USA/Pakistan — F‑16 Training Bolsters U.S.-Pakistan Relations

TUCSON, Ariz., May 5, 2010 — Pakistan’s air force soon will upgrade its 30-year-old fleet of F‑16 Fight­ing Fal­cons, and the pilots charged with fly­ing more capa­ble fight­ers are ready to han­dle the new tech­nol­o­gy after train­ing with the Ari­zona Air Nation­al Guard.

F-16D training flight at Tucson International Airport in Arizona
Air Force Lt. Col. Alex Wil­son, right, and Squadron Leader Shir­jil Kahn of the Pak­istani air force pre­pare for an F‑16D train­ing flight at Tuc­son Inter­na­tion­al Air­port in Ari­zona, April 27, 2010. Dur­ing sev­en months of train­ing, eight Pak­istani fight­er pilots learned how to train oth­ers to fly their air force’s newest F‑16 Fight­ing Fal­cons.
Bildquelle: U.S. Air Force pho­to by Mas­ter Sgt. Dave Neve
Click to enlarge

Eight Pak­istani air force pilots, each expe­ri­enced in the F‑16’s A and B mod­els, recent­ly learned to fly the new­er C- and D‑model air­craft at the 162nd Fight­er Wing, the inter­na­tion­al F‑16 train­ing unit at Tuc­son Inter­na­tion­al Air­port. They were hon­ored at a grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mo­ny here yes­ter­day.

The pilots are the first from their coun­try to train in the Unit­ed States since 1983, when the last class of Pak­istani pilots trained at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.

“This grad­u­a­tion is his­toric for U.S.-Pakistan rela­tions,” said Wing Com­man­der Ghaz­an­far Latif, a 12-year F‑16A pilot with the Pak­istani air force. “For Pak­istan, our air force is gain­ing capa­bil­i­ties that it has need­ed for the last decade — capa­bil­i­ties that are crit­i­cal to ongo­ing oper­a­tions in Pakistan’s war on ter­ror.”

The new planes pur­chased by the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment, Block 52 ver­sions of the mul­ti­role fight­er, are far more advanced than the old­er A‑model ver­sions and will allow pilots to con­duct oper­a­tions at night and great­ly enhance their use of pre­ci­sion muni­tions.

The first four of the 18 planes pur­chased are sched­uled for deliv­ery June 26 to Shah­baz air base in south-cen­tral Pak­istan. The rest will be deliv­ered on a stag­gered sched­ule through­out this year. In addi­tion, Pakistan’s exist­ing F‑16 fleet will under­go a mid-life update in 2011 designed to upgrade cock­pits and avion­ics to match the F‑16C/D.

In prepa­ra­tion for the June deliv­ery, the eight pilots and their fam­i­lies will have spent 10 months in the Unit­ed States nav­i­gat­ing the upgrade-train­ing pipeline. They spent two and half months review­ing mil­i­tary avi­a­tion ter­mi­nol­o­gy at the Defense Lan­guage Insti­tute at Lack­land Air Force Base, Texas, and sev­en months in flight train­ing at Tuc­son Inter­na­tion­al Air­port. Since the C/D‑models used for train­ing in Tuc­son are Block 25 F‑16s, they will next under­go two weeks of addi­tion­al Block 52 instruc­tion before return­ing to Pak­istan.

“Even though they’re fly­ing Block 25s here, they will still be able to oper­ate their block 52s back home. When they leave, here they will get train­ing from Lock­heed Mar­tin in Fort Worth, Texas, on the dif­fer­ences,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Kel­ly Parkin­son, 195th Fight­er Squadron com­man­der. “The two blocks fly the same; it’s essen­tial­ly the employ­ment of weapons that makes the dif­fer­ence.”

The bulk of the flight train­ing in Tuc­son includ­ed a tran­si­tion course from the F‑16A/B to the F‑16C/D, flight lead upgrade train­ing and instruc­tor pilot cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

“We’re train­ing these eight pilots so they can return home and be instruc­tors them­selves and teach oth­ers to fly the new F‑16s,” said Parkin­son, a 22-year fight­er pilot.

“I think the train­ing here is very well orga­nized and tai­lored to our needs. Also, the stan­dards here are very high,” Latif said. “This is going to make a big dif­fer­ence because we do not have the capa­bil­i­ty to make pre­ci­sion engage­ments at night with A mod­els. Every­body under­stands that col­lat­er­al dam­age is a big fac­tor, and the sen­sors on the C‑model will help us car­ry out pre­ci­sion engage­ment and close-air sup­port.”

Squadron Leader Azman Khalil of the Pakistani air force
Squadron Leader Azman Khalil of the Pak­istani air force, left, goes over flight infor­ma­tion with Air Force Capt. Andy Wit­tke, an instruc­tor pilot at the Ari­zona Air Nation­al Guard’s 162nd Fight­er Wing, before a train­ing mis­sion April 27,2010.
Bildquelle: U.S. Air Force pho­to by Mas­ter Sgt. Dave Neve
Click to enlarge

With so much to learn, the stu­dents flew a rig­or­ous sched­ule of five flights per week. The aver­age stu­dent tem­po is clos­er to three per week.

“The radar, data link and oth­er avion­ics help cre­ate the big pic­ture of what is going on around you. There’s lots of infor­ma­tion to process in the C mod­el, so you have to pri­or­i­tize all of the input you are get­ting,” said Squadron Leader Yasir Malik. “But these instruc­tors know what they are doing, and they are good teach­ers.”

Air Force Maj. Windy Hen­drick, a flight com­man­der and 13-year F‑16 pilot, has instruct­ed stu­dents from all over the world. She said she and her fel­low instruc­tors learned a great deal about their Pak­istani coun­ter­parts.

“They are all expe­ri­enced pilots with 500 to 1,800 fight­er hours in the F‑16, and the major­i­ty of that time is com­bat hours in the fight against extrem­ists,” she said. “They are very hum­ble and don’t talk about their expe­ri­ence, but the more we learn about them and all they’ve done, it makes us proud to be their instruc­tors.”

“They are very ded­i­cat­ed [and] hard-work­ing, and they have great atti­tudes. Their pres­ence in the squadron has been a real plea­sure.”

When fly­ing over the mil­i­tary ranges of south­ern Ari­zona, Pakistan’s pilots had expe­ri­enced instruc­tors like Hen­drick to guide them; but back on the ground they relied on the unit’s inter­na­tion­al mil­i­tary stu­dent office for help with hous­ing, trans­porta­tion, doc­u­men­ta­tion and adapt­ing to Amer­i­can cul­ture.

“We could not ask for more help from the IMSO office,” Malik said. “They came to San Anto­nio to meet us before we came to Tuc­son to help us start our move. They went to see apart­ments in Tuc­son to help us find liv­ing arrange­ments, and they set up many trips all over the state. We saw so many places that we would nev­er have found on our own.

“We would have been more con­fused with try­ing to find a place to live and get adjust­ed if it weren’t for IMSO,” he added.

It’s unclear if more stu­dent pilots from Pak­istan will train in Tuc­son; how­ev­er, Parkin­son said, the 162nd stands ready.

“Train­ing capa­ble fight­er pilots for our part­ner-nation air forces and fos­ter­ing rela­tion­ships in the world­wide F‑16 com­mu­ni­ty is what we do,” he said. “We will con­tin­ue to help train Pakistan’s pilots when­ev­er we’re need­ed.”

Ari­zona Nation­al Guard