Home' Air Force News : March 17th 2011 Contents March 17, 2011
SGT Andrew Hetherington
A SUPER Hornet Weapons
Systems Officer (WSO) and pilot
who introduced spectators to the
new platform at Avalon were both
converts from other aircraft.
1SQN A FLT commander and
Super Hornet WSO SQNLDR
Grant Fifield had seven years expe-
rience as an F-111 navigator.
"The F-111 was a great air-
craft, a purpose-built air-to-ground
platform, very smooth to fly down
low in and was great for deliver-
ing precision-guided munitions,"
SQNLDR Fifield said.
"It had significant range, fuel
load, carried a lot of ordnance
and for its purpose-built job as a
ground attack aircraft was very
"Its key strength was its ability
to fly fast and at low level using its
"We would fly as low as 200ft
on weapons ranges, but anywhere
else we would go down to 400ft."
He said the Super Hornet was a
massive increase in capability com-
pared to the F-111.
"It's a different aeroplane -- in
the air-to-air regime it can fight
back, whereas the F-111 couldn't
and with the modern technology
the sensor suite gives Super Hornet
crews infinitely more situational
awareness," SQNLDR Fifield said.
"It can also turn with the best
aircraft in the world and the F-111
wasn't able to do that.
"The level of sensors and tech-
nology was a massive upgrade
and I liken it to replacing an early
model Nokia with an iPhone 4."
Former Classic Hornet pilot and
1SQN Fighter Combat Instructor
FLTLT Ben Johnson said the Super
Hornet was a newer version of the
"It's a bigger jet and handles
similarly, but it has bigger engines
compensating for the extra size,"
FLTLT Johnson said.
"After five flights you began to
wonder what the difference was
because it was designed to make
transition easy for Classic pilots."
For their performances at
Avalon both aircrew worked hard
to develop a new aerial display.
"We wanted to show the public
what the aircraft was capable of
doing by flying low, fast and hope-
fully loud, showing them what
their hard-earned tax dollars had
bought," SQNLDR Fifield said.
During their eight-minute dis-
play, both aircrew focused on the
flight profile they'd practised in the
air and in the simulator.
"We knew what numbers we
were trying to target for each
manoeuvre and we just executed
it," SQNLDR Fifield said.
"Based on the weather and
cloud we either performed a low
show or a high show, which show-
cased the performance characteris-
tics, including low speed manoeu-
vring, radius and rate of turn and
the ability to add energy from slow
FLTLT Johnson said display
flying was a different experience.
"It's an honour to present to
Australia the first real look at this
massive beast Air Force has pur-
Show crowds love
RHINO RIDERS: SQNLD
FLTLT Ben Johnson show
off their Super Ho
r an aerial display at
hoto: SGT Andrew Hetherington
SGT Andrew Hetherington
AVALON 2011 had many visitors
One of them was Australia's only
pilot to fly one of the world's most
advanced fighters, the F-22A Raptor.
SQNLDR Matt Harper has been
flying F-22As for three years on
exchange with the US Air Force
"My role there is the Assistant
Director of Operations for the 90th
Fighter Squadron at Elmendorf Air
Force Base in Alaska," SQNLDR
"I was lucky enough to be selected.
I had the right level of experience and
qualifications to be selected as the first
Australian F-22A exchange pilot."
To be eligible, candidates needed
to be a fighter pilot instructor and a
fighter combat instructor.
"In my case there was a very small
group of people who were eligible and
I was offered the position," he said.
"It's every fighter pilot's dream to
fly the Raptor and I was excited about
the opportunity to be able to fly and
instruct on the aircraft."
To become a fully qualified F-22A
pilot and instructor, SQNLDR Harper
had to complete a transition course
and instructor pilot upgrade.
"For an experienced fighter pilot,
the transition course is surprisingly
short," he said.
"There are a number of weeks of
academic training, followed by simu-
lator training and then, after a couple
of months of flying graduates are sent
out to the squadrons.
"You really perfect the art of flying
and operating the Raptor tactically in
Before the exchange, his role was
as a fighter combat instructor at 2
Operational Conversion Unit teaching
students to fly the Classic Hornet.
SQNLDR Harper said there were
differences between flying the Classic
Hornet and the F-22A.
LIKE A HORNET
STEALTH AND SPEED: SQNLDR Matt Harper was on hand at Avalon to talk about his current ride, the
F-22A Raptor (pictured above inset).
Photos: above, CPL Steve Duncan; inset, Steve Davies / FJPhotography.com
"As for its flying handling charac-
teristics, the F-22A is like a Hornet on
steroids," he said.
"It has better angle-of-attack capa-
bilities, has a higher thrust-to-weight
ratio and maximum and minimum
"In my first three flights I flew
higher, faster, slower, pulled more G
and angle-of-attack than in my six
years flying and instructing on the
Despite the newer aircraft being
improved in most areas, the flying and
handling characteristics of the F-22A
were very similar to the Hornet.
"It's not that different from flying
any other aircraft," he said.
"It's very smooth, responsive
and very quick. It's everything you'd
expect an F-22A to be."
As for the tactical employment
of the F-22A there are many fac-
tors which make it a fifth-generation
"Its stealth, super cruise, thrust,
vectoring and integrated avionics cre-
ate for the pilot a tactical, common
operating picture, allowing you to
spend more time focusing on the air
picture and tactical problem rather
than assimilating information from
"It really does allow you to tacti-
cally employ the aircraft to its maxi-
mum capability," he said.
"After my first flight it lived up
to what I thought it would be, and it
wasn't until I'd completed my first
dissimilar air combat training mis-
sion against a couple of F-15Es that
I really gained an appreciation that
stealth really works."
SQNLDR Harper has deployed
twice with the aircraft on Operation
"I participated in what the US
calls a Theatre Security Package," he
"The US deploys tactical and
strategic assets in areas of the Pacific,
to promote US strategic interests and
regional security supporting US and
coalition forces in the region."
He said flying in the Raptor and
working with the USAF had been an
"I finish up at the end of the year
and it'll be sad to leave the F-22A
community because I've immersed
myself in flying fifth-generation air-
craft and really enjoyed teaching the
guys coming though squadrons and
seeing our tactics develop," he said.
"The USAF is extremely big and
it's difficult to try to comprehend its
size and incredible capability.
"The F-22A is an amazing aircraft,
but it really is a small part of an enor-
mous warfighting capability that I
have been very proud to be a part of."
QNLDR Grant Fifield, left, and
Hornet before taking to the skies for
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