Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas --
Student pilots from the 435th Fighter Training Squadron are becoming more familiar with aircraft munitions thanks to the recently added inert weapons at the 12th Training Squadron and 435th FTS at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas.
The added inventory includes a 500-pound Guided Bomb Unit-12 laser-guided munition and two 250-pound GBU-39 GPS-aided bombs. These inert munitions are used in academics, simulators and flying training with 435th FTS and 12th TRS “Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals” program.
“The addition of the GBU-12 and GBU-39 helped complete the display of weapons that are being used today in the combat air forces,” said Brian Harper, 12th TRS IFF civilian simulator instructor.
The 12th TRS is responsible for IFF academic and simulator training for the 435th FTS, whose mission is to prepare the best young aviators in the world to succeed as fighter wingmen and weapon systems officers, while developing professional fighter instructors and leaders.
“It’s important to have real-world examples of munitions that fighter aircrew will be expected to employ, as opposed to concepts and pictures,” Harper said. “It brings what we are training to life.”
The 435th FTS also conducts IFF student training in nearly 50 T-38C Talon aircraft, graduating approximately 150 students annually.
After graduating from either undergraduate pilot training or combat systems officer training, pilots and CSOs undergo a nine-week program to prepare them for follow-on assignments where they could carry the munitions in the F-15E, F-16, A-10, F-22, F-15C or F-35A aircraft.
“Eventually, it’s not just going to be practice,” said 2nd Lt. Dylan Soder, 435th FTS student. “It’s going to be actual live munitions that can do real damage. It’s important to know everything you can about the system and how to deploy it effectively.”
Both the 12th TRS and 435th FTS displays include a GBU-31, Air Intercept Missile-9, AIM120, and the recent GBU-39.
However, the 12th TRS, known as the 12th TRS Munition Museum, also added a GBU-12 Joint Direct Attack Munition to their lineup, and includes large, blueprint-style drawings of aircraft.
The Munition Museum was initiated by Leif Erickson, 12th TRS IFF civilian simulator instructor. He began the project in the spring of 2017, inspired by some of the displays at the 435th FTS.
“The 435th FTS had an old AIM-9 and a GBU-31 in the squadron when I was still flying with them before I retired,” Erickson said. “I thought our simulator hallway looked pretty big and empty.”
Since the munitions are typically delivered in pairs, Erickson reached out to the 12th Maintenance Group Munitions Flight, which helped him acquire the matching GBU-31 from the 435th FTS.
“The sheet metal shop built a stand for us, and the next thing you know, we had a GBU-31 in the hallway,” Erickson said.
Erickson said the process was lengthy, but he is grateful to those who helped make it possible.
“These inert weapons aren’t mass-produced like the live things,” said Patrick Fox, 12th MXG Munitions Flight chief. “There’s just not many around and makes it a little difficult to get.”
With nine munitions held between both squadrons, students now have something tangible to learn from.
“The first time future fighter pilots get to put their hands on actual weaponry shouldn’t be when they actually go out to fly their new fighter,” Erickson said. “Our students should get to see these weapons up close here at IFF.”