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Strike Pilot Detachment Makes Impact
by Chief of Naval Air Training, U.S. Navy
November 6, 2020

Training Air Wing (TW) 2 conducted a successful Strike pilot detachment at Naval Air Facility El Centro, California during October 2020.

For three and a half weeks, 28 Navy and Marine Corps student naval aviators dropped their first MK-76 practice bombs from T-45C Goshawk jet trainer aircraft and flew their first low-level routes over Southern California.

October 5, 2020 - Student naval aviators assigned to Training Air Wing (TW) 2 conduct a training flight in T-45C Goshawk jet trainer aircraft from Naval Air Facility El Centro. TW-2 conducts intermediate and advanced undergraduate strike fighter training for the Navy and Marine Corps. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Ross Davis)
October 5, 2020 - Student naval aviators assigned to Training Air Wing (TW) 2 conduct a training flight in T-45C Goshawk jet trainer aircraft from Naval Air Facility El Centro. TW-2 conducts intermediate and advanced undergraduate strike fighter training for the Navy and Marine Corps. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Ross Davis)

With clear weather and a fleet of 19 T-45s, TW-2 completed more than 700 sorties during the detachment. Due to operations efficiencies, students were able to give extra focus to tactical formation (TACFORM) flights. During those TACFORM flight, students learn how to maneuver in combat spread and are introduced to bandit engagement with a wingman.

“These detachments are a crucial aspect of producing sea-based, fixed-wing naval aviators,” Cmdr. Christopher Glandon, commanding officer, Training Squadron 21 said. “We’ve optimized resource allocation for strike dets that allow for a focused, yet productive period of training for our students.”

The detachment success was the result of meticulous planning and coordination with base personnel, area ranges, and maintenance contractors.

“The hard work during preparation pays off when students are rewarded with seeing their actual bombs hit actual targets and getting that instantaneous feedback of how they are doing,” Glandon said. “It’s exciting for instructor pilots to see the rapid progression that students make in such a short period of time, and we’re able to cultivate a great ready room environment akin to a fleet squadron.”

Lt. j.g. Gary Prieto was one of the first students to arrive at NAF El Centro in a T-45 on a cross-country flight.

“Hearing the hits and being able to roll on a wing and see where the bomb has impacted the target has been one of the coolest things we’ve been able to do so far in flight school,” Prieto said. “Everyone really has a good attitude, both instructors and students. Everyone is just here to get better. It’s been a really positive det. overall.”

Students typically fly two sorties a day starting with Strike flights where they drop MK-76 practice bombs on the Loom Lobby and Shade Tree target ranges, part of the Navy’s range complex. They then move onto TACFORM, low level, section low level, and road reconnaissance flights. The Strike detachment is typically a student’s first taste of Phase II, the phase where they learn how to tactically employ the jet.

NAF El Centro is an ideal detachment location because of its close proximity to a number of weapons ranges, low level routes, and its year-round clear skies. TW-2 generally conducts four detachments per year to El Centro.

Located at Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas, TW-2 is one of two undergraduate Strike pilot training air wings under Chief of Naval Air Training and includes two training squadrons: VT-21 and VT-22. Graduates go on to fly the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, F-35B/C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, AV-8B Harrier, EA-18G Growler, E-2C/D Hawkeye, or C-2A Greyhound in the fleet.

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