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Kadena F-15 pilots train to keep talons sharp

by Staff Sgt. Christopher A. Marasky
18th Wing Public Affairs

12/13/2007 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan (AFPN)  -- Despite the Air Force-wide stand down of F-15 Eagles, Kadena Air Base pilots are maintaining their skills and capabilities through virtual means.

Members of the 18th Operations Support Squadron and Boeing civilian contractors with the unit have stepped up and provided increased time in flight simulators.

The F-15 Mission Training Centers, or flight simulators, are recreations of the F-15 cockpit that simulate flight and combat within the aircraft, and allow 18th Wing pilots to continue to train, even while on the ground.

"The primary sim training that we do does not differ from the training we do day-to-day when the F-15s are flying," said Capt. Matthew French, a pilot with the 67th Fighter Squadron. "We normally use the simulators to augment our daily training."

The simulators are capable of recreating many of the scenarios and challenges pilots would face while in combat and offers some benefits that even the real thing can't match.

Kadena AB is one of a few installations within the Pacific Air Forces that can link up with distributed mission operations. The DMO links Kadena AB simulators to those at other bases, such as F-15 simulators in Alaska, or F-16 Fighting Falcon simulators at Misawa AB, Japan.

The simulators can also link up with the Kadena AB airborne warning and control system simulators, which offer training for E-3 Sentry pilots who usually rely on the F-15s for their training as well.

The increase in operations tempo for the simulators places more burdens on the 18th OSS contractors to maintain the equipment and provide the training. They are more than up to the challenge, said Maj. Michael Thomas, a flight commander with the 18th OSS.

"All the contractors have leaned forward to help," Major Thomas said. "They're all prior F-15 pilots on the Boeing side of the house, and they know that we need their assistance for our pilots to maintain their skills."

Despite the contractors only being obligated a specific number of hours, they have stepped forward during this time to allow the wing mission to continue. 

"(The contractors) see the need of the government and the pilots and say, 'Don't worry about it. We'll get it done,'" said Robert Racoma, the civilian in charge of the simulators. "These guys will go 100-plus to ensure that these pilots get their training. And when the simulators are having problems, they are working to fix the problems and get them ready for the pilots."

While the simulators at Kadena AB have allowed the 18th Wing F-15 pilots to continue their training and keep their proficiencies in ways that wouldn't have been possible otherwise during the stand-down, the pilots are looking forward to being in the air again, Captain French said.

"We would obviously much rather be airborne," he said. "As good as they are, the simulators can't fully replace or replicate actually flying the aircraft."

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