YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- With an area of responsibility as vast as the Pacific and an ongoing global pandemic, it takes a team effort to ensure the U.S. Military has the airfields it needs to properly work alongside its partner nations to fulfill its mission of maintaining regional stability.
It is for that reason the Pacific Air Forces’ F-16 Fighting Falcon Demonstration Team from the 35th Operations Group and 35th Maintenance Group out of Misawa Air Base, Japan, teamed up with the 374th Operations Group and the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron to overcome the obstacles of a COVID-19 world. Teams from both installations came together April 29 and recertified the Yokota Air Base, Japan, flightline BAK-12 barrier, aircraft arresting system (AAS) for another year of service.
“The recertifying of Yokota’s BAK-12 barrier cable gives our airfield the ability to host fighter aircraft during contingency operations,” said Capt. Kate Espinosa, 374th Operations Support Squadron Airfield Operations Flight commander. “By certifying our airfield for safe use by fighters, we help eliminate a lot of the operational constraints that exist in the region and even increase our capability to support U.S. Navy and Japanese Air Self-Defense Force fighter assets in our AOR—extending the overall reach of our airpower.”
The annual certification tests the stability of the BAK-12, which acts as a braking system to safely slow the aircraft during emergency landing or aborted takeoff conditions through the use of a retractable tail-hook catching a cable. A certification that may not have happened if not for some added coordination to transport mission-essential personnel from Misawa to Yokota.
“Due to travel restrictions, the support personnel from Misawa that are critical to maintaining the aircraft needed to test the AAS could not travel to our installation via the customary process,” said Espinosa. “But through an added layer of teamwork, our 459th Airlift Squadron C-12J Huron teammates, we were able to safely get these vital Airmen to our destination while following all medical precautionary measures, not only mitigating any exposure risk, but ensuring we did not need to delay our certification process.”
It is that exact dedication to the Air Force team that ensured this vital training would occur, a testament to the flexibility, capability and willingness of all organizations involved.
“There may be limitations with the ongoing COVID-19 situation but we can’t let that hold us back from getting the job done,” said Capt. Keith Deering, 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron operations officer. “We came down to Yokota to support our aircraft administering the test, but this was also a training opportunity for us as well. Furthermore, this also certifies our emergency divert locations, ensures Yokota meets the INDOPACOM tasking to support any aircraft, and increases our overall Agile Combat Employment (ACE) readiness as we prepare for future operations.
“Just as our F-16 pilots gain experience with new flightlines and environments, the same can be said for our maintainers. When we travel away from our home station, it forces us adapt to meet the needs of our aircraft in a new environment.”
Misawa’s Airmen came to our aid to provide the test and now, the Yokota flightline is once again recertified and poised for another year of readiness.