NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev.
– Eighty eight members of the 104th Fighter Wing, Massachusetts National Guard and five of their F-15 C/Ds traveled to Las Vegas to play the role of aggressor for the U.S. Air Force Weapons School here, Nov.
For two weeks the 104th Fighter Wing pilots will simulate the tactics of opposing nations and engage F-16s, other F-15s, and F-22s during intense training scenarios over the deserts of Nevada. The scenarios are part of the practical learning experience at the Weapons School.
The mission of the United States Air Force Weapons is to teach graduate-level instructor courses, which provide the world's most advanced training in weapons and tactics employment to officers of the combat air forces. Currently there are Weapons Instructor courses for 17 weapon systems, and the curriculum length is approximately six months.
In keeping with the Air Force core value of “Service Before Self,” the 104th stepped forward and volunteered to support this very important mission. “Since they have been closing bases around the country, there are less and less people who are able to come out here and support the weapons school,” said Lt. Col. David “Moon” Halasi-kun, 131st Fighter Squadron. “We volunteered because we understand the importance of supporting the weapons officers and the weapons school.” We took this opportunity, he continued, because we could and we were not currently tasked to an overseas commitment.
In addition to supporting the Weapons School, this mission provides an excellent training opportunity for both our pilots and ground crews. “There is actually a lot of training to be had because even when you’re pretending to be the bad guy you can still exercise all of your radar systems, and all of your weapons systems, just like you were a good guy,” said Lt. Col. David “Moon” Halasi-kun. “The difference is that we have to employ using red air tactics --like we are a threat country pilot who is very heavily dependent on ground control, as opposed to western tactics, which are very autonomous.”
The red air missions are important for two reasons. First, the practical experience of fighting against realistic advisories reinforces the fundamentals the students are taught in the classroom. It also allows the pilots flying the red air tactics an inside view of how potential enemies may fly in combat. “[Normally] we are told, ‘take your four ship and go clear that lane and do it on your own and come back when it’s done.’ Foreign countries are very reliant on direct control, we are told: ‘turn your plane here,’ ‘target that guy off your nose,’ ‘now turn around’ . . . that is a different mindset then we are used to employing!”
Throughout the two-week engagement, aircraft maintenance and other support personnel were critical. Though manned for only one shift, they were able to sustain maintenance activities every day in a surge mentality, covering a 15 hour flying window. They ensured that four aircraft were launched every morning and four aircraft were launched in the early evening. With three days left in this mission, they have maintained an impressive 100 percent mission capable rate, while generating approximately 50 simulated combat sorties.