F-14 Tomcat ACM training
Air combat maneuvering (ACM) is the art of maneuvering a combat aircraft in order to attain a position from which an attack can be made on another aircraft. It relies on offensive and defensive basic fighter maneuvering (BFM) in order to gain an advantage over an aerial opponent.
BFM consists of high speed, dangerous, and skillfully executed moves which can determine life or death in the air.
In fact ACM can be a very dangerous business as Ian Harrington, former US Navy F-14 Tomcat plane captain explained to The Aviation Geek Club;
‘I had my aircraft rtb, after some ACM training with TOPGUN [adversary aircraft] in San Diego, missing the stbd [starboard] horizontal stab. Pilot said he never knew it was missing and only used a little trim for the ACMs.’
He adds more details;
‘I was a plane captain on an F-14A with VF-302 in circa 1987 and the aircraft taxied in from hot refuel. I brought it to park and shut it down. Then assisted with egress of crew and saw the stab MIA [MIA stands for missing in action, in this case it refers to the missing stab]. I walked over and verified and went back to talk to pilot. Asked how flight was and he eventually said he has to trim it a bit more than usual.
‘I said come check this out. We both walked to the vert stab and laughed but we both stopped and wondered out loud “just when and where did that come off?”
F-14 Tomcat plane captain
‘Inspecting from the ground there may have been a total of 2 square feet still attached to the pivot arm left, but more than 95% [of it] was gone.
‘I can’t remember perfect dates for my brain injuries after being blown up many times in Iraq. But that’s was one of those weird moments. I got lucky and have had several fun events, like an A-10 stbd engine dropping its oil just as I was doing a final checker insp [inspection] and felt it somewhat deflect off the back of my cranial helmet. That was hot and a lot!’
‘I served in the Navy from 84-94 then in the Army from 96-2009 and I did 4 tours in Iraq.
‘On a funny note, kinda, I was under a Tomcat when the pilot dropped the TAILHOOK and I contacted and broke my cranial and knocked me out. I was pulled from underneath, walked to a car in the parking lot, a ‘67 Mustang, taken to infirmary unconscious and was in traction for many hours with many weeks on light duty.
‘I was given the nickname TAILHOOK KID for that.’
Photo credit: Joseph F. Towers / U.S. Navy