TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
In the early afternoon hours, Tom prepared, it was a day he had been longing for decades; the day he would finally have Jerry’s number. He carefully reviewed his plan, plotted his course, and prepared for the ultimate game of cat-and-mouse – a battle between father and son.
Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jerry, 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group QF-16 Aerial Target pilot, and his son, Tom, 95th Fighter Squadron F-22 Raptor lead pilot, got the chance to fly with each other for the first time as Air Force members.
As they support different missions at the same base, the opportunity to fly against one another is slim. So when they had the opportunity to do so, they took full advantage and prepared to take flight.
“Did I ever expect it would happen? No, but I hoped that it would,” Jerry answered the question he has asked himself many times. “When the opportunity came up, I happened to be scheduled to fly the same day. We asked our commanders if I could support the F-22 training requirements with a QF-16 and they said it would be a great idea.”
“It was always something that was in the back of my mind, but there was never the time or a reason to do it until recently,” Tom said to follow up his dad. “The time just worked out pretty well. Before that opportunity showed up, there was our respective mission that we had to get done.”
As a 95th FS pilot, Tom is a key contributor to the squadron mission in projecting unrivaled combat air power and providing air dominance for America.
His father, Jerry, and 53d WEG are tasked to test air-to-air and air-to ground weapons systems across the spectrum, including missiles, guns, and bombs of all types. This is done at Tyndall as well as halfway across the country at Holloman AFB, New Mexico and the Utah Test and Training Range.
The 53rd WEG helps the 95th FS, among other units, test aircraft and weapons in order to test pilots, aircraft and weapons system proficiency, said Tom.
“Anywhere somebody needs aerial targets to support weapons testing, we can go help,” Jerry added.
Before heading to the flightline and getting in his jet, nerves ran through Tom’s body knowing he was about to head to the skies with his father for one of the biggest rivalries they have had in recent years.
While over the Gulf Coast sparkling blue waters, Tom heard a familiar voice that made him smile from ear-to-ear. Though it wasn’t the first time they have flown the skies together, it was one that would not be forgotten.
“You hear your dad on the radio, look over and see him flying the jet next to you is out of this world,” he said as he reminisced about the moment. “It’s definitely one of the cooler flights I have had to this day.”
While in the air, Tom and Jerry were performing basic fighter maneuvers within a visual arena simulating a one-on-one dog fight. It was training Tom needed, and that reason made this flight happen.
Jerry was playing the role of the aggressor with what fifth-generation aircraft pilots would most likely see out in a deployed location, a fourth-generation aircraft.
“It was mano-y-mano, one against one,” said his father. “It was a tremendous feeling to look across and see my son flying a Raptor. I saw him start maneuvering against me trying to take me out, and I’m trying to get him back. That whole experience was awesome.”
It was a good thing Jerry wasn’t flying a Raptor during their mission or Tom would be in trouble. But in the end, there could only be one victor.
“There are a couple of distinct advantages being an F-22 pilot, but he definitely had some old-man-tricks and a lot more experience flying jets,” Tom said of his father’s skills. “I’m glad I had that handicap working in my favor.”
“The Raptor is not to be trifled with,” Jerry said moving his head right to left with a look of admiration.
At the end, this experience was one they would never forget. Tom takes his victory and credits his father, Jerry.
“Thanks for providing the initial motivation and support allowing me to pursue my goals and helping me achieve all of them,” Tom showed gratitude toward his dad.
To read part one of Tom and Jerry’s Father’s Day special, visit www.tyndall.af.mil.