Army and Air Force units teamed up for a joint training exercise at Jikdo Island Aug. 5, firing AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, rockets and 30mm munitions at the range.
Jikdo is a range facility on two islands off the western coast of Korea, near Kunsan.
For this training mission, weapon systems officers from the 494th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron used targeting pods on the F-15E Strike Eagle to identify targets at Jikdo range. Once the targets were acquired by the laser, AH-64 Apache pilots from the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division’s 4th Attack Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment fired the missiles.
“The AH-64s will be firing the Hellfire missiles and we’ll be guiding those missiles onto the targets,” said Capt. Christopher Leong, an F-15E pilot with the 494th EFS, deployed here from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England. “We’ll use the sensors on our jets — our targeting pods. We’ll find the target and fire a laser and the Hellfire missile.”
This training is vital for the F-15E “back-seater” — the weapon system officer responsible for acquiring the targets and guiding the missiles to impact.
“I will be acquiring the target with the target pod and lasing the target, while the Apaches fire the Hellfires,” explained Capt. William Cornelius, a WSO with the 494th EFS. “This will be a new opportunity for me, working close air support with a different unit and different airframe,” he said.
On the opposite side of Kunsan AB’s runway, 4-2 Attack personnel were busy arming and refueling the Apaches as they returned from Jikdo and prepped for another mission.
“The purpose for this exercise is to evaluate and determine 4-2 Attack’s readiness posture,” said Army Capt. Nikolas Folgert, the assistant S-3 for 4-2 Attack Battalion. “We’re bringing in teams of Apaches, they’re loading up here on the airfield at Kunsan and they’re going out … over water and shooting the Hellfires, rockets and 30mm ammunition.”
RAF Lakenheath’s 494th EFS is currently deployed to Kunsan as part of the theater support package and has been on station for approximately three months. While the 494th EFS is here as a show of force against the North Koreans, they’re also taking advantage of flying training missions in a new and unfamiliar airspace. Training with an Army aviation unit firing live munitions on the range was an added bonus for the unit.
“It’s great training [and] it’s great working with the Army,” Leong added. “It’s rare that we get to do this type of training back in England, so it’s a great opportunity to work with a different type of platform.”