by Richard Sheffield
There are three basic HUD setups for air-to-ground targets, which correspond to the four different types of air-to-ground ordnance carried by the F-19.
Guided Missiles. Since guided missiles use their own internal systems to lock onto and steer towards the target, they're the easiest to use. The symbols on the HUD are also simple. When the target is acquired, the normal target indicator box will appear. Once the target is within the maximum range of the weapon, this box changes into an oval. If you have to, you can fire the missile at this point. But the weapon will have a much better chance of hitting the target if you wait until the oval changes color. Once this occurs, your chances of scoring a hit are better than 90 percent.
Laser Guided Bombs. These weapons are very easy to use since they're also self-guided, homing in on the refraction of a laser, which is pointed at the target from your fighter. This type of ordnance is dropped in a similar manner as guided missiles. The target indicator box will come up as before. Once in range, the box will change to an oval. This may change colors as before (if it does, it will happen very quickly) or it may come up already indicating that it's at the maximum accuracy level, depending upon your setup. Once this occurs, open the bay doors and drop the bomb.
Since the weapon is guided by a laser carried in the belly of your aircraft, you must remember to keep the belly of the plane pointing towards the target until the bomb impacts. This doesn't mean you can't turn away after you drop; in fact, if you're below 3000 feet, you had better turn away or you'll be caught in the bomb blast. But don't turn too hard.
Retarded Fall Bombs. Here's where things start to get a little tricky. Since these bombs are unguided, you must drop them at precisely the right moment if you're to hit the target. Your onboard computer takes care of the calculations and gives you all the information you need up on the HUD.
The first indicator you need to be aware of is the Ranging Bar. This bar extends across the top of the HUD display as soon as you arm the weapon. Once a target is locked, the ends start to move toward the center of the screen. You want to be ready to drop the weapon when the two ends meet.
While you watch the Ranging Bar, you should adjust your flightpath using the Bombsight Flightpath Guide. This small diamond-shaped symbol indicates the proper flightpath for you to take to overfly the target. The small circle in the center of the HUD shows your current flightpath. You should align the circle with the diamond to take the correct course.
Note: The diamond can be above or below the circle and not affect your accuracy, but being to the left or right will most likely cause a miss.
Since timing is so important when using this type of ordnance, approaching the target at low speed will make it easier to release the bomb at just the right moment.
Free-Fall Bombs. The HUD setup for free-fall bombs is basically the same as for retarded fall bombs with the addition of the Bombsight Fall Line and the Bombsight Bullseye. These items show where the bombs will land but really aren't important in the aiming and dropping process.
Dropping free-fall bombs can be dangerous for two reasons. First, they must be dropped from high altitude, which will expose you to radar detection and all the bad things that follow. Secondly, they travel at about the same speed as your aircraft. So if you continue to fly over the target after release and you're too low, you'll be right above the target when the bomb hits and you'll get caught in the blast. For these two reasons, and since they're hard to use anyway, I recommend you avoid carrying them if at all possible.