March 4, 2008 (by A1C Christopher Griffin) - Adequate training is vital to success in any combat situation. In the case of fighter pilots, training enables a higher percentage of mission success with adversaries both in the air and on the ground.
SrA. Frank Canfield assists A1C. Timothy Ogburn in replacing safety wire on an electronic attack pod on February 27th, 2008 in the Avionics Flight at Eielson AFB. The pods, maintained by the flight against Alaska's harsh arctic winters, provide an offensive electronic attack that degrades an enemy aircraft's radar. [USAF photo by A1C. Christopher Griffin]
Eielson Icemen are focusing their full efforts on the new mission with F-16 Aggressors and Red Flag-Alaska, a 10-day air combat training exercise held up to four times a year. There have been many adjustments to the operation of the aircraft, but one significant difference to the F-16s stationed here is the change of the Electronic Attack (EA) Pod which is used for jamming an adversary's radar.
"The pods we worked on before were defensive. All pods are capable of both offensive and defensive, it's just how you use them." said Maj. Jay Hughes, 18th Aggressor Squadron pilot. "We traditionally used EA 184 pods (the old ones) on the combat coded F-16s as defensive, which were used to target surface-to-air radar and air-to-air radar."
Since the mission changed, the EA pods requirements have also changed. The pods were changed to suite a more offensive approach. The 354th Maintenance Squadron now uses EA 188 pods, which provide the same technology as the previous pods but are used to suit the efforts of the Aggressors.
When an EA pod is put into effect it degrades the opposing forces radar forcing the pilot to rely on their own sight.
"The basic programs we use are still defensive in nature, we are just using them to defend the bad guys (Aggressors)" said Major Hughes. "In support of the Aggressors, we just changed who we are jamming. We now try to jam the good guy's air-to-air radars."
Eielson currently has four versions of the EA 188 pod. Two pods which replicate older pods for countries that might be operating with first and second generation equipment, a Gardenia Jamming pod which replicates ones developed by the former Soviet Union, and a V4 pod which is fully programmable allowing it to virtually never become obsolete.
"I'm learning a completely different system," said Airman 1st Class Timothy Ogburn who maintains the EA pods. "These pods are essential to the RF-A exercises."
"With enemy EA technology advancing, training our combat Air Force pilots how to operate in an increased electronic attack (EA) environment will increase their survivability and lethality," Major Hughes said. "This training, thanks to a unique capability of the pods employed by the Aggressors, is essential to creating a challenging, realistic, threat-representative environment in which to better train our blue combat Air Force pilots."