S. Korean, U.S. pilots wrap up 'Buddy Wing' drill
Stars and Stripes June 24, 2003
TAEGU, South Korea — “Know your enemy” is one of the oldest tenets of the military art.
But as some U.S. Air Force fighter pilots in South Korea can tell you, it’s just as important to know your allies.
Pilots of the 35th Fighter Squadron, 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base say they’re glad for opportunities to train several times a year with their counterparts in the Republic of Korea Air Force.
Two South Korean F-16 pilots and five maintenance personnel came to Kunsan last month to fly mock combat missions and talk about everything from fighter tactics to F-16 aircraft upkeep.
The visit was part of the 7th U.S. Air Force “Buddy Wing” program, which helps U.S. and South Korean allies become familiar with each other’s capabilities and methods.
Kunsan’s pilots fly F-16CG Block 40 aircraft.
The South Koreans were from the 120th Tactical Fighter Squadron out of Seosan Air Base.
“They kind of saw how we do our act. And likewise, we saw how they do their stuff, which is similar but not the same,” said Capt. Marshall Chalverus, an F-16 instructor pilot at Kunsan. “That’s important … because if we were ever to be in a conflict, of course we’d be fighting side-by-side.”
“When we fly with our fellow American fighter pilots, we know exactly what to expect,” Chalverus said, but South Korea is “a very different culture.”
Regular cross-training helps U.S. pilots approach the same familiarity and comfort levels with South Korean pilots as they have with other Americans — knowledge that could pay off should the allies ever have to operate together in wartime.
Capt. Zac Wood, the squadron’s weapons officer and chief instructor pilot, said:
“It brings us a knowledge of their tactics, what their strengths are, what their capabilities are, and it allows us to train with them, which is going to increase our capability to employ safely and effectively.”
In the most recent Buddy Wing exchange, a group of South Korean air force F-16 maintenance personnel drove to Kunsan and two South Korean pilots landed their F-16s at the base.
“Buddy Wing” exchanges involve the South Korean air force and two U.S. bases, Kunsan and Osan.
Osan pilots didn’t participate in the most recent program.
Chalverus gave the South Koreans a welcoming briefing, showed them around, then led a 35-minute tactics discussion on the high-tech targeting system that lets F-16 pilots put laser-guided bombs on targets day or night.
The next day, the South Koreans conducted a planning session for a night laser-guided bombing mission, but bad weather prompted officials to scrub the flight.
On the final day, the two South Korean pilots, Maj. Kim Suk Chong and Capt. Kim Do Woo, planned a close air support mission. They briefed their American counterparts, Capt. Andrew Lipina and Capt. Scott Meng, who flew with them.
“After they landed, they had some tactics discussions,” Wood, the visit’s project officer, said.
A major tactical difference,“is that in that scenario, we like to be able to lase our bombs in, and their pilots like to let the ground controllers lase the bombs in …,” Wood said. “After the flight ... we discovered that difference.”
Aircraft maintenance workers also picked up insights.
South Korean ground crews guide jets for take-off or landing differently.
“The way they marshal in is a little bit different, in their hand gestures,” said Airman 1st Class Andrew Fraser, an F-16 crew chief who participated. Although “when the jet comes down, they service it the same.”
“You can’t get enough training with allies,” Chalverus said. “Because the more they do things differently and the more familiar we are with the way they employ and use tactics, we know what to expect from them. And likewise, they know what to expect from us.
“That’s the big point of the Buddy Wing … we foster those relationships, get to know the pilots. They get to know us so when we do fight, we’ve practiced it before, albeit in training.”