August 5, 2014 (by A1C Kedesha Pennant) - Two 317th Airlift Group C-130J Super Hercules successfully employed air-to-air tactics against an F-16 Fighting Falcon during a training exercise July 23, 2014, en route to Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas.
Air Force pilots prepare for takeoff in a C-130J Super Hercules July 23, 2014, at Dyess AFB. Two 317th AG C-130Js successfully employed air-to-air tactics against an F-16 Fighting Falcon during a training exercise en route to NAS-JRB Fort Worth, Texas. [USAF photo by A1C Kedesha Pennant]
This exercise demonstrated the C-130J capabilities that will be used during Red Flag-Alaska, where more than 100 aircraft will participate in multiple exercises.
"We replicated a realistic air threat C-130J aircrews can expect to face at Red Flag-Alaska," said Lt. Col. Brian Storck, 457th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot and aggressor to the C-130Js. "This operation showed the C-130J can survive against an advanced air threat."
The crew of each C-130J consisted of two to three pilots and a loadmaster. The loadmasters sat high in the flight decks of their aircraft, looking through a bubbled window in the ceiling. They communicated to the pilots who reacted and maneuvered to ensure the safety of their aircraft. The goal was to delay the fighter pilot's ability to locate the C-130Js.
"This training was educational and helped me realize there's more to being a loadmaster than what we normally do," said Airman 1st Class Jacob Betts, 40th Airlift Squadron loadmaster. "It was remarkable to engage in defensive tactics we normally don't operate in."
On board the C-130Js, the sound of the radio chatter in the headset was constant, as the loadmaster relayed instructions that resulted in "roller coaster-esque" movements, revealing how fast the J-model can react when in the face of danger.
"The average person doesn't expect a 130,000-pound cargo plane to be able to maneuver as nimbly as the J-model does," said Maj. Aaron Webb, 39th AS assistant director of operations for tactics. "It may seem like we were reacting slowly, but our counter tactics against an area of engagement are pretty effective."
The attainment of these goals would not have been possible without teamwork amongst the pilots and the loadmasters.
"The aircrews learned how to work as a team and to defend their aircraft should an aggressor impose an attack," Webb said. "In the state of current events, it's absolutely imperative to train our aircrews to be prepared for any threat, both on the ground and in the air."
This was the first time the 317th AG engaged in this type of air training in cohesion with the 457th FS. More opportunities for these exercises are expected to continue; until then, the aircrew members who participated will pass on what they learned from this experience to other aircrews.
"The 317th Airlift Group is very unique in that we're small enough to rapidly adjust to real-time mission pressures, but we're large enough to where we make a difference," Webb said. "The culture here is to be the best you can possibly be and that is what we strive to do."