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Secrets of the F-14 Tomcat: RIO Responsibilities

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Ward goes in depth around a F-14 Tomcat Radar Intercept Officer's responsibilities, using his naval aviation career history as a template for a RIO's ...

Дата загрузки:2021-05-03T09:40:04+0000

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Ward goes in depth around a F-14 Tomcat Radar Intercept Officer's responsibilities, using his naval aviation career history as a template for a RIO's progression as both a weapons system operator in a dynamic environment and a co-pilot in all flight regimes. He describes intercept training as a flight student as well as the early focus on the RIO being able to "call the fight" from the backseat if the pilot loses sight of a bandit or a pop-up threat emerges behind the fighter.

Ward's explanation continues through his initial F-14 RAG training at VF-101, and how he internalized the instructors' overarching message that the Tomcat needed good pilots and RIOs alike to be fully effective as a carrier-based asset.

He talks about his first cat shot and arrested landing in the backseat of an F-14A aboard the USS INDEPENDENCE during his first day at sea in his first fleet squadron and his learning curve on his maiden deployment, including intercepting Iranian P-3 patrol planes and Russian AN-22 transports at long distances from the carrier while stationed in the North Arabian Sea.

He also discusses working with TOP GUN instructors for the first time between his first and second deployment, specifically the influence of "Bio" Baranek (author of "Top Gun Days") as a best-in-class RIO.

His initial shore tours made him a better flight instructor and also improved his co-pilot savvy in that he logged a lot of flight hours (and stick time) in the backseat of aggressor aircraft at VF-43.

Ward talks about his second fleet squadron tour in VF-143, "The Pukin' Dogs" and how flying brand-new F-14Bs off of his first nuclear power aircraft carrier, the USS EISENHOWER, opened his eyes and made him better at his job in myriad ways. From there he went back to the RAG, but this time as an instructor, and, again, his knowledge base grew and his performance as a RIO got even better.

From there he went to VF-102 "The Diamondbacks" as a department head, acting as the operations officer while the squadron was attached to CAG-1 aboard the USS America on her final deployment. What they thought would be a laid-back cruise full of exercises against NATO partners turned out to be a war cruise stationed in the Adriatic Sea with the mission to break the Serbian siege of Sarajevo. AMERICA was also called to the Persian Gulf to split Operation Southern Watch (patrolling of the no-fly zone) with the U.S. Air Force.

At the end of that deployment, Ward was asked to remain with the air wing, this time on the CAG staff as the operations officer. He readily accepted the job because he meant he'd keep flying and also be better positioned to make the rank of commander when the board came up. By this time, the Tomcat had been modified to use the LANTIRN pod, which made it a precision-guided bomber capable of flying longer range missions than the other strike assets in the wing. The pod was directed by the RIO - yet another responsibility placed into the backseat.

The F-14 grew more lethal and overall capable as it grew older, and the RIO's responsibilities increased. But as they did, the RIO retained the parallel responsibility to be a co-pilot.
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