14 January 1916 – Formation Flying

Such has been the impact of the Fokker monoplanes, that RFC Headquarters has finally bowed to reality and has issued the following order:

“Until the Royal Flying Corps is in possession of a machine as good as or better than the ‘ German Fokker it seems that a change in the tactics employed becomes necessary. It is hoped very shortly to obtain a machine which will be able to successfully engage the Fokkers at present in use by the Germans. In the meantime, it must be laid down as a hard and fast rule that a machine proceeding on reconnaissance must be escorted by at least three other fighting machines. These machines must fly in close formation and a reconnaissance should not be continued if any of the machines become detached. This should apply to both short and distant reconnaissances. Aeroplanes proceeding on photographic duty any considerable distance east of the line should be similarly escorted. From recent experience it seems that the Germans are now employing their aeroplanes in groups of three or four,and these numbers are frequently encountered by our aeroplanes. Flying in close formation must be practised by all pilots.”

That said, few pilots have any experience of formation flying and the myriad of types flown in most squadrons will further complicate the matter.

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