Air Interception Methodologies: Close Control and Broadcast


ACCESS: Confidential
28 December 2005
Reaction score
Discussing with mrdetonator in another topic I raise the question if current Russian Aircraft or Russian Air Force (this will also entails others former Warpact AFs) are changing from the close control methodology of control of DCA and OCA air-to-air ops to a more flexible broadcast methodology.

For an easy explanation of each one I will quote Robert L. Shaw's magnificient "The Art and Science of Air to Air Combat" chapter on Figher Missions that talks about each one:

Control of Fighter Sweeps

Command, control, and communications (C3) are critical elements in the success of a fighter sweep. Often the combat arena is very large and contains many aircraft, both hostile and friendly. The ability of friendly fighter pilots to find, identify, and engage high-value hostile targets while avoiding potential threats, or at least engaging these threats from a position of advantage, rests in great measure on relative C3 capabilities.

Now [in the Battle of Britain] fighter squadrons could be used economically, so that the cathode tube [radar] had the effect of multiplying the fighter strength several times.
Vice-Marshal J. E. "Johnnie" Johnson, RAF

Supporting radar surveillance may be provided by surface-based GCI or airborne AIC controllers. Depending on tactical philosophy, these "controlling" agencies may have absolute authority to dictate every action of friendly fighters, including headings, altitudes, speeds, attack and firing clearances, and bugouts, or they may act merely as an advisory service, passing along real-time intelligence information and monitoring the progress of the battle. Something of a middle-ground approach seems to be more successful, depending on the relative capabilities of the controlling agency and the fighters themselves. It should be kept in mind that the "controllers" support the fighters, and not vice versa. All parties should recognize that, although the controllers often have a better grasp of the big picture, overall success and failure are decided by many small engagements. Generally the fighter crews themselves are in the best position to judge the critical factors and rapidly changing events in close proximity to the enemy. There are essentially only two types of radar control: close and broadcast.

Under close control the duty of the controller usually is to direct the pilots into a tactically advantageous position to attack or identify a target. In order to accomplish this task, the controller generally must monitor the positions of the fighters and the target. He then transmits relative range and bearing of the target to the fighters, and he may dictate or recommend (depending on philosophy) intercept headings, speeds, altitudes, etc. The primary purpose of the controller in this scenario is to position the fighters favorably so that the pilots can acquire the target, either visually or with their own self-contained sensors, facilitating identification or attack. If identification of an unknown contact is the purpose, the pilots may be required to perform either a visual identification or an electronic identification (EID), using onboard equipment. Depending on the outcome of the identification, the fighters may then be cleared by the controller (or by prearrangement) to attack a hostile target, but final attack procedures should be left to the pilots. During the close-control intercept process, the controller is also responsible for advising the pilots of any additional contacts that might pose a threat or that might be of higher attack priority than the original target.

In broadcast control the controller generally gives the position, and other relevant information as available, of any hostile or unknown targets in a given area, relative to one or more geographical or navigational fixes within that area. The reference point is known to the friendlies, as is their own position relative to that point. As the controller calls target positions and movement relative to the reference, the pilots can calculate their own position relative to the target, and they may be assigned by the controller to conduct their own intercepts based on this information. Unlike with close control, no group of fighters gets individual attention, but all pilots in the area get the same information and can react to it offensively or defensively. Specific fighter formations are generally assigned by the controller in real time to investigate a given contact, or each fighter element may be prebriefed to prosecute any contact in a given region. Close control is usually preferable for fighter-sweep operations, since it offers the fighters the greatest offensive capability. Once the pilots have their own visual or radar contacts, the close controller should generally revert to providing an advisory service. His function then is to monitor the progress of the intercept and the ensuing engagement, warn of additional hostile or unknown contacts that may be a factor, give rejoin assistance to pilots who become separated from their wingmen, recommend egress headings, etc. During this period it is critical that only essential or requested information be passed over voice radio frequencies; the pilots must have those limited frequencies for their coordination purposes.

Regardless of its advantages, close control may not always be possible or practical. Limitations on controllers or control frequencies may lead to saturation of a close-control system with large numbers of separate enemy and friendly formations. Broadcast control may be better suited to such situations. A combination of these two systems may also be useful. For instance, broadcast control can be given over a common fighter frequency, while selected fighter formations may be switched to a separate closecontrol frequency during intercepts and engagements as controllers and frequencies become available. Because of their dependence on communications, command and control are very vulnerable to comm-jamming. Aircrews and controllers should both practice communications brevity, and they should be briefed on alternate control frequencies. Data link and jam-resistant radios can be
very valuable. In addition, the tactics employed must not be so dependent on external control that pilots are helpless without it. Just such a condition contributed greatly to the Syrian debacle over Lebanon's Bekaa Valley in 1982. "Spoofing," or intrusion, is another C3 consideration. This is the
tactic by which an enemy controller operates on friendly control frequencies and attempts to "steal," divert, or confuse pilots by issuing false instructions. Coded authentication procedures offer some protection against this trick, but they can be cumbersome and are not foolproof. A better defense against intrusions, when practical, is for the fighter crews to be intimately familiar with the controller's voice.

For fighter aircrews and controllers to work most effectively together as a team, each must know the tasks, problems, and limitations of the other. When this is not the case, friction is likely to develop when aircrews do not receive the information they believe is necessary and controllers believe
their instructions are not properly followed. Probably the only solution to this problem is for aircrews and controllers to work, live, eat, and play together, so that they know each other well enough to work out these inevitable differences. Even better, fighter crews should be cross-trained as
controllers, and each crewman should take his turn in the barrel on a periodic basis, maybe daily or weekly. Unfortunately, most fighter pilots will resist this idea, even with their last breath, whispering something about the high wing loading of a radar console! Threat of transfer to a bomber outfit will usually induce compliance, however.
Pit said:
Discussing with mrdetonator in another topic I raise the question if current Russian Aircraft or Russian Air Force (this will also entails others former Warpact AFs) are changing from the close control methodology of control of DCA and OCA air-to-air ops to a more flexible broadcast methodology.
I`m sorry to dissapoint you buddy but I`m afraid that here is not much to talk about.
Raising this question now makes me feel that you`re not much interested in changes over the past few years in the Eastern Europe, or this has accidentally came around you.
Most of the countries, once the Warsaw pact members(Czech, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary,.) gained the full NATO membership some time ago. That means no place for individual doctrines or methodologies, all new members have to adopt NATO strategy, doctrines, procedures and standards. We are a part of the biggest alliance integrated system for collective security, the NATINEADS. Our Airforce is under the command headquarter in Ramstein called the Combined Air Operations Centre-CAOC. To be compatible with our NATO allies we had to fulfil many requirements I`ve been talking recently(hardware westernization, english communication, imperial units, NATO training methodolodies, assigning combat forces for the NATO quick reaction alert,...etc. Please no more questions on this topic, I`m really not keen to talk these things.

Anyway, I`d like to comment the article written by the Vice-Marshal J. E. "Johnnie" Johnson. It amused me, how much he had polarized these two methodologies. Generally, I do not see much differencies between the broadcast and the close control methodology(CCM) of a former Warsaw pact country. Firstly, I think he is deliberately ommiting some facts that the "CCM" has been quite effective during a time, when fighter radars were not capable of 200km detection range with weapon systems with limited capabilities(rear-aspect only) and when the ground radar coverage has been sufficient in the eastern europa rugged terrain and variable climate. No wonder then, the air-interceptions were trained under the GCI only, because there is not a quicker way how to get close to the intruder sneaking around the state border. Due to better situation awareness the GCI maneuvered the fighters into a position, mainly to the point of maximal search range of the fighter`s on-board radar. After the pilot switched his radar on and saw the target, he could take control over the intercept. When something went wrong, no radar contact or something has malfunctioned, he remained controlled by the GCI. When pilot decided to took over the intercept, then the GCI gave him full control. Pilot had to inform the GCI about his following acts only.
Why is Vice-Marshal talking about having "absolute authority to dictate every action of friendly fighters", what is not entirely true. Did he ever have an opportunity to study eastern doctrines on a school in Moscow, or at least the "Kursy boevoy podgotovki frontovoi istrebitelnoi aviacii" the KBP FIA-75?
At last, it is funny how he upholds the principles of the "west" broadcast methodology, but actually describing some common routines in the Czechoslovak AF during that time and that is my own humble opinion.
Thanks Mrdetonator for your answer, and don't worry, there is no need to talk about topics you don't want to talk.

Now, have you ever read an assesment of the Russian Air Force called "Russian Air Force at the Crossroads" by Benjamin S. Lambeth of the RAND Corporation?

I can pass it to you if you want cos is free (I get mine by free at stinet), I want to discuss with you some topics refered to the KBP, BU and NPP interaction of flight manuals and regulations for combat and training into the Soviet Air Force and its WarPact sisters, I want in fact to discuss many of the postulates the author write about training methodologies at combat units and undergraduate training. Those topics at some point also takes into attention the CCM and BCM that I have initiated.

If you're interested btw on Aviatsia i Kosmonavtika issues from the 80s to 1992 I can pass them to you, but I guess you have every one of them ;)?...american translations via FBIS.
Pit said:
Now, have you ever read an assesment of the Russian Air Force called "Russian Air Force at the Crossroads" by Benjamin S. Lambeth of the RAND Corporation?
I'm choosing carefully what I read, this I really do not remember. At first thought it looks as a waste of time, but who knows. Please send it to me.
Pit said:
If you're interested btw on Aviatsia i Kosmonavtika issues from the 80s to 1992 I can pass them to you, but I guess you have every one of them ;)?...american translations via FBIS.
I have none of them ;D, I`ve been buying Aviatsia i Kosmonavtika, the Czechoslovak edition. I`d be interested, but not those translated ones.
Hi Mrdetonator,

Reading your first post, remind that Robert L. Shaw (there is just a quote of Vice Admiral Johnson ;) is talking about CCM and BCM in a pretty general way, in the west CCM is or was also used long time, so I don't think they ever have access till now to soviet/warpact models. That book is from mid 80s.

About the AiK, I have some issues of the 90s in russian (where it turned to be more a pretty nice "for everybody" journal than a professional air force journal it was in mid 80s-early 90s in my opinion the most interesting timeframe) but most of mines of the 80s are translations made by different deparments of the American DoD. I think this is time to switch to PM mode.

Check your PM pal.

Similar threads

Top Bottom