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is a pilot who supports another in a potentially dangerous flying environment. Wingman was originally a term referring to the plane
A fixed-wing aircraft is an aircraft capable of flight using wings that generate lift due to the vehicle's forward airspeed. Fixed-wing aircraft are distinct from rotary-wing aircraft in which wings rotate about a fixed mast and ornithopters in which lift is generated by flapping wings.A powered...
flying beside and slightly behind the lead plane in an aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...
According to the U.S. Air Force,
The traditional military definition of a “Wingman” refers to the pattern in which fighter jets fly. There is always a lead aircraft and another which flies off the right wing of and behind the lead. This second pilot is called the “Wingman” because he or she primarily protects the lead by “watching his back.”
The wingman's role in combat is to add the element of mutual support to aerial combat. The wingman makes the flight both offensively and defensively more capable by increasing fire power, situational awareness, attacking an enemy threatening a comrade
Comrade means "friend", "colleague", or "ally". The word comes from French camarade. The term is frequently used by left-wing organizations around the globe. "Comrade" has often become a stock phrase and form of address. This word has its regional equivalents available in many...
, and most importantly the ability to employ more dynamic tactics.
Colonel Robert Smith provides an extensive description of the work and role of wingmen during the Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...
. Among the wingman's primary responsibilities are remaining close to the leader of the aerial formation and warning the leader of any immediate threats at the cost of losing mutual protection. Smith describes the responsibilities as mutually exclusive; never losing the leader required attention in front of the wingman, but warning the lead of any aircraft threats meant focusing on the rear. Wingmen needed to protect and react constantly according to his surroundings and movements. Smith also describes the difficult of flying under poor visibility and the trying effects on human perception under such conditions, especially considering the danger of being separated from the leader of the formation. According to Smith, wingman are expected to remain with the leader, even at the cost of scoring an easy kill.