Norway’s pilots illuminate air space
By Staff Sgt. Erich B. Smith, 162nd Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 07, 2015
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Beginning this year, Norwegian student-pilots will receive additional training in critical areas, representing a milestone in their now 18 year association with the 162nd Wing's F-16 Schoolhouse.
"The expansion of the Norwegian syllabus affirms the good reputation our students enjoy in Tucson," said Maj. Erik Brettingen, Norwegian exchange officer and by proclamation, the flight commander for the country's attachment here at the Tucson International Airport.
One of the more prominent features in the upgraded training involves the introduction of Night Vision Goggles (NVG). This highly sophisticated piece of illuminating equipment was part of the final learning phase in the progression of military aviation novice to combat-ready pilot.
But now, harnessing the skill-set of a wingman - operating in a nocturnal setting - will manifest itself for the Scandinavian country here in Southern Arizona.
"So far, only American and Dutch student pilots here at the wing have had the opportunity to train with NVG during their initial F-16 training," explained Brettingen, a 23-year veteran of the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF). "Norwegian student-pilots now belong to this exclusive group of fighter pilots."
Breathing new life into the curriculum will also include familiarization of mounted systems and conducting more night-sorties, which is of particular importance in light of the fact that Norway's high latitude limits such training to winter months.
Brettingen added that deviating from past training practices stems from the RNoAF's pending modification to its infrastructure, which involves sustaining an aging F-16 fleet while transitioning the F-35 Lightening II Joint Strike Fighter - and all its supporting assets and resources - into their air power arsenal.
Lt. Col. Brant Putnam, commander of the 152nd Fighter Squadron, the primary host for the Norwegian partners, related their expanded training to the "cost-conscious" mindset of a country that is globally admired for its efficiency.
Putnam, who participated in tactical NATO air exercises during his own stay in Norway, offered another benefit: security cooperation, paving the way for strategic air advantage over any potential adversary. "They are receiving the same essential training as the American pilots, and this really drives home the fact that the combat capabilities of both air forces are enabling them to operate that much better together when they leave here - which they will and have done in Operation Enduring Freedom."
When the RNoAF requested changes to the training syllabus from its Arizona counterparts, Brettingen described the response as a resounding vote of confidence.
"The wing basically said, 'If our students can handle this, your students can handle this.'"