December 1, 2008 (by Ron Scharven) - In an effort to provide unique training for the Air Force's newest combat asset, pilots from the 434th Fighter Training Squadron have been traveling to Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. on a weekly basis to train against the F-22 Raptor.
USAF F-22A block 30 no. 05-4106, 7th FS takes off from Holloman AFB, October 22, 2008 for training missions in the local area.
The 434th FTS T-38C's are providing the 7th Fighter Squadron F-22's initial cadre with their first dissimilar air combat training, which allows the Raptor pilots to stay proficient in their primary mission while still standing up their combat squadron, said Lt. Col. Jimmy Walker, 434th FTS commander.
"We are able to challenge the F-22 and their pilots in ways that other aircraft can't. Our T-38s are hard to see and track visually, so that requires the Raptor to come down to us and provides quality training for everyone involved," said Col. Walker.
The on-going support the 434 FTS is providing is the first of its kind for the Combat Air Force.
It's a slow buildup of the F-22s at Holloman so the squadron devised a six-month plan based on their student load. Between two or four T-38Cs assigned to the 434th FTS travel to Holloman on a weekly basis for the training. During the last four months the 434th FTS has flown more than 75 missions and logged more than 70 hours against the Raptor. All the while saving the Air Force more than $630,000 due to the significantly lower operating costs of the T-38C compared to the F-16 or F-15C.
Capt. Martin Mentch is one of the 434th FTS pilots who have trained against the F-22.
"It's great training for the F-22 pilots and the 434th pilots," he said. "It's a good chance for us to fly with the CAF and against a fifth-generation fighter. Not only do we keep our skills up for when we return to our primary fighter, but it also increases the skills of the Holloman pilots. It's a win-win situation for everyone."
When Captain Mentch's tour with the 434th is over, he'll return to his primary aircraft, the F-16 Viper.
community is supporting more than 30 percent of the adversary support needs for the CAF. Due to the drawdown of fighter assets, the 434 FTS, and other IFF units, are in high demand as adversary support. "We routinely field requests from the CAF, but turn down far many than we accept," Col. Walker said. The 434th is currently scheduled for a December deployment to support the Fighter Weapons School at Nellis AFB
The 47th FTW and 49th FW plan to continue this training in the future, adding to the impact that Laughlin is making around the Air Force.