New US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots received a unique training experience at Hill Air Force Base, with the help of the active duty 388th and Reserve 419th Fighter Wings and the F-35A Lightning II.
F-16 basic course students and instructor pilots from the 311th Fighter Squadron at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, have been flying with and against the Air Force’s first operational F-35A units.
Major Benjamin Walters, 311th FS instructor pilot, said:
“The fact that we can show up and get the airspace and red air support from a fifth-generation asset, flying against an F-35, that is an ‘all-timer’ for these young pilots.
“Today I flew with a kid who has maybe 16 rides in the jet and now three of those are against an F-35. He had the best day of his life. There are guys with thousands of hours in the seat that haven’t had that experience yet.”
For the first week, the pilots flew one versus one engagements more advanced combat manoeuvres, two aircraft versus four or more enemy aircraft. The students fly in a two-seat F-16, with an instructor in the back.
The dogfighting training missions start out scripted, with set passes and distances, and then the students are challenged to improvise against more experienced pilots in a very capable jet.
Maj Walters said: “These guys are getting really good at flying the F-35 and they can present some aggressive situations that force young pilots into errors. It’s not always the guy who should win that does win. At some point it’s pilots in cockpits that win fights.”
During the second week the pilots also integrated on missions in a large force exercise with friendly and enemy air made up of both F-16s and F-35s. Much of the learning takes place in the briefing room after the mission. Pilots can review their actions and see what the enemy was seeing.
Walters said: “You don’t get the distance between fourth generation and fifth generation fighters until we get back to tape review. It’s overwhelming to look at those screens and see all the data that is provided to these guys. That’s a lifetime experience these young pilots will take forward when they integrate with the F-35A in the future.”
Source: US Air Force