ENJJPT set to host 81st steering committee meeting virtually

  • Published
  • By John Ingle
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – The 81st meeting of the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program Steering Committee is set to begin March 8, 2021, a biannual gathering of partner nations to discuss the program and plans for the future.

Col. Robert Haas Jr., commander of ENJJPT and the 80th Flying Training Wing, said the global COVID-19 pandemic has once again prohibited the committee from gathering in person. Instead, they will use technology to link up, discuss and make decisions so he and those who support the mission can continue to move forward with producing combat pilots for NATO.

The colonel said the focus of the program remains on building partnerships while conducting safe, disciplined flying operations to meet the needs of the partner nations. While inherently a challenge to begin with, this past year has presented its own set of roadblocks with the global pandemic, civil unrest in the country and a historic winter weather event that grounded training operations.

Through it all, though, Haas said the team of international partners, civilians and contractors pushed the program forward.

“What is awesome is the teamwork and the spirit of ENJJPT that allows the team to function at a high level,” he said. “If there is one thing this team is focused on, that is mission success – and that is getting quality aviators out to their follow-on training, ready, capable and equipped to meet the needs of their nations.”

The steering committee will explore several areas during the week-long meeting, including determining the top-end capacity of the program, validating what instructor pilots do on a day-to-day basis, and smoothing out the flow from undergraduate pilot training into the organization’s Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals program.

Haas said the steering committee has asked for a capacity analysis to gauge what ENJJPT is able to do from a pilot production standpoint. Factors that contribute to the capacity include the airfield, airspace, the number of aircraft on the ramp, the capabilities of the maintenance force, and the number of instructors now and what they can grow to. All of those dynamics, he said, will contribute to the number of students the program can accept.

The program graduates 180-200 pilots annually, but the desire is to potentially increase that to 240-250 per year.

Instructor pilots typically do more than train pilots, depending on where they are in the program’s structure. For example, Haas not only leads the program in his official U.S. and NATO capacities, but he also instructs students in the air and in flight simulators.

For the purposes of the validation inquiry, Haas said they have established tiers in which IPs are placed: Tier 1 is for wing, group and squadron leadership; Tier 2 is for directors of operations and senior national representatives; Tier 3 includes flight commanders; and Tier 4 is for line instructor pilots. Values have been assigned to each tier and historical data is examined, all with the purpose of finding out where the stress points are and how to equalize the tiers.

For example, Tier 2 personnel typically work at a higher level. Not only are they required to fly, train and perform other mission-essential tasks, but they also are responsible for overhead in their respective areas to accomplish the missions.

“By having a model and putting the data in the model, now we can see where certain parts of our workforce are stressed, and certain parts of our workforce, quite frankly, have extra capacity to do more,” Haas said. “That will allow commanders at all levels to efficiently schedule both their instructors and their students so that we can be more efficient; and if we’re more efficient, then that should allow for additional students.”

The final big-ticket item the steering committee will discuss is the flow of students from UPT to IFF. It’s part of the program’s ENJJPT 2030 initiative.

Haas said there is a gap from UPT graduation to the start of IFF, ranging from a few weeks to a couple of months. ENJJPT 2030 would allow for a smoother flow into IFF and set specific milestones along the way. He said the length of IFF training doesn’t change, nor does the number of sorties students will fly.

“It takes more of a student-centered focus on the individual student as they go through so we can tailor the training to meet the needs of the student so they can meet the minimum course standards to graduate,” he said.

He said they are targeting the July time frame for the first class – made up of U.S., German and Canadian students – to test the new flow, but that will depend on concurrence by the steering committee and approval from 19th Air Force.

Another initiative that’s part of ENJJPT 2030 is taking a holistic approach with students, providing them with necessary interpersonal and program-related tools to be successful. For example, Haas said older fighter pilots tend to have neck, shoulder and other upper body ailments from years of flying a jet. This new approach will teach young pilots how to properly take care of their bodies with good nutrition, fitness and stress mediation to handle the rigors of being a fighter pilot.

Haas has spent five years of his Air Force career leading and teaching future pilots as a squadron commander at Columbus AFB, Mississippi, a group commander at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, and now the wing commander here. Being able to produce more pilots comes down to one current limitation, he said. He needs more T-38 Talon instructor pilots. Ten to 15, he said.

Because of events beyond the program’s control, the organization is obligated to fly one Saturday a month to catch up on time missed in the classroom, briefing room, simulators and aircraft. That’s placing additional stress on a team that already manages through the normal strains of pilot training.

“This is not the time for normal business,” he said, considering the backdrop of months or abnormalities and challenges. “I’d say we’re in extraordinary times right now, and now is the time for bold action and to take risk. Trust that I will deliver the product that our nation and our NATO partners desire and the authority and tools to execute.”

The ENJJPT Steering Committee traditionally meets once in the spring, hosted by the 80th FTW at Sheppard. A second meeting is held in Europe in the fall.