HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
Air refueling is a core competency for any fighter pilot. The goal is to extend the range or time an aircraft can remain in the air. Enabling both combat and non-combat related missions.
F-16 Viper pilots from the 49th Wing recently conducted air refueling operations with KC-46 Pegasus aircraft from the 97th Air Mobility Wing at Altus AFB, Oklahoma. This integrated training helps to transform learning opportunities for F-16 aircrew here.
“My squadron’s mission would be incomplete without ample opportunities to teach new Viper pilots how to execute air to air refueling in all weather conditions,” said Lt. Col. Dale Weller, 311th Fighter Squadron commander.
The new F-16 pilots get first exposure to air refueling while at Holloman and the 54th Fighter Group trains a quarter of all the fighter pilots in the Air Force.
“Air refueling at Holloman provides additional training for instructor pilots and students alike,” says Maj. George Cook, 311th FS assistant director of operations. “We have the added benefit of all the additional gas while airborne with which we can then fly to our working airspace and have additional time airborne to focus on tactics.”
Integrated training with the KC-46 increases readiness for Viper pilots and students, in a safe and controlled environment.
“Viper operations with the KC-46 are transforming the way our young Viper pilots learn to execute air-to-air refueling,” says Weller. “New Viper pilots now get the opportunity to join their future combat units with the benefit of the most modern, cutting edge air-to-air refueling training available anywhere in the world.”
There must be open communication with the bases that are involved to make sure operations run smoothly.
“There are a lot of moving parts behind the scenes,” says Cook, “Our scheduling shop talks to theirs [Altus AFB], and we have to coordinate airspace, frequencies, altitudes, times and training. Lots of pieces that all come together to make this possible.”
Together, the 54th FG and the 97th AMW identified risks and worked out unique solutions that provided effective training options.
Ensuring the highest standards of safety and potential for mutual success, experienced instructors were the first to execute this new concept.
“As a result, both Holloman and Altus received an immediate training benefit for AETC,” says Cook. “Ultimately our Nation gets a more capable and more lethal Air Force as a result.”