The 2018 fighter pilot competition known as Haboob Havoc was hosted by Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Jan. 29-Feb. 2.
The competition was held for pilots to hone their skills in aerial combat, build camaraderie and revitalize fighter pilot culture.
This year was the largest total force competition in its history and the first year the F-35A Lightning II participated with other platforms in air-to-air combat scenarios.
“Here at Luke our focus is generating fighter pilots,” said Lt. Col. Jason Bartels, 62nd Fighter Squadron F-35 pilot and organizer of this year’s Haboob Havoc. “We’re putting an emphasis on events like this where our long-term capabilities improve because pilots are excited and happy to be part of this culture.”
Approximately 90 people participated, including Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps as well as international partners. Pilots chosen to perform in the competition are among the best and were selected at the squadron level.
The competition builds on the legacy of Lt. Frank Luke Jr., the second-highest scoring ace of World War I and honored the 100th anniversary of him making the ultimate sacrifice when his biplane crashed in the French countryside over Europe.
“If you go back, Luke was known for being really audacious, bold, daring and developing fighter pilot tactics,” Bartels said. “These same skill sets through 100 years of our history are still something we cherish and one of the ways we celebrate them is with an event like Haboob Havoc.”
Airspace over Luke as well as the Barry M. Goldwater Range was used for pilots to contest with one another in basic fighter maneuvers and air-to-surface attacks with the best scores earning the top prizes and admiration of their peers.
“This competition allows pilots to exercise the skill sets that will one day be used in combat, here in training,” Bartels said. “You don’t necessarily know who you are going to meet out there all the time and you have to execute a game plan based on what you see.”
The F-35 only participated in the air-to-air portion of the competition as some capabilities were limited due to its airpower superiority, Bartels said. Standardizations were put into place to evenly level the playing-field between the new fifth generation aircraft versus legacy aircraft such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon, A-10 Thunderbolt II, F/A-18 Super Hornet and the AV-8B Harrier II.
“Every airplane has different capabilities,” Bartels said. “The more airplanes we can get and expose people to now, the less questions they have later. By exposing people to different capabilities, we build different game plans based on what that adversary can or cannot do. That’s why it is so important for us to get different platforms and people involved with this exercise.”
This year’s event was unique by allowing all pilot training bases to send their students and first assignment instructor pilots for a hands-on experience of life in the combat Air Force, Bartels explained. Participants from the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, Okla., and the 14th Flying Training Wing at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss., listened to briefs and debriefs, toured the Barry M. Goldwater Range and had opportunities to ride in the backseat of D-model F-16s.
“This is a chance for us to build culture and bonds inside of our organization,” Bartels said. “As world demographics and cultures change, we want to make sure the Air Force is staying connected. We want to make sure we are recruiting the very best and making sure our youngest instructor pilots at training bases are fired up about sending future aviators to fly our aircraft.”
Haboob Havoc culminated with a golf tournament in honor of Lt. Frank Luke Jr., World War II static displays, and various fighter pilot traditions.
As the Air Force continues to combat its pilot shortage, events like Haboob Havoc continue to cultivate the candidate pool of future aviators and spread the culture of what it means to serve alongside the best Airmen in the world.
2018 Haboob Havoc winners include:
• Basic Surface Attack Team Award – 357th Fighter Squadron, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.
• Basic Surface Attack Individual Award – Lt. Col. Tom McNurlin, 47th Fighter Squadron, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.
• Basic Fighter Maneuvers – Maj. William Wisehart, 69th Fighter Squadron, Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.
• High Altitude Dive Bomb – Maj. Martin Christiansen, 152d Fighter Squadron, Tucson Air National Guard Base, Ariz.
• Low Altitude, Low Drag – Maj. Eric Carlo, 357th Fighter Squadron, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.
• Low Altitude, High Drag – Capt. Keith Madsen, 357th Fighter Squadron, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.
• Strafe – Lt. Col. Tom McNurlin 47th Fighter Squadron, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz