Defense Media Network

Training Air Wing 2 Pilots Train for Wings of Gold

Story by Petty Officer 3rd Class Drew Verbis, Naval Air Facility El Centro

Navy and Marine Corps student naval aviators detached from Training Air Wing 2, Naval Air Station (NAS) Kingsville, Texas, are conducting strike pilot training in T-45C Goshawks at Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro, April 19 – May 5.

Training at NAF El Centro is a critical component of aviator production and subsequent fleet aviator manning of the Navy the nation needs.

“I’m gaining a great amount of experience here at NAFEC,” said Lt. j.g. Greyson Thompson, a student naval aviator assigned to Training Squadron (VT) 21. “Learning the basics of air to ground bombing with the blue Mk 76 while flying solo and with multiple jet configurations provides vital experience and bolsters confidence.”

The strike detachment will train students to learn how to tactically employ the aircraft, which includes dropping practice bombs, low level, section low level, and road reconnaissance flights.

“The base provides an irreplaceable part of pilot training,” said Capt. William Perkins, commanding officer, NAF El Centro. “Without NAF El Centro, CNATRA’s various training squadrons cannot meet their annual pilot production goals which would immediately and dramatically impact fleet squadron readiness. We are proud to host visiting squadrons.”

“The proximity to multiple ranges combined with the perfect flying weather produces valuable training in a short amount of time,” Thompson said. “It’s also important to gain experience flying outside of our local area.”

The T-45C is the U.S. Navy variant of the British Aerospace Hawk aircraft. It is a tandem-seat, carrier capable aircraft used for intermediate and advanced portions of the tactical strike pilot training pipeline as well as advanced stages of naval flight officer training. With a glass cockpit and modern avionics suite, the T-45C is representative of jet aircraft aviators operate in the fleet after earning their Wings of Gold.

The mission of Naval Air Facility El Centro is to support the combat training and readiness of the Warfighter. This includes air operations support to operational fleet and training squadrons as well as squadrons from other services (USMC, USA, USAF) and allies.