F-16 Turns 50 Special: What It Takes To Become A Viper Pilot

F-16 pilot


F-16 pilot
U.S. Air Power Maj. Daniel Thompson, eighth Fighter Squadron teacher pilot, conducts an F-16 Viper coaching sortie over White Sands Missile Vary, New Mexico, Aug. 22, 2023. The 54th Fighter Group is likely one of the premier fighter pilot coaching teams, coaching over 50 p.c of the Air Power’s Viper pilots. The intensive coaching takes college students recent from Undergraduate Pilot Coaching and molds them into extremely expert, combat-ready aviators ready to help combatant command priorities in any potential future conflicts. (U.S. Air Power photograph by Grasp Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

Earlier than flying the Viper operationally, pilots must get via the nine-month B-Course which supplies them with the Preliminary Qualification Coaching on the F-16.

Throughout its 50 years, the F-16 has change into one of the crucial recognizable fighter jets in service, additionally because of the truth that it’s presently essentially the most operated fighter jet world wide and the spine of the U.S. Air Power. A number of books, movies and videogames characteristic the Viper, however have you ever ever questioned what it takes to fly the true one?

The coaching of F-16 pilots has been a much-discussed matter for the reason that announcement of the donation of F-16s to Ukraine, nonetheless there are some misconceptions about it. The F-16 has been designed to be simple to fly and certainly its pilots verify this, however it’s not as simple as turning the important thing and stomping the ft on the throttle in a automotive.

On this article we’ll discuss how the U.S. Air Power trains F-16 pilots, because the service trains not solely its pilots, but additionally those of many worldwide operators. The latter practice in Tucson with the 162nd FW of the Arizona ANG, whereas the previous practice with the 56th FW at Luke AFB, Arizona, and the forty ninth FW at Holloman AFB, New Mexico.

Holloman AFB is now the main training base for F-16 pilots within the USA because the Formal Coaching Items had been moved there to create space for the F-35 coaching at Luke AFB, the place solely the 309th Fighter Squadron continues to coach Viper pilots. Holloman AFB trains a mean of 180 college students per 12 months, averaging greater than 10,800 sorties and 14,600 hours per fiscal 12 months with the 311th Fighter Squadron, 314th Fighter Squadron and eighth Fighter Squadron.

Often, the F-16 Basic Course takes about 9 months to graduate pilots that may then go on to operational items for his or her fight readiness coaching. In keeping with the US Air Power, throughout the 37-week lengthy B-Course, college students go browsing common 70 hours of flying time over 59 sorties along with roughly 245-hours of educational coaching and 69-hours of flight simulator coaching.

Pilots that attend the B-Course often come straight from Undergraduate Pilot Training and Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals, which offer a powerful basis to begin constructing the brand new capabilities with the F-16. Typically, pilots is perhaps transferring from one other plane and the coaching length is perhaps shorter as a result of they have already got operational expertise and solely must “translate” that have on the brand new plane.

The B-Course begins with 4 weeks of teachers to show pilots in regards to the F-16’s methods and emergency procedures, adopted by coaching occasions on the flight simulator and egress simulator that put together the coed for the primary flight. With the F-16 being a single seat plane, college students are shortly put via their paces and, after 4 flights on the twin seat F-16D, they fly their first solo mission on the F-16C.

The scholar continues constructing its proficiency and prepares for the test experience which supplies the qualification to fly the Viper in all climate circumstances, whereas additionally persevering with teachers and simulator periods all through the course. The brand new F-16 pilots then proceed with the air-to-air section of the course, with Basic Fighter Maneuvers, Superior Fighter Maneuvers and Tactical Intercepts, whereas additionally integrating air-to-air refueling and evening flying.

As soon as this section is accomplished, college students transfer to the air-to-ground section, starting with low altitude flight,  Primary Floor Assault mission profiles with unguided weapons after which shifting to guided weapons employment. In direction of the top of the course, college students are put to the take a look at with extra complicated Offensive Counter Air, Shut Air Help and COMposite Air Operation.

Pilots who efficiently full the B-Course are wingmen capable of proficiently function both as a single-ship or in a two- or four-ship formation, employing the 20 mm cannon, AIM-9 and AIM-120 air-to-air missiles, Paveway Laser-Guided Bombs, JDAM Inertially-Aided Munitions with the assistance of the JHMCS Helmet-Mounted Show, Night time Imaginative and prescient Googles and focusing on pod.

Coaching shouldn’t be over but, as to change into absolutely fledged Viper pilots, graduates continue to train in their new units to realize the fight readiness, increasing their mission units (such because the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses), introducing new weapons (such because the AGM-65 Maverick, GBU-39 SDB or the AGM-158 JASSM), new {qualifications} (such because the flight lead).

Whereas on the operational squadron, pilots will fly even more challenging scenarios, culminating with the premier air fight train, the Purple Flag. The train, held a number of occasions per 12 months at Nellis AFB, Nevada, and at Eielson AFB and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (Purple Flag Alaska), is a two-week lengthy train which sees aircrews subjected to each conceivable fight risk in a number of practical eventualities.

Purple Flag was created to supply aircrews with ten realistically simulated fight missions in a protected coaching surroundings, as Air Power analysts within the Nineteen Sixties confirmed {that a} pilot’s possibilities of survival in fight dramatically elevated after the completion of ten fight missions. To do this, Purple Flag recreates Giant Power Employment eventualities the place Red Forces are equipped with 4th and 5th gen aircraft offering practical air threats via the emulation of opposition ways.

Purple Forces even have radar and GPS jamming tools, digital floor defenses and communications, a practical enemy Built-in Air Protection System with vary risk emitters simulating anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missile launches. The result’s a highly realistic hostile, non-cooperative training environment which reproduces the eventualities the place pilots might discover themselves in a future high-intensity symmetrical battle in opposition to peer or near-peer adversaries.

Stefano D’Urso is a contract journalist and contributor to TheAviationist primarily based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he is additionally finding out to realize a Grasp Diploma in Aerospace Engineering. Digital Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT methods utilized to the world of navy operations and present conflicts are amongst his areas of experience.


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