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Summary of Strike/Fighter NFO flight school

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TurnandBurn55

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Well, I know there was an excellent thread made by Pat1USMC two years ago covering the Strike (EA-6B) syllabus. As promised, I'm going to do a summary of the Strike-Fighter (F/A-18D/F) syllabus here... thought with the number of Super Hornet questions running around there might be some interest.

Everyone starts through VT-10/-4 for Primary and Intermediate... won't cover that again, the other thread covers that very well. You'll go to VT-86 for Advanced-- you and your buddies will all go through 13 events of 'Strike Core', which again is well covered in the other thread. You're graded strictly on the basis of those 13 events before you get to select Strike or Strike Fighter.

Anyways, I was a wannabe Top Gun type, and I got the grades, so I picked the S/F envelope. The Prowler and B-1 guys split off to do their thing. Now you have 4 more air-to-ground events called Fighter-Strike (FS) flights. Here you're simulating that you're flying 'into country'... high level instrument flight out to, say, Tennessee or the Carolinas... drop down to a low altitude (500'-1500') and use radar or visual means to navigate to a target and blow it up on time. These are fun in that you really feel like you're running the mission because it's pretty complex and a lot of things can happen over a 2+ hour flight... so you've got to make the decisions as to how you'll reach the route and your target within your time window.

Air to ground done, now it's time to go air-to-air. Different set of instructors, mostly F-14 and -15E guys. You'll be in ground school for about a week learning the A/A radar and how to do an intercept. At first this is just painfully difficult-- it's like the Matrix-- to you the screen looks like green garbage, but you've got to get to the point where you can see the whole spatial picture in it (blonde, brunette, redhead). In fact, the first stage (called Re-Attacks), is simply flying against a bogey with a known heading and airspeed... and he's not allowed to maneuver. Shoot him once with a Sparrow, then get behind him to shoot him again with a Sidewinder. It'll take about 70-100 times practicing before you can translate what you see on the radar into reality and realize 'hrmm, this is actually not so bad'. Building the basics is the hard part here. That and your instructors making your radar screw up and watch you struggle to control the intercept, which of course is part of the student harassment package. 6 Reattack sims, 3 flights.

It's worth mentioning here that VT-86 sims are NOT the VT-10/-4 ones where you're taught by old friendly guys. Here you're taught by the same instructors you fly with, and they can be just as much pain as flights-- maybe even more so, because they can find inventive ways to screw with you here. But I digress

Next stage is Unknowns... same idea, but now the bogey's heading is... you guessed it, unknown ;) Not terribly hard actually, because you've gotten good enough at practicing Re-Attacks that you can pretty quickly interpret the radar and see where the guy is going and how to intercept him. 3 sims (one ungraded), and 2 flights. Flights are a little bit tougher here because your radar in the plane isn't as accurate as the synthetic simulator presentation.

Now comes Conversions. These are kind of a VT-86 legend for being obscenely difficult. In the first stages you had a bogey and you intercepted him from your current position relative to him. Now you'll be, say, 10 degrees on the right side of the bogey, and your instructor will say "Nah, your goal is to fight him from 25 degrees on the left side". An above average student can consistently hit the goal within a degree... but it's a lot of quick and painful math to figure out your heading, airspeed, turn rates to get there. And in the hot seat going 300 knots, the math gets screwed up easily! Sadistic instructors will give you impossible goals just to see how well you react.

On top of that, once you get your first missile shot off, now the bogey can jink to prevent you from getting onto his rear quarter for the second shot... yayy!

After 7 Conversion sims (2 ungraded) and 3 flights, you'll go into Advanced Intercepts. Now it's pretty much 'Jungle Rules'-- anything goes. Bogey can maneuver all over, change altitude, airspeed, whatnot. You come up with a gameplan to fight him... you're also allowed to use every mode of the radar at your disposal, and the Phoenix missile. You also will get into situations where you have to go to the merge and fight the dude at close range, head on. Another part of Advanced are Strike Routes-- an air-to-ground mission where bad guys will intercept you-- or just bait you to get you off target! Good training in terms of decision making. You'll do simulator tanker rendezvous (which are boring)... and 2 on 2 intercepts (which are eye-opening, but exponentially more complex).

6 sims (2 ungraded) and 4 flights in Advanced, and you're done with the T-39! Your Prowler buddies are long since winged, and now it's time to get into the T-2 for a few last weeks of fun...

Hope this helps clear up some of the mystery...
 

Geese

You guys are dangerous.
The F-18 can handle the phoenix missle? I was not aware of that but I was wondering what they were going to do with all those expensive (and heavy) phoenix missles lying around...
 

Brett327

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Geese said:
The F-18 can handle the phoenix missle? I was not aware of that but I was wondering what they were going to do with all those expensive (and heavy) phoenix missles lying around...
The TRACOM doesn't teach to any specific T/M/S, but the Phoenix stuff is still in the syllabus for the F-14 guys. F-18 wasn't mentioned in T&B's post - draw your own conclusions.

Brett
 

TurnandBurn55

Drinking, flying, or looking busy!!
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The F-14 is no longer a selection option. Only F/A-18 D/F and F-15E WSOs are taught in the Strike Fighter syllabus.

The AIM-54 Phoenix is a source of confusion even at the squadron. Only the F-14 can carry it... and the missile is retired in the fleet.

In reality, it doesn't matter. VT-86 doesn't 'really' teach any specific weapon system, as Brett mentioned. What they're teaching you is how to manage weapons employment zones in a general sense of the word for Fox-1, -2, and -3 type missiles.

In reality, I would imagine the 'actual' paramaters for the missiles are classified, so when you press the weapon selector for the Phoenix on the air-to-air, you're not 'really' getting the Phoenix missile parameters... just a generic long range Fox-3 type missile. As the Air Force instructors love to point out, it could easily stand for the AIM-120 AMRAAM... it just happens to show "A54" on the readout. That's just a legacy point for when the only fighter guys in the squadron were Tomcat RIO wannabes...

Thanks for the kind words all. Hope that clears it up somewhat.
 

DanMa1156

See ya in a little bit.
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Yeah, really great post. Can't say much more that that. Thanks for all of that, it was a great read.
 

Geese

You guys are dangerous.
TurnandBurn55 said:
The AIM-54 Phoenix is a source of confusion even at the squadron. Only the F-14 can carry it... and the missile is retired in the fleet.


That's what I thought, because the F-14s radar system and the Phoenix went hand in hand.
 
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