Talons vs. Raptors

The Air Force is running short of fighter aircraft to play adversaries in training sorties so has co-opted T-38Cs of the Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals units like the 434th Fighter Training Squadron at Laughlin AFB, Tex., to provide about 30 percent of the adversary support it needs for Combat Air Force training. “We routinely field requests from the CAF, but turn down far more than we accept,” said Lt. Col. Jimmy Walker, 434th FTS commander. His unit is supplying two to four Talons on a weekly basis to fly against the newly forming F-22 Raptor force at Holloman AFB, N.M. Over the last four months, the 434th FTS flew more than 75 missions, logging more than 70 hours, against the Holloman Raptors. Besides being available, Laughlin officials say using the T-38C costs the Air Force much less that using an F-16 or F-15C. And, the training is mutually beneficial. “Our T-38s are hard to see and track visually, so that requires the Raptor to come down to us and provides quality training for everyone involved,” explained Walker. Capt. Martin Mentch, 434th FTS instructor pilot, added that the opportunity to fly against a fifth-generation fighter lets the Talon pilots “keep our skills up for when we return to our primary fighter, but it also increased the skills of the Holloman pilots.” (Laughlin report by Ron Scharven)