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Ready, AIM-9, Fire!

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS080610-09
Release Date: 6/10/2008 2:00:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Elliott J. Fabrizio, USS John C. Stennis Public Affairs

USS JOHN C. STENNIS, At Sea (NNS) -- Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9, embarked aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), performed live missile shoots June 4 and 6. The squadron fired a total of 12 missiles to give pilots experience and confidence with launching live ordnance.

"It's an invaluable training experience, especially for someone like me who's newer in the squadron, to get a feel for how that weapon is actually employed," said Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 Pilot Lt. j.g. Micah Porter. "I got to see firsthand how it comes off the rail, how long it takes to squeeze the trigger, how that missile operates with the radar and how that all works together."

The air wing's four F-18 squadrons, the "Argonauts" of VFA-147, the "Black Knights" of VFA-154, the "Blue Diamonds" of VFA-146 and the "Death Rattlers" of Marine Strike Fighter Squadron (VMFA) 323 each participated in missile shoot exercises.

The missiles used in the missile shoot exercise were the air-to-air "Sparrow" Air Intercept Missile (AIM-7) and the "Sidewinder" (AIM-9). The "Sidewinder" uses infrared seekers to track heat sources put out by enemy engines, while the "Sparrow" is a radar-guided missile.

The pilots use flares, deployed during the mission, as targets during their live-fire exercises.

"We train like we fight, so you never treat a practice round like a practice round, but when you know it's real, it gives you added confidence in your ability to actually fire the missile when you need it," said Blue Diamonds Pilot Lt. Dan Chiafair.

To maintain battle proficiency, squadrons need to complete live-fire missions throughout their turnaround cycles, which are training cycles that run from deployment to deployment.

"Commander Naval Air Forces has an instruction that gives them exact guidance," said CVW-9 Ordnance Officer Lt. James Willett. "But basically, every turnaround cycle, they have to expend a given amount of ordnance to maintain all of their squadron and pilot qualifications."

Aviation Ordnancemen (AO) also improve their skills handling and loading live missiles.

"Anytime that the AOs are actually loading real ordnance, it gives them a sense of pride knowing real ordnance is coming off the jet," said Porter. "It also gives them the training opportunity to wire it for real, so that the missile can actually be fired."

Ensuring pilots can confidently deploy any weapon in their arsenal is part of America's maritime strategy to maintain constant warfighting readiness.

For more news from USS John C. Stennis, visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn74/.

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