F-16.net: Please give us an overview of your military career and tell the readers a
little about yourself?
CJ: I've been in a flying job continuously now for 28 years (militarily retire soon)... Lt Col with over 6200 hours in fighters/trainers, started out in the Navy flying the A-7E off carriers... Switched to the USAF after marriage so I could see my family and fly too... Saw my first F-16 up close in 1982 as a Navy TA-4J IP in a BFM engagement and always wanted to fly that sexy jet after that! ...Paid my dues as a USAF AT-38 IP, and then got my dream assignment to Hill in the Viper.
CJ: We used to drop a lot of GP bombs, these are Mk 82's loaded on a VA-25 A-7E.
F-16.net: What is your call sign and how did you get it?
CJ: Had numerous call signs over the years, but currently it's "Dyno"... is it because of my "dynomite" personality... or because I'm a "dynomo" in the jet... or because I'm a throwback to the mighty beasts that once ruled the earth (and are no more), the "dynosaur"... Which do you think it is?
F-16.net: What is your most memorable flight in the Viper either positive or
CJ: There have been many, but first to pop into focus was as Mission Commander in a high threat Red Flag exercise. Authored, briefed and led the tactical mission (40 plus jets), which started out at high altitude in a four ship wall as fakers, drug out at the right time after drawing and trashing Red Air Rmax shots, postholed to a low level LLTR ingress, successful bombs on target, swung to OCA and scored a victory covering the Recce egress. Only the Viper was capable of such a mission... way more aggressive than anything seen in real life (but that's how Red Flags were).
F-16.net: How many hours in the F-16?
1000 hours patch
CJ: A bit over one thousand. I spent seven blissful years flying block 15, 25 & 30 jets... but suffered sparse flight time during a flying staff job in the middle of it.
F-16.net: Other than the F-16, what aircraft have you flown? And how does the Viper compare?
CJ: Manning up my Corsair on the deck of the USS Ranger, 'Gonzo' Station off Oman
in the Indian Ocean (1980).
CJ: I've been blessed big time. The normal Navy UPT jets, then the A-7E (1000 hours, USS America & USS Ranger), TA-4J (800 hours), AT-38 (750 hours), F-16A/C (1000 hours),F-4F (550 hours), last six years teaching future NATO fighter pilots in the T-37 (2000 hours)... How does the Viper compare? Corsair II was like a Cadillac, smooth, lots of bells and whistles and got the air to ground job done in style, but hurting for power. Skyhawk was pure joy in flight, very responsive, tight cozy cockpit, ok power but none to spare (is there such a thing as spare power?), at 400 knots chasing clouds was like slicing butter with a hot knife or water skiing on glassy water, exhilarating fun flying the "scooter", but not much of a modern day war machine. The Phantom II... what can you say, the most manly and legendary jet ever built. Indestructible, built like a Mac truck, but fly's like one too! (enough thrust will make anything fly). It takes a lot of man to fly one well. Truly an awesome machine. ...How does the Viper compare? Simply above all the rest... for a whole bunch of reasons. My favorite reasons are: great thrust to weight (at least the early blocks certainly were), great visibility and ergonomics (by far best cockpit I've been in), and the aerodynamic design... wow, center of lift in front of center of gravity. Awesome maneuvering leading edge flaps! I remember sandbagging my first ever ride when I got to the TX RTU course, I was mesmerized watching those LEFs from the back seat of the B model. Adds up to simply the best BFM machine of all time... too bad air to air is not its primary mission.
F-16.net: The F-4F is a German aircraft. Where you flying out of Holloman AFB, New
Mexico? If so, what were you doing with this unit and what was that like?
CJ on first tanker rejoin on a long trip transatlantic flight ferrying an F-4F to Germany.
CJ: Yes, I was a Phantom IP for the 20th Fighter Squadron at Holloman, which is the German Air Force RTU. The GAF employs the F-4F strictly in an air to air role, so we taught transition and all the normal phases: Tactical Formation, BFM, Intercepts (including low level), ACM, ACT and Aerial Refueling. The entire experience was like a fairy tale to me... "ya mean all we're going to do is air to air?, hurt me!" The legendary Phantom is a pure joy to be around. It looks and sounds manly whether it's taxiing, lifting off or coming up initial. You meet one at the merge, and just whistle..."wow". You fly close formation next to ole Double Ugly and you sense a feeling of pure privilege, and then you say to yourself "How does it stay in the air?"... It's one serious hunk of iron and passion. Easily argued as the most successful fighter of all time.
True, it takes most of your operating area to turn the beast around. Most everybody we would meet in an engagement owned most of the P sub S chart... Phantom crews still actually closely manage their energy (in truth, everybody still has to do this)... but a man can still fly it in the vertical... and as far as pre-merge goes?... Those with the best gameplan, radar work, comm & execution come out on top whether you're in a Phantom, Viper, Hornet, Eagle ... or whatever BVR platform you're strapped into.
CJ stands in front of the Double Ugly jets on the Holloman flight line.
The White Sands Missile Range is a great place to fly in southern New Mexico. Crystal clear 40 mile plus vis most days, with that deep blue sky, high desert terrain and stark mountain ranges. Wonderful place for daily training... supersonic airspace. Site of the first atomic blast & all our early rocketry & missile work was done there... as much still is. We didn't pen up the Phantom in southern NM though, as we took it on the road to Luke, Nellis, Tyndall, Otis and Portland to get dissimilar training for our students... but also to provide adversary support for our hosts (a grand time for one & all).
The F-4F Phantom II is a crowd pleaser wherever it goes. Don't pass up any chances you have to get close to one, the Rhino won't be around forever!
F-16.net: What squadron/base are you currently active?
CJ: I'm currently flying with the 89th FTS "Screaming Banshees" at Sheppard AFB, home of Euro NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT). (note: April interview, CJ militarily retired on 30 Jun)
F-16.net: What type of training do you do with the T-37 right now? What countries
and for what aircraft?
CJ: Most of our NATO countries do their UPT at Sheppard AFB, Texas. I'm currently an IP in the T-37 teaching our future NATO fighter pilots their first contact, instruments, low level navigation and formation. Honestly, I didn't have the patience when I was a young pup to do this work. But after I passed 4000 fighter type hours, I discovered I really enjoy providing quality basic instruction for these hungry youngsters, and watching them metamorphosis from someone off the street into a fledgling military pilot... Very rewarding... plus the multi-cultural aspect of the 80 TFW here is a real hoot.
F-16.net: Any fond memories of a specific deployment or exercise?
CJ: My first Navy cruise on the USS America to the Med was really special.
I was unmarried and a brand new carrier attack pilot flying everyday & visiting the best ports in the Mediterranean. Wow that was fun.
F-4s from the 20 FS
at Holloman AFB have a deep history all the way back through Vietnam.
F-16.net: You switched over to the USAF so you could be with your family. But after Desert Storm many USAF units were deployed for ONW/OSW and Kosovo campaigns. Did you find that you were over seas TDY any way? If so where did you deploy? And how did you feel about being away from your family?
CJ: You're right Jon, what you mention has put a huge strain on the operational Air Force. USAF Fighter Squadrons, (Guard and Reserve too) have found themselves deployed often, for long periods over the past ten plus years. Their normal routine is much more like what the Navy's squadrons have traditionally always been (with recurring carrier deployments). Now the guys in all of our services truly deserve a break, and some recharging time when they rotate back to the states.
As for me, I've spent the past ten years as an IP for future NATO fighter pilots and German F-4 pilots... so my life has been mostly stable.
F-16.net: How does Navy life compare to Air Force?
CJ just finished leading a bunch of Fort Wayne F-16C's into the Azores on way to Egypt
CJ: You know, I could write a book about this and also compare the Guard too, as I spent some wonderful years with the folks at Fort Wayne when they first got their Vipers. I'm just going to point out that the Navy has to be able to operate autonomously. There is no one to call for "mother may I" when you're flying off a deck with blue water ops in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Navy training, rules and regulations reflect this need for independence and self reliance.
In size, the Air Force is truly the heavy weight when compared... with much larger numbers & bigger scope of most everything. Therefore the USAF puts a greater emphasis on standardization and uniformity... USAF training, rules and regulations reflect the same... you've heard "Stan Eval is your pal" haven't you?
CJ - 'A-7E's employed primarily in fourships ... VA-192 'World Famous Golden Dragons' off the USS America' (Mediterranean 1979).
The Guard has to fit in where they're needed, while primarily relying on the traditional Guardsman, or the part-timer. These guys have full time civilian jobs and don't necessarily have time on a routine basis for all the finer details of the active duty... of course they ramp up quickly to whatever status as needed. The Guard's training, rules and regulations have to be fit to get the job done, but at the same time accommodate their backbone of part-timers... sometimes they need an extra dose of flexibility.
The myriad factors revolving around the above make life in the three each distinctly different. They each have their finer and lesser points, their strengths and weaknesses. I'll just have to leave it at that for now... ...You know,
I tip-toed around that one pretty well... don't you think?
421st Fighter Squadron patch (Jon Somerville collection)
F-16.net: What assignment/squadron was your favorite?
CJ: The best squadron in the world is the 421st Black Widows at Hill AFB Utah. My bias comes from my enjoyment when I was the senior Flight Commander there. Remember that Hasbro toy F-16 back in 1989-90?... our Squadron picture was on the toy box and on the poster... I can tell you, it was a big kick to go into any toystore in the nation & see your picture on a toybox... I could pretend like I was an athlete on one of those Wheaties boxes or something ... heh, heh,heh :-)
CJ - Hill AFB is a great place to train as you can employ most any air-to-ground ordnance from there (Mk 84's, F-16A 80-0937, 421 TFS).
F-16.net: Is there any particular F-16 tail number to which you are fond?
CJ: Actually, not really, I'm fond of all of them!
F-16.net: What is the best/worst practical joke you played on a victim(s)?
CJ: Military pilot life lends opportunity for many of these and I've seen my share. Just a few in capsule form: (1) new Navy Department Head joined in mid cruise and we created a fictitious junior officer pilot who lived with us in the bunkroom. Even had him on the flight schedule, picture on the squadron board, sent out his laundry etc. All the squadron pilots were in on it. Had the new guy spoofed and combing the ship trying to meet this guy. Was good for many laughs. (2) My F-16 RTU class left the squadron a bulldog as a present and mascot (61st FTS). She stayed in the squadron overnight for a time and was trained to wander on down to the brand X squadron (hallways connected) to relieve herself after hours. (3) Perhaps my favorite was, as a new student in the T-28 we often practiced touch-and-goes at our out-lying fields. My IP one day had me in the front bend way down so as not to be seen. He entered Choctaw OLF with a solo call sign... you can imagine some bewilderment from the wheelswatch, as you don't solo a Trojan from the rear cockpit. We went around the pattern, he then had me sit up and do a touch-and-go, while he bent over... then we left. No kidding the wheelswatch believed the solo climbed from the back seat to the front seat while in the pattern!
CJ: 'RTU IP's have patience ... waiting for my studs to come up with a game plan to fly versus the Portland Oregon Guard F-15s.'
F-16.net: What advice would you give junior Viper pilots?
CJ: Savor your time in the best overall fighter the world has ever witnessed.
F-16.net: Any words of advice to any of our young readers wanting to join the
military or fly the Viper?
CJ: Simply do your honest best at everything you do. Be well rounded in school and sports, don't give up on your dreams, keep knocking on doors, be patient... and your success will come!
F-16.net: Thank you for the interview!
- Lt.Col. CJ Weiss was interviewed online by Jon Somerville in April of 2004 -