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Air Force meet brings tactics to life

After an eight-year lapse, the contest again gives five teams of Air Force pilots and ground crews a chance to see who's best.

By Associated Press
Published November 9, 2004

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE - Five teams of Air Force fighter pilots resumed an air-to-air combat competition Monday after an eight-year hiatus due to real world demands in such hot spots as Iraq and Bosnia.

This is the 50th anniversary of the William Tell weapons meet, named for the legendary Swiss archer, that began in 1954 at Yuma, Ariz. It was moved to this Panhandle base in 1958.

The competition was held annually from 1954 through 1959 and then every two years, except for a couple of longer gaps for the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars.

"William Tell serves as a great way to foster tactical growth," said Lt. Col. Marisse Bradshaw, an Air Force spokeswoman.

A new event in this year's nearly two-week meet will test the ability of pilots to scramble their jets, take off and identify a suspicious aircraft. It has been added to the two-week competition because of the Air Force's new focus on homeland defense in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that were carried out with hijacked jetliners, Bradshaw said.

Also for the first time, pilots from the 64th Aggressor Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nev., will serve as adversaries. Unmanned drones will continue to be used as targets for competition with live missiles over the Gulf of Mexico. Targets towed behind aircraft will be used for gunnery events.

Ground crews also will compete in weapons loading, maintenance and weapons directing.

The teams, their bases and their commands:

* 71st Fighter Squadron of the 1st Fighter Wing, Langley Air Force Base, Va.; Air Combat Command.

* 95th Fighter Squadron of the 325th Fighter Wing, Tyndall; Air Education and Training Command.

* 123rd Fighter Squadron of the 142nd Fighter Wing, Portland, Ore.; Air National Guard.

* 19th Fighter Squadron of the 3rd Wing, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska; Pacific Air Forces.

* 493rd Fighter Squadron of the 48th Fighter Wing, Lakenheath, England; U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

The last overall winner in 1996 was Canada's 4th Wing from Cold Lake Canadian Forces Base, Alberta. No Canadian team is entered this year.

THE RETURN OF WILLIAM TELL

In 1996, these F-16 Fighting Falcon jets from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., and Hill Air Force Base, Utah, were the first Air Force Reserve planes to participate in the William Tell air-to-air weapons meet at Tyndall Air Force Base.

[Last modified November 9, 2004, 00:26:24]


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