ENDEX: ‘Wild Weasels’ return from VIGILANT ACE 18

by Staff Sgt. Deana Heitzman, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Stripes Korea

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Miles above the ground, blue skies and white clouds acted as a gym for more than 230 aircraft over Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, last week. Among these aircraft, the 35th Fighter Wing used their Block 50 F-16 Fighting Falcons as another machine to strengthen and solidify training capabilities during VIGILANT ACE 18, which ended Dec. 8.

U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors, F-35 Lightning IIs, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, F-15 Eagles, U.S. Navy F-18 Hornets, EA-18G Growlers, ROK F-15K Slam Eagles and F-4 Phantom IIs joined more than 12,000 service members across the Korean Peninsula, including 35th FW Airmen, to provide realistic air combat training with allies in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

On a typical day, pilots flew twice, which required them to decrease flight preparation time while maintainers had to increase efficiency to keep up with the high-demand of aircraft.

“We cannot simulate this experience when we conduct routine exercises at Misawa,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Moeller, the 13th Fighter Squadron commander. “We are putting our personnel through a different, compressed timeframe, which will challenge their abilities to make decisions in a high-stress environment.”

Although exercises at Misawa AB test readiness at home, it is important for 35th FW personnel to rehearse in unfamiliar locations to ensure a seamless operational transition if called to forward-deploy at a moment’s notice.

“It is important to get this training because the learning we receive at this level is invaluable,” said Capt. Michael Reid, a 13th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot. “We are flying with a lot more aircraft, which are actively participating, rather than us having to simulate their specialties at Misawa AB. It is exciting to fly in these large strike packages and work to overcome issues we encounter.”

In addition to flying two missions a day, personnel donned mission-oriented protective posture gear, adding an additional aspect of difficulty compared to routine sorties flown at Misawa AB.

“Both ops and maintenance personnel received some quality training during VIGILANT ACE,” added Moeller. “Our Airmen have greatly exceeded my expectations and have continued to impressed me with their abilities to carry out our primary missions.”

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