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<v Announcer>The WPBT production of Blackbirds in the Sun is made possible by a grant from the <v Announcer>Emil Bueller Trust dedicated to the advancement of general aviation education. <v Announcer>Additional production funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the <v Announcer>Southern Educational Communications Association. <v Announcer>[music] <v William Shatner>Morning in the Florida Keys, the sun awakens the local world <v William Shatner>to another glorious day of bountiful oceans and cobalt blue skies, comfortably <v William Shatner>punctuated by a vast array of grey. <v William Shatner>Yet for many, even here, the thought of another day on the job is as unappealing
<v William Shatner>as it is mundane, highlighted perhaps by the occasional thought of <v William Shatner>winning the lottery or the approach of quitting time. <v William Shatner>Maybe it is a universal truth. <v William Shatner>Work is work. <v William Shatner>Even in paradise. <v William Shatner>Unless, of course, you're a Blackbird. <v Speaker>[static over air conversation] <v William Shatner>On any given day, high above the tranquil waters surrounding the dry tortugas, <v William Shatner>sleek fighter jets camouflaged as a Russian MiGs, engage U.S. <v William Shatner>Navy FA-18s and F-14s in full scale air matters. <v Speaker>[static over air conversation] <v William Shatner>They are the blackbirds of VF-45. <v William Shatner>One of only four naval adversary squadrons in the country, <v William Shatner>the blackbirds have the extraordinary mission of teaching air-to-air combat to visiting
<v William Shatner>fighter and attack pilots of the Atlantic fleet. <v William Shatner>In essence, to instill in them the knowledge, confidence and experience <v William Shatner>to defeat the enemy in the event of genuine combat. <v William Shatner>[music]
<v William Shatner>Six miles northeast of Key West, Thriving discreetly amidst the sailboats, <v William Shatner>mangroves and emerald waters of Boca Chica lies the Key West Naval <v William Shatner>Air Station, home to VF-45, The Blackbirds. <v Larry Lakser>Our main training here is as an evolution called the strike farp. <v Larry Lakser>Strike Farp is a strike fighter air combat readiness program. <v Larry Lakser>All we do is not too much different from what Top Gun does in San <v Larry Lakser>Diego. Instead of taking one or two pilots in each squadron <v Larry Lakser>as Top Gun does, we take the entire squadron and we bring them here to Key West for a two <v Larry Lakser>week evolution. <v William Shatner>Commander Larry Lakser, callsign Nacho is commanding <v William Shatner>officer of the Blackbirds. <v Larry Lakser>They'll bring all their airplanes and all the crew or some of the maintenance folks. <v Larry Lakser>And for two weeks we'll give them intensive classroom <v Larry Lakser>lectures, possibly 15 hours of lectures and 11 flights for
<v Larry Lakser>each of those aircrew against our adversaries. <v Larry Lakser>We set a scenario here which is as close to combat as we can make it, and we <v Larry Lakser>duplicate the threat as best we can. <v Larry Lakser>And that's not only Soviet threat, but any other third world threat that we may get <v Larry Lakser>involved with and given them that experience by giving them an intensive <v Larry Lakser>training scenario. <v William Shatner>This program explores the blackbirds over the course of a two week training period. <v William Shatner>Their unusual mission as adversary instructors and the fascinating subject <v William Shatner>they teach. In classrooms on the ground and 20,000 <v William Shatner>feet over paradise. <v William Shatner>It is a distinctive environment, visiting pilots sometimes joke that they have traveled <v William Shatner>too far south and landed in Cuba. <v William Shatner>Yet with all its dramatic potential, the Soviet motif exists merely as a device <v William Shatner>to set the scenario. <v William Shatner>For it is the flying that brings the visiting squadrons to Boca Chica.
<v William Shatner>And in the summer of 1989, they were the sun liners of VFA-81, <v William Shatner>an FA-18 strike fighter squadron from the USS Saratoga. <v Larry Lakser>The sun liners and the tiger tails, welcome. Welcome back for you guys. <v Larry Lakser>This time it's a little bit bigger than it was before. <v Speaker>This squadron just recently transitioned to the F18. <v Speaker>So they are brand new to the airplane. <v Speaker>And the goal here is to get them up to speed and be prepared to go to sea <v Speaker>to join the air wing as a only functional squadron. <v Larry Lakser>Want you to develop your tactics. We're going to try to let you have the freedom <v Larry Lakser>to do your own planning and fight the way you think you're going to fight it if a real <v Larry Lakser>war came. <v Gerry Hoewing>This is a very concentrated period of flying. <v Gerry Hoewing>We'll fly at least once a day. Sometimes over the next 10 days or so, we'll end up <v Gerry Hoewing>having a couple days where we'll fly twice in one day. <v William Shatner>Commander Hoeing is the commanding officer of the Sunliners. <v Gerry Hoewing>From a tactical perspective, that gives us the opportunity to develop our tactics <v Gerry Hoewing>at the squadron level. It gives us the opportunity to work together in sections,
<v Gerry Hoewing>get to know your wingman. It's also the best flying that you can possibly do. <v Gerry Hoewing>That's why we come here. <v Larry Lakser>We will challenge you. I guarantee it. <v Larry Lakser>And we'll try to confuse you and introduce the fog of war. <v Larry Lakser>I think you're gonna have a good week. Welcome. <v William Shatner>For Commander Larry Lakser it is a bittersweet time. <v William Shatner>He will be relinquishing command of the blackbirds at the end of the strike farp and <v William Shatner>retiring from the Navy in December. <v Andy Coss>Realistically, I wouldn't trade jobs with anyone. <v William Shatner>Commander Andy Coss, callsign Flash, we'll be taking over for Commander Lakser as <v William Shatner>the new commanding officer of the blackbirds. <v Andy Coss>To do our mission here is extremely enviable because we fly <v Andy Coss>twice a day. Not unusual. <v Andy Coss>We fly the best airplanes. <v Andy Coss>F-16's are a primo fighter in the world. <v Andy Coss>A-4's are a real challenging and fun airplane to fly that is extremely <v Andy Coss>good performing in this mission. <v Andy Coss>And so we're having we're doing something that's exciting.
<v Andy Coss>That is really challenging and really competitive <v Andy Coss>because we are out there actually engaging in simulated combat. <v William Shatner>For the next two weeks, commanders, Lakser, Coss and the rest of the blackbirds <v William Shatner>will fly their A4's and F16's against the Sunliners simulating a variety <v William Shatner>of threat aircraft in diverse scenarios and combat situations. <v William Shatner>They will be the bogey's, the Sunliner's the fighters and the training will progress from <v William Shatner>basic combat maneuvering to advanced tactics and communications. <v William Shatner>After the rules and regulations are reviewed the training gets underway with the first <v William Shatner>two lectures of a nine part series. <v Dave Emich>Today's lecture, what we're gonna study are three French aircraft and two Soviet <v Dave Emich>aircraft. They're the percentage threat out in the world today. <v Speaker>We have about an hour and a half lectures every day and they talk about threat <v Speaker>capabilities as well as the tactics that the smart people
<v Speaker>are learning and using. Smart people, I mean, Top Gun, the adversary squadrons, <v Speaker>what they're seeing and what works the best. <v Tom Sullivan>How about this slide here? Does this look like realistic odds to ya? <v Tom Sullivan>The new miracle superiority that many of our potential adversaries possess must be taken <v Tom Sullivan>into account when we form our approach toward section tactics. <v Speaker>It's an invaluable part of the training here. You really can't do the <v Speaker>air to air tactics, the flying tactics, until you've been taught how to do them on the <v Speaker>ground over the years. <v Speaker>Several of the people hear the same lectures over and over, but every time you hear the <v Speaker>lectures, ya know, you learn something that you didn't know before and they're they're <v Speaker>key to the training that we get here. <v William Shatner>Soviet meets French Mirages. <v William Shatner>By the end of the SFARP, the sun liners will know their performance capabilities and <v William Shatner>characteristics inside and out. <v William Shatner>More importantly, they will know how to best employ the speed, maneuverability
<v William Shatner>and weapons systems of their FA-18 Hornet to beat their opponents in combat. <v William Shatner>After the two lectures today, each sunliner will take part in their first flight of the <v William Shatner>strike farp in a one versus one scenario against the Blackbirds. <v William Shatner>Today, Commander Lakser will be flying his F-16 to simulate a MiG 29 <v William Shatner>or Fulcrum, looking to hold on to a certain piece of sky. <v William Shatner>Flying against him will be Commander Hoewing of the Sunliners in his FA-18 <v William Shatner>Hornet. Together, they will go through several exercises, concentrating <v William Shatner>on how best to maneuver in behind the other for the kill. <v William Shatner>Each flight, or hop, consists not only of the flying, but just as importantly, <v William Shatner>a brief prior to the actual flight and a debrief following it. <v William Shatner>In the briefing portion. The participants will first review the administrative aspects <v William Shatner>and conduct of the flight. <v Larry Lakser>The administrative portion is just how are we going to get to the area and then how are <v Larry Lakser>we gonna get back and what we're gonna do as far as training rules and safety.
<v Larry Lakser>And you can imagine that these these flights are hazardous in many ways, and we try to <v Larry Lakser>minimize to have hazards by adhering to very strict uh rules. <v Larry Lakser>Safety bubble, 500 feet, always assume the other aircraft does not see you. <v Larry Lakser>No sk-no sky goes high in the flight crossing situation. <v Larry Lakser>Obviously, exception here is if your nose is high but you're coming down and your <v Larry Lakser>ballistic or you're on the limiter. <v Larry Lakser>The rest of the brief is designed to accomplish a training goal, <v Larry Lakser>for instance, on a 1 v 1 sortie one of the training goals is to establish <v Larry Lakser>basic fighter maneuver confidence for that pilot, to where he can get in that airplane <v Larry Lakser>and do the seat of the pants type flying, stick and throttle flying, that is gonna be <v Larry Lakser>required of him in combat. And we concentrate on that. <v Larry Lakser>We also concentrate on what kind of game plan he's going to use against the type of <v Larry Lakser>adversary he's going out against that day. <v Larry Lakser>Obviously, if it's a type airplane that his aircraft is superior in, <v Larry Lakser>in one particular regime, then he should take advantage of that regime to <v Larry Lakser>to win against that type of adversary.
<v Larry Lakser>Up here, we're gonna have some fun today. <v William Shatner>Utilizing basic skills such as rolling scissors, flat scissors and loops, <v William Shatner>these one versus one scenarios will help establish the urgency and importance of quick <v William Shatner>and efficient maneuvering. <v William Shatner>Though while aviation technology has improved vastly since the early days of World War I, <v William Shatner>the basic tenet of dog-fighting, positioning oneself behind the other for <v William Shatner>the kill is as vital today as it was in 1917 over <v William Shatner>the open fields of France. [music] [Song: Eye in the Sky Extended Version by The Alan Parsons Project] <v Larry Lakser>When you prepare for the fight, you need to lock out all other things and particles of <v Larry Lakser>business or items of business that you would be doing at your desk. <v Larry Lakser>And as you walk out, you review the flight. <v Larry Lakser>What are the instructions? What's the scenario? <v Larry Lakser>How am I gonna do this? <v Larry Lakser>Get to the airplane and now the only thing I want to think about is it this airplane <v Larry Lakser>ready to fly? I want to do a very thorough preflight look at all the items that need to <v Larry Lakser>be looked at. Feel satisfied, take one big look around after you finished with <v Larry Lakser>the details. Just take a look at the airplane itself, how it's sitting.
<v Larry Lakser>Jump in through the start procedures, make sure you're, the machine's operating properly. <v Larry Lakser>And then once your're fully satisfied with that get into the tempo of things as they're <v Larry Lakser>going to come and they come in a certain order: the clearance, the taxi, the post <v Larry Lakser>star checks and then off to the runway to meet your wingman and then take <v Larry Lakser>off. <v Larry Lakser>So you're not thinking about the thrill of flying, right now, you're thinking about doing <v Larry Lakser>your job and making the business turn out right. <v Larry Lakser>You don't have the time to just sort of look around and say, this is a great day. <v Larry Lakser>Sometimes you do. Sometimes you don't. <v Larry Lakser>And it's a very intensive flight, but you're just so much you can absorb, so much you can <v Larry Lakser>do and so you're limited to just the business at hand. <v Larry Lakser>I think. [music] [Song: Dreams by Van Halen]
<v William Shatner>In modern air to air combat, there are three levels of engagement. <v William Shatner>First, there is the BVR stage, which stands for Beyond Visual Range. <v William Shatner>This is the arena where fighter pilots would launch missiles at a target once spotted on <v William Shatner>radar. For the FA-18 the missile would be the AIM 7 Sparrow. <v William Shatner>Known as a semi active radar missile, the sparrow locates the target by homing in <v William Shatner>on the echoes it gives off while being illuminated by radar from the attacking aircraft. <v William Shatner>The sparrow has a maximum speed of four times the speed of sound in a published range <v William Shatner>of 56 nautical miles. <v William Shatner>In more time, the FA-18 Hornet would be expected to eliminate a good number of enemy <v William Shatner>aircraft in this manner. Well before the opposing jets even saw each other. <v William Shatner>For the bogey's that made it through the layer of sparrow missiles, and history suggests <v William Shatner>that there would be a substantial number of them, the next two levels of air combat would <v William Shatner>both take place in the close in air to air arena, the furball, <v William Shatner>as it is referred to by the pilots, where maneuvering and tactics become
<v William Shatner>life and death. <v William Shatner>These two levels include utilizing the heat seeking Sidewinder missile, which hones in on <v William Shatner>the exhaust of the opposing jet's engines and closer in the FA-18's <v William Shatner>20 millimeter cannon. <v William Shatner>The Blackbirds instruct the Sunliners on all three levels. <v Speaker>After the flight we'll, we'll come back and into one of our several debriefing rooms. <v Larry Lakser>Okay, ho, was a great hop. <v Gerry Hoewing>It was a it was a dandy. <v Larry Lakser>Good hop. OK. Was there any adminn for me as far as getting out and coming back to the <v Larry Lakser>area? <v Gerry Hoewing>No. Just as briefed. <v Larry Lakser>We'll will look at the uh the head camera film and try to analyze what was good <v Larry Lakser>or other than good in his performance. Did he meet his uh his <v Larry Lakser>plan? Did he execute his plan well? Did he fly his airplane well? <v Larry Lakser>And what can we do to improve his performance? <v Larry Lakser>Vis-a-vis the adversary he flew against. <v William Shatner>The HUD, or heads up display, is a small transparent screen located <v William Shatner>on top of the instrument panel in front of the pilot.
<v William Shatner>A variety of information is projected on the glass in such a way that the pilot can still <v William Shatner>see through it, maintaining his view on the target while accessing needed details. <v William Shatner>The speed is displayed in nautical miles per hour, including a listing for mock speed <v William Shatner>or the speed of sound. Altitude is shown in thousands of feet. <v William Shatner>Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, the pilot uses the HUD to aim his various <v William Shatner>weapons. The pilot tries to line up the opposing jet in the circle displayed on <v William Shatner>his HUD screen while listening for his missiles to let him know with a variety of tones, <v William Shatner>when they have locked onto their target. <v William Shatner>The flight is recorded on videotape, complete with the HUDs intricate graphics for review <v William Shatner>after the hop. <v Larry Lakser>The F-18 pilot sees that and says, well I see this guy coming down hill I'ma try a lead <v Larry Lakser>turn, but uh doesn't realize how slow the F-16 is expecting him to <v Larry Lakser>fly out in front. And what happens is the F-18's nose falls through the F-16 is so slow <v Larry Lakser>he actually falls in behind the F-18 and consummates a kill. <v Gerry Hoewing>Just like they did in the flight, just like we did in they did in World War I or
<v Gerry Hoewing>World War II, Korea, uh the close in basic fighting, dog fighting <v Gerry Hoewing>that you saw in those other wars. <v William Shatner>Both commanders got their individual shots in, but scores are not kept. <v William Shatner>And there was never any adversarial relationship. <v William Shatner>It is the experience of a high speed, high energy dogfight the Blackbirds are trying to <v William Shatner>impart not personal competition. <v Larry Lakser>To be an emissary pilot is not only to have the skills to fly an airplane and simulate <v Larry Lakser>the bad guy, but to come back and give those the training lessons to the fighter pilot <v Larry Lakser>and strike fighter pilot in a debrief like you just saw. <v Larry Lakser>Well, we can't remember every detail. <v Larry Lakser>What we do is do a little spaghetti card. And on that card we'll make a few <v Larry Lakser>jiggle jaggle notes of what we did in that particular fight. <v Larry Lakser>And oh, we can't do move per move, time, real time, we can look at that card <v Larry Lakser>and remember that particular fight. <v Larry Lakser>And it's sort of a cue to bring us back to that fight. <v William Shatner>A combined 96 hours of instruction later including 16 adversary flights
<v William Shatner>and roughly 50,000 gallons of jet fuel, the first day is over by <v William Shatner>7 p.m. For the blackbirds time to head home. <v William Shatner>For the sunliners, a chance to enjoy Key West and unwind. <v William Shatner>For everyone the satisfaction of knowing that they'll get to do it all again over <v William Shatner>the next 9 days. <v Doug Cooper>There are a bunch of Navy pilots on Liberty in France, and they were <v Doug Cooper>they were out drinking probably one or two light beers. <v Drew Stegon>Light light beer. <v Doug Cooper>And this truck went down the street and ran this mouse over. <v Doug Cooper>So they thought it was real funny. They went and got a spatula and scraped him off <v Doug Cooper>and laminated him. And now that junior pilot in this squadron has to carry him <v Doug Cooper>and he's been like through two ejections in naval aircraft, he's been on a couple <v Doug Cooper>cruises, he's probably bought more drinks for people than than any <v Doug Cooper>living human being. <v Speaker>You should know. <v Brian Niemi>What Key West does for us down here, it gives us the opportunity to fly against one
<v Brian Niemi>high performance aircraft, which is the F-16 and professional <v Brian Niemi>bogey drivers who just drive it. <v Barry Hull>Maybe we're a little biased, but the F-18 is the best fighter built today. <v Barry Hull>And we're just hopefully within the next two weeks we'll be able to employ <v Barry Hull>it as a better weapon and <v Barry Hull>uh just be able to hold our own. Right now it's I personally just feel <v Barry Hull>like I'm kind of a beginner at the whole thing and I hope within two weeks I'll <v Barry Hull>be much better at it. <v Bob King>Every day it's their job down here and we're trying to figure out how all <v Bob King>work. [music] <v Randy Coss>I'd say flying is like a personal extension of yourself and in this role here, air <v Randy Coss>combat and as adversaries, that's what we do day in and day out a couple times a day. <v William Shatner>Commander Andy Koss has been a naval aviator for 16 years and a member of the blackbirds
<v William Shatner>for 1 year as the aquadron's executive officer. <v Andy Koss>I'm aware that I couldn't have a better job for myself. <v Andy Koss>It encompasses adventure, excitement, exhilaration <v Andy Koss>of flying. And so naturally, every day I go to work, I <v Andy Koss>look forward to it. <v Andy Koss>It's always very beautiful, the setting down here in the <v Andy Koss>in the Keys and where we fly, it's really probably <v Andy Koss>only mitigated by the weather that we might happen to have. <v Andy Koss>Morning, afternoon, evening all have their beauty, <v Andy Koss>whether it be the sun rising, the sun setting or high in the sky. <v Andy Koss>So they're all, it's all very beautiful. <v Andy Koss>All these things, like I say, it's incredible and we get to go out and fly over all this <v Andy Koss>beauty and still do what we're doing. <v Andy Koss>The days are not routine, knowing that I'm not going to be here forever. <v Andy Koss>And that is the best job in the world.
<v Andy Koss>So I'm really appreciative and glad every day I do drive to work. <v Andy Koss>The fact that this is my job. <v Andy Koss>Amazing but it's a great deal. <v William Shatner>It is the stuff Hollywood lives for, daring young men in their flying machines <v William Shatner>raging through subtropical skies at speeds and levels of a maneuverability formerly <v William Shatner>reserved for [inaudible] In aircraft so appealing we <v William Shatner>are drawn to them like flying sculpture. <v William Shatner>Yet Hollywood would most likely portray such men with a twisted perception of <v William Shatner>what is truly dramatic. Choosing to perpetuate the popular image of <v William Shatner>the macho, brooding fighter pilot. <v Larry Lakser>There are some Hollywood versions of what a fighter pilot is. <v Larry Lakser>And I think if you look at the Top Gun image, <v Larry Lakser>for example, I think that's quite overblown. <v Larry Lakser>You would never see a young aviator get
<v Larry Lakser>away with some of the things he did as far as lack of air discipline. <v Larry Lakser>The young men who are here who fly for the squadron are very disciplined. <v Larry Lakser>They are pro-very professional, and set the example for the other pilots who come here <v Larry Lakser>for training. <v Larry Lakser>We don't we don't really foster <v Larry Lakser>a let loose atmosphere. <v Speaker>[movie clip] You know, I can take my pick of any backseater in the squadron you want out <v Speaker>you just say so. <v William Shatner>If the movies manage to overlook such crucial attributes as maturity <v William Shatner>and discipline in the perennial presentations of the macho, they are at least <v William Shatner>appreciative of a special quality that attracts the attention of popular <v William Shatner>culture. In fact, there is an almost metaphorical intangible <v William Shatner>element that serves as a common denominator beyond the variety of personalities <v William Shatner>and the more palpable traits of perfect health and solid intellect, journalist <v William Shatner>Tom Wolfe called it, the right stuff. <v William Shatner>But what is the right stuff? <v Andy Koss>Well, I guess I would define the right stuff as being an ability to rise above
<v Andy Koss>any personal fears or <v Andy Koss>questions to where you're, you are basically very confident in yourself <v Andy Koss>that you will be able to perform. <v Andy Koss>That you are able to draw upon all the talents that you know you have, plus all <v Andy Koss>the talents that have been developed through your training and to rise above <v Andy Koss>any personal fears, anxieties and so on without being foolish, <v Andy Koss>but to be somewhat fearless in the terms of right stuff to <v Andy Koss>to do it and get satisfaction out of it, I believe would probably be the real essence of <v Andy Koss>it. <v William Shatner>The blackbirds are touted by the Navy as a squadron of experts. <v William Shatner>Each pilot has an average of 2,500 hours in tactical jet aircract <v William Shatner>and at least one tour of sea duty, which translates to 2 years at sea <v William Shatner>flying off of an aircraft carrier. <v William Shatner>In addition, all have been through specialized training at Top Gun to become certified <v William Shatner>advisary instructors. <v Andy Koss>The screening process of of finding not just those who want
<v Andy Koss>to be here, but finding the absolute best people that we can. <v Andy Koss>And I can tell you this, everyone that's here wants to be here. <v Andy Koss>I can also tell you that there's probably a pretty good line of people that want to get <v Andy Koss>here and there just aren't enough slots available. <v Andy Koss>So we do have the enviable position of being able to screen people <v Andy Koss>and pick really the best. <v William Shatner>Lieutenant Peter Smurf Murphy is representative of the pilots who make it. <v William Shatner>The 31 year old Massachusetts native has been a Blackbird for 2 years and a <v William Shatner>naval aviator for 7. <v Peter Murphy>I enjoy being an advisary instructor. <v Peter Murphy>The flying is great. <v Peter Murphy>The uh the people you get to train are already pilots who have some experience in what <v Peter Murphy>they do and it's very enjoyable. <v Peter Murphy>People come down and they want to do real well at being a fighter pilot or shooting air <v Peter Murphy>to air missiles, so there's a lot of enthusiasm for the learning and it makes it more <v Peter Murphy>enjoyable. <v Peter Murphy>When I first got down here most of the F-18 squadrons were new.
<v Peter Murphy>In other words, they had just transitioned, so like myselves-myself, they were mostly <v Peter Murphy>A-7 background type pilots and very limited air to air capabilities. <v Peter Murphy>So when they come down initially, things don't go as well as we would have hoped. <v Peter Murphy>They went, but the learning curve is high. <v Peter Murphy>And by the time they leave to progressing and doing a lot better. <v Peter Murphy>Like, for example, the squadron down here right now, they're doing really well. <v Peter Murphy>Today's flight, the one-v-one I had, I'm very happy with that. <v Peter Murphy>The uh the performance was good. And this is someone new. <v Peter Murphy>As the instruction gets better, the pilots are gonna get better and you will see a <v Peter Murphy>definite curve in the upward direction from when squadrons first show up <v Peter Murphy>to when they leave and that's what we're here for. <v Peter Murphy>[music] <v William Shatner>The visiting fighters have progressed a great deal during their first week of encounters <v William Shatner>with the blackbirds. And there is emerging within them a greater sense of <v William Shatner>self-confidence. <v Craig Bertolett>For me personally, I feel I feel good. I feel like the learning curve is getting steeper.
<v Craig Bertolett>When you first show up there's a lot that you've taken in. <v Craig Bertolett>There's a lot to try to learn. The uh the way that 45 teaches it with the very <v Craig Bertolett>professional, very thorough debriefs, you learn an awful lot. <v Craig Bertolett>You don't go out and make the same mistakes. <v Craig Bertolett>You build on what you learned the day before. <v Craig Bertolett>And uh flying's a real perishable skill. <v Craig Bertolett>So even if we've seen these techniques or skills previously, <v Craig Bertolett>if we haven't practiced them in a month or two. <v Craig Bertolett>We forget how to do them, not necessarily forget how to do them but if you gotta do them <v Craig Bertolett>well and quickly when the heat of the fight gets <v Craig Bertolett>on. <v Gerry Hoewing>We've done extremely well so far. <v Gerry Hoewing>Lots to learn yet. We're now getting into the complex tactics both on our side and on <v Gerry Hoewing>the bogey side. So, you know, the the proofs in the pudding, there's still a lot <v Gerry Hoewing>to go but right now we're pretty happy with the way things are going. <v William Shatner>By this point in the SFARP, the visiting sunliners have advanced past the lecture series <v William Shatner>and the one versus one aerial encounters with the blackbirds.
<v William Shatner>They will now team up as pairs or sections and face the blackbirds in <v William Shatner>two versus two, and two versus four scenarios. <v William Shatner>[radio talk] The <v William Shatner>training goals progressed from the basic fighter maneuvering of the one versus one <v William Shatner>exercises to section tactics and communications. <v Larry Lakser>In the later hops we try to to create a scenario that would be <v Larry Lakser>something that would be reasonably considered a real world scenario. <v Larry Lakser>As the hostilities uh potential for hostilities and their mission is to <v Larry Lakser>go out and be defensive in nature, or the hostilities may <v Larry Lakser>have already commenced and their job is just to go out and strike and or shoot down the <v Larry Lakser>enemy airplanes as they find them. We also try to inject a bit of <v Larry Lakser>command of control. <v Larry Lakser>We don't just try it say go out and kill everybody, you see. <v Larry Lakser>We try to simulate the type of rules he may be under <v Larry Lakser>in any particular area of the world.
<v Larry Lakser>He is closely controlled. <v Larry Lakser>He cannot just go out and shoot down a guy that another aircraft that is there. <v William Shatner>One such scenario is training flight number four, which places an F-A18 <v William Shatner>section in a situation where they must first visually identify the adversaries <v William Shatner>before engaging them in combat. <v Speaker>U.S. Task Force has established a naval blockade of a threat commercial port facility. <v Larry Lakser>We try to give him an exercise where he must obey the rules of engagement <v Larry Lakser>so that when he does get in a situation where the rules of engagement are <v Larry Lakser>prohibitive or restrict him, that he knows exactly what he must do <v Larry Lakser>and how to obey those rules. <v William Shatner>The scenario places an FA-18 section against an unknown number of blackbirds <v William Shatner>simulating Chinese built F7s and MiG 29s with their A4's and F-16's. <v William Shatner>Two sunliners will act as part of a fictitious Navy task force. <v William Shatner>Their job is to intercept a group of potentially hostile fighters closing in on the <v William Shatner>fleet.
<v Peter Murphy>MIG Sweep, 35 nautical mile intercept to engagement. <v Peter Murphy>That'll be what we're trying to do today. <v Peter Murphy>Wild-card bogey's will be out there for today and any subsequent engagements you have for <v Peter Murphy>the rest of your time down here. So be aware of the wildcard. <v William Shatner>For the Sun liners the game plan today will be to identify the hostile aircraft while <v William Shatner>merging with them, utilizing their FA-18's greater speed and maneuverability <v William Shatner>to outdistance the simulated F7s and pulled tightly back around for the kill. <v Peter Murphy>The idea is to get behind who you're fighting. <v Peter Murphy>There's a lot of different maneuvers you can use to do that. <v Peter Murphy>This loops which you use vertical up and back around <v Peter Murphy>almost like a ferris wheel going up and around, up and around. <v Peter Murphy>There's a rolling scissors, which is pretty much the same thing, except you don't have <v Peter Murphy>enough air speed to take it quite all the way up over the top. <v Peter Murphy>So you gonna have to roll over to one side or the other. <v Peter Murphy>Then there's the old flat scissors where you try to stop your downrange travel. <v Peter Murphy>And as you try to stop your downrange travel, you try to get slower than the other person
<v Peter Murphy>in and you try to weave and get behind 'em, but the whole idea is to get behind <v Peter Murphy>the other person to get a shot. <v Peter Murphy>[radio talk] Now with today, with having forward quarter missiles, you don't necessarily <v Peter Murphy>need to get what's, what used to be known as the fur ball or they real close in dogfight <v Peter Murphy>may be to your advantage to hit the merge, to get some separation, come back, <v Peter Murphy>shoot him in the face and depending on who you're going against that may <v Peter Murphy>be the alternative of choice. <v Craig Bertolett>There's actually a lot of physical build up that you do when you do a lot of <v Craig Bertolett>ACM or dog-fighting. It's a fairly physically straining maneuver, <v Craig Bertolett>turning around in your seat, neck muscles get bigger. <v Craig Bertolett>I'm willing to bet that everybody's collar size increases about an inch by the time they <v Craig Bertolett>leave. <v Craig Bertolett>[classical music] You're pulling five or six G's, your head, which weighs about a fifth <v Craig Bertolett>of your body weight gets awful heavy. <v Craig Bertolett>If you're looking over your shoulder, it gets tiring.
<v Craig Bertolett>Everybody comes back drenched. <v William Shatner>G-forces are the punishment nature administers for traveling fast while turning sharply. <v William Shatner>The F-16 can easily pull 9 G's, meaning there is nine times the force <v William Shatner>of gravity exerted upon the pilot. <v William Shatner>A 200 pound man can find himself weighing 1800 pounds in the course of only <v William Shatner>a few seconds. <v Andy Koss>What it does physically, you get a little tingling feeling. <v Andy Koss>You also feel this again, this actual force, like there's somebody else in the cockpit <v Andy Koss>with you sitting on you, pushing on you. <v Andy Koss>And then when you get to the very extreme where the higher G's states that force <v Andy Koss>uh manifests itself in fogging of the vision, actually a tunneling of the vision. <v Andy Koss>And of course, that's due physiologically because of the blood leaving the head. <v Andy Koss>Uh and it can get to such extremes that you might lose <v Andy Koss>your vision. You may even actually black out. <v Andy Koss>And of course, in the worst case, lose consciousness. <v Andy Koss>What I find is it tends to make the fight, the actual air combat, the actual engagement, <v Andy Koss>a real physical thing. You're actually now engaged with another airplane and
<v Andy Koss>it's and it hurts. You're not just sitting there playing a video game. <v Andy Koss>You are now physically involved. So much so that you know, you have to <v Andy Koss>impart a lot of force within, that it's actually taking physical strength to fight this <v Andy Koss>fight. [radio talk] [music]
<v Peter Murphy>The fight was a lot of fun. It went well, it really did. <v Peter Murphy>Well, can't really get into what missiles we had and the type of scenario, but they did <v Peter Murphy>what they were supposed to do and they did a real nice job out there. <v William Shatner>Some sunliners will spend the next hour and a half examining the flight and the tactics <v William Shatner>employed. No scores are taken or ever kept. <v William Shatner>The visitors just know they get better. <v William Shatner>Besides, it's the weekend. <v William Shatner>[music] [Song: Margaritaville by Jimmy Buffet] <v William Shatner>Weekends in the Florida Keys. <v William Shatner>The sheer beauty is overwhelming. <v William Shatner>Colors come alive, illuminated by a light unique to South Florida. <v William Shatner>It all adds to the allure of the job. <v Larry Lakser>Free time is excellent when you have free time.
<v Larry Lakser>You can fish and windsurf, excellent diving. <v Larry Lakser>It uh once in a while it gets a little, you get some cabin fever because Key West <v Larry Lakser>is a small, small place. I think the hard part is uh the <v Larry Lakser>wife gets to stay when the husband gets to play. <v Larry Lakser>So it's not as easy out her. <v William Shatner>The Lakser's have been married for 12 years. <v Lora Lakser>It's like everything else that exists by definition. <v Lora Lakser>If you come into marriage feeling that it's a quid pro quo <v Lora Lakser>proposition. <v Lora Lakser>It's equal. It's not. <v Lora Lakser>It's it's almost like there's a third party. <v Lora Lakser>And the third party is the Navy. <v Lora Lakser>The Navy comes first. <v William Shatner>With a master's degree from the University of Virginia. <v William Shatner>Mrs. Lakser speaks with an eloquence and a sense of humor in presenting the reality of <v William Shatner>married life in the Navy. <v Lora Lakser>You learn very early not to assume he's going to be home for <v Lora Lakser>anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas, even um a specific
<v Lora Lakser>evening. You you can't make um long term <v Lora Lakser>plans of any sort. And the wives that make it in the Navy and <v Lora Lakser>as a group, I think I respect them more than any other <v Lora Lakser>group of women I've ever known. Uh are really special. <v Lora Lakser>You ask them, what do you think about being a Navy wife? <v Lora Lakser>And they'll say something horrible, ugh, but then they laugh and they accept <v Lora Lakser>it. They accept it with incredibly good grace, with humor, and they love their husbands, <v Lora Lakser>not because they are this exciting cardboard caricature flying an <v Lora Lakser>airplane or something, but because they can love them and they can accept <v Lora Lakser>the um things about their personal lives <v Lora Lakser>that maybe are not so pleasant. <v Lora Lakser>It's just the price that we all have to pay so they can <v Lora Lakser>defend America and have a lot of fun doing it, flying airplanes.
<v William Shatner>The final four days of the SFARP begin, undoubtedly for Commander Lakser <v William Shatner>or the sight of jets coming in will have a very special meaning this week. <v William Shatner>For the sunliners, the learning curve shows a steep increase building upon the lectures <v William Shatner>and the basic flying of the first week, they will now fly as divisions. <v William Shatner>That is, as groups of four concentrating on teamwork and divisional tactics, <v William Shatner>as well as mastering the FA-18's extensive radar capabilities. <v William Shatner>With the Hornet, the radar can scan the surrounding sky in a number of different <v William Shatner>directions and distances, depending upon how the pilot has programmed it. <v William Shatner>When the long distance aims Seven Sparrow missile is chosen, the radar may be programed <v William Shatner>to scan up to 80 nautical miles. <v William Shatner>When the shorter range Sidewinder missile is selected a 20 nautical mile scan may be <v William Shatner>preferred, or down to five nautical miles when the weapons mode is switched to guns. <v William Shatner>The pilot can continuously switch from one mode to the other. <v William Shatner>Tracking up to ten targets simultaneously.
<v William Shatner>This week, the sun liners will work on cultivating these crucial radar skills as <v William Shatner>divisions, coordinating their combined capabilities by conducting MiG sweeps <v William Shatner>or group radar searches for the enemy. <v William Shatner>As the training progresses, the sunliners begin turning the experience they are getting <v William Shatner>into victories against the adversaries. <v William Shatner>Victories that are hard fought and very rewarding for the blackbirds. <v Peter Murphy>That's our job. And I'm I'm glad, I mean, obviously, no one likes to have <v Peter Murphy>another jet behind them shooting them. We also simulate several different planes. <v Peter Murphy>If we go out there with an F-16, we're not necessarily going to go out there and simulate <v Peter Murphy>a fulcrum. We may be out there simulating MiG 21, for example, which is the performance <v Peter Murphy>isn't isn't the same. <v Peter Murphy>Therefore, they should be able to beat you using different tactics or maneuvers that <v Peter Murphy>they would otherwise not use against a MIG 29. <v Peter Murphy>And those examples, they should be able to beat you, and they should be able to beat you <v Peter Murphy>readily. When they do that, it's good. <v Peter Murphy>And I feel pretty good about that, because that's my job. <v Peter Murphy>Make sure that they're able to do that.
<v William Shatner>It is a mission the Navy will be upgrading within the next year. <v William Shatner>The blackbirds will begin flying F5s along with their current deployment <v William Shatner>of A4s an F-16s. <v William Shatner>Additionally, they will also introduce an advanced computer known as the Tactical Air <v William Shatner>Combat Training System, or TACTS. <v William Shatner>This extremely complex system receives information from a missile like pod attached to <v William Shatner>jets involved in air to air combat. <v William Shatner>The TACTS range translates the data into computer generated images, views <v William Shatner>of the dog-fighting, which can be seen at literally any angle desired. <v William Shatner>The TACTS range can show the engagement in real time as it is occurring while <v William Shatner>recording it to be used later as a training aid for pilots reviewing the flight. <v Scott Grundmeier>Three-D all all, all round. <v Scott Grundmeier>Each way we have the data on each airplane. <v Scott Grundmeier>Specifically, what happens is the aircraft go out, fight a fight, and in <v Scott Grundmeier>close quarters at obviously very high speeds a 1,000 miles an hour closing. <v Scott Grundmeier>Systems can pick all that up. You can see maneuvering.
<v Scott Grundmeier>That's the key point to the whole thing, is being able to get air to air weapons onto <v Scott Grundmeier>another target without actually having to expend targets and drones to do that. <v Scott Grundmeier>And we get the full amount of training from that portion of it. <v Scott Grundmeier>And we can see that from any view looking down on 'em to the side or whatever, you can <v Scott Grundmeier>put a pilot, a pilot view on the uh on the screen there and <v Scott Grundmeier>actually see the uh world as the pilot sees it from his aircraft, <v Scott Grundmeier>as how the tax raises. If there are other other other other airplane in front of them. <v Scott Grundmeier>We'll see the other airplane in from-in front of them. We can watch him actually do what <v Scott Grundmeier>we see, oftentimes that actual guns kill or something very close. <v Scott Grundmeier>So it's a very dynamic system. And it's and it really gets down to the minutest detail. <v William Shatner>The TACTS range is able to handle up to 36 planes instantaneously, <v William Shatner>pinpointing each one's exact position in the sky by two to three feet. <v Scott Grundmeier>The TACTS ranges isn't an answer, it's an addition to what we've already got. <v Scott Grundmeier>There's nothing that can really replace pilot experience. <v Scott Grundmeier>You know what the bogey driver saw from his years of flying plus when he saw that day, he
<v Scott Grundmeier>knows what the guy's what the guy did wrong or right. <v Scott Grundmeier>And and this is just another tool along with what we have in the airplanes and so forth <v Scott Grundmeier>to uh to enhance and to really drive home the point of what we need to teach <v Scott Grundmeier>the guy. The young pilot was flying against us. <v William Shatner>At 50 million dollars for the entire setup or less than the cost of two F-14 tomheads. <v William Shatner>The tax range is promoted by the Navy as a bargain for the enhanced training capability <v William Shatner>it delivers. What about the training program itself? <v Larry Lakser>Well, it's really hard to put a dollar sign on something that if you don't <v Larry Lakser>do may cost you to lose a war. <v Larry Lakser>But I think training gets an adversary and it doesn't have to be exclusively air to air. <v Larry Lakser>The air the ground troops train against simulated adversaries also. <v Larry Lakser>It's the best way to give American fighting person <v Larry Lakser>experience as close to combat as he can get. <v Larry Lakser>Now, what does it cost us here? We're using airplanes that probably would have been
<v Larry Lakser>retired if we weren't using them. <v Larry Lakser>A4 is subsonic airplane that was built <v Larry Lakser>in the, initial flight was in the early 50s. <v Larry Lakser>The airplanes we have are some of them, almost 30 years old, in fact, may be older than <v Larry Lakser>the pilots who are flying them. <v Larry Lakser>And the Navy is getting their money out of that airplane. <v Larry Lakser>Some of them have over 7,000 hours of uh flight hours on 'e. <v Larry Lakser>The new airplanes we have the F-16 were bought at a very good price and are <v Larry Lakser>maintained by a contractor. <v Larry Lakser>And the amount of fuel that they burn is really small compared to the amount of fuel <v Larry Lakser>in the entire training plan. So I would say if you could put a price tag <v Larry Lakser>on what we're doing here, it's it's a bargain. <v Larry Lakser>The Navy, the government, the American people are getting their dollars worth from <v Larry Lakser>dollar invested here as to what it does for their capability in case in the <v Larry Lakser>event that they had to go fight. <v William Shatner>Recent history tends to support him. <v William Shatner>Towards the end of the war in Vietnam, after U.S.
<v William Shatner>pilots were exposed to intensive air combat training prior to entering the conflict, <v William Shatner>the Navy's kill ratio rose 400 percent from 3 to 1, in the early '60s.That <v William Shatner>is three victories for every one lost to a rate of twelve to one by 1971. <v William Shatner>More recently, events in the Middle East proved the political expedience and national <v William Shatner>need for winning such limited engagements. <v Larry Lakser>As you know, aircraft carriers have been the major source <v Larry Lakser>of uh deterence. <v Larry Lakser>Not so much in the potential battle with the Soviets, <v Larry Lakser>but in regional conflicts, I think the aircraft carrier has been called upon more than <v Larry Lakser>any other branch or arm of the U.S. <v Larry Lakser>services. To do, to provide uh defense. <v William Shatner>Such was the case in January of 1989, when two Libyian MiG 23's <v William Shatner>engaged a pair of U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcats on patrol over international <v William Shatner>waters. [radio talk] This
<v William Shatner>is the actual HUD video and audio from the event. <v William Shatner>Two Libyian MiG 23's continuously vectored in on a pair of F-14 Tomcats. <v William Shatner>An F-14 pilot fearing that they might be fired upon, launched a Sparrow missile at the <v William Shatner>MiGs from 13 miles away. <v William Shatner>The sparrow destroyed one of the MiGs. <v William Shatner> And then the other MiG was shot down by a sidewinder in close in <v William Shatner>air combat. [radio talk] <v William Shatner>With Navy carrier pilots often the sole U.S. <v William Shatner>air power represented American interests in these affairs. <v William Shatner>The pilot's performance often determines the outcome of the dispute.
<v William Shatner>Towards the end of the training period, the F45 hosts what has become a blackbird's <v William Shatner>tradition known simply as the Boat X. <v William Shatner>Everyone meets at the Bachelor Officer Quarters Lounge for drinks and an exchange of <v William Shatner>plaques. <v Gerry Hoewing>We came down here, I think, with the right attitude, and that was to learn as much as we <v Gerry Hoewing>could from what I think is the most professional adversary squadron in the in <v Gerry Hoewing>the U.S. Navy. And I think we owe F45 a round of applause right here. <v Gerry Hoewing>You guys do it like it's supposed to be done. <v Gerry Hoewing>This is a little plaque from VFA-81 to the blackbirds <v Gerry Hoewing>for SFARP July 1989. <v Gerry Hoewing>And it's from the sunliners. Who said sunliners. [music] <v William Shatner>Then it is a short excursion offshore to enjoy one of the most spectacular <v William Shatner>sunsets in the United States. <v Larry Lakser>When you go to sea for six months at a time, you tend to become a rather
<v Larry Lakser>close knit group. You know, it's almost like a marriage between all these different <v Larry Lakser>people and uh boy, being down in Key West. <v Larry Lakser>I guess it's kind of like being out on an aircraft carrier. <v Larry Lakser>It's a close knit and small group. <v Larry Lakser>And I guess we have a lot of the same interests and enjoy doing the same things and it's <v Larry Lakser>fun. It's nice to get together. <v Larry Lakser>And I guess a lot of that is uh due to the higher ups as well. <v Larry Lakser>The COs, the department heads, the squadron kind of unifies <v Larry Lakser>around this group of people and it makes a lot more enjoyable. <v Gerry Hoewing> I think they planned it this way. <v Gerry Hoewing>I'm not sure, you know, they've had a good time here, boy, ya know the suns just about to <v Gerry Hoewing>go down about an inch and a half above the horizon. <v Gerry Hoewing>The beaches are still warm, the beer's still cold. <v Gerry Hoewing>What a way to spend the day. <v Speaker>We we all showed you a good time last night and uh we're gonna try and show you a good
<v Speaker>time again today. <v Speaker>It's time to uh forget the friendships and get the fangs out and put the thinking caps <v Speaker>back on. Pretty much take everything we learned, the whole SFARP put them together <v Speaker>and uh throw 'em together in one hop here, bringing all the best <v Speaker>that you learned and putin' them together here. <v William Shatner>The last day of the SFARP arrives with a final scenario that will challenge the Sunliners <v William Shatner>to incorporate all that they have learned over the previous nine days. <v William Shatner>Eight fighters will go against a dozen bogeys. <v William Shatner>Half of the sunliners have already flown the scenario the day before, and the final <v William Shatner>half will fly it today. For the blackbirds it involves coordinating <v William Shatner>a simulation that would make even Cecil B DeMille envious. <v Speaker>The scenario here, it's uh during a previous strike of the terrorist training camp. <v Speaker>They found a probable nuclear weapons facility. <v Speaker>Uh your job, you've got to get in there and you gotta go now and you gotta take it out. <v William Shatner>The logistics of the scenario will force the sunliners to fly past three enemy airfields
<v William Shatner>and a dozen bogies who will be intercepting them as simulated MiG 23s <v William Shatner>and Chinese built F7s before reaching their target. <v William Shatner>After the bogey leader sets the scenario, the Sunliners <v William Shatner>meet to determine their game plan. <v William Shatner>They will designate two of their FA-18's as the attack aircraft, which <v William Shatner>will drop the bombs, and the remaining six will escort them to their target, protecting <v William Shatner>them as divisions and sections. <v Zack May>The bombers working to get good shots, conserving your missile. <v Zack May>So we're looking for for kill shots and not necessarily a <v Zack May>low probability shots. <v Dave Emich>Okay uh last time for these guys, last set of the last set <v Dave Emich>of fighters working. <v William Shatner>The blackbirds game plan will be to engage the Sunliners in three different areas, <v William Shatner>throwing everything they have at them. For commando Lakser it will be the last <v William Shatner>flight of his naval career and it is on everyone's mind as they set the ground rules <v William Shatner>for all to get their last shots in on the way back to the base. <v Dave Emich>Just remember, this is uh Nacho's last flight here, and I'm sure he doesn't want to
<v Dave Emich>gunned on his last flight. <v Dave Emich>Skipper can regenerate as often as he wants. <v Dave Emich>Everybody might as well get a piece. [music] [radio talk]
<v William Shatner> <v William Shatner>For the skipper, one more naval tradition commending the final flight of <v William Shatner>a distinguished career. <v Larry Lakser>I was almost in tears to see all those smiling faces of those people <v Larry Lakser>who I've known last 2-2 and a 1/2 years. <v Larry Lakser>And, you know, it's always hasn't always been good times. <v Larry Lakser>So we've worked hard to get where we are. <v Larry Lakser>They're like family. I can tell you that right now, they're part of your family. <v Speaker>Remember, you're flying here of course. <v Larry Lakser>You know, we've given some of these way and this one means so much. <v Larry Lakser>It really does. Thank you. <v Larry Lakser>Oh, it just hit me when I was coming back. <v Larry Lakser>It was just very peaceful, very quiet. <v Larry Lakser>Just one airplane coming back across the Gulf of Mexico.
<v Larry Lakser>The water and the clouds, the sky. <v Larry Lakser>I just sort of absorbed it all and was very thankful for the opportunity to be here <v Larry Lakser>and to have had this great tour. It'd be hard to forget <v Larry Lakser>it. But it was very nostalgic with a great hop, by the way. <v Larry Lakser>The [inaudible] were looking for me to pounce on me. <v Larry Lakser>And uh they did get a shot but it was after two of them got shot by me. <v Larry Lakser>So I feel I did okay. Three to one. <v Speaker>Went out, went out with a bang. <v Larry Lakser>Yeah, I think we did it right. <v Speaker>Okay, uh recap on the scenario. <v William Shatner>One final debriefing with the sunliners. <v Speaker>Previous strike of uh terrorist training camps, a probable nuclear weapons facility as <v Speaker>seen under construction in violation of treaty accords. <v Craig Bertolett>It went well. We're done. We're on our way home. <v Craig Bertolett>Had a real good time, learned a lot of stuff. Did a lot of hard flying. <v Craig Bertolett>They showed us a bunch of different scenarios, made it tough on us, especially that last <v Craig Bertolett>hop. Threw, threw everything at us. <v Craig Bertolett>The fog of war, I believe is what their skipper likes to call it.
<v Craig Bertolett>And uh all the deedle deedles are going off in the cockpit and everybody's talking on <v Craig Bertolett>their radio at once. It gets, it gets pretty foggy. <v William Shatner>The bogeys and fighters spend two hours reviewing the flight step-by-step <v William Shatner>analyzing missile shots, communications and tactics. <v William Shatner>For everyone it was a success. <v William Shatner>The Sunliners lost to FA-18's in the simulation, but they destroyed their objective <v William Shatner>and shot down a lot of bogeys in the process. <v Gerry Hoewing>The uh evolution is uh is gone virtually as it was designed to go, <v Gerry Hoewing>the learning curve amongst the junior officers, and some of us old guys, too for that <v Gerry Hoewing>matter, has been almost, almost vertical and boy, has just been <v Gerry Hoewing>tremendous. You know, the training is has been superb from day one, the lectures, <v Gerry Hoewing>the briefs, the debriefs and then the flight training, in-flight training. <v Gerry Hoewing>I just can't say enough about it. I think we're we're much better at our mission now than <v Gerry Hoewing>we were when we came down here. And that's that's the purpose of this. <v Gerry Hoewing>This SFARP training. <v William Shatner>As quickly as they arrived the Sunliners head back to their home base at Cecil Field in
<v William Shatner>Jacksonville. More capable and more confident. <v William Shatner>They leave Boca Chica prepared for whatever they might encounter during their upcoming <v William Shatner>tour at sea. <v William Shatner>They depart, leaving the blackbirds and commander Lakser preparing for tomorrow's <v William Shatner>change of command ceremony. <v Larry Lakser>I'm sure it will be an emotional day. <v Larry Lakser>But uh Andy is ready to be CO. <v Larry Lakser>Uh Commander Foster's ready to be SO. <v Larry Lakser>[music] [American National Anthem] And they're going to press on and the squadron's going <v Larry Lakser>to do great and it will just be a change of hats. <v Larry Lakser>So I will feel very satisfied and I <v Larry Lakser>think the timing is about right. <v William Shatner>Perhaps satisfaction is the best word to sum up the atmosphere at Boca Chica. <v William Shatner>It permeates the scene along with the ongoing heat, an ever present odor of jet fuel. <v William Shatner>An immense and virtually complete sense of satisfaction. <v William Shatner>As the Cold War ends and peace begins to shine throughout the smaller and smaller world,
<v William Shatner>young Americans will always be expected to rush into harm's way in defense <v William Shatner>of U.S. interests. So the training will continue with its danger, <v William Shatner>thrill and satisfaction. <v William Shatner>Yet these are not the two dimensional cardboard characters of Hollywood, Madison Avenue <v William Shatner>and Armed Services advertisements. <v William Shatner>These are real people. <v William Shatner>Quiet heroes. Silently placing their lives at risk almost every day on the job. <v William Shatner>In genuine service to the country and to the human spirit, fulfilling a <v William Shatner>certain fantastical part of its potential in the life they lead for all of us. <v William Shatner>For Commander Lakser, a new life. <v William Shatner>For the blackbirds, a new leader. <v William Shatner>Another plaque on the wall. <v William Shatner>And a little more experience to impart to the next group that will come to Boca Chica. <v William Shatner>[radio talk] [music]
Blackbirds in the Sun
Producing Organization
WPBT-TV (Television station : Miami, Fla.)
Contributing Organization
WPBT2 (Miami, Florida)
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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Program Description
"Blackbirds in the Sun is a one-hour documentary profiling the unique world and extraordinary mission of the 'Blackbirds' of VF-45, a U.S. Navy Adversary Fighter Squadron with the unusual assignment of providing air-to-air combat training to carrier-based fighter and attack squadrons of the Atlantic Fleet. "The Blackbirds, based at the Key West Naval Air Station on Boca Chica, Florida, are an elite squadron of the U.S. Navy's finest pilots - twenty men living in paradise at the cutting edge of modern flight. Their remarkable job: to look like the enemy, think like the enemy, and most importantly, fly like the enemy, providing two weeks worth of 'war' for visiting fighter and attack pilots to cut their teeth on in high-speed, high-energy dogfighting. "Blackbirds in the Sun follows the Blackbirds over the course of one such two-week training period. It examines their amazing world as adversary instructors, defusing the popular 'Top Gun' image of the brooding, macho fighter pilot. The program also takes a look at the human side of men considered to be among the best aviators in the world - exploring that perfect set of characteristics that has come to define them, the 'Right Stuff' that allows them to live and work at the absolute edge of technology, indeed, at the very edge of life and death. "In light of present tensions in the Persian Gulf, Blackbirds in the Sun might be considered especially relevant at this time. The Sunliners of VFA-81, the visiting squadron undergoing the training with the Blackbirds during the two-week period the program covers, is currently deployed as part of 'Operation Desert Shield' on board the U.S.S. Saratoga in the Middle-East. Additionally, at least seven other U.S. Navy squadrons are poised for war in Kuwait and Iraq that have gone through the air-to-air combat training portrayed in this documentary. "Blackbirds in the Sun provides a highly detailed and in-depth look at Naval Aviation and advanced air combat training, as well as the type of men who will represent the United States in a shooting war with Iraq."--1990 Peabody Awards entry form.
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Producing Organization: WPBT-TV (Television station : Miami, Fla.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Community Television Foundation of South Florida, Inc
Identifier: cpb-aacip-d14bd9caea9 (Filename)
Format: Betacam
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:30:00:00
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: cpb-aacip-d3f473c8406 (Filename)
Format: U-matic
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Chicago: “Blackbirds in the Sun,” 1990-10-16, WPBT2, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 26, 2022,
MLA: “Blackbirds in the Sun.” 1990-10-16. WPBT2, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 26, 2022. <>.
APA: Blackbirds in the Sun. Boston, MA: WPBT2, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from