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Soaring to new heights: ENJJPT sees major improvements on horizon

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Col. Jeffrey Kendall recently told members of the 80th Flying Training Wing that great organizations continue to look for ways to improve by looking to the future while building on current successes.

As the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program eclipses 25 years of success Oct. 23, leaders of the program are looking to improve the world's only internationally-run pilot training program while making it a viable options for new Alliance partners.

"ENJJPT is undergoing some major changes," Colonel Kendall said. "The ENJJPT steering committee and the wing are working hard to make our program even stronger through innovative ideas that leverage technology through an improved, more efficient course syllabus."

This transformation, called ENJJPT 2008, will inject new technology and aircraft into the program and also meet emerging needs of each participating nation. Colonel Kendall said the program will provide smarter and more flexible training.

Royal Netherlands Air Force Air Commodore Peter Berlijn, the chairman of the ENJJPT steering committee, said the changes to the syllabus also provides the required skill sets pilots will need as new frontline fighters such as the F-22 Raptor, Joint Strike Fighter and Eurofighter are deployed in NATO air forces.

"These new fighters are based on a different philosophy where information management - the processing of information in order to make the right tactical decisions - becomes much more important than flying the perfect pitch-up attack," he said. "Even in today's fighters, the need for the latter has already become less paramount with the introduction of smart weapons."

To meet those challenges, new technology and aircraft will become a staple of the program. ENJJPT already has some of the more technologically advanced flight simulators that allow students to learn to fly before leaving the ground.

Computer-based learning programs also enhance instructional capabilities for students and instructors.

Modernization of the fleet of aircraft at ENJJPT will additionally be a marked improvement for the organization.

"Years ago, we saw a need to upgrade our aircraft to reflect the technological advancements being made in operational fighters and bombers," Colonel Kendall said, adding that changes to the reliable T-38 Talon and the addition of the T-6A Texan II will aid in creating pilots who are combat ready sooner than they were in the past.

The T-6A will replace the T-37 Tweet starting in 2008.

Air Commodore Berlijn said it comes down to basic economics. With an older fleet, it costs more to operate the aircraft safely. He added the limitations of the trainer aircraft also force pilots to be introduced to some aspects after moving into advanced fighters.

"These jets operate at a far higher cost than trainers," the air commodore said of advanced fighters. "It is cheaper to teach basic (concepts) on basic trainers, provided these trainers have the required modern capabilities."

Over the past several years, NATO has increased in the number of nations in the Alliance. As more countries begin involvement in NATO and look to produce fighter pilots, Air Commodore Berlijn said, there is the possibility of them choosing ENJJPT.

"We're talking to them because we think there's an opportunity for a win-win situation," he said, "a win for the new NATO member to train their students in a NATO environment as well as a win for ENJJPT to have more students, and thus decrease the costs per student."

Another key change to the program is the course syllabus. As the program currently stands, the only option for participating nations and their student pilots is to complete the more than 13-month curriculum from beginning to end.

But the new syllabus would allow pilots to enter or exit at specific stages of training instead of opting for the whole program.

"This entry/exit plan provides a greater degree of flexibility to the nations," Air Commodore Berlijn said. "I foresee a bigger participation in numbers of students because of that."

There are challenges in the future for the program, such as keeping the program as an affordable option for Alliance partners. Air Commodore Berlijn said the program should be able to adapt as the world changes and as partner air forces go through their own transformation process.

He said as air forces transform, and especially when they acquire new weapons systems, the skill sets that are required to operate these weapon systems also change from the ones that have been used for many years.

"We shouldn't rest on our laurels and trust that what has been good for a long time will also be good in the future," he said. "Lean forward and, when required, change and adapt."

The program will continue to make those adaptations and improvement at least until 2016 when the current memorandum of understanding, or contract between NATO countries, expires. So long as the "spirit of ENJJPT" is maintained, Air Commodore Berlijn said the program should continue to be a viable option for current and new partners in the days to come.

"Sometimes this means give and take," he said. "It is what makes a multi-lateral program truly effective."