Keys to successful Formation Flying:

A) Relax, use a light touch on the controls. Adding curves to your input axis helps.
B) Keep the aircraft trimmed, assign a hat-switch for trimming.
C) Scan the leads entire aircraft, don’t fixate on any one aspect of the lead aircraft.
D) For every correction apply a corresponding re-correction. For example if you are sucked and add power, you will reduce power approaching the correct position, and then slightly increase power to stabilize.
E) Have fun. If you’re not, you’re not doing it right.

Power controls nose-to-tail distance.
Pitch controls step down.
Angle of Bank controls wingtip separation.

The bearing line is achieved when the front tip of the vertical stabilizer meets and covers the lead's outside wingtip (see above photo).

A CV / TACAN / Waypoint rendezvous is a visual circular rendezvous employed to rendezvous a flight above the weather after takeoff or during the mission if the flight is separated.
The rendezvous is normally executed in a left-hand turn tangent to the briefed “Fix” (CV / TACAN / Waypoint) at a specified airspeed, altitude, and direction (inbound or outbound).

As shown in the figure below, points around the rendezvous circle are numbered from one to four, with point one located at the Fix and sequential positions located at 90-degree intervals around the circle.


Flying the Rendezvous.
The wingman anticipates intercepting the lead’s bearing line by shallowing his Angle Of Bank.
He must reduce his AOB prior to reaching the rendezvous bearing to avoid going acute. When the wingman arrives on the bearing line, he should begin to align his fuselage with the lead's.
The wingman keeps the lead on the horizon as he moves up the bearing line.

When the wingman is on the bearing line, he will see the lead's vertical stabilizer intersect with the lead's outboard wingtip.
If he becomes acute, the lead's outboard wingtip will appear forward of the vertical stabilizer.
If he is sucked, the lead's wingtip will appear behind the vertical stabilizer.

When the wingman can discern the lead's wingline, transition to and fly up the wing-line (30-degree bearing line).
Once on the bearing line, the wingman can discern whether he is going to go acute or sucked by the relative motion of lead on his canopy.

If the lead aircraft is sliding aft in the canopy then the wingman is going acute and needs to decrease angle of bank and reduce power.
If the lead aircraft is moving forward in the canopy, the wingman is going sucked and needs to increase angle of bank and add power.


The wingman then holds the lead stable on bearing and altitude and monitors airspeed, not allowing his closure rate to exceed rendezvous airspeed by more than 10 KIAS. If the wingman does not hold the lead on the horizon, his airspeed control will be more difficult. The wingman monitors his airspeed until close enough to visually discern relative motion.
When the wingman is on the bearing line, 100 ft away (three wingspans), he begins the join-up by increasing stepdown to 15 ft. At this point, closure rate should be controlled to the point that any small throttle movement will produce an immediate effect on closure rate. He must stay on the bearing line as he increases stepdown. Otherwise, leaving the bearing line too soon creates excess nose-to-tail.

The wingman pauses momentarily on the lead's radius of turn while maintaining both 10 ft of nose-to-tail and 15 ft of stepdown. At this point the wingman's power should be set to maintain rendezvous airspeed. He continues crossing below and behind the lead, after which he moves up into the parade turn away position, adding power as he moves outside the lead's radius of turn. On cruise and division formation flights, the wingman will not pause on the lead's radius of turn.

Now that you have rendezvoused with your flight lead it’s time to learn the various formations you will be expected to fly.

1-1 Parade Formation (Port Holding through to Carrier Break)
1-2 Fingertip Formation (Balanced Parade formation 4 aircraft)
1-3 Cruise Formation (To and from the Target)
TAC Formation (2-ship Combat Air Patrol)
1-5 Fluid Four (4-ship Combat Air Patrol)
Combat Air Patrol heading changes
TAC Turn (90 degrees)
In-Place Turn (180 degrees)
Cross Turn (180 degrees)

1-1 Parade Formation

The simplest way to remember Parade formation is to fly so that your lead pilots head sits above the RH wingtip Sidewinder missile nose as pictured.


The US Navy F/A-18C NATOPS states that the parade position is established by aligning the bottom wingtip light with the light on the LEX.
Superimposing the two establishes a bearing line and step down.