by Airman 1st Class Chris Drzazgowski
355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
6/26/2015 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Student pilots from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, 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 Davis-Monthan Air Force
Base 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 U.S. Air Force 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
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
"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.
Airman 1st Class Chris Massey contributed to this story