Joint Base Langley-Eustis

 
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Sound of freedom: 1st Fighter Wing takes training into darkness

By Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie | 1st Fighter Wing | July 19, 2017

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --

The rumbling of U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor engines are heard in the late hours of the night as they take to the skies from Joint Base Langley-Eustis. While some may find this annoying, others call it the ‘sound of freedom.’

Regardless of the varied meanings of this sound, for the 1st Fighter Wing, it confirms its ability to maximize combat readiness and prepare for warfighting anytime, anywhere including in the veil of the night sky.

The 1st FW has been conducting night operations at JBLE since July 10, 2017, to help its Airmen perfect night flying operations in a controlled environment.

“Night time operations give us the advantage needed to slow down the enemies’ decision cycle,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Ocho, 1st FW weapons officer and 94th Fighter Squadron pilot. “If the enemy does not have night vision goggles, or even if they do, they are not going to be able to react as quickly to things they could actually see.”

According to Ocho, flying night operations allows pilots to stay proficient and reduces the number of sorties they have to fly to get re-certified, allowing the squadron to focus more on tactics while getting acquainted with the dark. 

 

“During those tactic flights, the pilots are training in defensive and offensive counter-air operations,” said Ocho. “We're flying training missions but they're realistic; They’re as close to a real combat mock missions that we could be expected to do if we ever got tasked to go to an area of responsibility.”

 

Night operations can be much more dangerous, especially when flying over the ocean. During the day, there is a clear horizon line, but at night, the stars reflect off of the ocean, creating the illusion of two sets of horizons. Being able to focus in the air and trusting in the aircraft, relies heavily on the Airmen on the ground.

 

While 1st FW pilots take to the air, a team of Airmen on the ground prepare the life support gear, weapons and jets. To provide optimal support to the night missions, these Airmen altered their normal operations schedule.  Usually during day operations, they launch the F-22s and complete maintenance in the evenings. Their schedules have taken a 180-degree-turn as they now complete maintenance in the daytime and launch F-22s at night.

 

“There is a big appreciation from all the fighter wing pilots—every time we strap on the airplane, we recognize that there are other people making sacrifices, so we can fly,” said Ocho. “We appreciate that sacrifice, (which) allows the wing to be ready if we are called upon to execute at any time, day or night.”

 

According to Ocho, every time they fly there is a cost to the local community and county because of the noise level—something they don't take lightly. To alleviate this, they try to get in as much training as possible during each mission to help eliminate time needed in the air and adjust their takeoffs and landings to make them as quiet as possible.

 

"The USAF absolutely dominates the night.  There simply is no other nation in the world who prioritizes night operations the way we do." Col. Jason Hinds, 1st FW commander.  "We conduct similar activities at night as we do in the day.  However, the element of darkness adds a level of complexity and challenge that we must continually practice to remain proficient.  We try hard to schedule our flying operations to minimize any impact on our Peninsula neighbors; and, we appreciate their continued support of Langley AFB."


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