Sidewinders prepare for upcoming deployment

6 Feb 2009 | Lance Cpl. Elyssa Quesada

Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 86, also known as the Sidewinders, is conducting Field Carrier Landing Practices and various air operations throughout February and March in order to prepare for an upcoming Western Pacific deployment.

On the anticipated seven-month deployment, the Sidewinders are packing up and deploying more than 200 sailors and 10 F/A-18 Hornets.

The squadron first completed Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program, which was the first pre-deployment exercise completed with Carrier Air Wing 11 in November 2008. The Carrier Air Wing, or CAG, is comprised of a number of individual squadrons with a variety of aircraft.

“SFARP training provided us feedback on our aircraft and weapons systems, which are areas we need to focus on prior to our upcoming deployment,” said Cmdr. Paul Spedero, VFA-86 commanding officer.

With the combined capabilities of these squadrons, the CAG can deploy aircraft to perform a wide range of missions, from power projections deep into enemy territory to engaging and destroying enemy contacts within the carrier’s area of operations. Aircraft perform patrols, anti-submarine warfare, surveillance and rescue missions.

When deployed, the Sidewinders will be working and living on the newly renovated USS Nimitz.

 “The USS Nimitz recently completed some extensive pier-side repairs and upgrades. The ship is now in great condition with an excellent crew,” Spedero said. “The crew has done an unbelievable job preparing her for sea.”

During the squadron’s pre-deployment training at the Air Station, Lowcountry residents may notice increased noise around Fightertown while the squadron conducts FCLPs.

The pilots will land on a small section of runway on the flightline, trying to hit it perfectly every time in preparation for the aircraft carrier.

To assist an F/A-18 Hornet landing on the carrier, the ship is equipped with four wires strung across the deck, called the arrestor wire system, where the aircraft will be landing.
Not only do the pilots use the Improved Fresnel Lens Optical Landing System to land, but their landing signal officers also aid the pilots as they land on the aircraft carrier.  

The LSO grades and critiques each landing during training at the Air Station or on the ship and while overseas on deployment.
The next phase of the work cycle will consist of Tailored Ships Training Assessment, which focuses on getting the Air Wing and the crew aboard the USS Nimitz to work together.

While aboard the USS Nimitz, pilots and sailors will work together to acclimate themselves aboard a carrier, working under conditions only found at sea.

“The training sets the foundation for solid tactical air-to-air and air-to-ground employment as we move forward into an integrated Air Wing and battle group training exercises,” Spedero said.