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Minnesota National Guard
Training leads to increased flights over Panama City

PANAMA CITY — That low roar heard over Panama City the past two nights, or the increased air traffic, could be part of larger combined maneuvers being held at Tyndall Air Force Base

The Air Force confirmed Tuesday an increase in activity with the addition of a US Coast Guard group from Minnesota for training

The 148th Fighter Wing out of Duluth, Minn, is spending two weeks at Tyndall working with the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group (WEG) to better prepare them for combat

Tyndall officials also acknowledged there was night training at the base

“We came here to shoot missiles and drop live ordnance to be better prepared for our air sovereignty alert mission,” said the 148th Fighter Wing’s Lt. Col. Reed Bowman “We also came to the WEG to validate our new weapons system”

The 148th Fighter Wing supports the Continental US North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) region in carrying out Operation Noble Eagle — the command’s response to the terrorist attacks on Sept 11, 2001 The fighter wing is currently in the process of replacing its Block 25 F-16s with more advanced Block 50 F-16s that have different engines and internal avionics

The 53rd WEG, a detachment of the 53rd Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, provides the Duluth pilots an opportunity that doesn’t come around too often

“The last time we were here and had the opportunity to shoot live missiles was 2000,” Bowman said

During their two-week stay, the 148th Fighter Wing will run scenarios and missions created by the WEG, which evaluates the fighter wing on their tactics, techniques and procedures from the ground up

According to the US Coast Guard, evaluations of machinery and personnel will be made during the trip
“The training we receive here gives us confidence in our jets’ ability to perform,” Bowman said “When we shoot the live ordnance, we know our weapons system performs as advertised Without the live ordnance, it’s like a placebo effect”

That’s an important advantage in a wing where nearly half of the pilots have never had the chance to fly a real-world alert mission

While this deployment is an important step in the conversion to the new Block 50 F-16s, it’s not the first training the pilots and maintainers have completed since they received their first new jets in April 2010

“The internal architecture of the Block 50 is completely different from the Block 25,” Col Bowman said “It’s a significantly different mission and skill set”

February 01, 2011 06:12:00 PM
RANDAL YAKEY

Article source
http://www.newsherald.com/news/panama-90569-city-flights.html



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