Lt. Col. Ott entered the USAF in 1980 after graduating from the USAF Academy. He went to pilot training, and then was a T-38 IP until 1984. He started flying the F-16 at MacDill AFB, Florida, and had F-16 assignments at Hahn AB (Germany), Osan (South Korea), Nellis AFB, Shaw AFB, and Eglin AFB. He graduated from the USAF Fighter Weapons School in 1989. Currently, he is the Operations Officer in the 86th FWS at Eglin.
F-16.net: Which was your favourite assignment?
Lt. Col. Ott: I am like most fighter pilots and consider my first operational assignment the best...the Fightin' Tenth TFS Sabres. I have been lucky and had all good assignments but there was nothing to compare to USAFE in the 1980's and the good old cold war: very challenging and rewarding flying, lots of great friends and superb leadership at Hahn in the 1980's. Flying in the 422 TES (at Nellis) was probably the best for pure flying excitement.
F-16.net: What exactly is the mission of your current unit, the 86th FWS?
Lt. Col. Ott: We run the USAF Air-to-Ground Weapons System Evaluation Program, also known as "COMBAT HAMMER". We evaluate worldwide USAF fighters and the precision guided munitions they employ. This includes GBU-10/12/15/24/27 and AGM-65/84/88/130 dropped from all makes of F-16s, the F-15E, the F-117, and the A-10. Our squadron is made up of F-16 pilots and F-15E aircrews. I mostly fly the block 50 here at Eglin, but fly block 30 and block 40 when one of those squadrons participates in Combat Hammer. In the future we expect to add JDAM and JSOW and the F-22.
F-16.net: What does a Combat Hammer exercise exactly involve?
Lt. Col. Ott: A Combat Hammer exercise is an evaluation of combat units that employ precision guided munitions (PGM's) such as laser-guided bombs (LGB) and AGM-65 Maverick missiles and AGM-88 HARM's. We look at everything from ground operations including munition build-up and ground tests through enroute tactics, through employment, fuzing, warhead function (AGM-65 only - all other PGM's are inert) and target destruction. All ordonance are real but only the Mavericks have warheads, this saves on targets and reduces some of the risks associated with the evaluation.
F-16.net: Which model (block) of the F-16 do you prefer?
Lt. Col. Ott: I have flown the F-16 for around 14 years and have about 2100 hours in all makes of the Viper from the small-tail F-16A thru the Block 50. My favorite Viper is the Block 50: plenty of power... lots of great avionics... But I also have great memories of the basic Block 30 with AIM-9's and MK-84's - back when life was simple in the day VFR fighter.
F-16.net: How would you compare the T-38 to the F-16?
Lt. Col. Ott: I flew the T-38 for 2.5 years and it is a great little jet but no F-16.
F-16.net: Is there a specific mission profile you especially enjoy?
Lt. Col. Ott: I think multi-role is the best mission...fighting our way into the target, blowing it up, and fighting back out again.
F-16.net: What was your most memorable flight in the F-16?
Lt. Col. Ott: I have many memorable flights but one that comes to mind was when Craig "Skip" Wilkerson and I were flying two F-16A's from Hahn to Homestead AFB, FL when Hahn was converting from the F-16A to the F-16C. We took off from Torrejon (Spain) as a 6-ship with one of their squadrons who were on their way to the USA. Along the way...after many boring hours, I drifted away from the formation while reading the Stars and Stripes and lost sight of EVERYONE. All I could see was ocean. After what seemed like hours I found them with the mighty APG-66 FCR and put the missile rail in the ECS duct of Skip's jet and stayed there. He never knew what happened... good flight lead he was!
F-16.net: What was the best joke you ever played on one of your fellow squadron members?
Lt. Col. Ott: I once played a real bad joke on a fellow Sabre while deployed to Incirlik but it was by accident. I was the "duty hog" one day during a practice mass launch of simulated strike lines to Konya range. Mode 3 squawks were a big deal with the Turkish AF and someone asked what were the squawks for the day. I jokingly pointed around the duty desk and said, "you squawk 7700", "you squawk 7600", "and you squawk 7500" (while pointing to John "Lu igi" Evans). We all laughed (1) and everyone stepped to fly while I settled into another Stars and Stripes. I heard the jets launch and everything was quiet until.... the hotline from Incirlik Command Post rang. You have to remember that this was the cold war days and Torrejon F-16s were sitting Victor Alert (2) at Incirlik. I answered the phone rather professionally and was asked if I knew that one of our F-16s was being hijacked !! It hit me right then what had happened. I said it was all a mistake and besides, it is a single-seat fighter!! The sqn CC, (then) Lt. Col. Paul "Doodle" Dordal came out to see what was going on and I quickly explained... I think he wanted to strap me to the target at the range. We eventually got things calmed down but it made for a great story and doofer book entry with a picture of Luigi flying a Viper while holding a gun to his head....with the caption "Nobody move or the Skinny guy gets It."
F-16.net: Where did you get yor callsign?
Lt. Col. Ott: I got the name Spanky at the USAF Academy back in 1977...It was an evolution of my name Frank to Franky to Spanky combined with being only 17 when a freshman and very baby-faced and the upper classmen kidded me alot about being too young to be in college and that I looked like Spanky from the American comedy, The Little Rascals.
F-16.net: Thanks for the interview!
Lt. Col. Ott: Enjoyed sharing some stories with you...
- (1) A mode 3 squawk of 7700 means you have an emergency, a mode 3 squawk of 7600 means radio failure, and mode 3 squawk of 7500 means you are being hijacked.
- (2) Nuke alert.
- Lt. Col. Ott was interviewed online by Stefaan Vanhastel -