OGDEN — Last week, a room full of veterans at the George E. Wahlen Veterans Home in Ogden, many with American flags hooked to their wheelchairs, gathered to hear captain Tim “Check” Six, a pilot in the 4th Fighter Squadron, and Capt. Brad “Scooby” Hunt, pilot in the 421st Fighter Squadron, each in the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, speak about the process of becoming trained to fly F-16s.
It isn’t an easy process.
First, they trained at one air force base, learning how to dogfight and drop bombs; then they were transferred to another base, where they learned how to employ the F-16; and then spent two years leading missions in Korea before transferring to Hill AFB a couple of months ago.
The two talked about the unclassified capabilities of the F-16 and how the U.S. military extends its air power fighting in today’s war.
“The F-16 is what we call the jack of all trades, but the master of none,” Six said. “Originally, these planes were not designed for what we can do with (them) today, but they ended up adding more things to it, which allowed for more missions.”
The pilots explained that the F-16 control stick is moved only about a quarter of an inch. Six said the plane is controlled by how hard pilots pull on the stick, not how far the stick is pulled.
The two showed off their quarter-million-dollar helmets with new technology that projects information onto the visor so they can access weapons information, missile queuing and flight information while in the air. “(We) can look around and target things with our helmets now. That would have been nice to have back when we first started flying,” Six said.
Both captains talked about how much they love the bubble canopy that surrounds their seats in the plane, giving them unimpeded views. “We have great sensors, but sometimes it’s nice to look outside of the jet and get a view. We can even lean over the side and look down,” Hunt said.
However, they admitted the F-16 is getting old — and they look forward to the F-35 replacements.
“The F-16 wasn’t designed to do what it’s doing today, but it’s doing a good job with it,” Six said. “They are getting old, though, and are having more trouble with maintenance, so we can see the writing on the wall with the F-35 coming out.”
Veteran Larry Jenkins, 78, who listened to the pilots speak, is surprised the F-16 has lasted so long. Jenkins worked on F-16s back in the ’80s when he worked at Hill AFB.
“I thought it was going to last about as long as the F-4 Phantom, which was about 20 years. I had no idea the F-16s would still be going after 30 years,” Jenkins said. “Evidently, they poured a lot of money into them with bigger engines and more stuff for them to put on.”
Six said there are also new weapons coming onboard the planes today that allow them to use laser-guided bombs and implement technology that has planes dropping fewer bombs because the target area that can be destroyed with one bomb now has increased dramatically. Also, the use of infrared technology gives teams on the ground the ability to transfer enemy coordinates to pilots, who can then locate and spot their position.