America’s newest fighter pilots are ready to join the most lethal combat air force the world has ever known. The eight active-duty and three Air National Guard officers of class 15-BBC have successfully completed the F-16 Basic Course and will celebrate this accomplishment today with loved ones, academic instructors, and instructor pilots.
Class 15-BBC’s stay at Luke Air Force Base began nine months ago with an intense initial phase of academic and simulator training. Much of the class’ 305 hours of academic training, nine formal exams, and 56 simulator missions were concentrated in this initial phase, although ground training continued throughout the course.
After a month of ground training, the pilots moved from the 56th Training Squadron to the 309th Fighter Squadron.
Flying training started with the transition phase, which taught them to fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon in accordance with technical orders, Air Force instructions, and Federal Aviation Administration guidance.
The transition phase concluded with an instrument/qualification flight evaluation where the students proved themselves capable of flying the F-16 as a nontactical pilot. It was on to one vs. one dogfighting next, where they demonstrated competence in dynamic maneuvering under high g-force in relation to adversaries in close proximity.
Once proficient in basic one vs. one, the class progressed to two vs. one, two vs. two and eventually four vs. four air combat tactics missions, mimicking real-world tactical employment of the F-16.
Upon reaching basic proficiency in air-to-air employment, 15-BBC moved on to mastering their air-to-ground skill sets. This began with basic weapon delivery sorties where the students were instructed on the employment of unguided bombs on the Barry M. Goldwater Range.
They were then introduced to the munitions they will employ in combat after departing Luke — laser-guided bombs and GPS-guided munitions. While most missions consisted of simulated employment, each student had the opportunity to employ live weapons.
The class progressed to close air support and surface attack tactics phases where they flew in forces of four to eight aircraft. These “missionized” scenarios most closely replicated the types of combat missions they will execute in support of national objectives.
Class 15-BBC was presented with one final challenge; a large-force exercise. These missions consisted of a representative air tasking order and mission planning process, culminating in complex force-on-force scenarios integrated with warriors from the 61st, 62d, and 310th Fighter Squadrons. The missions consisted of between 20 “blue” aircraft simultaneously attacking targets defended by simulated surface-to-air missiles and “red” fighters.
While the effort and perseverance required to graduate was all theirs, class 15-BBC’s milestone would not have been possible without the combined efforts of Team Luke. From across the base, there isn’t one individual who didn’t contribute to the success of these graduates. The members of the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Unit moved mountains to keep the oldest F-16s in the Air Force flying. The graduation was also made possible by the Mad Mallard instructor pilots who pushed, cajoled, motivated and challenged them.
Congratulations 15-BBC. Continue to make us proud, and best of luck going forward. Once a Duck, Always a Duck! Quack, quack, my friend!