Joker Squadron, Where FAB Fighter Pilots Are Born
By Kaiser Konrad/Diálogo June 01, 2017Created in 1947 and activated in 1953, but transformed into a fighter unit only in 1983, the 2nd Squadron of the 5th Aviation Group (2nd/5th GAv, per its Portuguese acronym), located at Natal Air Base in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, is the squadron responsible for holding the Operational Specialization on Fighter Aviation Course (CEO-CA, per its Portuguese acronym). CEO-CA is the most complex and demanding operational specialization course in the Brazilian Air Force (FAB, per its Portuguese acronym). That is why Joker, as the squadron is called, is known as the birthplace of FAB fighter pilots. From 1982 to 2004, the AT-26 Xavante was flown. It logged a record 260,000 flight hours, training more than 700 fighter pilots. In 2005, the first class of pilots trained on the new A-29 A/B platform, which has logged more than 50,000 flight hours in that unit alone. An interesting detail is that the Super Tucano was introduced into FAB by the Joker Squadron, which was also responsible for training the first pilots and the operational doctrine for the new aircraft, which was essential for introducing the A-29 into three squadrons of the 3rd Aviation Group. Trainee selection According to Brigadier General Pedro Luís Farsic, commander of the 10th Wing, “in their fourth year at the Air Force Academy (AFA), cadets are tested and selected for the type of aviation that they will specialize in, according to each individual’s pilot profile. The options are fighters, rotary aircraft, transport planes, and patrol and reconnaissance aircraft. That pilot profile encompasses, among other factors, the pilot’s psychometric ability. It is in this context that AFA has stipulated a minimum flight grade (cut-off point) based on trainee achievement statistics in the fighter training course. In addition to their flight average, all cadets go through an anthropometric evaluation to verify that they are within the safety envelope for the A-29’s ejection seat. With all of this data at their disposal, the 10th Wing and AFA meet to choose which cadets will take the fighter training course the following year. The number of cadets chosen varies according to the number of available spots in CEO-CA.” Fighter course CEO-CA lasts approximately nine months, from March to December. It starts in the first half of March with Technical Aircraft Training (ITA, per its Portuguese acronym). In that phase of the course, trainees have four weeks of classroom study on aircraft systems, standard procedures, emergency procedures, and also basic maneuvers for the daytime adaptation phase. In addition to the classroom study, trainees undergo five ground assessments – ITA-1, ITA-2, Emergency Procedures, Critical Emergencies, and Day Adaptation Phase. Upon completing their ground instruction, trainees are eligible to begin their flying activities, which are divided into basic and advanced modules. A flight simulator is an essential tool in this process. At the start of each flight phase, the pilots conduct missions that allow them to better adapt to the aircraft. The basic module, as the name suggests, is made up of flight phases that will serve as the basis for all the missions the trainee must complete for fighter aviation. Just 15 percent of trainees who begin the course drop out, a very low attrition rate compared to other fighter pilot training courses. BASIC MODULE PHASES AND OBJECTIVES Daytime Adaptation: Taking off, landing, and performing basic maneuvers safely. Nighttime Adaptation: Taking off, landing, and performing basic nighttime maneuvers safely. Advanced Instrumentation: Safely landing at an airfield using instruments only (IMC). Basic Training: Safely flying in formation and performing maneuvers in flight. Operational Training: Training on the operational formations used in combat missions. Instrument Flying: Navigating under visual conditions, observing the tactical scenario and following ground references. Radio Navigation: Moving between two locations in IMC conditions using the A-29’s navigation system. The advanced module is made up of flight phases in which the trainee uses the A-29 aircraft as a weapons platform and trains on the main air force operations that are carried out by fighter aircraft. In this module, the trainee is evaluated on his or her combat ability against the ground and air targets. ADVANCED MODULE PHASES AND OBJECTIVES Air-to-Ground Operations: Performing air-to-ground operations in the A-29, with a variety of weapons deployed on the aircraft. Air-to-Air Operations: Performing air-to-air operations against an airborne target towed by another aircraft. Air Combat: Training on basic combat maneuvers against another aircraft using a variety of air combat tactics. Interception: Intercepting airborne targets in visual conditions, following the directions of the control radar. Ground Attack (operational maneuver): Carrying out attack missions against ground targets, such as an operational air wing, in the context of warfare simulation. Escort (operational maneuver): Escorting allied forces in enemy territory and engaging the opponent’s air defenses in combat, in the context of warfare simulation. Live Fire (operational maneuver): Using live weapons against tactical targets in the crosshairs, in the context of a warfare simulation. Upon completing the course, trainees are confirmed for fighter wing operations and are eligible to carry out any combat mission in the A-29, in positions 2 and 4 of a squad. After the course in Natal, the pilots are sent to the 3rd Aviation Group in the Air Wings at Boa Vista, Porto Velho, and Campo Grande, where they take part in operational missions policing the airspace over the border region, while also taking the squadron leader course. “After completing the CEO-CA on the A-29 Super Tucano aircraft which belongs to the Joker Squadron, I can attest to the excellent educational and professional level of the squadron in fulfilling its mission, which is to train new fighter pilots. The combination of flawless doctrine with aircraft at the technological levels used by the leading air forces in the world gives our future combat pilots the knowledge, ability, and confidence they need to face any problem,” said Second Lieutenant Pablo Velarde, a pilot in the Uruguayan Air Force, upon completion of the fighter training course in Brazil.