Standard Rotary Wing ModuleFlight Planning / In Flight Navigation
Flight planning is perhaps the most important aspect of flying a combat helicopter. Planning a poor route that unnecessarily exposes your aircraft to the enemy is a recipe for disaster. A good flight plan takes many aspects into account.
- Terrain - Consideration must be given to the terrain under and around your flight path. You should plan your path to make use of terrain to mask your aircraft from as many angles as possible, mainly keeping the terrain between you and known enemy positions.
- Obstacles – While planning your route, take note of any obstacles that might be in your path so that you can avoid them. In ArmA, most flying is done between 1m and 30m, so towers, tall buildings, and especially power lines should be identified and avoided.
- Weather – Some missions in ArmA have dynamic weather which is marked on the map. Care should be taken when flying into storms or fog due to a sudden and drastic reduction in visibility. You should plan your flight to avoid bad weather conditions whenever possible.
- Waypoints – ArmA supports the use of markers on the map, and since there's currently no real navigation system in any aircraft, markers can be used instead. Place markers at key references on the map, close enough together so that the next marker can be seen when you arrive at your current waypoint when looking at your GPS at cruise speed. Try to place them at visually identifiable references such as a church, tower, or intersection to aid in visual navigation.
- Speed and Altitude – This may seem like common sense, but it is often ignored. Most pilots seem think they have to be moving at top speed at all times and don't plan for the need to decelerate to make their approach without making a wild maneuver, and in doing so exposing themselves unnecessarily. One such example can be seen in the image below. (click to enlarge)
Traveling from the Airport to Sniper Hill LZ, West of Ortego. The pilot will depart to the Southeast Departure to SH1. At SH1 there is a large mountain you must climb over and following that to SH2, the pilot must descend to remain masked in the valley. If the pilot where to maintain maximum airspeed over the top of the mountain, the only way they would be able to remain masked would be to dive into the valley while picking up airspeed or to flare excessively gaining altitude and exposing the aircraft. Choosing to dive to remain masked, the airspeed becomes a problem when you reach SH2 and are required to make a sharp 90 degree left turn at very low altitude to remain masked on your way to the LZ, which is then only 600m away.
If the pilot had planned ahead, he would have adjusted his airspeed at SH1 to 80-90 kph so that a smooth descent into the valley would be possible, followed by a careful turn to remain masked and finally a soft landing on the back side of the hill. All done without being exposed to the enemy.
- Enemy Positions – Again, this may seem like common sense, but I can't count the number of times I've seen this happen. NEVER OVERFLY AN ENEMY POSITION. Plan your route around enemy positions, out of any possible threat engagement envelope while using as much cover as is available. Remember, if you can see them, chances are they can shoot you. This applies to combat helicopters as well, which will be covered in the next module.
- Landing Zone (LZ) – Choosing an LZ is perhaps the most important aspect of flight planning, and one that many give little consideration to. An LZ should be in a location that is accessible without exposing the aircraft to the enemy, and should be secure if at all possible. That means it should be far enough away from known enemy locations to ensure you are out of their weapons engagement envelope. Landing 200m from the enemy position because your troops don't want to walk will just end up killing all of you. So after the squad requests an LZ, review its location and modify it as necessary, even if it means making them walk an extra 500m.
Terrain Flight is classified as flight at altitudes below 200ft. There are three levels of terrain flight.
- Low Level – 80ft to 200ft at constant altitude and airspeed
- Contour – 25ft to 80ft at constant airspeed and varying altitude
- NOE – 0ft to 25ft at varying altitude and airspeed
There are times when your mission necessitates that you expose or unmask your aircraft to the enemy. Such a time would be when scouting or attacking an enemy location. Obviously, your exposure to the enemy should be as brief as possible, and should be kept to a maximum of 5-10 seconds. You should also never unmask in the same location twice.
Responding to Hostile Fire
Should you come under hostile fire, there is little you can do as you've already been spotted and targeted. What little you can do can be the deciding factor in whether you survive or crash and burn. The first thing a pilot should do is protect himself by positioning the aircraft between him and the incoming fire: The aircraft is no good without a pilot. Second, you want to make yourself as hard to hit as possible by flying erratically or by flying out of trim. Also note that an aircraft flying perpendicular to the enemy makes for a more difficult target than flying directly away. So put the incoming fire at the rear quarter opposite the pilot if possible so that you're traversing the enemy's view while still flying away. And last, and most important, is to find cover. Whether it be a hill, a building, or a valley; anything to put between you and your enemy.
Responding to Inadvertent IMC
Inadvertent IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) basically means, you flew your aircraft into weather in which you now can not see. Responding to this condition is straightforward. Simply turn your attention to your instruments; watch your attitude indicator to maintain level flight; maintain your heading; decelerate to a lower airspeed to allow more time to react to obstacles; and start a climb to an altitude high enough to clear the highest obstacle in your area. Keep in mind that the highest peak on the south island is 392m high and the highest peak on the north island is 757m high. Also keep in mind the altimeter in most aircraft are read in AGL (above ground level), so if your VSI is indicating a climb and you are still indicating a descent, you are approaching a hill or mountain. Increase your rate of climb and decelerated if necessary to ensure you clear the hill or mountain. If flying in formation with another aircraft, the flight lead will announce “Flight, IMC Breakup”, and each aircraft will turn 15 degrees away from the other aircraft and then start their climb. Once you are comfortable that you are at an altitude to clear all obstacles, navigate your way out of the weather cell. If in a multi-ship flight, the flight lead will announce direction changes so that all aircraft are flying in parallel with each other to avoid a mid-air collision.
Standard Rotary Wing Module Testing Standards
The student will be graded on the following tasks. All tasks are graded GO or NO GO.
- Create a safe flight plan
- Perform NOE Terrain Flight
- Perform Masking and Unmasking
- Respond to Hostile Fire
- Respond to Inadvertent IMC
The instructor will act as an infantry squad leader requesting an insertion into hostile territory. The instructor will mark the map with a desired LZ. The student will evaluate the situation and make a flight plan for the mission. The student will then perform the mission with no intervention from the instructor. The student will be graded by the instructor based on the flight plan the student planned, and the students ability fly the planned mission and remain undetected. The instructor is free to ask the student questions on the material covered as well as provide notional threats to evaluate the students reaction.
Failure to perform any of the maneuvers or correctly answer any questions will result in failure. The results of the check ride will not be disclosed until it is complete. Students will be permitted to retake the check ride up to 3 times, and are only required to retake the portions they failed provided it is with the same instructor. If the student retakes the check ride with another instructor, the entire check ride will be given again. Also, flight standards from the basic module still apply: Failure to perform basic flight tasks will result in failure.