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The purpose of establishing uniform communications procedures is to limit unnecessary or uncommunicative messages being passed in the relatively high-risk, high-stress environment of fighter and small-craft operations. Particularly in combat or other threat environment situations, intentions and actions need to be communicated swiftly and accurately to avoid confusion which could give rise to surrendering the tactical advantage or even create a blue-on-blue situation.
Depending on the size and make-up of the particular group of small-craft operating together, there can be a variety of different networks and channels set up for the purpose of communication and information sharing. The basic concept is that every operational unit will have its own network, from a wing-wide channel, to a squadron-wide channel, to dedicated wingmen channels. Information broadcast on specific channels should be sent keeping in mind all of the parties who will be hearing it. For instance, squadron-specific instructions do not need to be broadcast over a wing-wide network. In all cases, communications should be brief and precise to avoid confusion and to prevent the networks from being clogged with unnecessary traffic. The exceptions to this are intra-wingmen channels and private channels; off-topic and more casual communication is permissible here, with the provision that it not interfere with operations.
The standard message contains several key components. The first is the designation of the calling station and the intended receiving stations. This can be given in several formats, including:
“[receiving station], [calling station]” “[receiving station], this is [calling station]” “this is [calling station], calling [receiving station]”
Then follows the message traffic. The body of the message ought to be as short as possible. Leaving out unnecessary grammatical features is acceptable, even preferable, as long as the meaning of the message remains clear. Particularly long message out to include a pause, in the event that other critical traffic can be heard across the network. This pause is signaled by saying, “break,” followed by dead air before the message is resumed. Finally, the end of the communication ought to indicate the intention of future communication. If the calling station expects a response or thinks that a response is likely, the communication should be finished with “over.” For messages bearing critical or complex instructions that require concrete confirmation, the phrase “confirm copy” can be given before “over,” with the expected response being “I copy all,” “solid copy,” or some other form of confirmation. If the calling station is concluding an exchange or is given some general information that will not require or likely elicit a response, the communication should be finished with “out.”
To avoid confusion with other words or codes, numbers and letters have to be stated far more clearly than they would in plain speech. For instance the letters AYN, referred to as ey-why-en, would be pronounced Alpha-Yankee-November. The number 150.3, usually read one-hundred-fifty-point-three, would be read One-Five-Zero-Decimal-Three.
In the military world of unit names, nicknames, numeric designations, etc. how exactly to refer to a calling or receiving station can be problematic. As such, the simple expedient of pre-arranged call signs helps simplify and specify origins and intended recipients of communications. Call signs can be selected and distributed in any number of ways, but the key element is that they are universally acknowledged and consistently used. In this case, call signs do not refer to the nicknames given to pilots. This nicknames can be appropriate to use in confined or private settings, such as a private or wingman channel; their use on larger networks would only be confusing, particularly if dealing with units unfamiliar with each other and their respective pilots' nicknames.
Generally, the smallest coherent tactical unit, typically a specific squadron or flight, will receive the call sign. Units below that element may receive numeric suffixes to that call sign. Command elements above the squadron or flight level will have their own call signs, as well as numeric designations for staff elements. Carriers or other bases, while “mother” to those units call them home, will likely have different callsigns, as will other fleet or ground assets that have comms with aerospace units.
As an example, take the case of a squadron known as the “Royal Maces.” Their call sign could be anything from a plain designation like “bravo” to a nonsensical codeword like “blue knife” to a more creatively titled call sign like “basher,” playing off of the mace in the squadron's nickname. The squadron may have sixteen fighters, split into eight wings with two four wing elements. Orders or information passed to “Basher” or “all Basher elements” would be interpreted as applying to every member of the squadron. Messages to “Basher Actual” would be to the commander of the squadron. The two elements might also be given designations, as “Basher-1” and “Basher-2,” with “actual” again referring to the commander of the respective element. There could be designations within the elements as well, with “Basher-1-6” referring to the sixth unit in the first element of the squadron.
Codes and phrases taken or adapted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brevity_code.