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MIGHTY TACTICAL
Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith

18 Air Force F-15s square off in a 'Turkey Shoot'

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)

The 48th Fighter Wing held an inter-fighter squadron "Turkey Shoot," at RAF Lakenheath, England, on Sept. 26, 2019.

The Turkey Shoot is an operational competition that tests the preparation and performance of fighter pilots, intelligence professionals, aircraft maintainers, and air battle managers.

"The event takes the newest flight leads, instructors and wingmen from each squadron, puts them together into one four-ship formation to represent that squadron, and then hands them a demanding tactical problem to solve," said Capt. Sam Wozniak, 492nd Fighter Squadron weapons system operator flight lead.


The competition is executed as a Defensive Counter Air mission. Competition planners, known as "White Forces," set the parameters for each fighter squadron's "blue air" team.

"The White Forces provided the special instructions, rules of the competition, and a point system matrix," Wozniak said. "For example, successful target defense equated 20 points and achieving missile kills equated 5 points and the team with the most points at the end wins."

The scenario pitted four blue air F-15s against 14 "red air" F-15s to defend specified targets.

In preparation, blue players had to determine the desired combat air patrol locations, distance triggers to advancing enemy forces, and inter-flight contacts for each formation to optimize mission success.

"From the mass brief, each formation splits off for flight-specific briefs to discuss the execution plan and expectations/responsibilities for each flight member during the fight," Wozniak said.

An F-15C Eagle from the 493rd Fighter Squadron prepares for takeoff in support of an inter-fighter squadron "Turkey Shoot" competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)

In this iteration of the Turkey Shoot, the squadrons had the opportunity to incorporate interoperability tactics to enhance the effectiveness of their pre-coordinated strategy.

"We had tankers assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing and Airborne Warning and Control Systems from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the UK for Command and Control support," Wozniak said.

An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 492nd Fighter Squadron kicks off the Turkey Shoot competition at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)

Due to different flying schedules, the squadrons do not have many occasions to come together in camaraderie. Turkey Shoots provide that unique opportunity for all three fighter squadrons to integrate with each other, which in turn makes for a livelier competition.

An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 494th Fighter Squadron, takes flight in support of an inter-fighter squadron "Turkey Shoot" competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)

"Broadly speaking, fighter pilots and fighter weapons systems officers need three things to survive and thrive … readiness, competition, and camaraderie," said Col. Jason Camilletti, 48th Operations Group commander.

An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 494th Fighter Squadron, launches in support of an inter-fighter squadron "Turkey Shoot" competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)

"Turkey shoots advance our wing's readiness by stressing our newest flight leads and wingmen in a very challenging high-end scenario, and the adrenaline rush of competing to win is the closest thing we can do short of actual combat," Camilletti said.

As US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa's premier combat wing, complex exercises such as this ensure the 48th Fighter Wing remains ready to defend sovereign skies and deter any aggressor.

An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 494th Fighter Squadron, launches in support of an inter-fighter squadron "Turkey Shoot" competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.