AFM’s Mark Ay ton spoke to Colonel Russ Walz, Operations Group Commander, 114tli Fighter Wing, South Dakota ANG, about his unit’s current role and operations.
THE 114TH Fighter Wing is the only flying unit within the South Dakota Air National Guard, based at Joe Foss Field, outside Sioux Falls in South Dakota.
As a unit, the 114th has operated fighter aircraft since it was founded in 1946. The wing’s current type is the Block 30 F-16C/D, which it converted onto from the A-7D in 1992. The 114th FW continues to fly the same F-16s originally delivered 12 years ago: it has 15 primary’ F-16C aircraft authorised and flies approximately 4,000 hours per year.
Colonel Walz told AFM: «We are a general-purpose F-16 unit, with an air-to-ground role with a precision-guided munitions capability, and we also have an air-supremacy role».
Since the launch of Operation NOBLE EAGLE (air-defence of the continental United States) following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the 114th FW has had a limited role in that operation. Col Walz confirmed that during that time the 114th FW had stood an alert at Joe Foss Field, this being a role entirely new to the unit compared to its usual style of operation.
Col Walz spoke about the routine training undertaken from Joe Foss Field. «Typically we will fly four, sometimes five, days per week and one or two weekends per month, which includes the monthly ‘drill’ weekend. There is no defined standard day — mission generation varies anywhere from a 6-turn-6 to an 8-turn-8. We split the training schedule roughly 60% air-to-ground and 40% air-to-air. In the air-to-air role we fly everything from basic missions like Basic Fighter Manoeuvring (BFM) to Air Combat Manoeuvres (ACM) to Air Combat Training.»
Air-to-air training is based on a series of ‘building block’ missions. Col Walz explained: «We go through phases of training, when flying a two-ship, we might focus on BFM. Then in the next phase we might work on tactical manoeuvring in ACM with a two-ship against a four-ship, and then work up to 4 v 4. So it’s a progressive air-to-air training programme.
«In the air-to-ground role we undertake Basic Surface Attack, Close Air Support and Deep Interdiction. Since 2002, the 114th FW has had the Litening II targeting pod in operation, which increased the unit’s strike capability significantly and which is also operational with the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM).»
AFM asked Col Walz about the 114th FW’s previous and current operations. «Since gaining full operational capability on the F-16 in 1994, the 114th FW has made a number of deployments in support of Operations provide comfort and northern watch from Incirlik AB, Turkey, and then Operation southern watch out of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia,» he said.
«We are preparing for our Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI) which is scheduled for 2005, so over the next year we do not have any major deployments planned, with the exception of going to the ANG Combat Readiness Training Center at Volk Field in Wisconsin later this year. On that forthcoming deployment we will send the whole unit to play the scheduled war games over a two-week period.»