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‘Pantons’ show F-16 operations to ROKAF pilots, maintainers

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea  May 16, 2007 -- Staff Sgt. John Kim, 8th Maintenance Group, explains to Republic of Korea air force members the challenges 8th Fighter Wing weapons maintainers face during advanced medium range air-to-air, or AMRAAM 120 (seen below) operations May 16. Members of the ROKAF 19th Air Base toured the 35th Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit to gain a better understanding of F-16 maintenance and operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Darnell Cannady)

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea May 16, 2007 -- Staff Sgt. John Kim, 8th Maintenance Group, explains to Republic of Korea air force members the challenges 8th Fighter Wing weapons maintainers face during advanced medium range air-to-air, or AMRAAM 120 (seen below) operations May 16. Members of the ROKAF 19th Air Base toured the 35th Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit to gain a better understanding of F-16 maintenance and operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Darnell Cannady)

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea  May 16, 2007 -- Staff Sgt. John Kim, 8th Maintenance Group, explains to Republic of Korea air force members the challenges 8th Fighter Wing weapons maintainers face during operations May 16. Members of the ROKAF 19th Air Base toured the 35th Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit to gain a better understanding of F-16 maintenance and operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Darnell Cannady)

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea May 16, 2007 -- Staff Sgt. John Kim, 8th Maintenance Group, explains to Republic of Korea air force members the challenges 8th Fighter Wing weapons maintainers face during operations May 16. Members of the ROKAF 19th Air Base toured the 35th Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit to gain a better understanding of F-16 maintenance and operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Darnell Cannady)

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea  May 16, 2007 -- Staff Sgt. John Kim, 8th Maintenance Group, goes over procedures to Republic of Korea air force members on using a weapons loading rail May 16. Members of the ROKAF 19th Air Base toured the 35th Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit to gain a better understanding of F-16 maintenance and operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Darnell Cannady)

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea May 16, 2007 -- Staff Sgt. John Kim, 8th Maintenance Group, goes over procedures to Republic of Korea air force members on using a weapons loading rail May 16. Members of the ROKAF 19th Air Base toured the 35th Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit to gain a better understanding of F-16 maintenance and operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Darnell Cannady)

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Pilots and maintainers assigned to the 35th Fighter Squadron "Pantons" and Aircraft Maintenance Unit here hosted members of the Republic of Korea air force in an effort to improve that country's F-16 operations May 16. 

  The Korean maintenance personnel and air traffic controllers, together with KF-16 pilots, were given an in-depth briefing on how the Pantons do day-to-day operations in defense of the Korean peninsula. 

  During the tour, the ROKAF pilots reviewed how their American counterparts used night-vision goggles to dominate the battle space in darkened conditions as well as common tactics F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots take advantage of to defeat their potential enemies. 

  Capt. Joseph Gaona, joint ROKAF-U.S. Air Force liaison project officer and 35th FS pilot, said keeping a close relationship between the 8th Fighter Wing and all aspects of the ROKAF community was vital to the mission here. 

  "In the air, (joint relations) will make our forces synergistically safer and stronger if we know and can anticipate [each other's] tactics, procedures and communication 'sound bites,'" Captain Gaona said. "If hostilities were to kick off, we could end up landing at a base other than Kunsan. This is why relations with the ROKAF's maintenance is just as important as there operations. If we land and ask for gas, bullets, missiles or bombs for our next mission, having the confidence that [getting those items] will be done nearly the same as we do at Kunsan allows us to concentrate on that next mission." 

  Another point of interest for ROKAF maintainers centered on the wing's ability, through the 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons section, to prepare and load joint direct attack munitions, or JDAMs, onto F-16s here. 

  The weapon, which uses a global positioning system kit to turn ordinary 'dumb' bombs into 'smart' bombs, increases the accuracy of Air Force weaponry. 

  "In the future, [the ROKAF] plans to use JDAMs," 1st Lt. Ha, Dae ho, 19th ROKAF Air Base avionics squadron interpreter said. "Seeing how the USAF supports them is important for us." 

  The ROKAF, according to Lieutenant Ha, is expected to begin operating and using JDAM systems by 2009. 

  Lieutenant Ha added the ROKAF contingent saw several ways U.S. Airmen complete their mission at Kunsan that his base was interested in implementing. 

  "We saw a few interesting things, like how the AMU uses a truck to deliver parts to the (hardened aircraft structures) so the crew chiefs can continue to work on the aircraft," he said. "In the ROKAF, we use only a bicycle. Also, the ROKAF schedules F-16 flights only through the operations commander, which only gives us a weekly schedule. At Kunsan, your logistics and operations commander work together, giving you a monthly, quarterly and annual schedule. This is good because it gives the wing commander a better idea of aircraft availability." 

  The ROKAF officer said he expected the visiting group to "definitely make some suggestions after seeing Kunsan" operations. 

  For Panton pilots, Captain Gaona said the experience of working with his ROKAF counterparts was "invaluable." 

  "It's a great feeling to be the point of contact for this visit," he said. "Being relatively new to Korea, this visit gives me a first-hand experience right away with the ROKAF. This visit is just another way for us to build one, seamless team ready to Take the Fight North."