Student pilots from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., have been training here since June 17.
Fourteen F-15E Strike Eagles from the 334th Fighter Squadron, as well as pilots and Weapons Systems Officers came to D-M to complete the Surface Attack Tactics phase of their training.
“We’re a formal training unit that teaches brand new Strike Eagle pilots and Weapons Systems Officers before we send them off to an operational squadron,” said Lt. Col. Nathan Mead, 334th FS commander. “We teach them all the basics about how to employ the Strike Eagle.”
The F-15E Strike Eagle is a dual-role fighter designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. An array of avionics and electronics systems gives the F-15E the capability to fight at low altitudes, day or night, and in all weather.
“With this class, we’re at the very end of the program where we test all the basic skills together in a tactically challenging scenario,” Mead said. “Out here with the airspace, the ranges and the potential to integrate with other assets, it makes for great training for the students.”
Surface Attack Tactics is the final flying phase of training for F-15 pilots and a culmination of all the training they have received thus far.
“These students have completed nine months of air-to-air and air-to-ground courses,” said Capt. Adam Vogel, 334th FS instructor pilot. “They’ve proven to us that they are worthy of becoming Strike Eagle Warriors. Now we’re challenging them further by introducing an unfamiliar environment, integration with A-10s, F-16s and F-35s, air-to-ground threat emitters and tactical command and control.”
Other than serving as an unfamiliar environment, southern Arizona’s airspace provides optimal conditions for this training.
“Back east, the airspace is a lot more congested and has a much different terrain than D-M has,” Mead said. “The capability to operate in a mountainous terrain is beneficial because it provides the students with exposure to an environment that is similar to the one in which they will be carrying out their mission,” Mead said.
Large neighboring tactical ranges, challenging terrain and the opportunities to integrate with other assets were all considerations that made D-M a prime training site.
“From the standpoint of delivering and employing weapons in a tactical scenario, we’re able to do that in a much more realistic way because of the size of the range compared to what we have back east,” Mead said.
During the training, 36 weapons were employed along with 16 2,000 pound guided bomb unit-24s and 20 500 pound GBU-12s.
“We don’t want the students’ first time employing weapons to happen in combat,” Mead said.
The students leave D-M to go back to Seymour Johnson Sunday and are scheduled to graduate July 10.
“We are proud of their accomplishments here and we know that they are better prepared for combat,” Vogel said.