Searchlight homing



Searchlight homing


Instruction for using searchlights to help aircraft home to either a night fighter sector or other selected airfield.




One page typewritten document


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[underlined] SEARCHLIGHT HOMING [/underlined] [underlined] SECRET [/underlined]

1. Calls for Searchlight homing may be DIRECT (i.e. made by the a/c) or INDIRECT (i.e. made by ground organisation.)

2. Homing by searchlights may be made to [underlined] either [/underlined]
(a) A STANDARD AIRFIELD – normally to Night Fighter Sector airfield. Direct calls will always be answered by homing to the Standard Airfield.
or (b) A SELECTED AIRFIELD – These are Airfields towards which homing will be given as a result of an indirect call. Selection is made by the F.C.L.O. The Selected Airfield may be the same as the Standard Airfield.

3. All indirect homing is initiated by the F.C.L.O, and no-one else, as a result of a/c showing broad I.F.F., W/T messages, information from R.O.C. and other sources. Any Control Officer wishing to lay on searchlight homing must therefore request it through the F.C.L.O. Arrangements must not be made by Control Officers with local S/L batteries.

4: [underlined] DIRECT CALLS [/underlined] An aircraft will make a direct call for searchlight assistance :-
(a) by circling continuously at not higher than 5,000 feet for two minutes with navigation lights and downward recognition light switched on.
(b) by circling continuously at not higher than 5,000 feet for two minutes and firing the colours of the period. (Pilots [underlined] are advised always to fire the colours of the period and to flash on navigation lights [/underlined] when needing searchlight assistance.)

On seeing the above, Searchlights will home the a/c to the Standard Airfield immediately. They will report their action at once to Sector Operations Room. Direct calls will only be answered by Searchlight sites equipped with telephone lines and not by other S/L sites or R.O.C. Posts equipped with S/L's.

An a/c seen showing downward recognition light and navigation lights but NOT CIRCLING OR FIRING THE COLOURS OF THE PERIOD will be regarded as in distress. But Searchlights will only report what they have seen: they will not give homing to the Standard Airfield until ordered to do so.

5. To help the R.O.C. track the a/c - Navigation lights and downward Recognition Light should be kept on until the A/c is preparing to land. Captain of a/c may, however use their discretion regarding the constant burning of these lights.

6. The standard signal by searchlights for homing distressed a/c is as follows:-
(a) Expose beam horizontally for 30 seconds towards Standard Airfield.
(b) Elevate to 45° and depress 3 times quickly without extinguishing.
(c) Expose horizontally again for 30 seconds. This procedure is repeated until the a/c is flying on the right bearing. Then the beam will be exposed horizontally for two minutes or until the sound of the a/c has died away.

7. Pilots should be warned that:-
(a) Beam may take up to 3 minutes to expose.
(b) It may be necessary to route an a/c round a Gun Defended Area by a dog-leg course.
(c) Certain areas are not covered by searchlights. Therefore if no response is made to a direct call, the pilot should fly on a straight course for 10 minutes and try again.
(d) A direct call may be answered by several searchlights, possibly in different directions if near a Sector boundary.

8. Searchlight CONES for homing.


“Searchlight homing,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 26, 2024,

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