# How does a fighter pilot calculate approach/landing speeds?

Let's say an F/A-18C returns to land after expending some payload. Fuel burned and weapons released made the plane lighter. I guess the aircraft computer can tell the pilot the actual weight of the fighter on one of the displays. With this information, does the pilot use a chart or computer to calculate the correct speed for landing or is there a rule of thumb?

• The "easy" way seems to be to fly by AoA, unless something goes wrong with the sensor. What many pilots do is to see what the plane does at a given weight and airspeed (descend, level, or climb) based on elevator backpressure. One might imagine consistent weight helps keep AoA safe, whereas widely varying weight may require an on-board flight engineer and/or computer. Mar 30, 2022 at 23:14
• F/A-18 pilots (really, most Navy pilots, but I'll adhere to your example) fly approaches and landings by AoA, not airspeed. Mar 30, 2022 at 23:42
• How does a fighter pilot calculate approach/landing speeds? On modern aircraft you simply keep the VVV (Vertical Velocity Vector) within given approach parameters by the FCS (Flight Control System), e.g. follow the "E bracket" on an F/A-18C Hornet or the classical generic "C bracket" (sometimes "I bracket") on most other aircraft. Keep an eye on your dedicated AOA (Area Of Attack) indicator as a safety net. Oftentimes it's even available audible. :^) Apr 1, 2022 at 7:55

In the F-4, we had a base speed to use for each aircraft landing configuration, to which we would add 2 knots for each 1000 pounds of fuel. If we still had any significant external stores hanging on the plane we would treat as that as additional fuel.

But when we were actually flying the approach, we had an aural tone in our helmet (headset) that told us exactly what the AOA was, it went to a steady tone when we were at optimum landing (approach) AOA.

• Exactly the same in the Prowler, minus the aural tone. You flew the USAF version? Because the USN version likely had indexers on the glareshield. Mar 31, 2022 at 0:59
• We had the indexers on the glareshield as well, as well as a clock-style instrument on the panel, but the aural tone obviated the need for anything else. We used the aural tone to maintain optimal AOA during close in Basic Fighter Maneuvering (BFM) air combat. Mar 31, 2022 at 22:18