Military Terminology: The basics of pilot parlance, part 2

Yesterday, we explained a few of the most basic elements in-flight slang. That piece focused on communications regarding flight status, including the meaning of angels, cherubs and balls.

Today, we'll look at the exciting stuff – how pilots talk in a combat situation.

First, how does one identify the enemy? The most common phrase is "bandit," although a secondary term is "gomer," a reference to Gomer Pyle, USMC (surprise, surprise, surprise). But before a target can be a bandit or a gomer, it's usually first a "bogey," an aircraft whose intentions are unclear.

Watch Top Gun or Independence Day, and you're going to hear Tom Cruise or Will Smith yell "fox one," or "fox two" pretty often. That's American pilot slang for missile firing, not an actual count of furry mammals with bushy tails. Fox one signifies the firing of a semi-active radar-guided missile, like the AIM-7 Sparrow, while fox two covers heat-seekers, like the AIM-9 Sidewinder. Fox three, meanwhile, covers active radar-guided missiles, like the AIM-120 AMRAAM (advanced medium range air-to-air missile). An attack with an aircraft's cannon is accompanied by the call "guns, guns, guns."

All of these phrases are likely to be heard during a dogfight, or air combat maneuvers (ACM), as it's formally known. A big dogfight with many different aircraft, meanwhile, is referred to as a "fur ball." A pilot calling "no joy" has lost sight, whether of an enemy or ally aircraft, while a call of "bingo" or "bingo fuel" usually signifies a plane has reached the comfortable point of no return.

Again, this is just a very small sampling of the phrases used by America's military aviators, all of which have been culled from The Tailhook Association. For a full dictionary, head over to their page and check it out.

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