Communications and brevity
- Understand the correct syntax used when communicating between fighter aircraft.
- Learn the important brevity code words.
Basic Principles of Brevity
- Know when to speak (and when to be silent).
Pilots should speak up when engaged either defensively (most important) or offensively, this is so the rest of the flight can adjust accordingly to help you out! When in a high-stress environment it becomes more critical that you allow other pilots to communicate their messages; don't be yapping about your speed and thus step on your flight who are trying to tell you they are in danger!
- Know what to say.
Pilots should try to get their point across with all the necessary information, avoiding unnecessary fluff. Avoid raising your voice as this tends to escalate the volume of communication and demoralise pilots under stress.
- Accuracy and clarity.
No-one will mind if you don't know all the brevity words used for every situation. Remain calm, speak clearly and don't clog up the comms!
- Ship: Single aircraft.
- Element: Two ships working in tandem. This is the basic combat unit.
- Flight: Two elements working in tandem. (Sometimes you can have three-ship flights).
- Package: Two or more flights tasked with accomplishing a single mission.
Types of radio messages
There are two (main) kinds of messages: Advisories and directives.
An advisory is a message where you state what you are doing or intending to do. It is particularly important to remember if you're a flight lead or element lead to let other flights know when you're being engaged, or if you're engaging someone, or if you're running away from something. Advisories do not need to be acknowledged, although they can be.
- The flight lead can call out his altitude and speed when climbing from take-off to let his flight know if they’re going to fast or lagging behind.
- Giving an "IN" call when attacking a ground target.
- Giving an "Engaged defensive" call to the rest of the package if your flight finds itself engaged by enemy fighters.
A directive is an order to perform some action. They’re usually given by element-, flight-, or package leaders to their subordinates. However others can also give directives depending on the circumstances. E.g. you are supporting your element leader in a dogfight and you see a bandit about to fire on him, you would then direct your leader to "BREAK" in concert with you trying to gain a position to attack the bandit.
Responding to communications
Within the flight (VHF) when a flight lead gives a directive the entire flight must respond in correct form; this is done by giving your flight number and pilots most respond in ascending order (e.g. Cowboy 1-1: "Flight go trail" Cowboy 1-2: "TWO" Cowboy 1-3: "THREE" Cowboy 1-4: "FOUR"). This makes it clear for the flight lead to understand who has heard them and has intent to carry out the order. If someone is silent, it's OK to skip them and allow them to respond later, however the flight lead(s) will be the one to investigate any silence in comms.
When you are unable to carry out the order you should say "unable" and elaborate should the situation require it. In some situations you may find you are engaged offensive or defensive and can add this, i.e. "Viper 1-4 unable, engaged defensive". The amount of information you give should be reasonable; let the flight know if you're in a dogfight or defending missiles if they don't already.
Between flights (UHF), the flight lead will need to use the flight callsign as an identifier as multiple flights have access to this method of communication (e.g. "Falcon 1, Panther 2 we have entered the AO, looking for targets" "Panther 2, Falcon 1, roger that").
Whenever you start a message not directed toward others you start with your callsign. On package comms where everyone will hear you, you use your full callsign.
The flight does not need to respond to any informative calls (e.g. "Falcon 1 traffic 9 o'clock level) which differ from directive calls in that the flight is not being requested to take action but merely being given supplemental information to improve flight efficiency and cohesiveness.
Directives e.g. "Flight fence in" , "Element 2 go trail"
Informatives e.g. "My altitude, Angels 10" , "My TrackIR just f***ed up"
Do's and Don'ts
DO speak up if you're in immediate danger!
DO give an "Engaged offensive" call followed by the BRAA or bullseye of the target when in a dogfight.
DO remain calm and speak clearly.
DON'T use "ground combat terms" for Flight Comms (e.g. "Lobo this is Panther, message", "Panther this is Lobo, go ahead, over." "Lobo, be advised you have bandits over the target area time now.", "Panther, we copy all, out.")
DON'T give informatives out during high-workload periods of flight (e.g. talk about your fuel consumption during a furball)
DON'T repeat communications. (e.g. "MAGNUM SA-2, I REPEAT, MAGNUM SA-2).
DON'T comply with a directive that is sure to kill you; you are the best judge of this.
DON'T clog up the communications with pointless information. (e.g. let other flights know about bandits 200 miles away over UHF OR repeatedly ask AWACS for picture)
DON'T use "over" or "out".
DON'T use "break" to signal a pause. Break is a brevity word to perform a rapid turn.
Being a good Flight Lead
A good flight lead completes their mission and brings everyone home; to accomplish this it is their responsibility to utilize both elements and all pilots without micromanaging them heavily.
Flight Leads should endeavor to ensure understanding in the pilots in the briefing: pilots must understand the intent of the package and be aware of the threats they must deal with.
Flight Leads are the primary communicator for the flight with other flights in the package, it is their responsibility to update the package with the flight's status as appropriate. The Flight Lead should make sure other flights are aware of their presence (whether on ingress or egress from the target) to avoid collisions and blue-on-blue incidents, however, all pilots are expected to respond to RAYGUN calls over UHF and maintain general Situational Awareness of the rest of the package.
It is important in inter-flight communications that you identify your own flight second, as well as your flight number where appropriate. Communication to other flights does not need to be requested; Flight Leads just give their information accurately and clearly directly over UHF e.g.
"Panther 1, Lobo 2 engaging bandits over steer 5, 20 thousand, nose hot".
In this example we see that Lobo 2 is informing Panther 1 that they are committing to bandits over (a presumed shared) steerpoint 5, these bandits are at 20,000ft and are "nose hot" or turned towards Lobo 2. However, when asking for information it may be courteous to simply ask for a response e.g.
"Panther 1, Lobo 2"
Indicating that Lobo 2 is requesting Panther 1 to respond, which they would do by saying the reverse:
"Lobo 2, Panther 1"
Some people may add "go" or "send it" or another addition in order to increase the clarity of the response by ensuring the other flight understands they are listening.
As a Flight Lead you need to ensure you control the flight's formation; ensure you don't fly too fast and create fuel problems for everyone trying to catch up! A Flight Lead should know the best formations for the situations that may arise spontaneously but generally formations are discussed during the briefing. The Flight Lead will make a directive to change formation when appropriate e.g.
"Cowboy 1 Go Trail"
If no formation call is briefed or directed, assume a Finger 4 formation is in affect.
The Flight Lead must also designate targets for the flight, when this luxury is available to them, the Flight Lead must manage the resources of the flight to ensure all aircraft remain combat effective for as long as possible. Don't be a hero and shoot off all your missiles for one kill, try to designate targets and keep those missiles for more pressing targets.
Other information the Flight Lead must consider communicating to their flight are: MUSIC (ECM jamming), changing steerpoints, calculated airspeed, flight altitude, equipment configuration, Air-to-Air TACAN, Datalink, etc.
Brevity Code Masterlist
|ANGELS||Height of FRIENDLY aircraft in thousands of feet mean sea level (MSL)|
|ARIZONA||No ARM ordnance remaining. (HARMS for you BMS pilots)|
|AS FRAGGED||Unit or element will be performing exactly as stated by the air tasking order (ATO).|
|BANDIT||Identified enemy aircraft. Does not neccesarily imply direction or authority to engage.|
|BANZAI||Informative or directive call to execute launch-and-decide tactics.|
|BEAMING||Moving towards a target at a perpendicular angle OR close to radar gimbal limits.|
|(system) BENT||System indicated is inoperative.|
|BINGO||Fuel state needed for recovery (to RTB)|
|BIRD||Friendly surface-to-air missile (SAM).|
|BLIND||No visual contact with friendly aircraft / ground position. Opposite of VISUAL.|
|BLOW THROUGH||Directive or informative call that indicates aircraft will continue straight ahead at the merge and not become anchored with target/targets.|
|BOGEY||Radar or visual contact whose identity is unknown.|
|BOGEY DOPE||Request for target information as requested or closest group in BRAA (with appropriate fill-ins).|
|BRAA||Bearing Range Altitude and Aspect. Aspect only required if other than HOT.|
|BREAK||Directive call to perform an immediate maximum performance 180-degree turn (or as directed) in the indicated direction. Assumes a defensive situation requiring infrared missile defense (IRMD).|
|BREVITY||Radio frequency is becoming saturated/degraded or jammed and briefer transmissions must follow.|
|BROKE LOCK||Advisory call regarding loss of radar/IR lock-on.|
|BUDDY LOCK||Locked on to a friendly aircraft, often a response to SPIKE or BUDDY SPIKE. Generally a good idea if you identify yourself as well.|
|BUDDY SPIKE||Friendly aircraft A-A radar track on the RWR, can be a response to RAYGUN or general advisory call. Generally a good idea if you identify yourself as well.|
|BUGOUT (with direction)||Separation from that particular engagement/attack/operation; no intent to reengage/return.|
|BUSTER||Directive call to fly at max continuous speed (Mil power).|
|CEASE FIRE||Discontinue firing/do not open fire. Complete intercept if weapons are in flight. Continue to track.|
|CHECK||(number, left/right) Turn (number) degrees left or right and maintain new heading.|
|CHERUBS||Hundreds of feet above ground level. (“CHERUBS 3” means 300 feet AGL)|
|CLEAN||No sensor information on non-friendly aircraft of interest / no visible battle damage.|
|CLEARED||Flight lead response: requested action is authorised.|
|CLEARED HOT||Flight lead response: release of ordinance is authorised.|
|COLD||Essentially means "turned away". Can be used as a direction or description e.g. "Bandit nose cold"|
|COMMIT||Directive call to intercept.|
|CONTINUE||Continue present maneuver; does not imply a change in clearance to engage or expend ordnance.|
|CONTACT||Similar to TALLY, relating specifically to acquisition of target via radar.|
|COVER||Directive/informative call to assume a supporting position that will allow engagement of a specified track or threat to the flight if required.|
|CRANK [left/right]||Turn as far as possible left or right while keeping the target on your radar|
|DEFENSIVE||The speaker is under attack, moving defensively and unable to support others.|
|DELOUSE||Directive call to detect, identify and engage (if required) unknown aircraft trailing friendly aircraft.|
|DOLLY||LINK-4A/TADIL-C. Aka. "The data link" in BMS|
|DROP KICK||Informative to the flight that an intentional deviation from any briefed action is being made.|
|DROPPING||Informative call that a fighter has discontinued targeting responsibility.|
|ENGAGED||Informative call used to establish engaged and support roles in the visual arena.|
|EXTEND (with direction)||Short-term maneuver to gain energy, distance, or separation normally with the intent of reengaging.|
|FADED||Radar contact (temporally) is lost on a non-friendly aircraft/surface contact and any positional information given is estimated.|
|FAST||Target speed is estimated to be 600 to 900 knots ground speed/Mach 1 to 1.5.|
|FEET WET/DRY||Flying over water/land.|
|FENCE IN||Directive to prepare your aircraft for battle. See UOAF SOP Section|
|FLASH (system)||Temporarily activate specified system for identification purposes (e.g., IFF, afterburner, flare, or chaff).|
|FLOW [direction]||Turn to and fly in the designated heading|
|FOX||A-A weapons employment (most should know this one already!) Fox One indicates a semi-active radar-guided missile (AIM-7), Fox Two indicates an infrared-guided missile (AIM-9) and Fox Three, indicating an active radar-guided missile (AIM-120/AIM-54)|
|FURBALL||Known bandits and friendlies in close proximity.|
|GATE||Directive/informative call to fly as quickly as possible, using afterburner/max power.|
|GORILLA||A large force of indeterminable numbers and formation i.e. a metric shit ton.|
|HIGH||Target is between 25,000 and 40,000 feet MSL.|
|HOLDING HANDS||Aircraft in visual formation|
|HOOK||(with direction) Directive call to perform an in-place 180-degree turn.|
|HOSTILE||A contact identified as an enemy upon which clearance to fire is authorized IAW the theater rules of engagement (ROE).|
|HOT||Meaning "turned towards"; the opposite of COLD.|
|HOUND DOG||I see something I want to shoot / I see the target you are referring to.|
|IN||Informative call indicating a turn toward a known threat, may imply a request for information.|
|JINK||Directive call to perform an unpredictable maneuver to negate a gun tracking solution.|
|JOKER||Prebriefed fuel remaining when you should start heading home|
|JUDY||Aircrew has radar or visual contact of the correct target, only requires situational awareness information and the weapon director will minimise radio transmissions. In practice, this is an "I got this" call from the flight to an AWACS.|
|KILL||Directive call to fire on designated target.|
|KNOCK-IT-OFF||Directive call to cease air combat maneuvers/attacks/activities.|
|LEAN (with direction)||Directive/informative call to maneuver in a direction to avoid the threat.|
|LOCKED (with position)||Radar lock-on; correct targeting is not assumed.|
|LOW||Below 10,000 feet MSL|
|MAGNUM||With direction and type of target. Anti-radiation weapon launched|
|MILLER TIME||Informative call indicating completion of A-G ordnance delivery. Generally used by the last striker in conjuction with the egress plan. In practice, used by the package lead as an RTB call. |
|MARKING||Friendly aircraft leaving contrails.|
|MARSHAL(ING)||Establish(ed) at a specific point.|
|MERGE(D)||Informative call that friendlies and targets have arrived in the same visual arena.|
|MUD||RWR indication of SAM or AAA radar|
|MUSIC||Electronic radar jamming. E.g. "Flight, music on"|
|NAILS||(with direction) RWR indication of radar in search. E.g. "Nails 29, left 10" (I have a MiG-29 on my RWR, from my nose left, 10 o'clock)|
|NAKED||No RWR indications.|
|NO FACTOR||Not a threat|
|NO JOY||No visual contact with target/landmark, opposite of TALLY.|
|NOTCH(ING)||(Left/Right): Moving on a beam away from the target, usually done to support a radar-guided missile in order to reduce the closure rate whilst maintaining a radar lock.|
|OFF (with direction)||Informative call indicating attack is terminated and maneuvering to the indicated direction.|
|OFFSET (with direction)||Informative call indicating maneuver in a specified direction with reference to the target.|
|OUT||Informative call indicating a turn to a cold aspect relative to the known threat.|
|OUTLAW||Similar to Bogey but assumed hostile due to point of origin i.e. unknown aircraft flying from enemy airspace.|
|PADLOCKED||Informative call indicating aircrew cannot take eyes off an aircraft or ground target without risk of losing tally/visual.|
|PID||(Positive Identification) The ability to confirm the nature of a target (friendly hostile) via means that could include by radar or visually (through the TGP or with the MK1 eyeball).|
|PINCE||Threat maneuvering for a bracket attack.|
|PITBULL||AIM-120 missile has reached MPRF active range (gone active).|
|POP||Starting climb for A/S attack OR Max performance climb out of low-altitude structure.|
|POSIT||Request for friendly position; response in terms of a geographic landmark or off a common reference point.|
|PRESS||Directive call to continue the attack; mutual support will be maintained. Supportive role will be assumed by the speaker.|
|PUMP||A briefed maneuver to low aspect to stop closure on the threat or geographical boundary with the intent to reengage. Will be used to initiate a Grinder tactic.|
|PUSH||Go to designated frequency, no acknowledgement required.|
|PLAYTIME||Amount of time aircraft can remain on station.|
|RAYGUN||Indicating a radar lock on unknown aircraft. A request for BUDDY SPIDE reply from friendly aircraft.|
|RESET||Proceed to a pre-briefed position or area of operation (AO).|
|RIFLE||Friendly A-G missile launch.|
|ROGER||Indicates aircrew understands the radio transmission, DOES NOT INDICATE COMPLIANCE OR REACTION.|
|ROLEX||Time adjustment in minutes, references from the original planned time. Plus means later, minus means earlier.|
|SAM||Visual acquisition of a SAM in flight or SAM launch, should include position and type if known.|
|SAUNTER||Fly at best endurance.|
|SINGER (type with direction)||Informative call of an RWR indication of SAM launch.|
|SKIP IT||Veto of fighter commit call, usually followed with further directions.|
|SKOSH||Aircraft is out of or unable to employ active radar missiles.|
|SLICE / SLICEBACK (LEFT/RIGHT)||Directive call to perform a high-G descending turn in the stated direction, usually 180-degree turn.|
|SORT||Directive call to assign responsibility within a GROUP; criteria can be met visually, electronically (radar), or both.|
|SPIKE||(with direction) RWR indication of an AI threat in track or launch.|
|STRIPPED||Informative call that aircraft is out of briefed formation|
|TALLY||Sighting of a target. Opposite of NO JOY.|
|TUMBLEWEED||Indicates limited situational awareness, NO JOY and BLIND. A request for information.|
|UNABLE||Cannot comply as requested or directed (preferably with reason if possible).|
|VAMPIRE||Hostile antiship missile launch.|
|VISUAL||Sighting of a FRIENDLY aircraft or ground position. Opposite of BLIND.|
|WEEDS||Indicates that aircraft are operating close to the surface.|
|WHAT LUCK||Request for results of mission or tasks.|
|WHAT STATE||Report amount of fuel and missiles. Ammunition and oxygen are reported only when specifically requested or critical. "Weapon state" and "Fuel state" also used at UOAF.|
|WILCO||Will comply (with received instructions).|
|WINCHESTER||No ordinance remaining.|
For a "complete" list of brevity terms, see OPERATIONAL BREVITY WORDS, DEFINITIONS, AND COUNTERAIR (AFTTP 3-1.1).pdf in the /docs/Operational Manuals/ folder of your Falcon install.
When communicating, especially in a combat situation, remember the ABCs of radio protocol:
Make sure what you are saying is accurate and think about what you need to say before you broadcast.
Be brief and use brevity terms as much as possible. In a hectic situation there’s a lot of information that needs to be transmitted and processed, and only one person can talk on the radio at a time.
Speak clearly and slowly enough that other people can understand you. The last part is particularly important if you’re not a native english speaker or speaking to a non-native speaker.
A few video examples of brevity in-game:
- CHERUBS only means altitude above ground level, and is not to be used as a general codeword for hundreds of feet. Saying "ANGELS 20 CHERUBS 3" when meaning 20300 feet MSL is not allowed.
- "Ducks on a pond" is also used in BMS (and the best RTB call).