Today, Class 13-EBG will take the next step on the long road to becoming combat mission-ready fighter pilots in the most lethal Air Force in the world. Their journey continues a long legacy of 309th Fighter Squadron fighter pilots who have fought in every war and conflict since World War II.
Today’s graduation culminates eight months of inte
nse training; training that would not have been possible without the tremendous effort of Team Luke. Every member of Luke Air Force Base, from our teammates in the military personnel flight, security forces, and aerospace medicine, to those in the 56th Operations Support Squadron and the 56th Training Squadron, contributed. Most importantly, we would not have succeeded without the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Unit — their ability to maintain and produce the aircraft so essential for training is the cornerstone of our endeavors. Because of this teamwork, the Duck students could fully focus on becoming lethal F-16 fighter pilots. Each student flew 72 hours over the course of 53-plus missions, requiring 113 aircraft to be generated for each student.
In addition, they completed 44 simulator missions and more than 309 hours of academic instruction.
These 11 soon-to-be-graduated warriors began the B-Course in June 2013 with academics and simulators in the 56th TRS. Once they hit the flightline, they learned the basics of flying the F-16 before they transitioned to employing the Viper as a weapons system under the tutelage of highly motivated, highly competent tactical instructor pilots, from the 309th FS, 56th OSS, 56th TRS and Reserve brethren of the 69th FS.
The tactical portion of their instruction began with basic fighter maneuvers. They progressed to air combat maneuvers and tactical intercepts, where the students learned to employ in two-ship formations. They graduated to air combat tactics, where four F-16s fought as many as four adversaries in challenging, real-world combat scenarios. This skillset was further honed in the simulator, where these warriors teamed with instructors to oppose the hoards attempting to bomb Luke.
Their world was then turned upside down and the Ducks transitioned to the air-to-ground environment, where they learned to fly at low altitude, employ unguided munitions, and fire the F-16’s M61A1 20mm Gatling gun.
Once they mastered those skills, they were introduced to the targeting pod (an Infrared Targeting Sensor) and the employment of the same precision weapons they may drop in combat — laser-guided bombs and GPS-aided munitions. Each student was then required to demonstrate proficiency in the aforementioned tasks at night with the aid of night vision goggles.
Their newfound skills were ultimately tested in a large-force exercise which pitted multiple F-16s versus simulated enemy aircraft and surface threats. They employed in extremely dynamic scenarios which required precise execution while still protecting themselves and their flight against everything the enemy had to throw at them. The entirety of the Operations Group participated — pilots from various squadrons flying in a blue or red role, essential Intelligence and Air Control support, and all facets of operations support. The aircraft maintenance units ensured the jets were loaded to bear and ready to take our fight to the enemy — supplying a complete lineup for three days of exercises — SIERRA HOTEL!
“Top-off” training in the 56th TRS comes next, followed by mission qualification training at their operational bases, where they will ultimately achieve combat mission-ready status. Many of these young warriors will soon be flying in combat to support and defend our great nation.
In all aspects of this incredibly demanding course, the students of 13-EBG excelled and proved themselves worthy to be called Air Force fighter pilots. Thanks to all the Thunderbolts who helped make this day happen. All of Luke’s Airmen can be proud of the newest world-class fighter pilots that will graduate tonight.
To class 13-EBG, QQMF. Fight’s on!