by Andy Bush
Yankee Air Pirates
(Author’s Note: In the course of answering questions on my weapons and tactics web site, I had the idea one day of providing an answer in the form of a story. From that has sprung the Wolf 20 series of short stories, each of which is intended to illustrate various aspects of fighter employment.)
This article is a fictitious story set during the Vietnam War and will explain a number of aspects of controlling and using fighters in a combat scenario. Regardless of whether the story is set in the past or in the present day, certain things never change. Fighter employment is far more than just BFM. Equally important are proper radio techniques, adherence to established command and control procedures, flight management, and flight discipline. As air combat simulations increase in sophistication and complexity, you can maximize your appreciation and enjoyment of campaign and multi-player/cooperative play by broadening your understanding of the broad spectrum of fighter operations. This story should add to that understanding. As you read through the story, words and phrases will be highlighted in italics. These terms were used in the Vietnam War and are very much the same as in current use…the actual terminology may have been updated, but the purpose and intent remain the same. The objective of this article is two-fold…first, to teach you a little fighter ‘lingo’, and, second, to teach you some of the techniques and procedures used on a typical mission.
Map of Vietnam
The air war in Vietnam spanned many and varied types of air combat. Command and control of these forces also went through a considerable evolution. Early in the war, there was little in the way of centralized C3 (command, control, and communication). By 1965 this was rapidly changing. The size and scope of the war and the various services involved all necessitated some sort of central control.
Effective command and control of these missions depended on pilots following standardized procedures. Regardless of mission type, pilots lived or died by their ability to implement those procedures in the heat of combat. The following story will blend narrative and accompanying explanation to take you through a challenging day in the lives of the pilots of Wolf 20 flight.