Desert Lightning Teams host 162nd Fighter Wing

Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. -- Davis-Monthan Air Force Base will host the deployment of 38 F-16s from the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Fighter Wing from Sept. 15 to Oct. 20. The F-16s are deploying to Davis-Monthan while the main runway at Tucson International Airport is closed for resurfacing.

The Desert Lightning Team is happy to share their facilities and airspace with the 162nd, according to 355th Wing Commander Col. Kent Laughbaum, who said the 162nd's vital air defense mission is something the 355th is committed to supporting in any way necessary.

"In addition to a robust international training program, the 162nd Fighter Wing has played a key role in Operation Noble Eagle from the very inception of the program," Colonel Laughbaum said. The 162nd was among the units taking to the skies on Sept. 11, 2001, to defend the nation from further attacks. Operation Noble Eagle has kept Air National Guard and other air defense resources patrolling the skies.

The 162nd F-16s will not be unfamiliar to the Desert Lightning Team and members of the community around D-M. The unit's air defense mission demands that a group of aircraft and people from the 162nd conduct an alert mission from D-M.

Instead of a handful of F-16s conducting the alert mission, the majority of the 162nd's aircraft will be taking off from and touching down on D-M runways.

Along with the Homeland Defense mission, D-M members will support the 162nd as it continues its primary mission of international F-16 Pilot Training, in which allied aircrews come to Tucson to receive the latest updates in training and technology.

People in the local area will notice an increase in D-M flight activity and the resultant noise of more aircraft in the traffic pattern during this time. However, the aircraft will fly landing approaches designed to direct the aircraft noise toward the base as much as possible and will use other noise abatement procedures based on aircraft type and safety limitations, according to 355th Wing Inspector General Col. Scott Hines.

Colonel Hines has led the 355th's effort to research and resolve aircraft noise issues.

"This will roughly double our flying activity in terms of sorties during this period. Also, the F-16 is louder than the A-10, with the difference being affected by altitude and normal weather like humidity, cloud cover and temperature. Those living under the landing pattern will experience noise levels approximately 101 decibels for the F-16, an increase of three decibels over the 98 they are accustom to for A-10's in the landing pattern," Colonel Hines said. "At approximately 2,500 feet -- the altitude at which aircraft enter D-M's traffic pattern -- the F-16 produces 89 decibels, compared with the A-10 at 80 decibels."

The activity is expected to continue through Oct. 15. The runway project will be completed Oct. 17, according to Maj. Windy Hendrick, runway closure project officer for the 162nd Fighter Wing.

"Everything will look and feel almost normal," said Major Hendrick, "but the majority of the flying operations will be conducted out of D-M."

Pilots will still brief and debrief at their primary location, except for the 148th Fighter Squadron, which will operate out of the Operation Snowbird facility at D-M.

Work on the airfield began in April. In addition to the runway closures, contractors for the airport are currently repairing other areas of the airfield. Many of the taxiways will close at various times; the specifics will be addressed in the daily airfield notices to airmen, or NOTAMs.

"We will also have limited ability for runway 21/03 operations, and there will be commercial/civilian traffic on runway 21/03 and 11R/29L," added Major Hendrick. "The runway repairs are required approximately every ten years," she said.

While the runway work is being completed at Tucson International, the 162nd will receive full support of the 355th and Davis-Monthan, Colonel Laughbaum said. "The 162nd plays a vital role in both the defense of America's skies and in the training of F-16 pilots. The partnership between D-M and our Air National Guard friends will help ensure that the 162nd FW can achieve their important responsibilities in support of the Air Force mission."