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.

cv rendezvous

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.

1-3___Cruise Formation

The simplest way to remember Cruise formation is to place the lead pilots head on the Sidewinder missile tail as pictured.

1-4___TAC Formation
Tac Form is a section tactical formation maximising mutual support and is used during Combat Air Patrol (CAP).
It is based on the concept that two aircraft are separated so they cannot be attacked as a single unit, but are close enough to support each other.

The wingman is positioned 1 nm abeam the lead with a step up of 1,000 Ft.

1-6___Combat Air Patrol heading changes
Tac Form is hard enough to maintain in straight and level flight but the challenge is increased greatly when the flight is required to change heading.
During Tac Form turning Stinger Pilots must turn at the same rate and airspeed.
Our standard turn is achieved by:
1. Push throttles to MAX afterburner.
2. Roll and pull into the turn with enough G to maintain airspeed.

There are 3 different types of turns we can use to maintain good Tac Form:

1-7___TAC Turn (90 degrees)

Sting 1-1: “Sting flight, Tac right.” (or left)
Wingman: “Two”.

1. The outside man will begin his MAX TURN while the inside holds his heading.
2. The inside man will wait until the outside man is nose on, then starts his MAX TURN while the outside man will straighten up on the new heading.
3. The inside man completes his 90 degree turn and will finish in Tac Form with the outside man.

Both aircraft will come out on the new heading at roughly the same range abeam, however they will have swapped sides.


1-8___In-Place Turn (180 degrees)

Sting 1-1: “Sting flight, in-place right.” (or left)
Wingman: “Two”.
Both Lead and Wingman perform a MAX TURN in the direction called until on the reciprocal heading.
At stage 2 visual contact responsibilities shift from the outside Hornet to the inside Hornet.

1-9___Cross Turn (180 degrees)
Sting 1-1: “Sting flight, cross turn. One low. ”
Wingman: “Two high”.

Both aircraft begin MAX TURNs towards each other.
Aircraft separation is achieved by the 1000 ft of step-up maintained by the wingman.
After the cross (2), the wingman pulls beyond the new reciprocal heading, taking a 10-30 degree cut into the lead to arrive back in combat spread at 350 KIAS.