Back on 21 Dec, I got to fly for the first time in six months. "Ski" and I hopped into a pair of Yellowtail F-16CJs with the primary mission to regain my long-lost landing currency, and also to familiarize me with the newest F-16CJ avionics–the LINK-16 inflight datalink, the Helmet-mounted Cueing System (HMCS), and the Advanced Identify Friend-or-Foe Interrogator (AIFF).
It was my first takeoff in a GE110-129-powered Viper in over four years. After spending some time getting the LINK-16 up-and-running, we rocketed into a gloriously blue sky pocked with only few clouds here and there, unusual for this part of Japan this season. The LINK-16 showed where all of our squadron mates were. I PDLTd Ski, and was rewarded with a situational awareness mark viewable on the horizontal situation display, and when I looked at him through the heads-up display (HUD) or through HMCS, there was a small circle superimposed right over him. We interrogated IFFs a couple times on the departure. Not only could we see who was where, we could tell what they were ‘squawking!’ The avionics upgrades certainly make today’s Block 50 much better at helping the pilot maintain situational awareness!
We flew over to Chitose, a Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) base on the island of Hokkaido. We meant to fly a TACAN penetration to a TACAN final, but we ended up essentially coming up on a VFR straight-in, since Chitose only has category A through D TACAN approaches, and the Viper is a category E instrument airplane. That done, we blasted out of there and over to Draughon Range for a range familiarization.
Ski walked me (so to speak) through the conventional and pop patterns at the range, and I got to see the targets and strafe pits. We both had hot guns, but we hadn’t had time to mission plan strafing on top of the local area orientation items, and we didn’t figure we could answer the mail had something bad happened, so our risk management calculations sadly prevented us from pointing our noses at the ground and letting the 20mm fly. Once we finished three passes, we launched out east over the ocean and picked up vectors to an ILS back at Misawa.
After updating my precision approach currency, we launched up into the simulated flameout (SFO) pattern and shot two SFOs, then went around the pattern and came up initial, pitched out, and landed. I smoothly hit the tarmac at a credible 669′ down the runway, thus successfully updating my long-since lapsed landing currency.
Mission accomplished. I may not get to fly again for another few months now. Rats! It was a great thrill to finally get airborne in any case.