Defense against an air attack demands a high
degree of coordination between widely dispersed
units in the formation. Attacking aircraft can
climb to very high altitudes, or they can come in
just over the wave tops. No matter what their
altitude, the speed of the aircraft is often super-
sonic. That means instantaneous reactions and
quickly computed solutions are essential to
the defenders. Even after attaining maximum
proficiency, a ships individual efforts would
probably prove futile unless it were deployed in
a defense-in-depth formation. Defense in depth
requires intensive coordination. Teamwork is then
the order of the day, and the captain of the team
is the AAW coordinator.
The AAW coordinator and staff usually
observe the entire picture on various display
plots aboard a missile cruiser. The coordinator
maintains communications, except during some
conditions of electronic silence, with all the AAW
units. The coordinator also receives all bogey
(unfriendly air contact) information from the
detecting ship or aircraft.
COMBAT AIR PATROL (CAP)
When an aircraft poses a definite threat, the
AAW coordinator must decide which defense to
use. The first line of defense is the on-station
combat air patrol (CAP). If the CAP is in the
target area, the relative speeds of the CAP and
target may indicate a possible intercept. In such
cases, the coordinator may order the AAW units
CAP air controller (aircraft or surface ship) to
vector the CAP to the target. On-station CAP
aircraft orbit at a station between the inner and
intermediate surface picket lines, roughly 30 miles
from their controlling units.
CAP can miss the target for several reasons.
Patrolling aircraft may be out of position, relative
speeds may work against an intercept, or poor
visibility and/or radar reception may make the
CAP useless. When CAP proves ineffective,
the AAW coordinator may employ long-range
missiles or launch additional interceptor aircraft.
During CAP intercept attempts, shipboard
weapons direction systems direct fire control
radars aboard missile ships to the target. When
a ship is ready to engage a target with missiles,
it notifies the AAW coordinator and may order
one or more missile launches. If more than one
ship is prepared to assault a target with missiles,
the AAW coordinator must decide which ship, or
ships, will take part in the attack. The coordinator
must consider, among other factors, which ship
is in the best position for a kill and what type and
number of missiles it has aboard.
Missile ships may be stationed in the extended
(outer), intermediate, or inner screen position.
However, they should remain either far enough
in or out to allow the CAP to operate freely. Since
a missile ship usually is free to fire on any target
that enters its envelope, a well-defined crossover
point must be designated. A crossover point is the
range at which a target ceases to bean air intercept
target and becomes a surface-to-air missile target.
Air controllers must be careful to keep CAP
aircraft from crossing this point to prevent their
destruction by friendly fire.
If CAP aircraft or long-range missiles do not
stop an attack, the AAW coordinator may direct
the carrier(s) to launch additional interceptor air-
craft. Interceptors remain ready for launch in
specified conditions of readiness as follows:
Condition One CAP: Pilots strapped in
cockpits; catapult and deck crews at
stations; and all leads to engines plugged,
ready for immediate ignition. Reaction
time limited only to the time required to
turn the carrier into the wind.
Condition Two CAP: Aircraft ready
to start; pilots and deck/catapult crews
nearby rather than on station.
Condition Three CAP: Launch capability
required within 15 minutes. Pilots in ready
rooms; crews relaxing near stations.
Condition Four CAP: Pilots and crews on
30 minutes notice.
Condition Five CAP: Pilots and crews free
ANTISHIP MISSILE DEFENSE
The antiship missile defense (ASMD) program
significantly improves a ships capability in
countering high-speed, low-altitude, anti ship
missile threats. In attaining this defense posture,
the program requires modifications to the overall
ship combat system for the following purposes:
To enhance low-flyer and electronic warfare
(EW) detection capabilities
To reduce reaction times by modifying com-
mand and control functions for weapons
To improve gun and missile system engage-