US, Pakistan relations bolstered by F-16 training

TUCSON, Ariz: Eight Pakistani air force pilots, each experienced in the F-16Fighting Falcon'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, and were honored at a graduation ceremony May 4 here.

Pakistan's airforce officials soon will upgrade their 30-year-old fleet of F-16s andthe pilots, charged with flying more capable fighters, are ready tohandle the new technology after training with the Arizona Air NationalGuard.
The pilots are the first from their country to train in the UnitedStates since 1983, when the last class of Pakistani pilots trained atLuke Air Force Base, Ariz.
"This graduation is historicfor U.S.-Pakistan relations," said Pakistani air force Wing CommanderGhazanfar Latif, a 12-year F-16A pilot. "For Pakistan, our air force isgaining capabilities that it has needed for the last decade;capabilities that are critical to ongoing operations in Pakistan's waron terror."
The new planes purchased by Pakistani government officials, Block 52versions of the multirole fighter, are far more advanced than the olderA-model versions and will allow pilots to conduct operations at nightand greatly enhance their use of precision munitions.
The first four of the 18 planes purchased are scheduled for deliveryJune 26 to Shahbaz Air Base in Pakistan. The rest will be delivered ona staggered schedule throughout this year. In addition, Pakistan'sexisting F-16 fleet will undergo a mid-life update in 2011 designed toupgrade 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 spenttwo and half months reviewing military aviation terminology at theDefense Language Institute at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and sevenmonths in flight training at Tucson International Airport. Since theC/D-models used for training in Tucson are Block 25 F-16s, they willnext undergo two weeks of additional Block 52 instruction beforereturning to Pakistan.
"Even though they're flying Block 25s here, they will still be ableto operate their block 52s back home," said Lt. Col. Kelly Parkinson,the 195th Fighter Squadron commander. "When they leave here they willget training from Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas, on the differences. 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 transitioncourse from the F-16A/B to the F-16C/D, flight lead upgrade trainingand instructor pilot certification.
"We're training these eight pilots so they can return home and beinstructors themselves and teach others to fly the new F-16s," ColonelParkinson said.
"I think the training here is very well organized and tailored toour needs," Commander Latif said. "Also, the standards here are veryhigh. This is going to make a big difference because we do not have thecapability to make precision engagements at night with A models.Everybody understands that collateral damage is a big factor and thesensors on the C-model will help us carry out precision engagement andclose-air support."
With so much to learn, the students flew a 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 pictureof what is going on around you," Squadron Leader Yasir Malik said."There's lots of information to process in the C model, so you have toprioritize all of the input you are getting. But these instructors knowwhat they are doing, and they are good teachers."
Air Force Maj. Windy Hendrick, a flight commander and 13-year F-16pilot, has instructed students from all over the world. She said sheand her fellow instructors learned a great deal about their Pakistanicounterparts.
"They are all experienced pilots with 500 to 1,800 fighter hours inthe F-16 and the majority of that time is combat hours in the fightagainst extremists," she said. "They are very humble and don't talkabout their experience, but the more we learn about them and allthey'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."
It's unclear if more student pilots from Pakistan will train in Tucson; however, Colonel Parkinson said, the 162nd stands ready.
"Training capable fighter pilots for our partner-nation air forcesand fostering relationships in the worldwide F-16 community is what wedo," he said. "We will continue to help train Pakistan's pilotswhenever we're needed."

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