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Farewell tour: Dutch finish overwater F-16 training over Florida coast

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. George Keck
  • 162nd Wing Public Affairs

NAVAL AIR STATION KEY WEST, Fla. (AFNS) -- U.S. Airmen and Royal Netherlands Air Force personnel from Morris Air National Guard Base, Arizona, traveled to Naval Air Station Key West wrapping up a two week-training event in May with the final Dutch B-Course student pilots.

This temporary duty satisfied the over-water training and dissimilar aircraft training required by the student pilot course syllabus of the RNLAF.

“Since we are only flying over land in Tucson, [Arizona] our altitude awareness is really good,” said Lt. Col. Joost Luijsterburg, RNLAF detachment commander. “Every class goes to a location to fly over water and give them a different perspective.”

While flying over open waters, there are no ground references such as cars, buildings, and terrain to determine altitude. This training is crucial in preparing the students for their return home to the Netherlands where most flying occurs over the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean.

Two students found themselves a lot lower in altitude during the training than they had thought, Luijsterburg said.

The other goal for the student pilots was to see the hard work of deploying various personnel assets as a cohesive unit, Luijsterburg said. As an example, Luijsterburg said that the student pilots were surprised to learn that their maintenance crew had brought a spare aircraft engine, as a contingency.

The 162nd Logistics Readiness Squadron coordinated the TDY with the 161st Air Refueling Wing and with the 107th Airlift Wing to provide a KC-135 Stratotanker and a C-17 Globemaster III, respectively, for a seamless movement of personnel and equipment round trip to NAS Key West.

The 148th Fighter Squadron brought along six of their own F-16 Fighting Falcons from Morris ANGB to fly against F-18 Super Hornets.

“In Tucson, the students have not had an opportunity to fight against dissimilar aircraft,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Wittke, the 148th FS commander. “When we are fighting a different platform with different capabilities, it changes things up quite a bit. It is some of the best training you can do as a young lieutenant.”

The trip is also significant because this is the last Dutch F-16 B-course to graduate before closing out their contract and moving back to their home country.

“This is a big deal and a bittersweet thing,” Wittke said.

After a 32-year partnership, this is the last TDY that the RNLAF will participate in as part of the 148th FS before returning home to the Netherlands.

“I, myself, was a student in the 148th Fighter Squadron in 1991,” Luijsterburg said. “That was 31 years ago and now I am going to close this unit in a couple of months. It is the end of an era; I think you could say.”

The Dutch were the first in a long line of foreign partners to train at Morris ANG Base. On average, they flew 2,000 hours a year and graduated four student pilots every nine months.

“I will be sad to see them leave,” Wittke said. “They have been one of our best partners. They are always in combat with us and that loyalty I find incredibly inspiring.”