Military News

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Seymour Johnson AFB: The source of F-15 airpower - Part 2

by Airman Shawna L. Keyes
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

3/10/2015 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C.  -- [Editor's note: This feature is the second of a three-part series focusing on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base's ability to train both the Airmen who fly and the Airmen who maintain the F-15, thereby sourcing the Air Force's F-15 airpower.]

The 4th Fighter Wing hosts more than half of the F-15E Strike Eagle fighter squadrons in the Air Force and is home to two training squadrons which Strike Eagle pilots and weapons systems officers must attend before becoming operational.

Much like Strike Eagle maintainers, if an Airman wants to be a part of, and add to the legacy of the Strike Eagle, they must come to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, to train.

The base hosts the 333rd "Lancers" and 334th "Eagles" Fighter Squadrons, the source of F-15E Strike Eagle airpower. The pilots and WSOs attached to the squadrons attend the Basic Course - more commonly known as "B-Course" which is approximately eight and a half months long.

The 333rd and 334th FSs hold two courses a year, respectively. With an average of 20 students per course, more than 80 prospective Strike Eagle aircrew pass through Seymour Johnson AFB's gates every year.

Students study basic fighter maneuvers, where they learn air combat maneuvers and air-to-air tactical intercepts. Aircrew also learn to detect, target and engage long range targets.

"There are a lot of things that the F-15Es can do and a lot of things we have to provide to combatant commanders all around the world," said 1st Lt. Matthew Sowder, 334th FS student WSO. "We have to be proficient in any one of those tasks so that when we're called for any given mission, we're prepared with the best of our abilities."

Additionally, students study air-to-ground academics and simulations with the 4th Training Squadron before returning to their respective training squadrons.

Instructors come in from one of six operational squadrons located at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, or Seymour Johnson's own 335th "Chiefs" and 336th "Rockets" FSs. A three-to-one student to instructor ratio is used in the classroom and a one-to-one ratio is utilized during flying missions.

"The one-to-one ratio for a training mission is important because it allows the student pilot and student WSO to receive hands-on training in the aircraft," Divittorio said. "Real-time training during the brief and debrief allows the instructor pilot and instructor WSO to teach crew position to their students, as well as the crew coordination that is required."

The course culminates in day and night surface attack tactic sorties often accompanied by other types of aircraft to increase learning.

Divittorio said anytime the training squadrons can allow the students to fly and fight against other aircraft different from the F-15E it allows them to see the strengths and weaknesses that adversary aircraft could possibly bring to the fight while down range.

Divittorio added that the unique location of Seymour Johnson AFB allows for air combat training over different landscapes and utilizing assets such as the F/A-18 Hornet from Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia, the F-22 Raptor and T-38 Talon at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, and the F-16CM Fighting Falcon at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

"Seymour Johnson (AFB) provides a unique opportunity for F-15E training in that we have the phenomenal maritime airspace off the east coast," said Lt. Col. Ernesto Divittorio, 334th FS director of operations. "We have both flat land and mountainous terrain as we get out to western North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, that the students get to learn off of."

Recent B Course grad 1st Lt. Desmond Ross, 336th FS WSO, said being able to go head-to-head with different types of aircraft allowed him and the other students to learn how their radar and weapons react to different types of aircraft.

"The training in B Course is very extensive, we learn everything that the Strike Eagle can do in air-to-air and air-to-ground engagement," said Ross. "Some aircraft are smaller and faster than the Strike Eagle. So we have to work through those problems as they arise. It's something that we can't plan for when we use the same type of aircraft in our training; which is why training with other aircraft is so critical."

Ross said everything he learned in B Course has prepared him to learn more in an operational squadron and allowed him to continue honing his skills and become a better aviator.

Once training is complete, a graduation ceremony is held where students receive their first assignments to either Mount Home AFB, RAF Lakenheath or to remain at Seymour Johnson AFB.

"It's incredibly motivational to see the Rockets and the Chiefs taking off," Sowder said. "That's our future. The guys in the operational squadrons are who we aspire to be and soon enough we'll be among their ranks."

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