Fielding Success Enables Pilot-To-Pilot Link
(January 14, 2011)
|HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, MA (1/10/2011 - AFNS) -- A team of
former fighter pilots from the Electronic Systems Center
here is continuing to make sure current fighter pilots --
both U.S. and Allied forces -- can operate the sophisticated
communication network known as Link 16.
Link 16 takes data from multiple platforms,
including Airborne Warning and Control System,
Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System,
and joint service platforms, and integrates it
on one screen. It also accommodates thousands of
different message types, allowing each to be
sent, received and commonly formatted.
However, operators can't use it effectively
without proper training, and that's where this
highly mobile and experienced team comes in.
"The guys that we train are almost
immediately eligible to go out to the area of
responsibility and use Link 16 to do what they
need to do," said Bill Ramsay, a former F-15
Eagle pilot and member of ESC's Tactical Data
Network Initial Fielding Support team. "We make
sure they're doing everything right and that
everything's being used the way (unit leaders)
want it used."
A team of former fighter pilots from the Electronic Systems Center continues to make sure U.S. and Allied F-15 Eagle (seen flying here) and F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots can operate the sophisticated Link 16 communication network. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Angelique Perez)
And because the team is composed of former
fighter pilots, their fellow pilots tend to be
"We've been there, and we speak their language," Mr. Ramsay
said. "It gives us credibility."
Once the team
completes training an F-16 Fighting Falcon squadron in Sioux
Falls, S.D., later this month, they will have completed
initial fielding training for all U.S. Block 40 and 50 F-16
units, the F-16 variants that employ Link 16.
team finished training all F-15 units several years ago.
They've also completed training a number of Allied force
units who have received Link 16 as part of Foreign Military
Sales initiatives. The list of nations includes Taiwan,
Poland, Greece and Saudi Arabia, where the team wrapped up a
three-year effort in 2010. There, they trained seven
squadrons of F-15 pilots on four geographically dispersed
bases and helped integrate their Link 16 ground stations
into local networks.
interoperability with Saudi Arabia is important for any
possible future conflicts in the region," said Bob Provost,
the Saudi Arabia fielding team lead. "Fielding Link 16
capability on Saudi Arabia's entire F-15 fleet really
bridged a gap in our ability to employ our respective Air
Mr. Provost, a former F-15 pilot,
spent a year stationed at Riyadh Air Base, Saudi Arabia,
something he said helped during this effort.
flown (F-15s) Eagles with the Royal Saudi Air Force at all
their fighter bases just a few years prior, understanding
their Air Force culture and seeing a lot of familiar faces
helped accelerate our teaching efforts," he said.
Having a fielding team capable of really getting operators
up to speed on the equipment helps make the whole process
work, said Mike Wabrek, the FMS case manager for the Saudi
Link 16 upgrade.
He said all FMS customers receive a
lot of intensive training, with on-site courses provided by
both the aircraft manufacturer and the U.S. Joint Forces
Command. However, it's the final efforts of the fielding
team that really gets coalition partner's fighter pilots
comfortable using the data link operationally.
like to say that the fielding team is the light at the end
of the tunnel," Mr. Wabrek said. "They provide that
pilot-to-pilot interface -- the no kidding,
this-is-what-you-need-to-know stuff -- for day-to-day
internal squadron training and real-world operations.
Fighter pilots tend to speak in their own language, and it
really helps to have these guys who speak that language go
in there and work with them. It's an effective capstone to
all the classroom training."
He said, since
completing the initial Saudi fielding, he's received nothing
but positive feedback about the efforts of the fielding
team, from the initial fielding of the Royal Saudi Air
Force's F-15 fleet, to joint-service/coalition training
exercises such as Red Flag.
"The Saudi case called
for fielding to take place until 2013, but the RSAF
requested an acceleration of the program," Mr. Wabrek said.
"In order to match the installation schedule, and as
testament to the fielding team's professionalism and their
ability to adjust, we finished that portion of the case two
years ahead of schedule. It's been a huge success."
Several more fielding efforts related to FMS cases are on
tap for the roving team this year, including Singapore,
Pakistan and Morocco.
"We'll keep working hard to get
everyone the training they need," Mr. Ramsay said. "We enjoy
each opportunity we get, and we've had a lot of great
opportunities over the years. We've made a real difference
and had a lot of fun too."
By Chuck Paone
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
Air Force News
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