News: Flying in paradise
Story by Tech. Sgt. Dan DiPietro
HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii - It was one of those deployments recruiters love to mention to potential recruits: 10 days in Hawaii. So what mission lured VTANG airmen from their sleepy winter hibernation to get their game-on with south Pacific airmen this February?
SENTRY ALOHA is a NGB sponsored exercise that provides an opportunity for dissimilar aircraft combat training with a special focus on air-to-air combat for the 154WG, F-16 Vipers and F-15 Eagles during the cold season. Eager to enjoy the sun, and challenge, 184 members of the VTANG packed up their equipment and headed for warmer waters.
The training was held at the 154th Wing, Hawaii Air National Guard, Hickam Air Force Base. Hickam pilots have logged countless hours so they master their new aircraft, the F-22. Constant training is imperative for a combat pilot, and one of the most essential learning curves is gained in DACT. This training teaches pilots what to expect when sharing the airspace with aircrafts of different capabilities. Knowing this information ahead of a deployment to a warzone is critical when completing missions, and saving lives.
Maj. Matt Peltier, a 134th Fighter Squadron pilot who participated in SENTRY ALOHA explained that the F-16 is a 4th generation aircraft and the F-22 is a new 5th generation, with more advanced technology. “The biggest thing is their stealth capability. When we’re in the airspace fighting we can’t pick them up, we can’t see where they are.”
And this presented an interesting twist to the training – there was a unique emphasis on communication because without the F-22s showing up on radar, the F-16s were virtually blind to the aircraft. With the hopeful approach of the F-35s replacing VTANG’s F-16s this training made the 158th pilots even more interested in the experience; F-22s and F-35s will work hand-in-hand with each other in future combat missions, however, over the next decade, mixed generation aircrafts will need to understand the capabilities of their fellow pilots.
“We wanted to see how the Raptors operate, what they need to get the mission done, and how we can support and help” said Peltier. This is crucial experience on how air combat fighting is and will continue to change in the future with 5th generation aircraft. “It’s helps us in a large scale wartime scenario, where we are going to have multiple aircraft in multiple air spaces. They can help defend us air-to-air while get to our target.”
The superb Maintenance and Support effort provided by The Green Mountain Boys ensured that we flew 101 total sorties, over 136.2 flying hours and ran a two-shift operation for two weeks. A very successful trip for all involved. After months of preparation, two weeks of hard work, and taking in the Hawaiian sun, it was time for the men and women of the 158th Fighter Wing - the Green Mountain Boys to return home.