Columbus looks to the future of pilot training

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Javier Cruz
  • 14th Flying Training Wing

The 14th Flying Training Wing solidifies its position as the home for the future of pilot training with the introduction of the new Fighter Bomber Fundamentals (F/BF) course.

Before a student pilot can dream of piloting a fighter or bomber aircraft, they must first earn their wings upon graduation of the Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training course, which was recently modified in 2022 as the now Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT 2.5) course.

The first F/BF class graduated in July of this year. The new program combines T-38 Undergraduate Training (UPT 2.5) and T-38 Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals (IFF) to streamline training for pilots moving on to fighters or bombers upon completion of UPT 2.5 under the T-6 Texan II. Students that track to the T-38 Talon currently learn a variety of fundamentals such as: air-to-air, air-to-surface, advanced formations, low altitude flying and more. These areas of focus are also referred to as phases.

“When the students are in the IFF program, we actually refer to them as Wingmen because they’re going to graduate and then go on to a fighter squadron in an A-10, F-15E, F-15C, F-16, F-35, F-22,” said Col. Alexander Heyman, 14th Operations Group commander. “Based on which of those aircraft they’re going to fly, each program is slightly different, but it encompasses many if not all of those [IFF] phases.”

Delays in training for students will be reduced by the new F/BF course.

“Students finished T-38s and would sometimes sit for a month, two months or three months before they started IFF,” said Heyman. “That break in training degrades their skills and it’s a much steeper ramp-up to get ready again. The new F/BF program will take a student recently graduated from T-6, they will assess into F/BF and go through that programming.…if they track fighter aircraft, then they will complete the F/BF course and not go to IFF as they will have already completed those phases.”

Students that graduate from the T-6 program and are tracked for the T-38 Undergraduate Program will receive their respective assignments for either fighter or bomber aircraft and then complete the F/BF course.

In addition to reducing duplicate training requirements, the overall time required for completion of the F/BF course will be shortened with a focus on quality.

"The goal is not to do it faster, it's to do it better," said Heyman. "We're going to maximize the use of the T-38 as a resource as long as we're able to until the T-7 comes online. My goal and vision for this is that the F/BF program...will translate to the T-7 and be more in-line with these advanced fighter type aircraft which will allow them to reallocate some of that training away from the basics and more towards the advanced training program."

Additional benefits of the new program will allow the 14 Operations Group to maximize the full skillsets of experienced instructor pilots.

 “Eventually the goal is that this entire program is taught by specially trained fighter and bomber pilots who are then able to impart those skills to the students,” said Heyman. “This will shorten the amount of time the students and wingmen are in training because we’re able to achieve those efficiencies with continuity and fewer breaks in training.”

The 14th Flying Training Wing will be the first pilot training base to implement the new F/BF program.

“Anytime you have the opportunity to be part of the first of anything in the United States Air Force, it’s an opportunity to leave your mark,” said Heyman. “That is exciting to me. The pilots are going to make history and are going to produce a syllabus and a program that will be replicated across the Air Force and become the standard.”