USAF, ROKAF pilots soar at Buddy Wing 15-6
JUNGWON AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Wolf Pack F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots from the 80th Fighter Squadron, Kunsan Air Base, ROK, practiced combined flying operations alongside counterparts from the ROK Air Force's 19th Fighter Wing at Jungwon AB, North Chungcheong Province, ROK, during Buddy Wing 15-6, July 7 to 10.
Buddy Wing training, held multiple times per year, polishes the ability of ROKAF and USAF pilots to train and operate as a combined force.
"One of the main purposes of Buddy Wing is to participate in tactical discussions," said ROKAF Maj. Moonberm Park, 19th Fighter Wing KF-16 instructor pilot. "This is a very useful opportunity for us to get together during briefings and debriefs to go over details on serious matters and technical subjects."
This iteration of Buddy Wing training included one defensive counter-air exercise, two air interdiction exercises and one strike coordination and reconnaissance exercise.
"Despite the weather issues, we were still able to be flexible and execute with a larger force of aircraft than we typically train to at Kunsan," said Capt. Daniel Wynn, 80th FS assistant director of operations and Buddy Wing 15-6 project officer. "We were also able to provide ROKAF with valuable training to prepare them for RED FLAG-Alaska.
So I'd say the training was very successful overall."
The Buddy Wing training gave ROKAF members lessons in preparation for RED FLAG-Alaska and enhanced their ability to fight in future coalition scenarios alongside the U.S. if they ever need to take the fight north.
"Overall, for a very small force and a small contingent operation out at Jungwon, we were able to safely execute our training together, achieve all of our training requirements, learn from one another and really integrate on that combined level," Wynn said. "It was a very valuable experience for all of the pilots here."
Wolf Pack pilots were also able to communicate differences in verbiage and build on coordination techniques they use with their ROKAF counterparts and ground forces.
"It helps out because if someone doesn't understand the way some things are said, then we can use a different type of wording and pass that along, which allows us to be more sharply in tune to what's being communicated while we're airborne," said Capt. Michael Arnold, 80th FS F-16 pilot. "So if we ever have to go to war, then we have a more robust understanding of how we can operate together."
Getting to know Korean pilots on a personal level was also instrumental to enhancing communication and understanding each other's culture.
"We were able to meet with a lot of good pilots and had opportunities to strengthen relationships outside of flying," said Wynn. "This way, they became more than just another faceless voice on the radio."
Not only did the Buddy Wing training strengthen relationships, but it also enabled Wolf Pack pilots to train in unfamiliar airspace.
"There are many differences between the ROKAF and USAF airspaces," said Capt. Bonhyuk Koo, 19th FW KF-16 pilot. "If we don't have a chance to train together it would be more difficult to understand the differences in flight patterns, tactics and terminologies. I now have a more thorough understanding of why U.S. pilots fly in certain formations."
Relocating forces to a different airfield which some of the newer pilots were unfamiliar with was also a unique experience for younger Wolf Pack pilots who haven't had an opportunity to train outside of the Kunsan airspace.
"For at least four of our younger Wingmen, it was their first time operating at an airfield to which they are not accustomed," Wynn said. "Despite this challenge, they were still able to execute flawlessly and gain valuable insight from the experience."
Through integration with ROKAF partners in Jungwon during training sorties, pre-flight briefings and post-flight briefings, air-to-air and air-to-ground tactics were sharpened to enhance flying interoperability.
"The more we practice together, the more smoothly our flying operations will be if we have to go to war," Arnold said.