NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. â€” A low-flying aircraft will take to the Nevada skies this month, offering Air Force pilots a new threat to reckon with. For the first time ever, the T-6A Texan II will fly as an aggressor aircraft at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
At Nellis, they are taking on the role of mock opponents for students in the Weapons Instructor Course, the core course of the U. S. Air Force Weapons School.
The T-6A Texan II is a two-seat, tandem, turboprop aircraft, and is primarily used in the Joint Primary Pilot Training program at Navy and Air Force pilot training bases. The planes participating are operated by the 33rd Fighter Squadron from Vance Air Force Base, Okla.
Graduates of the course are experts on using U.S. Air Force capabilities in concert with those of sister service and Coalition partners during wartime and contingency operations. They serve as advisers to military leaders at all levels of the military and U.S. government.
The training weapons school students receive is the most difficult and comprehensive Air and Space operations curriculum taught anywhere in the world, said Col. Robert Garland, Air Force Weapons School commandant.
The Texan IIs have come to make it even more so.
Lt. Col. Daniel Garoutte, 33rd Fighter Squadron director of operations, explained how the T-6A Texan II is an asset for training.
â€œThe T-6A Texan II is reliable and is relatively low cost per flying hour. It is difficult for fighter aircraft to simulate low and slow targets, so the T-6 Texan II fills that void,â€ Garoutte said.
The Nevada Test and Training Range provides the arena in which the Texanâ€™s mock battles with weapons school students will take place. The range is the largest contiguous air and ground space available for peacetime military operations in the free world.
Nellis provides many simulated threats on the range, including high-performance F-16C Fighting Falcon and F-15C Eagle fighter jets from the 64th and 65th Aggressor Squadrons here.
With the addition of Texan IIs, Garoutte said pilots face a complex scenario dealing with a mix of slow and fast aircraft all at once – a challenge which forces them to adapt.
â€œThe presence of the T-6A Texan II provides another problem set for mission commanders during execution,â€ Garoutte said. â€œWe add another dimension to their decision making, and we increase the numbers of the opposing forces, providing a lower and slower platform.â€
Bringing the T-6A to the Weapons Instructor Course does not just provide another tool for the schoolhouse. Participating also gives the Texan II pilots new experiences to increase their own proficiency.
â€œThe integration with Nellis operations has been a tremendous professional growth opportunity for our first assignment instructor pilots,â€ Garoutte said. â€œThey are able to watch the worldâ€™s best briefs, mission execution and debriefs.â€
â€œThe experience at Nellis has been eye-opening to the capabilities of our nationâ€™s assets and how we fly the fight,â€ Air Force 1st Lt. Kristen Smith, 33 FTS instructor pilot, said. â€œBoth the 64th and 65th Aggressor Squadrons have been very welcoming and willing to teach and show us just what they do. It has been fantastic to see the impact of each maneuver and direction.â€
â€œThe T-6A Texan IIs provided the Weapons School with a unique intercept challenge against an asymmetric threat,â€ U.S. Air Force Maj. Jason Zumwalt, United States Air Force Warfare Center chief of adversary integration, said. â€œThey gave valuable training to our counter-air assets and forced our students to prioritize their intercept decisions based on the type of threat they were facing.â€