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The 162nd Fighter Wing at night

With afterburner blazing, an F-16E, Block 60, takes off from Tucson International Airport into the night sky. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

With afterburner blazing, an F-16E, Block 60, takes off from Tucson International Airport into the night sky. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

A student pilot from the United Arab Emirates Air Force straps into an F-16F Desert Falcon on the 162nd Fighter Wing flightline with an instructor pilot in the back seat. The UAE is the only partner nation currently training with the 162nd to use night vision goggles during flight. (Air National Guard photo by Maj. Gabe Johnson)

A student pilot from the United Arab Emirates Air Force straps into an F-16F Desert Falcon on the 162nd Fighter Wing flightline with an instructor pilot in the back seat. The UAE is the only partner nation currently training with the 162nd to use night vision goggles during flight. (Air National Guard photo by Maj. Gabe Johnson)

A crew chief from the 162nd Maintenance Group prepares to launch his F-16F Desert Falcon during a hot summer night. (Air National Guard photo by Maj. Gabe Johnson)

A crew chief from the 162nd Maintenance Group prepares to launch his F-16F Desert Falcon during a hot summer night. (Air National Guard photo by Maj. Gabe Johnson)

The 162nd Fighter Wing flightline buzzes with activity during a “night week” when pilots practice flying with night vision goggles. (Air National Guard photo by Maj. Gabe Johnson)

The 162nd Fighter Wing flightline buzzes with activity during a “night week” when pilots practice flying with night vision goggles. (Air National Guard photo by Maj. Gabe Johnson)

An F-16 crew chief prepares to pull chocks and launch his jet for a night mission. (Air National Guard photo by Maj. Gabe Johnson)

An F-16 crew chief prepares to pull chocks and launch his jet for a night mission. (Air National Guard photo by Maj. Gabe Johnson)

An F-16 crew chief drives specialized equipment on the 162nd Fighter Wing flightline at night on his way to remove conformal fuel tanks from an F-16 Desert Falcon. Guard maintainers work all hours to keep aircraft mission ready. (Air National Guard photo by Maj. Gabe Johnson)

An F-16 crew chief drives specialized equipment on the 162nd Fighter Wing flightline at night on his way to remove conformal fuel tanks from an F-16 Desert Falcon. Guard maintainers work all hours to keep aircraft mission ready. (Air National Guard photo by Maj. Gabe Johnson)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Pilots brief, crew chiefs launch, airplanes fly, Security Forces protect, aircraft get painted, components are repaired, and firefighters respond - all in a night's work.

For the majority of wing members who work day shift it may come as a surprise that the 162nd is often as active at night as it is during the day.

While maintenance, fire and security work around the clock all year, the wing supports night flying weeks about once or twice per month for resident instructor and student pilots who are either staying current with, or are honing, their skills flying with night vision goggles.

Each instructor flies with night vision goggles once every 120 days at a minimum.
As for students, the United Arab Emirates is the only partner nation currently training in Tucson that purchased night vision goggles for use in fighters.

By the time their students fly at night, they are about one fourth of their way through the basic course and they've completed the requisite academics and simulator training.

"We don't introduce any new aviation skill set at night that they haven't seen in the day. So they don't go out and do their first simulated laser guided bomb delivery at night, they do it first in daylight. It's the same with formation flying and intercept skill sets," said Lt. Col. Mick McGuire, 148th Fighter Squadron commander.

Instructors from the 148th ensure each student gets seven night vision sorties before graduation.

Of the seven night sorties, they fly at least one in low lunar illumination, less than a quarter moon, and one in high illumination, a quarter moon or more.

After which, they are fully-qualified to fly a two-ship night mission.

Pilots are not allowed to take off or land while wearing goggles. Students readily admit, putting them on and taking them off during flight are some of the more difficult tasks to manage.

"Everything is more difficult at night because you don't have the peripheral vision to give you good picture of the horizon; you just have a 40 degree field of view. It's like looking through a big telescope," said Colonel McGuire. "All the while you have to look under the goggles to read all the instruments in the cockpit."

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