Top Hats graduate 14 into combat air force

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Basic F-16 Course Class 15-CBG of the 310th Fighter Squadron is well on its way to being “Dressed to Kill” as combat ready F-16 pilots. As they graduated May 20, they will continue the legacy of 310th Fighter Squadron trained fighter pilots who have fought in every war from World War II to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.

The graduation culminated nine months of intense training and hard work by the 310th FS and 310th Aircraft Maintenance Unit team, the 56th Training Squadron and countless support agencies that ensured these Top Hat students could fully focus on their mission. This team contributed to more than 895 sorties, 319 hours of academics and 704 simulators to mold fighter pilots for the Combat Air Force.

This 14-pilot B course began in August 2015 with six weeks of academics and simulators in the 56th TRS. This rigorous six weeks laid the vital foundation of aircraft systems knowledge and study habits that will sustain them throughout their flying careers. Once they hit the flightline in October, they learned the basics of flying the F-16 before they transitioned to employing the Viper as a weapons system.

The tactical air-to-air portion of their syllabus began with basic fighter maneuvers (one vs. one) and ultimately progressed to Air Combat Tactics. ACT entailed four F-16s fighting as many as six adversaries in a challenging real-world combat scenario. During these intense months of training, the students continued receiving academics and flying simulator missions.

Just as they began to feel somewhat comfortable executing the air-to-air mission, the students transitioned to the air-to-surface phase, learning to fly in a low altitude environment, employ general purpose bombs and fire the F-16’s 20mm gun. Their training progressed on to employing the targeting pod and dropping the same precision weapons they will soon drop in combat. Additionally, to ensure each pilot is ready for the rigors of the combat Air Force, each student demonstrated proficiency in all these tasks at night with the aid of night vision goggles.

Their mission planning, air-to-air and air-to-surface tactics were finally tested in large-force exercises, which pitted up to 14 F-16s and F-35s versus as many as eight enemy aircraft and multiple simulated surface-to-air threats. These capstone missions ensured they were ready for their operational tours.

The next step for these young fighter pilots will be a few months of mission qualification training at their operational bases where they will work to become combat mission ready. Soon after MQT, most will be flying in combat or in air defense alert missions to defend our great nation.

In all aspects of this incredibly demanding course, both in the air and on the ground, the students of 15-CBG excelled and proved themselves worthy to be called Air Force fighter pilots. In addition, their spouses left a positive and lasting impression on the 310th FS, Luke Air Force Base and the local community.

Thanks to the Thunderbolts who helped make this day happen. All of Luke’s Airmen can be proud of the newest world-class fighter pilots.

To the Top Hats of 15-CBG … DTK!