TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The 20th Fighter Wing from Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, sent 16 F-16CJ Fighting Falcons and approximately 140 Airmen to participate in the Checkered Flag 17-1 and Combat Archer 17-3 here Dec. 5 through 16.
Checkered Flag 17-1 and Combat Archer 17-3 focus on the integration of three fighter squadrons’ ability to perform as a large-scale total force integration, designed to be a rapid response to unforeseen or unplanned operations.
“This is a good opportunity for everyone, including the younger Airmen who have not experienced exercises like Red Flag, to train with all the other Air Force’s fighters, to employ tactically in an air-to-air scenario,” said Capt. Garret Schmitz, 55th Fighter Squadron C-Flight commander.
The F-16 is a multi-role fighter aircraft, but Shaw’s F-16s mostly play an air-to-air role at Checkered Flag this year, Schmitz said.
“We’re out here providing a good air-to-air platform for other people to train off of and for us to practice our air-to-air tactics," he continued. "This is a great opportunity to integrate with the F-22 [Raptor] and F-35 [Lightning II], combining their tactics and our tactics to form a seamless fight.”
Shaw does this by maintaining a mission-ready, multi-role capability to mobilize, deploy and tactically employ forces worldwide for any contingency in support of U.S. national objectives.
“Our roles as pilots while at Tyndall are to fly some sorties and get some good training experience and integrate with the other fighter pilots,” said Capt. Brian J. Leber, 55th FS pilot.
While at home station, Leber is surrounded by F-16s. He said he believes one of the most beneficial aspects of Checkered Flag is that the 55th FS has the opportunity to integrate on a daily basis with fifth-generation aircraft, as well as other fourth-generation assets.
“Every time we go flying here, it’s a mix of assets,” Leber said. “Briefing, flying and debriefing with them while figuring out how we can all work together to achieve the overall objective, I feel is the most valuable part of this training.”
Leber believes simulations throughout a pilot’s career are beneficial; however, nothing can measure up to the experience and confidence that a pilot gains during a live-fire exercise like Checkered Flag and Combat Archer.