In our last video, you saw the gut-wrenching reality of dogfighting in the defensive position from the cockpit of a Lockheed-Martin F-16CM Fighting Falcon. In this video, we illustrate what it’s like to conduct a low-level, visual flight rules (VFR) sortie along a Military Training Route, or MTR.
MTRs are corridors through which military aircraft can operate below 10,000 feet mean sea level (MSL) in excess of 250 knots indicated air speed (KIAS), the speed all other aircraft are restricted to when operating at or below that altitude–per the Federal Aviation Administration‘s regulations.
These training routes are a joint venture between the FAA and the Department of Defense to provide for high-speed, low-level flight operations for tactical platforms. In other words, you won’t see C-5s or KC-10s flying through the canyons. Generally speaking, air combat or special operations assets would utilize a low-level MTR on a consistent basis. Occasionally the heavies will do such a thing, but only under specific circumstances–a C-130 conducting a low-level air drop mission, for example.
“We train low level flying to evade radar detection through direct or indirect terrain masking,” the F-16 pilot in this video explains.
Tactical aviators must train to this particular skill set and given the right environment and threat, it is a viable tactic in a combat environment. When available, flying below vertical terrain features, or between them, can allow a striker like the F-15E, F-16, or F/A-18 to get into a WEZ without being seen, increasing the chances of destroying a defended ground target before its position is detected and the adversary has an opportunity to repel the attack.
“US and especially British aircrews learned very harsh lessons during Operation Desert Storm of how detrimental it is to our survivability to fly at those low altitudes during combat without having terrain to hide behind,” the Viper Driver went on to say.
This is a perfect visual illustration of how the technique works. Not many get to see Lake Powell and the surrounding canyons from this perspective, so enjoy it!