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ACMI pods produce knowledge, keeps warfighters sharp
Wes Dear, an electronic technician with Bering Sea Environmental North, attaches an air-combat maneuver instrument pod to a Japan Air-Self Defense Force F-15J Eagle Aug. 8, 2013, Eielson Air Force, Alaska. The pods are attached to aircraft to help monitor movement during flights, which can then be reviewed during post-flight briefings. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Perras/Released)
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ACMI pods produce knowledge, keeps warfighters sharp

Posted 8/12/2013   Updated 8/16/2013 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

8/12/2013 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska  -- Keeping track of 60 aircraft from U.S. and allied partners during an intense two-week exercise could seem to be an impossible task especially utilizing a training space the size of Florida.

To track actions ensuring pilots can learn from their flying experience and sharpen their war-fighting skills, fighter aircraft are equipped with Air Combat Maneuver Instrument Pods.

The ACMI pods, which look similar to the typical air-to-air missile in dimensions, collect data as the aircraft negotiates training scenarios in the 67,000-square-mile Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex while participating in RED FLAG-Alaska. Back on the ground, the information is dissected and used to debrief the crew on what they did well and what they could improve on - education being the key.

"Every participating jet gets a pod," said Randy Robertson from Bering Sea Environmental North, the contractors who provide and mount the pods. "These 140-pound units are key to training. They give pilots the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and others."

Robertson compared the information to a scene in the movie "Top Gun," where Navy pilots are debriefed about their performance following a sortie.

"This system is similar to the green shapes pilots saw in the film; however, our system is state-of-the-art," he said.

With five countries, including almost every branch of the U.S. military, flying simulated combat sorties in a realistic threat environment, this information becomes invaluable on a daily basis.

"The ACMI brings all the time and money spent on sorties to fruition," said Maj. Sam Stitt, 353rd Combat Training Squadron operations division chief. "We are able to take the information and accurately debrief."

Stitt said some information can be lost with the fast-paced environment of RED FLAG and describes the action in the field as chaotic.

"Debriefing is like a film study in football," he said. "Every player has a job and even though you can't replace hands-on flying, it's extremely valuable to review information from the outside."

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