August 29, 2014 (by SrA Taylor Curry) - The 8th Fighter Wing recently deployed four F-16 Fighting Falcons to the Republic of Korea Air Force's 20th Fighter Wing at Seosan Air Base to participate in Exercise Buddy Wing 14-8.
RoKAF F-16C block 52 #92-002 from the 20th FW at Seosan AB takes off during Exercise Buddy Wing 14-8 on August 20th, 2014. [USAF photo by SrA. Taylor Curry]
The purpose of the training was not only to improve interoperability between U.S. Air Force and RoKAF
fighter squadrons, but to practice with ROKAF KF-16 units for their first upcoming RED FLAG exercise in Alaska.
"Helping ROKAF's forces prepare for this RED FLAG-Alaska deployment is a huge priority for us," said Capt. Jacob Allen, 35th Fighter Squadron instructor pilot and exercise project officer. "We are providing academics to their pilots regarding the long range flights to and from Alaska, as well as what to expect during the RED FLAG-style large force exercise."
The upcoming RED FLAG-Alaska deployment in October will mark the first time in history ROKAF KF-16s have crossed over the Pacific Ocean.
Exercise Buddy Wing prepares both ROKAF and Wolf Pack fighter pilots for RED FLAG-Alaska by providing them an opportunity to exchange ideas, experience cultural differences, discuss and practice combined tactics, as well as plan, brief, fly and debrief missions together.
"We have been given this amazing opportunity to work alongside our Republic of Korea partners to provide a shared understanding of our training procedures while continuously building trust between our two nations," said Maj. Zach Manning, 35th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations. "We [8th FW] look forward to integrating with them at Eielson Air Force Base for RED FLAG-Alaska."
There are many important objectives to meet while flying such a long distance, Manning added. We were able to lend our experience to a wide range of flight operations, such as aerial refueling and how to respond to an in-flight emergency.
Other training goals included improving combined combat capability and ensuring 100 percent safe operations through all phases of flying.
Another key objective is for ROKAF pilots to feel comfortable with their own capabilities while flying with USAF pilots, said Manning.
Understanding how both teams operate together is considered a large priority for ROKAF leadership as well.
ROKAF Maj. Lee, Woo Youl, 120th Fighter Squadron RED FLAG mission commander, discussed how this was the first time in his 15 years of flying where he had the chance to bring American pilots into his squadron to brief and train together.
"This is a rare opportunity to bring American pilots to our base for this mutually beneficial experience," said Lee. "The USAF pilots have really helped us out a lot to prepare for our departure to RED FLAG-Alaska. This exercise gives us the chance to work side by side to enhance our communication skills on the ground and in the air."
Lee also said this combined venture has been one of the most rewarding experiences of his career.
"At the end of the day, after all the training is completed, sitting down to enjoy a meal together and building upon this relationship is what it's all about," added Manning.