The 52nd Fighter Wing conducted a wing-wide sortie surge exercise at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Oct. 23-26, 2017.
A sortie surge is an increase in flying during a short period of time meant to test the limits of operations at the wing and is representative of a wartime tasking.
The goal of the exercise was to boost the flying schedule of the F-16 Fighting Falcons to 192 sorties in only four days, an amount that typically takes half a month to achieve.
“We typically fly roughly 22-30 sorties in a day,” said Col. Anthony Retka, 52nd Operations Group commander. “During this surge we planned to fly up to 48 sorties a day.”
Although the goal of 192 sorties was not reached due to weather conditions, 47 sorties were still able to be flown on 2 separate days and 24 on another.
“The number of sorties isn’t really important to me,” Retka said. “What I really hoped to gain with this surge was for the pilots to get the training that is required of them. This week we focused on close-air support, which is a mission we could be tasked with at any time, so my desire would be they get spun up and more proficient on those procedures.”
Within the 52nd Maintenance Group, shifts were pushed to 10 hours a day to provide for the extended 10-hour flying window. This limited the F-16s regular scheduled maintenance time and required many back shop members to aid in the launch and recovery of aircraft.
“You find out where things are going to break, where you have friction points, choke points, and where you get bogged down,” said Col. Stephen Scherzer, 52nd MXG commander. “It helps the guys out on the line figure out how to get past all of that and work through it.”
The increase in F-16 sorties, combined with other traffic at Spangdahlem, such as transient U.S. Army helicopters from Belgium and heavy aircraft on the 726th Air Mobility Squadron’s ramp, also helped members from other agencies with their proficiency.
“Because of this surge, we were able to get three more people qualified,” said Staff Sgt. Heppler, 52nd Logistics Readiness Squadron fuel service center supervisor. “It’s more training, it’s more familiarization of day-to-day operations, and it’s a way for us to get into a groove.”
Scherzer said the surge was a base-wide, total team effort to maximize the number of sorties that were generated during the week.
“I think this is a great opportunity for the wing.” Scherzer said. “It shows what a tight operations and maintenance relationship can do and just how good these Airmen are at making this mission happen.”