Warhawks present squadron’s first F-16 grads

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Maj. Brad Brizek

The 314th Fighter Squadron Warhawks are proud to announce the historic graduation of the squadron’s inaugural F-16 pilot basic qualification course, or “B-course.”

Sixteen active-duty and one Air National Guard officer of class 15-BBH successfully completed the rigorous 10-month program and will transition to front-line combat units around the world.

Class 15-BBH began last September with a fire hose of academic and simulator training. During ground training, the new wingmen learned everything about the F-16’s numerous complex systems, basic aircraft operational procedures and emergency procedures. This phase included more than 300 hours of academics and dozens of simulator missions to prepare the new wingmen for flight.

Next, it was up to the skies in October where the 15-BBH wingmen learned basic and aerobatic aircraft handling maneuvers, practiced simulated emergencies, tactical formation flying, and instrument flying. By transition phase completion, every wingman earned an instrument/qualification rating in the F-16.

With basic flight training complete, it was time to learn how to employ the F-16 as a weapons system. Class 15-BBH learned first how to dominate the skies in the air-to-air arena from November through February. Air dominance began with one vs. one dogfighting, where the 15-BBH wingman learned how to kill and survive from offensive, defensive and neutral starting positions. After dogfighting, training progressed to two vs. one, two vs. two, and finally four vs. as many adversaries as could be thrown at them in complex scenarios that replicated high-end conflict air battles.

Once the 15-BBH wingmen mastered the air-to-air arena, they moved on to air-to-surface operations and tactics phase in March through June. The air-to-ground phase began with basic low-level formation flying, free fall weapon employment, and strafing at the Oscura, Centennial, and Red Rio bombing ranges. After the basics, 15-BBH advanced to employing precision laser-guided Paveway II bombs and GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, the most likely weapons they will employ in combat in the coming months.

Nearly ten months into the program it was time to combine all the air-to-air and air-to-ground skills into capstone large-force exercises that combined everything the 15-BBH wingmen learned in the F-16 basic qualification course. The capstone missions saw Warhawk pilots striking dynamic targets with precision weapons in airspace that was contested by both enemy fighters and air defense missile systems in scenarios that replicated major combat operations against a peer adversary.

15-BBH performed brilliantly from start to finish in this very demanding F-16 basic qualification course, and the 314th Fighter Squadron is proud to introduce its first 17 B-course graduates in the new Warhawk era. These fantastic warriors will be reassigned to F-16 combat units around the globe, and many of them will find themselves conducting strikes against enemies in Syria and Afghanistan, or holding the line against North Korea in the next few months.

This milestone was only possible due to tremendous efforts from around the 54th Fighter Group and the 56th Fighter Wing. At this time last year, the 314th FS was still just a great idea waiting to open for business. It took a dedicated cadre of incredible instructor pilots to pass their knowledge and skills to the next generation of fighter pilots. The 314th Aircraft Maintenance Unit and the 54th Maintenance Squadron worked day, night and many weekends to keep some of the Air Force’s oldest F-16s combat ready. It also took concerted efforts from numerous 56th FW agencies to make the idea a reality, and the Warhawks thank everyone of the Thunderbo1st Lt.s for their support.

Congratulations 15-BBH, and best of luck with your combat assignments! Warhawks … Strike!