Afloat Training Group (ATG) San Diego wants to remind local Sailors of the “ins and outs” of ATG’s air warfare (AW) qualification criteria.
In order for ships to qualify in AW, they must complete a two-step process. The first step occurs after a ship completes training at the individual watchstander and the watchteam level and participates in what is known as a Fleet Synthetic Training-Unit Level (FST-U) exercise.
A FST-U is a five-day event, including three days of complex/simulated scenarios progressively intensifying and forcing a ship’s combat watchteam to flex their entire combat systems suite. Watchstanders must prove that they are capable of identifying a threat, determining hostile intent, and then carrying out the appropriate level of force in accordance with the air defense operational taskings and their own commanding officer’s battle orders.
FST-Us can be painstaking but also rewarding and are a great way for a ship’s combat watchteam to see how far they have come as warfighters during the basic phase of training.
The second step in the AW certification process is the one that is relished by fire controlmen and operations specialists across the fleet. For ships to become fully qualified in AW, their combat watchstanders must demonstrate proficiency in firing air defense weapons. For cruisers, destroyers and frigates, this means successfully employing their 5”/76MM Gun Weapon System and the Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapons System (CIWS).
Before employing these weapons systems, a ship must perform pre-action calibration on their guns. This consists of firing five non-fragmentation rounds from the 5”/76MM Gun Weapon System and 400 CIWS rounds at no particular target, ensuring that the weapons are “zeroed in” for firing. Next, the ship will take station in a designated firing area and carry out a prescribed course of fire against a drone target towed by a Learjet making passes overhead.
For the technicians that maintain these weapons and the operators trained to fire them, there is nothing more gratifying than seeing their weapon systems in action against a towed drone and shredding it to pieces!
Successfully completing FST-U and live fire events mark the end of the basic phase of training for most ships. Warfighters leave the basic phase of their training cycle not only pleased with themselves and their shipmates but also pleased with the fact they can go into any operational theater with complete faith in their air defense weapons.