Paddles Monthly June 2011
COE / Blue Water Certification
CDR Marc “Stoner” Preston from Commander, Strike Force Training Atlantic (CSFTL) gave an excellent brief on Combat Operational Efficiency and "Blue Water‟ certification
and how it fits into C2X. As most of us who have experienced it, we all know that C2X is basically conducting Air Wing Fallon-type missions in the CVN environment in order to test whether the CVW and CVN can cooperatively operate in such a high-tempo operational environment. This includes the standard tactical missions like Strikes, Maritime Strikes and Defenses, Air Defenses, CAS, CSAR, etcetera.
However, how does the Combat Operational Efficiency (COE) aspect come into play and what is it for? As per the CSFTL/CSFTPINST 3500.4A, COE is defined as:
“The efficiency with which a Carrier Strike Group (CSG) conducts flight opera-tions is directly related to its lethality and survivability…..Carriers and Carrier Air Wings that cannot meet established standards of efficiency incur additional exposure to surface and subsurface threats due to prolonged periods in which maneuvering is effectively precluded. Finally, pilot proficiency is directly relatable to operational safety. Since combat operations are frequently required where no divert field is available, or where divert of aircraft could result in political situations disadvantageous to the United States.”
The evaluation phase of COE consists of a two day evolution where the ship and air wing are evaluated on metrics that directly apply to the above-mentioned excerpt. During these two consecutive days, the CVW will fly greater than 90 sorties while maintaining an Event Factor and Combat Boarding Rate at prescribed standards:
- Event Factor (EF): 1.2 Case I/II and 1.75 Case III
- Combat Boarding Rate (CBR): 90% Case I/II and 85% Case III
What are Event Factor (EF) and Combat Boarding Rate (CBR)? Event Factor measures the ability for the flight deck and air wing to work together to maximize lethality and survivability. Here is how it is measured over the course of a launch and recovery:
Event Factor = (Total # of Launches + Total # of Recoveries) / (Minutes Elapsed)
For example, an event that launches 10 aircraft and recovers 10 aircraft in a 12 minute period would post an EF of 1.667 (20 divided by 12) and if the same recovery takes 15 minutes then the EF would be reduced to 1.333.
Since the necessary EF for COE certification is 1.2 for Case I/II and 1.75 Case III then how many minutes could a “10 to launch and 10 to catch” Case I event take and still meet the minimum standards for event factor? Case III? Answer: 16 minutes and 40 seconds and 11 minutes 25 seconds.
The keys to success to meet your event factor are to realize that you "make your money‟ on the launches. Having multiple catapults working at quick intervals can hopefully launch several aircraft per minute, leaving plenty of time to complete the recovery within parameters. Squadron LSOs should train their pilots to be ready to launch as you taxi to the catapult. Having to suspend for unnecessary troubleshooting, or because of improperly set trim or some other problem with takeoff checks can be very costly during COE. Walk early and stay ahead of the jet on deck!!!
Collapsing the stack and flying a disciplined Case I pattern is also paramount for success during COE. Obviously, obeying the ‟Rules to Live By‟ on the ball and getting aboard first pass are an important requirement but two other things need to be considered: aggressively (and smartly) pressing the deck and setting the proper interval.
Section and division leads should be pressing the deck in order to have the first aircraft rolling into the grove just as the flight deck completes wrapping the waist and making a ready deck. Just make sure you are not too aggressive and cause either a clogged spin pattern or widespread confusion due to multiple depart and re-enters. Squadrons responsible for breaking the deck should regularly debrief their performance. CAG Paddles need to also debrief the first pilot down on the time elapsed between the deck going clear and the first arrestment.
When considering interval, it is best to be long than short. Even though the textbook Case I/II interval is 45 seconds, during COE it is much better to be closer to 55 or even 60 seconds lest you run into too many fouled deck wave-offs. When you think about the math involved in calculating EF, the extra 10 to 15 seconds added onto each interval during the course of a recovery is very little compared to the extra time added for even a single fouled deck wave-off. All pilots should continually evaluate timing when to break based on their interval pass-to-pass in order to target than 55-60 second Case I interval.
Another important thing to not be forgotten is a solid COD recovery plan. Do not let an otherwise stellar launch and recovery evolution have its EF numbers fall below the requirements just because we forgot about the C-2s.
As for Combat Boarding Rate (CBR), it is calculated by the number of traps divided by the total number of "attempted‟ traps with 90% being the goal for Case I/II and 85% for Case III. Both metrics are related to each other due to the fact that a bolter obviously hurts both your EF as well as your CBR. Historically speaking, it tends to be a bit harder for Carrier Air Wings to achieve their Combat Boarding Rate numbers than Event Factor. Squadron LSOs need to train your Ready Rooms to consistently shoot for a 55-60 second interval vice 45 seconds, be very disciplined in the pattern, and to safely get aboard on the first pass while not violating the "Rules to Live By.‟