Strike Eagle pilots destroy targets
by Capt. Don Kerr
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
03/05/03 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- Capt. Jonathon Breingan, an F-15E Strike Eagle pilot with the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, is proud that his airframe relies on two people sitting in its seats.
"We take the enemy head-on," he said. "We go out and destroy targets. It's what we do best, and we're the best in the Air Force at doing it."
The two-person team, consisting of a front-seat pilot and back-seat weapon systems officer, work together to navigate past enemy radar, defeat threats to their aircraft, find and "paint" their target and then hurtle a 2,000-pound bomb to the heart of the enemy.
The Strike Eagle is not only unique in that it has two seats, it also has a dual-role mission (air-to-air and air-to-ground) capable of carrying a wide variety of weapons and an extra 10,000 gallons of fuel -- more than just about any other fighter. That means it can fight its way to a target over very long ranges, destroy enemy ground positions and then fight its way back home.
According to Breingan, a two-person crew is invaluable to survival in the air. Splitting up the visual horizon surrounding the canopy, the two can scan the skies for potential threats.
"The sensors on the jet can always fail or maybe not pick up a threat before it's too late, but two sets of alert eyes will not," said Breingan.
"When we're entering a bombing run, it allows me to completely focus on getting the bomb where I want it to hit, while my pilot is looking for any external threats out there," said 1st Lt. Matt Hund, a 336th EFS weapon systems officer.
Although the Strike Eagle benefits from technology, it still relies heavily on the human element to put bombs on target.
"We (are) called on to do a job," said Hund. "Whatever that may be, we stand ready for anything. We prepare and study and then prepare some more, and when it's time to fly, you can bet we're ready."
For some, such as Breingan and Hund, mentally preparing for a combat mission in a fighter jet is a bit different than preparing for a football game. Whereas a quarterback might take the night before a big game to rehearse in his or her mind different plays, scenarios and escapes, a fighter pilot takes his or her entire professional life to rehearse for the "big game."
"You spend the last three or four or however many years of your life training to do what we're here for. And (during) every mission here, you're going through the exact same procedures you've always practiced, using the exact same steps and techniques, so that when you do fly a combat mission, it's just like being back home," said Breingan.
Confidence, teamwork and training make it easy to stay focused and prepare for the eventuality of combat.
"Some people wait their whole lives for this kind of opportunity," said Breingan. "We all know the training and skills we possess are the best in the world. It's nice when you finally get your chance to go out and do what you're trained to do."
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