NAVAL AIR STATION KEY WEST, Fla. – More than 150 Airmen and 10 F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Ohio National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing deployed to Naval Air Station Key West for air tactics exercises.
The Airmen trained at the end of October with the Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 111 “Sun Downers,” a Navy aviation unit specializing in providing dissimilar air tactics scenarios to other units, and the 482nd Fighter Wing.
“In the mornings, we’re working with the 482nd on displacement,” said Maj. Brannen Studley, an F-16 fighter pilot assigned to the 180FW. “Mission planning from different locations, meeting up in the airspace and joining their fight, without ever seeing each other face-to-face.”
“In the afternoons, we’re working primarily with dissimilar aircraft tactics,” said Studley. “You get a different perspective, see different techniques and procedures, how they operate and basically combine our tactics to come up with the best game plan.”
The VFC-111 flies the F-5N Tiger II, providing unique challenges for pilots.
“They’re a lot smaller and harder to see,” Studley said. “That’s probably the biggest challenge.”
Being so close to the ocean, the airspace near Key West also provides unique training opportunities.
“The airspace is absolutely fantastic. It’s well built to support us practicing our full range of tactics,” Studley said.
The 180th Fighter Wing conducts realistic training to ensure its members are always prepared for contingency operations around the globe.