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187th Fighter Wing Pilots Receive Outstanding Aircrew Award

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Chris Baldwin
  • 187th Public Affairs
Two members of the 187th Fighter Wing, Maj. Richard Peace and 1st Lt. Jeffrey Witt, F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots assigned to the 100th Fighter Squadron, were awarded the Air Force Central Command Outstanding Aircrew Award while deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan in 2014.

In early September, Peace and Witt were providing air support for American ground troops during routine night time combat operations outside the town Ghazni, Afghanistan. Peace and Witt were circling over a Forward Operating Base (FOB) while providing over-watch for a returning convoy. During a 30-degree turn, Peace's cockpit avionics system malfunctioned. A failure in the aircraft's Embedded Global Positioning System Internal Navigation Unit and Fire Control Computer caused other integrated components to malfunction.

The aircraft had an electrical surge which rebooted the avionics' system and left all the avionics frozen at their last known position. Even though Peace was flying straight and level, his aircraft displays all remained frozen in 30-degree turn. Peace attempted to restore his avionics, by turning off and on his electrical system but this proved unsuccessful.

Using the radio, Peace contacted Witt, who was seven miles away, and ordered his wingman to return and provide visual support.

"Night time can be an issue because sometimes ground and sky are both as black as the other, or ground lights and stars blend in together" said Witt.

While en route to rejoin Peace, Witt was flying towards his last known position. Because of Peace's system malfunction his aircraft was transmitting incorrect locational data. Using night-vision goggles Peace and Witt were able to use the FOB as a geographic reference point to locate one another.

As acting flight lead, Witt declared an in-flight emergency and safely led the disabled aircraft through the hazardous mountain terrain back to Bagram. As they were approaching Bagram's runway, Witt performed a formation approach to help ensure a safe landing by flying directly beside Peace's aircraft. Without the help of any aircraft avionics instruments, Peace safety and successfully landed his aircraft.

"At the time, it didn't feel like we did anything that extraordinary. It was just kind of another night in combat" said Peace.