Wingman Etiquette: A Practical Guide
By: Colonel Gilbert H. Frown
The purpose of this publication is to educate the pilots of the Emperor's Hammer on proper wingman etiquette. It has been noted by many briefing officers throughout the last several decades that proper etiquette in this field has been increasingly terrible. While the reasons for such a decline are not obvious at this time, it is the opinion of this author that they are not relevant to finding the solution. What one must focus his attention on is the re-education of the common TIE Corps member in order to implement sound etiquette across the ranks. Therefore, we shall aim to improve these essential skills by covering the following topics in astute detail: Formation essentials, mutual support, and of course, proper weapon selection. It should be evident that these three pillars of gentlemanly flying multiply the ability of TIE Corps units to achieve their objectives.
While the proper format for pilot education is usually the vaunted "Questions and Answers" approach, evidently, the success rate of this method is currently unacceptable. Therefore, this paper will be used in lieu of said method, and shall demonstrate beyond reproach that these three pillars of proper flying etiquette are essential to the good order and proper function of the TIE Corps' Squadron, our basic fighting unit.
Due to the short attention span of the average pilot on the ISD Hammer, and the great importance of the subject matter, this publication will be submitted in three parts to the newsletter. Without further delay, let us cover the first subject, formation essentials.
Should one peruse the TIE Corps manual of flight training, one would immediately understand that the elementary formation of four fighters, or Flight, as they are commonly known in pilot vernacular, has three basic formation types, accompanied by a plethora of actual formations (shapes). A future publication will cover Squadron and Wing wide formations.
We will begin with the three types of basic formations. The first is parade formation, which is of course the tightest type of formation. Its purpose is rather self-explanatory, it is to display the high level of skill the TIE Corps pilot possesses and provoke fear in the enemies of the empire, or to inspire awe in a parade. In order to understand the importance of parade formation outside of actual parades, one must simply put oneself in the "cockpit" of one's opponent. At the sight of how close and proper a well executed parade formation can be, the average rebel squadron would probably flee rather than initiate combat. It is a well known fact that the rebel alliance's pilot's lack the courage required to face a truly prepared and well trained foe. The best way to demonstrate this heightened state of preparation and training is proper parade formation.
The main disadvantage of parade formation flying is a minor one. Only the lead pilot in the formation can actually spare enough situational awareness to manipulate the target computer, view the scopes, and execute a proper look out. This is caused by the other three pilots in the formation being obligated to visually fly off their wingmen, who are mere feet from each other. Unfortunately, in rare occasions, this could lead to enemy fighters actually sneaking up on the formation and it's mothership. This issue is usually offset by having the best pilot in the formation lead it. Another mitigation would be to simply deploy more squadrons, which exponentially multiplies the positive effects of proper parade flying. Evidently, one must conclude that parade formation should be kept at all times until combat is initiated.
The second type is "attack" formation. The purpose of attack formation is to liberate a large portion of the average pilot's situational awareness, or "brain power" in order to focus on the task at hand. Therefore, the wingmen of the flight formation, consisting of the three flight members, would separate at an interval of .3 kilometers in order to target the proper enemy vessel. Another added effect of attack formation is that the formation becomes harder to hit with one large volley of unlocked missiles. The aforementioned strategy is a coward's tactic of course, but do not put it passed a rebel to be cowardly. One should refrain from using attack formation unless it is clearly required, IE, combat is about to begin. One would not want to inspect civilian transports in attack formation, because it sends the wrong message. Parade formation is better suited to this type of flying.
The third formation type is "loose" formation. The least useful of all formation types, loose formation is used when the lead pilot of the formation has very little control of his wingmen, and only requires them to remain between .5 and 1.0 kms from him, in any orientation, as required. This formation type leaves too much decision making to the Flight Member's discretion, which can lead to terrible results that would be reflected in your debriefing officer's facial expressions. It is recommended to use this type of formation when your wingmen's skills are not to be trusted. In other words, if you were better off with a new SL fresh off the training platforms. One should note that this type of behaviour is no longer condoned in the Emperor's Hammer. In sum, there is no good reason to use loose formation. It leads to hot dogging, and aircraft losses.
Now that the three types of formations flying have been covered, we shall quickly gloss over the approved shapes of acceptable formations.
The basic formations are echelon left and right, line astern and line abreast. These should be very familiar to the average pilot of the TIE Corps. Even the ones on the Hammer. It should be noted that in proper parade formation these should be essentially kept to two dimensions. However, in attack formation they can be extrapolated in three dimensions so long as every member of the flight has visual contact with the flight leader, and each other. These variations should be covered in the flight briefing.
Other acceptable formations are: diamond, victory, victory abreast, high victory (and reverse high victory), stacked, high X, double astern, and of course Finger Four. It should be noted that the some of these formations require more than four ships before they are properly recognizable from a distance. They also employ mixes of two and three dimensional shapes. Pilots should also be aware that the Victory formation (merely a mix of echelons on both side) is currently much overused and expected by our enemies.
This publication will not explain in great detail each variation in formation shape. It is your flight leader's responsibility to make sure you are well versed in these manoeuvres, and they will be issued at your briefing officer's discretion. What each pilot should retain is that no matter what the formation shape, proper formation integrity should be maintained at all times.
At this juncture, we may partially conclude that formation types are designed for specific reasons and their guidelines should be followed. When respected, proper formation integrity is maintained and the flight leader is able to direct combat efficiently and safely. When loose formation is used, or a complete lack of formation for that matter, it becomes very easy for rebel fighters to single out and destroy our resources due to low situational awareness.
Formation essentials are the basics of flying a TIE Fighter for the Emperor's Hammer. It is also the gateway to the next topic that will be covered in the following newsletter: mutual support. Without proper essentials, mutual support is not achieved, and this is a great force multiplier that cannot simply be tossed out of the airlock because of a pilot's vanity.
Have questions for Colonel Frown? e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org