PACAF F-16 Demo Team fosters international relations, enhances warfighting capabilities
By Senior Airman Deana Heitzman, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 16, 2016
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --
Misawa Air Base is no stranger to the voice of the mighty F-16 Fighting Falcon, but since March 7, the sky and runway have been a stage to the performers of the Pacific Air Forces' F-16 Demonstration Team.
The team is undergoing a personnel turnover and has been training its new members in preparation for upcoming airshows across the Pacific theater.
"The purpose of the demonstration team is to display the combat capabilities of the Air Force and the F-16 as well as to foster a productive relationship between the United States and our allies," said Maj. Austin Brown, outgoing PACAF F-16 demonstration team pilot. "We primarily perform in Japan, but we also travel around the Pacific."
The demonstration team includes two F-16 pilots, a demonstration pilot and a safety observer, accompanied by eight maintainers who cover every aircraft specialty. Both pilots possess years of experience and have served as flying instructors. The maintainers have been hand-selected and deemed the "best of the best" in their respective career fields.
"The Airmen on this team project the outstanding image of the Air Force," Brown said. "We are often the first U.S. military personnel foreign populations see and our first interaction is showing them this awesome display of airpower."
Capt. Richard Smeeding, incoming PACAF F-16 demonstration pilot, said displaying airpower is what he's looking forward to most.
"Most of the other demonstration teams out there are used for recruiting purposes, but we are also showcasing all combat capabilities of the F-16," Smeeding said. "I show everything from flying slow slightly above the ground to almost hitting supersonic over the field, showcasing all aspects of what this aircraft can do."
In order to become a demonstration pilot, the incoming pilot must complete a 17-ride training program which includes flying with the instructor and flying solo before becoming certified by the wing commander. After the wing commander certification, the team must perform for the 5th Air Force and PACAF commanders.
In addition to being a part of the demonstration team, Airmen still carry out their primary duties when they are not performing. In many ways, the demonstration team better prepares them to carry out their daily tasks.
"Flying this routine is absolutely brutal for my body; it is very physically demanding," Smeeding said. "But, it is comparable to interval training for flying. I am pulling the most constant [G-Force] in my life, which makes it easier to fly tacitly when needed."
Although the demonstration team is just an additional duty for these Airmen, the travel opportunities and experience they gain can last a lifetime.
"Being a part of the demonstration team has been the highlight of my career," Brown said. "During the last two years, we have performed for more than two million spectators and I am excited for the new team to experience what I did."