A real-life Top Gun is playing out daily above Wright-Patterson lately.
Lt. Col. Tim “Holy” Moses has one of the starring roles.
Moses is one of 30 fighter pilots assigned to the Ohio Air National Guard the 180th Fighter Wing, which has temporarily decamped from its home base at Toledo Express Airport to Wright-Patterson. Crews will repave the runway in Toledo through early September. Until then, the unit with the nickname the Stingers will call the Dayton area home.
In the first day of training at the unit’s new base, F-16 fighter pilots launched out of Wright-Patterson on Monday to practice air-to-air combat, better known as dogfighting, over the Buckeye Military Operating Area above south central Ohio.
“The biggest challenge in air-to-air training is being able to get enough of it,” he said.
Two jets drowned out conversation with a roar as the single-engine F-16s, nicknamed the Fighting Falcons, blasted off the runway.
“It makes me smile,” Moses said, watching on the tarmac. “It’s often referred to as the sound of freedom and it truly is. Makes me want to be out there flying.”
Pilots may pull 9Gs, or up to nine times their body weight, during the tight turning sequence of aerial combat maneuvers. A swirling dogfight may take them from 5,000 feet to 50,000 feet at speeds typically approaching 600 miles per hour, he said. “We’ve got to be in pretty good shape,” he said.
The hour-long air combat training missions burn more than 1,000 gallons of jet fuel. Veteran pilots may fly nine hours a month, with younger pilots flying double that or more, Lt. Col. Deron Reynolds, unit alert commander, said in a recent interview.
They also practice beyond visual range intercepts and air-to-ground combat at other times, Moses said.
The F-16s may jaunt over to practice above military operating areas in central Illinois and Michigan, too.
“The beauty of having more than one military operating area is if the weather is bad down south, we can go to the north. If it’s bad south and north, we can go to the west,” he said.
Moses, a 22-year veteran of the Ohio Air National Guard, had plenty of practice. He’s counted 2,780 hours behind the controls of an F-16, some over the skies of Iraq, he said. He’s aiming for over 3,000 hours in the jet.
He grew up watching planes take off from a small country airport near his hometown of Deshler, Ohio, a small village southwest of Toledo.
The up close experience inspired him to enlist in the Air Guard and earn the silver wings of an F-16 pilot. “That was always a dream jet of mine to fly,” he said.
Despite years in uniform, he has no plans to retire. “I hope not,” he said. “I love what I’m doing and I hope to get another eight to 10 years.”
The Toledo-based unit is one of the few F-16 fighter squadrons in the Midwest and the only one in Ohio. The 178th Fighter Wing in Springfield flew F-16s before it switched to flying remotely operated Unmanned Aerial Vehicles based and operated overseas.
While at Wright-Patterson, the Stingers share the flight line with the Air Force Reserve 445th Airlift Wing, which flies the C-17 Globemaster III transport jet.