Friday, February 11, 2011

'Fighting Omars' Test USS GHW Bush Air Defenses

By Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Omari Janhrette, Naval Air Station Jacksonville Public Affairs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- A detachment of F/A-18C Hornets from Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 12, operated from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Jan. 26-Feb. 2, providing "adversary training" for the air wing on board USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) and its carrier strike group.

Bush is currently underway in the Atlantic for its Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), followed by its Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX).

"What makes this squadron unique is that we are the adversary squadron," said Lt. Cmdr. Scott Seeder, detachment officer in charge. "We provide enemy aircraft simulation for any tactical mission involving Bush operational squadrons. We bring multiple scenarios to fleet squadrons to help make them more capable when dealing with a real-time threat."

The "Fighting Omars" mission is to provide tactical "dissimilar air combat training" for Navy, Marine Corps and other aviation units when tasked. VFC-12 is the Naval Reserves' premier adversary squadron providing threat tactics training to Navy strike fighter squadrons. VFC-12 is a vital element in ensuring combat readiness for carrier strike groups preparing for deployment.

"The squadron plays a small, but significant role in COMTUEX and JTFEX. We enjoy the opportunity to make these training exercises extremely challenging for pilots coming off the carrier," Seeder said. "If we are not out there attacking the strike group, it would take away a lot of the realism from the missions they will be performing."

VFC-12 provides multiple support services including air intercept and dissimilar air combat maneuvering training, for both Atlantic and Pacific Fleet units. The unique challenges of the squadron's mission has made the Fighting Omars one of the most sought-after aviation duty assignments in the Navy.

Because of this distinction, only the "best of the best" are selected to fly as adversary instructor pilots in VFC-12. Many are veteran F-14 Tomcat pilots, hand picked for their tactical flying abilities, who have at least 10 years of experience flying the F/A-18 Hornet.

For the COMTUEX and JTFEX missions, VFC-12 detachments are usually made up of seven aircraft, with both full-time support and selected reservists.

The maintainers in this squadron play a huge role in the success of each mission. For this exercise, VFC-12 utilizes 62 maintainers and about two dozen pilots to operate seven aircraft. Maintainers who travel with the squadron work 24-hour maintenance schedules. With two shifts working 12 hours at a time, maintainers do a great job to keeping these planes operable.

"These aircraft are some of the oldest in the fleet, so some of them are approaching the end of their service life. Our maintainers do a great job to keep them flying," said Seeder.