October 2, 2009 (by Lt. Col. Bob Battema) - Team Thunderbolt has yet another victory to celebrate. October 2, the 62nd Fighter Squadron graduated 10 students from class 09-CBC.
62nd FS 'Spikes' graduated 10 student pilots from Class 09-CBC at Luke Air AFB on October 2nd, 2009. From left: 1st Lts. Alex Divine and Matthew Austin, Capt. Patrick Anderson, 1st Lt. Jason Piper, Capts. Jarod DiGeorge and Bailyn Beck, 1st Lt. Grant Brown, Capt. Jeremy Nolting and 1st Lts. Jose Leon and Scott Eshelman. [USAF photo]
The final and formal step in achieving the 56th Fighter Wing mission to "Train the world's greatest F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots and maintainers, while deploying mission ready war fighters,"
These combat pilots will enter the Combat Air Force and "Overseas Contingency Operation" with unrivaled training and readiness -- a testament to the tireless efforts of Luke Thunderbolts.
Class 09-CBC's graduation marks the culmination of nine months of intensive and demanding flight instruction with the Spikes. The pilots could not have reached this milestone without the outstanding support of numerous units across the 56th Fighter Wing. The class received hundreds of hours of academic and simulator instruction from the 56th Training Squadron and Lockheed Martin instructors.
62nd Aircraft Maintenance Unit maintainers shared the challenge of high operations tempo supporting over 1,700 aircraft launches and recoveries. Countless support agencies across the base ensured Spike students could fully focus on their mission by providing world class support and service to the student pilots and their families.
Dedicated Spike instructors led, instructed and evaluated more than 862 sorties during the duration of their course. The students quickly learned what is expected of an Air Force fighter pilot. The class began with one month of grueling academic instruction coupled with simulator training. This rigorous curriculum ensured that the student pilots were ready for their first flight in the F-16, also known as the Viper. After only four flights to learn how to fly one of the most complex weapons systems in the Air Force inventory, the pilots were turned loose to solo this amazing machine.
Following this brief transition phase, students learned to explore the edge of the Viper's maneuvering capabilities through a dozen basic fighter or dog-fighting maneuvering sorties. They also learned the subtleties and finesse of aerial refueling, dynamics of four-ship air-to-air intercepts, and highly demanding employment as part of a multi-ship offensive and defensive counter air missions versus robust adversary threat replication.
After the air-to-air phase, the pilots began the daunting task of learning to employ the Viper against ground targets. Each student dropped live weapons, laser-guided bombs, precision global positioning system weapons and strafed targets on the Barry M. Goldwater Range Complex in southern Arizona. To ensure these pilots will be ready for the Combat Air Force, each student was required to demonstrate proficiency in these tasks at night with the aid of night-vision goggles.
The capstone mission of the Initial Qualification Course was the squadron's participation in Operation Bulldog Justice. This multi-day, large force exercise involved planning, integrating strike and escort packages of off-station aircraft, which required the class's execution of their plan as wingmen. The class was provided a scenario which mimicked the real-world demands on CAF units around the globe, including striking ground targets while defending against simulated adversaries. In all aspects of this demanding task 09-CBC excelled, executing their mission with precision, discipline, and lethality - standards expected of all Air Force Airmen.
While graduation marks a milestone for the newest Viper wingmen, it also serves as the beginning of their careers as combat pilots. Each student will undergo mission qualification training at their next base to prepare them for their units' specific wartime tasking. Almost certainly, pilots from 09-CBC will be flying combat sorties in Iraq and Afghanistan within months of graduation.
Now equipped with the knowledge and skill required of an American fighter pilot, they will travel to the corners of the earth to defend the freedom of this great nation. Luke Airmen, you should be proud of your part in producing the newest "world's greatest F-16 fighter pilots."
"357 and counting...SPIKE!"