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F-15 pilots train to keep talons sharp

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Christopher A. Marasky
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
Despite the Air Force-wide stand-down of F-15 Eagles, pilots here are maintaining their skills and capabilities through virtual means.

Members of the 18th Operations Support Squadron and Boeing civilian contractors with the unit have stepped up and provided increased time in flight simulators.

The F-15 Mission Training Centers, or flight simulators, are recreations of the F-15 cockpit that simulate flight and combat within the F-15, and allow 18th Wing pilots to continue to train, even while on the ground.

"The primary sim training that we do does not differ from the training we do day-to-day when the F-15's are flying," said Capt. Matthew French, a pilot with the 67th Fighter Squadron. "We normally use the simulators to augment our daily training."

The simulators are capable of recreating many of the scenarios and challenges pilots would face while in combat and offers some benefits that even the real thing can't match.

Kadena Air Base is one of a few installations within the Pacific Air Forces that can link up with what's called "distributed mission operations." The DMO links Kadena's simulators to those at other bases, such as F-15 simulators in Alaska, or F-16 Falcon simulators at Misawa.

The simulators can also link up with Kadena's own Airborne Warning and Control system simulators, which offer training for E-3 Sentry pilots who usually rely on the F-15's for their training as well.

The increase in operations tempo for the simulators places more burdens on the 18th OSS contractors to maintain the equipment and provide the training. According to Maj. Michael Thomas, flight commander with the 18th OSS, they are more than up to the challenge.

"All the contractors have leaned forward to help," said Major Thomas. "They're all prior F-15 pilots on the Boeing side of the house, and they know that we need their assistance for our pilots to maintain their skills."

Despite the contractors only being obligated a specific number of hours, they have stepped forward during this time to allow the wing mission to continue.

"The contractors know their contract," said Robert "Rocky" Racoma, the civilian in charge of the simulators. "But they see the need of the government and the pilots and say 'don't worry about it, we'll get it done.'"

"These guys will go 100-plus to ensure that these pilots get their training," said Mr. Racoma. "And when the simulators are having problems, they are working to fix the problems and get them ready for the pilots."

The experience the contractors bring with them is also a major bonus for 18th WG pilots.

"Our contractors here are prior F-15 group commanders, squadron commanders, and old wingmen of the current pilots," said Major Thomas. "They know each other, and know what our pilots need."

While the simulators here at Kadena have allowed all the F-15 pilots of the 18th WG to continue their training, and keep their proficiencies in ways that wouldn't have been possible otherwise during the stand-down, the pilots are looking forward to being in the air again said Captain French.

"We would obviously much rather be airborne," he said. "As good as they are, the simulators can't fully replace or replicate actually flying the aircraft."