FROM USF 74B Nov. 1994  Current Tactical Orders and Doctrine
U. S. Fleet Aircraft  Volume One Carrier Aircraft




2110. GENERAL.

Scouting from carriers includes patrolling, searching and contact scouting missions. All carrier types can be used for scouting. However, where choice exists, the planes best equipped for a particular scouting mission should be used. Consistent with the prescribed conditions of radar silence in effect, radar equipped planes should normally be used for search missions because of their wider and more efficient coverage of the area to be searched, particularly under conditions of low
visibility. For information regarding the methods of ordering search and scouting missions refer to General Signal Book, Aircraft Section, pages 10B to 114, inclusive.

2111. Definitions.

(a) Fixed point of origin is a geographical point determined either by geographical coordinates, a definitely fixed object, or by a time-designated position of a reference vessel which is unaffected by the subsequent movement of such a vessel.

(b) Moving point of origin is a point maintained relative to a moving reference vessel, or an imaginary point moving along defined courses at defined speeds. When referred to a moving origin the area or line moves with the origin, whether defined by true or relative bearing

(c) Geographical area is a fixed area defined by bearings and distances from a fixed point of origin.

(d) Relative area is a moving area defined by bearings and distances from a moving origin.

(e) Visibility is the distance at which the objectives of the scouting operation can be seen and recognized.

(t) Search entails one complete investigation of the defined area, such that all parts of the area have passed within visibility.

(g) Observation (Patrol) entails repeated investigation of the defined area during specified time.

(h) Distance to be searched is the distance to be covered by the airplane's track from the point of origin along the median of the sub-sector to the maximum chord of the sub-sector.

(i) Scouting speed is a designated true airspeed.


Efficient conduct of a search, filing of contact reports and tracking are of the utmost importance. The outcome of a naval engagement may depend on the pilot who makes the initial contact.


Prior to manning planes for any mission, scouts should be furnished information and allowed ample time to work out their navigation. Furthermore, they should be given as much of the following information as is known or can be estimated:

(a) The tactical situation.

(b) Friendly forces that might be sighted.

(c) Probable strength and position of enemy forces.

(d) Instructions for action after contact.

(e) Number of search planes to be launched.

(f) Search and attack frequency, calls and authenticators.

(g) Sectors to be searched and whether relative or geographical.

(h) Distances to be searched.

(i) Visibility range to be used.

(j) Scouting speed to be used.

(k) Expected time of landing.

(l) IFF code number.

(m) YE code, call and frequency of all carriers.

(n) Approach doctrine and recognition procedure for the day.

(o) Probable course and speed of Point Oboe if contact is made.

(p) Action in event of adverse weather.

(q) Weather conditions in search area.



For purposes of accurate navigation, search altitude should be between 500 and 1,000 feet, varied to obtain best horizontal visibility range. As no satisfactory drift sight is available, the visual estimation of surface wind remains the basis of carrier aircraft aerial navigation. When two planes are working together, visibility range can often be increased by the following plane flying 500 to 1,000 feet higher than the leader.


In the absence of specific instructions, the search pilot upon encountering reduced visibility must make an estimate of the situation and decide for himself whether to continue or return to the carrier. This decision will depend upon the extent and severity of the storm area and to some degree upon the tactical situation. Normally search aircraft should fly around shower areas and through weak fronts, thereafter continuing planned search, correcting navigation for any wind shifts encountered. Extensive storm areas should not be entered unless it is required by specific instructions for the search. In general the search pilot should cover as much of his assigned sector as can profitably be searched and still permit return to the carrier on schedule. A report of any areas not searched should be made immediately
upon landing.


Scouting aircraft will not attack unless:

(a) Specifically directed in the orders for operation.

(b) Enemy aircraft are headed so as to make initial contact with own important surface forces.

(c) Scouting mission is completed and considerable damage can be inflicted by the armament carried. However, such attack will not be carried out if there is reason to believe that the presence of own force is unknown to the enemy.

(d) Air operations from an enemy carrier can be delayed. Own forces must be definitely informed of the carrier's position and the condition of its deck prior to such attack.


(a) Close up.

(b) Take defensive weave position.

(c) Fly close to water if practicable.



Aircraft sector search as employed by aircraft differs from the sector search used by surface craft. Because of the facts that aircraft scouts must generally start search from a common origin, that their endurance is limited, and that aerial navigation is subject to greater variables than surface navigation, the aircraft form of sector search is the only preferred form; however, search of a rectangular area may be required by the necessities of the situation.

In addition to the usual methods of prescribing a sector search area (by means of limiting bearings), it may be prescribed by means of the angle included between the desired limiting bearings and the direction (bearing) of the median line of the sector; e. g. "search 60-degree sector whose median line is 085 degrees and radius 300 miles".

In addition to the usual methods of prescribing a rectangular search area (by means of geographical co-ordinates, etc.), it may be prescribed as follows:

(a) Prescribe point of origin.

(b) Define the diagonal by direction (bearing from point of origin) and length. The sides of the rectangle are the parallels and medians. Example: "Search rectangle whose diagonal has the direction (bearing) 145 degrees and is of length 115 miles from point of origin".

When search of a rectangular area is prescribed, it is initiated at that side of the rectangle which is most suitable.


The normal search unit is two planes. When large areas ars to be covered or available search aircraft are few, single planes may be used except in the most probable sub sectors. Two plans units are more reliable and furnish mutual protection in case of air attack or other emergency. VF may be used for escorting search unit. Unless otherwise ordered, scouting planes should rendezvous by units after take-off and proceed on their mission immediately.


The distance of search is dependent upon the area to be searched, the degree of concealment of own forces desired, and the endurance of the search plane. If concealment of own force is not a factor, the most probable areas may be searched to the limit of range of the searching aircraft. The distance to be searched is the length in miles of the search unit's track from the point of origin along the median of the sub-sector to the maximum chord of the sub-sector.


When sector search is ordered, the total sector assigned will be divided into sub- sectors, one for each scouting unit; the radius of the sector is the outward distance of the airplane's travel and does not include the range of visibility. Assignment of units to sub-sectors will be in accordance with the doctrine specified for the
aircraft type involved. (See fig. II-5).


When the length of the maxim chord of the sub-sector is less than twice the visibility,each unit will search along the median of the sub-sector as illustrated in figure II-1.


(a) When the intercept track completes the coverage of the sub-sector.-When the length of the maximum chord of the sub-sector is greater than twice the visibility, and not greater than four times the visibility, the first leg will be from the Point of Origin to a point"A" on the maximum chord which is located at a distance equal to
one-fourth the maximum chord from the rear side of the sub-sector (see fig. II-2). The second leg. will be along the maximum chord from the end of the first leg to a point "B" which is distant from the forward side of the sub-sector by the amount used for determining point "A". The third leg will be plotted to intercept the parent vessel. To determine if the sub-sector has been completely covered without a fourth leg, it is necessary to draw a line CD parallel to the first leg and at a distance forward of that leg equal to twice the radius of visibility. If the intercept track is to the rear of that line, the sub-sector is completely covered by three legs. However, if the intercept track crosses the line CD, further construction is necessary to determine the necessity for a fourth leg to cover the sub-sector.
(b) When the intercept track does NOT complete the coverage of the sub-sector and fourth leg is necessary.-The method of determining the necessity for a fourth leg is illustrated in figures II-3 and II-4 and is as follows:
(1) Draw a line EF parallel to the first leg at a distance from the first leg equal to the visibility and toward the forward side of the sub-sector.
(2) Where EF crosses the forward side of the sub-sector, drop a perpendicular to the line CD intersecting CD at G. 

(3) If the intercept track does not cross inside of or through point G a fourth leg is required.
(4) The third leg is then drawn from "B" to "G" and a fourth leg flown from the point "G" to intercept the parent vessel. (Fig. II - 4)
The search mission ends and contact scouting and tracking commences when the enemy main body is located. The instant the enemy is sighted, a contact report is sent to the 0. T. C. This initial contact report must contain the following vital information:
(1) Position of enemy main body. This information can be given in latitude and longitude. It should be given in bearing and distance from a reference point if one has been established. It should never be given with reference to our own main body.
(2) Course and speed of enemy formation.
(3) Number and types of major combatant units. The most important preliminary information of this description is the number of aircraft carriers.

The above information is all that should be included in the initial contact report. Additional information should immediately follow in amplifying reports as soon as 0. T. C. acknowledges first report. Amplifying reports include additional information on the composition and disposition of enemy ships, changes in course and speed, launching of aircraft and other data that will help to clarify the picture for the 0. T. C.
While transmitting the initial contact report and continually thereafter the scout should take every practicable step to avoid detection. As a general rule the tracking aircraft should approach no closer than absolutely necessary to determine composition, course, speed, and disposition of the enemy force and in so doing maximum use should be made of cloud cover, the sun, and, in early morning or late evening, the dark sector of the horizon. Ordinarily, after initial contact, it will be best to retire outside of enemy radar ranges and thereafter approach to visual distance only for brief periods to check on enemy movements or to develop additional information regarding the enemy force. While tracking, extreme vigilance against attack by enemy aircraft is necessary. Normally no attack by the scout should be made on the enemy force if there is any possibility that such an attack might jeopardize the success of the tracking mission assigned. However, tracking aircraft should bs prepared to guide our attack groups (air or surface) to the enemy, if called upon to do so. If more than one aircraft is engaged in tracking the same enemy force it is usually desirable that they operate in different sectors as this arrangement offers opportunity to gather a greater amount of information of the enemy force and presents less likelihood of both tracking aircraft being destroyed or driven off.
Amplifying reports should be sent at frequent intervals; if no change in enemy, disposition, course, or speed has occurred, so state in report. Scouts should be prepared to authenticate voice transmissions to prevent radio deception by the enemy.
The occasion may arise when the position of the enemy force is established within narrow limits but is not definite enough for the attack group to proceed without additional positive information. Or the situation may arise where an attack group arrives at a specified position and the enemy, cannot be located. In either case a scouting line can be formed which spreads the sections of the formation on a wide front moving normal to the general bearing of the enemy figure II-6.

The group commander gives the signal to form scouting 1ine over voice radio. He designates a guide who may be in the middle or on either flank of the formation. Individual sections immediately diverge from the base course until an interval of two miles between sections or the visibilily limit between adjacent sections is reached. Visibility between adjacent sections must not be lost at any time. Single plane deployment should not be used if the objective is an enemy force. The section making contact will make a series of zooms, followed by circling to the left. This signal repeated by all sections on the scouting line. No interior section will move in towards the rendezvous point until he is joined by all sections outboard of him. The rendezvous point is the location of the section making contact. The above procedure will be used with caution on a combat mission.