180th Fighter Wing flies south for training
Photos by Senior Airman Hope Geiger, 180th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
COCOA BEACH, Fla. (04/22/19)
More than 130 Airmen from the 180th Fighter Wing deployed to Patrick Air Force Base for two weeks in January and February to conduct dissimilar air combat training, basic fighter maneuvers, defensive air counter tactics and tactical intercept missions alongside F-15 Strike Eagles assigned to the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Wing.
During the cold winter months, the Swanton, Ohio-based 180th FW is able to maintain its mission-ready capabilities by training in locations with better weather conditions, such as Patrick AFB.
“Going to another base during this season allows us more opportunity to train because the weather is better,” said Capt. Seth Murray, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot assigned to the 180th FW. “This doesn’t just mean weather for takeoff and landing but in the airspace as well.”
This training deployment allowed 180th FW pilots to conduct force integration sorties — training with dissimilar aircraft — with fourth and fifth generation fighters like the F-15 Eagle. With the airspace surrounding Patrick AFB, which resides on Florida’s central eastern coast, is less restrictive than Ohio, so more aircraft are able to practice dissimilar air combat training, or DACT.
“Dissimilar Air Combat Training was a focus while here at Patrick,” Murray said. “Basic fighting maneuvers, or dogfighting as many know it, against an aircraft different than we are used to fighting, allows us to increase our skill. Tactics are slightly different, and each airframe has its own strengths and weaknesses.”
During the two-week training deployment, the 180th FW flew more than 150 sorties, totaling more than 175 flying hours, while practicing tactical intercepts and defensive counter air missions.
“The key is to know your opponent, never lose sight, and capitalize on those weaknesses and any mistakes the other pilot makes,” Murray said. “This is better with another unit because we have more aircraft to fight against.”
The Patrick AFB training deployment also evaluated the effectiveness of the 180th FW’s maintenance teams, ensuring Airmen are qualified and ready to deploy at any time.
“Our goal for maintenance is always to fulfill our sortie lines,” said Tech. Sgt. Brent Centers, a crew chief assigned to the 180th FW. “We typically have two spare aircrafts and this trip we only had one, and with all the incentive flights it made it a little more difficult — even with flying nine out of the 10 jets, or 10 out of 10 jets. There were only three sorties cancelled due to maintenance the whole time. So, for maintenance, we were really proud of that.”
Added Murray: “Maintenance did an excellent job with all of the sorties flown and with only 10 jets. We would typically fly eight or nine jets each mission. That’s a lot of flying with little down time. All of our support personnel are amazing, and without everyone’s support, we couldn’t fly or complete our mission.”
Continued Centers: “The weather in Florida, alone, the jets react better to it. We’ve seen so many more maintenance cancels at home versus just these…two weeks. The warmer weather is always better for the aircraft. At home, we…had a lot of more cancels preparing to come to Patrick, because of the jets reacting negatively to the weather, than being (at Patrick AFB) for two weeks.”
Deployments also give Airmen to work on team build and comradery.
“My favorite part of any trip is the people, because you get to know other shops and other people that you don’t at home,” Centers said. “We can crew jets at home or here, it doesn’t matter, but getting to know other people within the unit, that’s the best part of any trip.”