Sights set on future following ENJJPT Steering Committee meetings

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

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – Representatives from partner nations wrapped up the 82nd meeting of the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program Steering Committee here Sept. 17, 2021, with eyes to the future of the multi-nationally manned and operated organization.

The week-long conference focused on topics spanning student and instructor class sizes, innovation, addressing pilot shortages, and ENJJPT 2030, an initiative within the program to test a smoother transition from T-38 Undergraduate Pilot Training to graduate-level Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals.

Steering Committee Chairman Canadian Air Force Brig. Gen. Denis O’Reilly said the coalition and program continues to be successful because the participating nations agree on far more topics than they disagree. Partner nations, he said, continue to be grateful to the United States for its engagement strategy with the alliance.

“It’s a tremendous benefit to all of the nations, not just purely from a production standpoint for the number of pilots, but also just the trust that it fosters and how it enables coalition operations later,” he said. “It’s time and effort well spent and the partner nations are very grateful.”

This week’s Steering Committee is part of that time and effort, continuously improving the program in a way that benefits each partner and encourages participation at varying levels. An example, O’Reilly said, is the creative way the program innovates and how the partners support those innovative efforts.

“There’s probably too many to mention, but things like looking at non-standard ways at looking at instructors and how we fill those positions either through contracted positions or other nations sending them that are perhaps not ENJJPT grads,” he said. “Even just the way data analytics are being done right now. There is a lot of great work being done in data analytics and trying to figure out how we’re performing across instructor pilot demand and student throughput.”

Col. Robert Haas, 80th Flying Training Wing and ENJJPT commander, said the committee looked at student class sizes and instructor pilot capacity for Fiscal Year 2023, which begins Oct. 1, 2022. He said they desire to meet the need of each partner nation, but also to be careful not to overload the program.

For example, they need to make sure instructor pilots are present and trained ahead of the student pilots to be able to continue to meet demand.

“This program is unique in that if a country has an excess number of pilots that can perform instructor duties here at ENJJPT, another nation can leverage that capability and utilize it here,” he said. “So it is really partnership and teamwork that are key for the program. We work out all the details when we meet twice a year in the Steering Committee.”

A significant piece to meeting the needs of each nation is ENJJPT 2030, which a current class is testing. The incremental and integrated approach to training fighter pilots removes lag time from UPT graduation to the beginning of IFF. In ENJJPT 2030, student pilots graduate on a Friday and begin IFF on the following Monday.

“I think it’s key to note that there is no actual reduction in the number of sorties. As a matter of fact, I think we’ve added one to make sure – air time is critical to inexperienced aviators,” he said. “But we would be remiss if we did not leverage the increase in technology that exists today, everything from handing a student an iPad the first day that they show up that has all the documentation they’ll need for the program, to hopping in a virtual reality trainer where they can go and test-run the sortie they’re getting ready to go fly.”

O’Reilly said the challenge, though, is preparing nations for fifth-generation fighter aircraft such as the F-35 that is flown by several participating ENJJPT partners.

The T-38C Talon, in operations since the late 1950s, has received upgrades over the years and done an admirable job developing combat pilots, but there is a significant gap in the Talon’s equipment and the advanced technologies on the F-35 and other fifth-generation fighters.

“The ENJJPT wing has done a lot of work to prepare itself and make sure that that transition is enabled even with being the last base to fly the T-38, and that the syllabi and the way that it’s structured is still going to lend itself to a good output standard for fifth generation (fighters),” O’Reilly said. “So, there’s been a lot of great work done by the ENJJPT wing, and the nations are all really happy with it, too.”

The general said while ENJJPT will be the last out of all Air Education and Training Command pilot training programs to receive the advanced T-7 Red Hawk training aircraft, the partner nations are excited to receive the aircraft, and he said it will be a great addition to the program.

Haas said the program celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, a testament to the time and relationships that have been forged over the years. He said it’s an honor to lead the program and see the instant bonds developed by young aviators within the coalition.

Those bonds were also seen 20 years ago when terrorist attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, and NATO responded by invoking Article 5, the mutual defense clause of NATO.

“We came together, formed a team and we have been conducting air operations from North Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan and all over the globe working together. I think a fair number of those folks were graduates of this program,” he said. “The credibility and the friendships that are grown here continue on through our graduates’ careers.”