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To Build Naval Aviators Who Can Fly And Fight In The Air You’ve Got To Start Somewhere

Tactical Formations Are The Foundation of Air Combat Maneuvering

Official US Navy Photograph

When the Navy’s TOPGUN program began teaching advanced air combat maneuvering (ACM) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Miramar in 1969 the sweeping changes introduced there eventually touched nearly every part of Naval Air in one way or another. The Naval Air Training Command (NATC) needed to play catch up. Teaching student Naval Aviators the basics of tactical formations and basic fighter maneuvering (BFM) became a part of the training syllabus at places like NAS Pensacola in Florida, NAS Corpus Christi and NAS Kingsville in South Texas, and NAS Meridian in Mississippi as well as at air stations where fleet squadrons were based like NAS Oceana in Virginia and NAS Miramar in California.

The training film “Air Combat Maneuvering: Tactical Formation” was produced for the Navy by Bray Studios during the mid-1970s and was intended to familiarize Naval Aviators with standard tactical formations and US Navy air combat tactics. Shot primarily using VT-21 Redhawks Douglas TA-4J Skyhawks in non-specular paint schemes for demonstration purposes, the film goes through such basics as the combat spread formation and different types of coordinated turns. It’s an entertaining look at some material that may not be common knowledge to the public. There is an issue with sound tracking on the film for the first couple of minutes but it clears up. The HD visuals are priceless. Thank goodness the film is UNCLASSIFIED! And thanks to YouTuber Jeff Quitney for another nostalgic aviation upload!

A Douglas TA-4J Skyhawk assigned to VT-21 Redhawks. Official US Navy Photograph

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Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.

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