SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. --
The pilot tried to gather his senses after ejecting from the crashing F-16. Being strapped into his seat, all he could do was get ready for the landing.
In his head he went through a checklist, felt around for all the survival equipment and then braced for the incoming water below.
After landing in the icy waters, he detached himself from his seat, inflated the one-person raft, and then waited for his rescue.
On Dec. 15, this was the role Tech. Sgt. Joshua Krape, 4th Operations Support Squadron survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist, played during exercise Razor Talon.
Razor Talon is a monthly joint-force exercise created by the 4th Fighter Wing, which combines resources from multiple installations across the East Coast, and is designed to integrate air, land and sea forces to promote a more cohesive atmosphere between the different military branches.
“I’m acting as the downed pilot for the combat search and rescue portion of the exercise,” said Krape. “Myself and two SERE augmentees drove out on a boat then left me in a raft for the aircraft to find.”
Once an aircraft goes down, five tasks must be completed for a successful recovery; report, locate, support, recover and reintegrate.
It’s up to the isolated personnel to complete the first two and is in the pilot’s best interest to accomplish the tasks as soon as possible.
“In order for recovery assets to get moving, they need to know something happened,” said Master Sgt. Scott Millisor, 4th OSS NCO in charge of weapons and tactics.
During this exercise, Krape had to maintain his body temperature by getting into the raft then, using a radio, report his situation and give his location.
Afterward, Krape prepared to signal the aircraft in the area with a sea dye marker and a signal mirror. Other options, depending on the situation, can involve using smoke, flares, or a space blanket.
While the isolated personnel have their gears turning and are trying to stay alive, an entirely different machine starts up as the search and rescue team gets to work.
“We would establish an on-scene commander, or OSC, based on gas and experience,” said Capt. Paul Gannett, 335th Fighter Squadron flight commander. “The aircrew would then use their targeting pod and eyeballs to obtain the position of the downed aircrew. If needed, they would use the targeting pods from other aircraft airborne to assist in the search.”
The OSC would also attempt to make and maintain radio contact with the survivor. They would get basic information from the survivor, such as their physical condition and position, if not obtained visually via the pod and pass the information to the rescue force.
“Once the survivor is found, they would then mark the location of the survivor and pass that information to Coast Guard forces,” Gannett said.
To ensure the survivor’s safety, an aircraft would provide continuous coverage overhead. If an alert tanker is available, it would also be launched to help keep the asset in the air. According to Gannett, the OSC would maintain custody of the situation until being able to hand it off to another asset with more fuel or experience.
“The CSAR mission would continue until all personnel are recovered,” said Krape. “We’ll send boats, helicopters, trucks, people on foot, whatever is needed to make sure we get that person home safe and sound.”