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Maneuvering as a Formation
Marine Fighting Squadron 251

Turning the Formation

There are several different methods to turn a formation in a manner that maintains cohesion and positioning of a group. Some of these can be used offensively or defensively, while others are primarily for navigational purposes.

Simple Turns

For small course changes or while in the tight cruising formation it's possible for the formation to maneuver simply by turning. The lead plane calls the turn direction and new heading, IE

"Red One, right to 045."

The formation turns, with the remaining aircraft in the formation readjusting their position as necessary. In practice, this can be virtually identical to a Check Turn. For turns of 45 degrees or larger the wingman can maintain his position by crossing to the leader's opposite side. IE, if the wingman is on the leader's right, he will finish the turn by sliding to the leader's left.

This also works for larger formations. IE, a flight in Finger Four Right wishes to make a 45 degree turn to the left:

1) Flight Leader signals the turn: "Red One, left 45 degrees."

2) As the formation begins to turn, Red 2 slides to the outside of the formation and sets up on his leader's right. Red 3 and Red 4 each slide to the inside. 3) The formation arrives on the new heading, now in Finger Four Left.

Large course changes or changes while in combat spread, however, may require different maneuvers.

Tac Turn

For turns of 90 degrees, the formation should utilize the Tac Turn.

The lead plane calls execution of the turn and direction. The plane on the outside of the maneuver turns first and crosses behind the aircraft inside him. As the outside plane passes behind the next plane in line, that plane turns and so on, until the entire formation has turned 90 degrees onto the new heading, with the aircraft reversing the formation (IE, in Tac Right, the outside plane begins on the formation's left, and ends on the formation's right).


[Leader], Tac [direction].


"Red One, Tac Left."

The Tac Turn can be used both for navigation, and also to turn the formation to meet an incoming threat. Power may be increased as necessary, and the turn should not exceed 3G.

Cross Turn

A Cross Turn is a 180 degree turn, executed by the aircraft turning towards each other and crossing flight paths.

The command is: [Leader], Cross.


"Blue One, Cross."

In a two-ship formation both aircraft turn towards each other and continue until they are on a reciprocal heading. If executed correctly, the formation should maintain its combat spread.

When three aircraft are involved, the Leader and #2 aircraft cross each other, while #3 follows the leader's turn. In a four-ship formation, the two section leaders cross each other, while the wingmen follow their leaders (IE, each section acts as one aircraft, and crosses the other section).

In addition to navigating, the manuever can be used defensively against a bandit closing on the formation from astern to reduce his maneuvering room, and also force him to commit to either aircraft.

Split Turn

The Split Turn is similar in principle to the Cross Turn, and is another method of turning the formation onto a reciprocal heading. However instead of the aircraft turning into each other, they turn away. The maneuver is executed with the command:

[Leader], Split.


"Red One, Split."

Upon completion of the maneuver, the formation will be flying a reciprocal heading, and will have increased their horizontal spacing.

Like the Cross Turn, the Split can be utilized against a bandit approaching from the rear. In addition to forcing him to choose one target, it can be utilized to set up a bracketing attack by the formation.