Holloman AFB hosts besides the F-177A Nighthawk equipped 49FW also the Luftwaffe's Tactical Training Center flying Tornados as well as of a permanent detachment of QF-4E Target Drones. During a trip to the south-western part of the USA gave the possibility to throw a look behind the scenes of two of these facilities.
Where? Holloman AFB, NM, USA
When? October 2007
When entering the airbase the strong presence of the German Luftwaffe is visible at once: a row of American and German flags welcomes the visitor along the main road that is leading to the Headquarter of the German Air Force Tactical Training Center (Fliegerisches Ausbildungszentrum der Luftwaffe - FlgAusbZLw). This establishment is responsible for the basic and tactical training of Luftwaffe Tornado pilots since 1996.
The training activities consist of 4 main courses dealing with the instruction on the weapon system Tornado, during which young pilots become acquainted with the aircraft. Other courses are the instructor pilot course that aims to the education and refreshment of instructor pilots, the advanced and tactical flying training as well as with the weapon instructor training. To fulfil this task around 25 Tornados are permanently based at Holloman together with a personnel of around 680.
on the Flightline
During the tour the maintenance crews told us about the great deal of flexibility that is required at Holloman. Whereas in contrast to a wing in Germany the tasks and weapon loadout are nearly identical all the time, configuration changes are the order of the day under the hot New Mexican sun as the training covers all aspects of Tornado operations. The Tornados are parked in shelters that can be opened on both sides, thus avoiding the need for a towing truck. Furthermore they are more adopted to the New Mexican climate, though it is still getting very hot for the crews in the summer months – a fact that we only noticed in outlines on that nice and warm October afternoon.
near the Runway
We also paid a visit to the neighbouring ramp of the Detachment 1 of the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron (ATRS) headquartered at Tyndall. Around 30 QF-4E Phantom drones are based permanently at Holloman to fly their missions on this part of the States, where the environment is very different to the one over the Gulf of Mexico and also more realistic to the deserts, where weapons are mainly used nowadays. After the introductiong as a great Phantom Phreaks, a tour of the facility was kindly given.
QF-4E Phantom II - Target Drones
One stop was the hangar with a QF-4E Target Drone sitting in it, on which we were introduced into the several systems that convert a regular F-4E into a Full Scale Aerial Target (FSAT). These are mainly the remote control systems, approach sensors for incoming missiles and explosive devices – the latter ones only being used in case of malfunctions and before the aircraft crashes into undesired areas.
Right beside this doomed Phantom the truck was placed that is being used as the remote control vehicle and placed alongside the runway for autonomous take-offs and landings. A tour around this truck revealed also a box marked “QF-4E destruction panel”, a really unwelcome view for a Phan.
Target Drone & Control Truck
This brought us to the discussion with the pilot about how it is to sit in and fly (passively) a remotely controlled Phantom drone, which is a normal procedure before the real flight test is carried out with the unmanned aircraft. He replied that he really got used to it, but also that he tries to always have a good relationship to his colleague that is sitting at the controls on the ground!
QF-4Es on the ramp
After this most informative talk we walked out on the flightline where several aircraft where sitting on the ramp. Besides the gray and orange-tailed examples the three Phantoms in the SEA wrap around green/brown camouflage that participate in the USAF Heritage Flight were sitting in perfect sunshine and a lot of photos could be taken.
Heritage Flight Phantoms
Gate Guards in the Heritage Park
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Most sincere thanks for the warm reception and the great hospitality go to the FlgAusbZLw PAO and the Det.1 82nd ATRS staff!!Thank you for rating this article.