Barnes air dominance
By Capt. Neal Byrne, 104th Fighter Wing
/ Published May 15, 2011
(Barnes Air National Guard Base, Westfield Mass.) -- I am going to take a moment of your time to pass along some basic ideas regarding the Air Dominance mission here at Barnes. I often think back to when I was a maintainer on the A-10. I recall watching the aircraft pattern-traffic and thinking it was pretty cool and often wondered what the aircraft were doing while off-station. I hope to give you a general idea of what kind of missions we are executing when we blast off in the mighty Eagle here at Barnes.
The F-15's configuration changes from time to time; sometimes you see jets with three external fuel tanks, sometimes two, sometimes one, and sometimes
Why would this be the case?
The Air Dominance mission is complex; therefore we have to break the mission up into very distinct parts while we are in a training posture. This "part-task training" approach is an essential way to make sure our pilots have the experience and tools they need when they are called up to go to war.
The Air Dominance missions tasked to the F-15C are Air Sovereignty Alert (ASA), Offensive Counter Air (OCA) and Defensive Counter Air (DCA).
OCA is an escort mission, flying with a strike package (like a four-ship of A-10s) into a battle space defended by an enemy air threat. We assist them by getting them in and out safely once their bombs are on target.
DCA is a mission that requires the F-15 to defend a location from an advancing airborne enemy threat.
ASA is hybrid mission, comprised mostly of DCA tactics, but has some elements of OCA as well.
When we train, we break up our yearly training plan into distinct subsets of Air Dominance. Those subsets include: Tactical Intercepts (TI), Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM), and Basic Fighter Maneuvering (BFM).
In TI you start far away from the enemy - usually well beyond visual range (BVR) - typically in a four ship formation. A four ship is the basic fighting element for combat in an F-15.
During ACM training, you have closed down the range to your enemy - usually just outside or just inside visual limits - and you typically have broken off into a two ship element.
The basic combat training is BFM, the proverbial dog fight with the enemy, and more often than not you are on your own, trying to kill and/or survive.
In combat, pilots would ensure their jet is configured appropriately for the subset of the mission they are executing. Typically you start the mission with a full load of bullets, missiles, and as much fuel as you can strap on the jet. If you're engaged with the enemy and the external tanks are empty you'd punch them off with the combat jettison button in the cockpit. Not getting rid of the tanks could mean the difference between living and dying in a real dog fight (we do not jettison our tanks during training).
When you see a jet on the line with external fuel tanks hanging, you can safely assume that it is configured to execute a medium to long range training mission. If the jet has no external fuel tanks, you can bet it is going out to execute in the within visual range (WVR) environment performing either ACM or BFM.
Where do we go?
Typically here at Barnes, the F-15s head south to W-105 (commonly known as Whisky 105), a warning area and our primary training airspace, which is just south and east of Long Island, NY. This area is a relatively large swath of over water airspace where we are able to execute in the supersonic flight regime without breaking windows or making the citizenry wonder why it is thundering outside without any clouds in the sky. If the weather doesn't support flying out over the water we have subsonic airspace to the north known as Yankee Military Operating Area (MOA) just south of Franconia Notch or Viper MOA out to the east of Fort Drum Army Airfield in Watertown, NY. While our over land airspaces limit our speed they are very valuable areas due to the terrain and associated challenges of finding air to air targets over land.
A large percentage of the flying that happens out of Barnes these days is done in conjunction with other Air National Guard and Active Duty Units. Training like we are going to fight takes a hefty amount of airborne assets "Red Air" (when friendly aircraft fly threat country profiles) is needed in order to exercise the tactical systems and capabilities of our pilots. We often get "Red Air" on local training missions from the following units: Burlington F-16s, Atlantic City F-16s, DC F-16s, Langley F-22s, and Oceana F-18s. A great deal of coordination happens behind the scenes of every training mission to maintain the airborne combat capability of the 104FW now and in the future.
I hope this quick look at Barnestormer Air Dominance helps to explain a little bit about this vital mission. If you have questions about the 104FW airborne mission, please do not hesitate to ask a pilot.
Thanks for doing what you do with such pride and professionalism.