Fighter jets continue to train over Comox Valley

SECONDS AFTER TAKEOFF from 19 Wing Comox, an F-18 heads for the clouds. - Erin Haluschak
SECONDS AFTER TAKEOFF from 19 Wing Comox, an F-18 heads for the clouds.
— image credit: Erin Haluschak

They normally take to the skies in times of need, but all this week, the sky over the Comox Valley will be filled with F-18 fighter jets as they continue specialized training at 19 Wing Comox.
Fifteen jets, along with 26 pilots and technicians for a total of 150 personnel from across Canada, are deployed to the base for a fighter weapons instructor course.
"We're conducting primarily air-to-ground strike training. We have a series of sea-related targets out in the airspace and over the mountains out near Williams Lake. We're upgrading pilots ... as well we have Alpha Jets that are supporting us, that are contracted air support along with our own F-18s ... performing the role of enemy forces," explained Lieut.-Col. Daniel McLeod.
"So what we'll do is plan a mission with some targets in mind, fly and fight our way in against the adversary air, strike the targets, and fight our way back out again. In doing so, we're upgrading our pilots, different statues; so far, it's been fantastic."
McLeod added the jets have most recently been used in Libya, and all of the strike action the military have conducted there is a direct result of the training, whether at Comox or other military bases at Cold Lake or Bagotville.
"The training is to hone our skills, to make us much more capable and combat-ready and able to conduct a mission," he said.
The Alpha Jets — contracted by Top Aces Canada — are playing the role of the 'bad guys' in the training, noted McLeod.
"They can carry electronic-warfare-type jamming equipment, which the navy and ourselves use to simulate enemy aircraft that have jamming capability, but they are also capable of simulating other type of aircraft and it gives us an opportunity to put enemy aircraft out there as opposed to using F-18s as enemy aircraft," he explained. "We prefer to have them as the good guys."
Capt. Larry Golja, officer in command of the fighters weapon instructor course, said skills learned during training are used to hone the pilot's skill set, and gives them the opportunity to work with other branches of the military.
The training simulates 'real life' situations as much as possible, he added.
"We fly as much with ordinance on board to give the guys ... the opportunity to feel, smell what it actually feels like to engage in combat. To give them that realism, so when it actually happens, they're not second-guessing their systems or their training," he explained.
"Everybody who puts the patch on our shoulders — the fighter weapons instructor patch — there's quite a bit on our shoulders with regards of what's expected of us. When they go to their units, they'll be looked upon for tactical leadership and guidance."
Training will continue at 19 Wing three times a day until May 18.

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