Scrambling (military)
In military aviation
Military aviation
Military aviation is the use of aircraft and other flying machines for the purposes of conducting or enabling warfare, including national airlift capacity to provide logistical supply to forces stationed in a theater or along a front. Air power includes the national means of conducting such...

 scrambling or a scramble is the act of quickly getting fighter aircraft
Fighter aircraft
A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat with other aircraft, as opposed to a bomber, which is designed primarily to attack ground targets...

 airborne to intercept hostile aircraft.

Historical use

The term was used during the Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain is the name given to the World War II air campaign waged by the German Air Force against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940...

, when RAF
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 fighter pilots waited on the ground for Chain Home
Chain Home
Chain Home was the codename for the ring of coastal Early Warning radar stations built by the British before and during the Second World War. The system otherwise known as AMES Type 1 consisted of radar fixed on top of a radio tower mast, called a 'station' to provide long-range detection of...

 radar observations to detect oncoming enemy aircraft, at which point a telephone call would reach each airfield (part of the Dowding System) and those air crews available would be scrambled. Every minute lost before take-off would be advantageous to the enemy, as those minutes could have allowed a pilot to gain extra height above the advancing plane formations. Information passed to the scrambling fighters included location and height (Angels - hence phrases such as Angels One Five
Angels One Five
Angels One Five is a 1952 British film directed by George More O'Ferrall, and starring Jack Hawkins, Michael Denison, Dulcie Gray, John Gregson, Cyril Raymond, Veronica Hurst and also featuring Bill Everett. Based on the book 'What Are Your Angels Now?' by Pelham Groom Angels One Five is a 1952...

for aircraft approaching at 15,000ft) and a rough estimate of numbers. Unidentified aircraft were known as Bogeys while known enemy ones were called Bandits. The scramble order was communicated to alert pilots at the base by the loud ringing of a bell.

Since the start of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, many NATO air forces have had crews stationed in Europe on alert and scrambled whenever their airspace
Airspace means the portion of the atmosphere controlled by a country above its territory, including its territorial waters or, more generally, any specific three-dimensional portion of the atmosphere....

was penetrated. The rudimentary bell-ringing communication was eventually replaced by electronic radio communication methods. But many fighter squadrons into the current era would keep a bell at their squadron bar in legacy to the Battle of Britain roots. A common tradition was that if anyone at the bar would ring this bell, they would be required to buy a round of drinks to all present. This tradition was a remnant of the serious consequences of communicating a false scramble order.

External link

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