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Navigation aids keep Eagles on course

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky
  • 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs
Two Airmen from the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla., are keeping F-15s on course using portable Tactical Navigation Systems (TACAN) during SALITRE, a Chilean-led multinational exercise in Antofagasta and Iquique.

The portable TACAN is usually used by combat controllers to set up remote airfields, but in this case, two systems were airlifted to Chile so the F-15s could participate. With the TACAN, pilots can identify the airfields here, judge the distance and determine their aspect.

"This is the first time I've ever heard of us using these systems to support an exercise," said Tech. Sgt. David Helms, 23rd STS NCOIC of radio maintenance. "It's a very unique situation, but without the TACAN, the F-15s couldn't fly. They don't have the equipment to read local navigational aids."

Sergeant Helms and Senior Airman Nelson Santiago, an Airfield Systems Technician, arrived in Chile a week early to install and test the TACANs. Once the Federal Aviation Administration approved the setup, the F-15s were clear to operate in the area.

Airman Santiago even embraced the spirit of partnership between the U.S. Air Force and the Fuerza Aérea de Chile (FACh) by training two Chilean communication specialists on the function and purpose of the TACAN.

"It's not a system they use here," he said. "I took them out and showed them how it works. Since it was the first time they had seen it, they were very interested." 

SALITRE is designed to build cooperative capability for responding to humanitarian crises and promoting regional security through a partnership of nations. There are nearly 200 U.S. Airmen and 10 U.S. aircraft participating, including an HC-130 from the 23rd Wing at Moody AFB, two ANG KC-135s from the 161st ARW, and six F-15s and one C-130 from the Louisiana Air Guard's 159th Fighter Wing in New Orleans.

Also participating are France, Argentina, and Brazil. The exercise includes search and rescue, aerial refueling and Combined Air Operations Center training opportunities focused on interoperability between coalition partners. There are two main components to SALITRE. During the live exercise, aircraft from all participating nations will simulate a wide variety of operations in a realistic peacekeeping, non-combatant evacuation and humanitarian response scenario. In addition, participants will exercise command and control of a simulated air campaign involving fictional scenarios within a Combined Air Operations Center. The exercise concludes Oct. 31.