this example, the Lead kills its target, the wingman is still engaged).
Following the Kill call, the wingman replies with the BRAA of his target:

Spectre 1-1 [Fwd] ► Spectre 1, Kill, Group north, 15000
Spectre 1-2 [Fwd] ► Spectre 2, Engaged BRAA 295/15, 10000

The Lead aircraft can reply with “Press”:

Spectre 1-1 [Fwd] ► Spectre 1, Press

This exchange communicates to the Lead that the wingman cannot support him and kill his target. “Press” allows the wingman to continue whilst the Lead tries to support him.
The Lead can take back its role at any time by calling:

Spectre 1-1 [Fwd] ► Spectre 1 has the lead

The next step depends on several variables: the fighters can now turn cold or press for a FOX-1 employment.
The next Chapter will cover one of the possible scenarios.


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