Training day for the 144th Fighter Wing in Fresno

FRESNO, Calif.

The piercing sound of F-16 engines could be heard all day Saturday above East Central Fresno's California Air National Guard base.

Jets started taking off every four hours, starting at 8-am. While this may have looked like a combat mission, it was actually an exercise, giving pilots and maintenance crews a chance to practice for the real thing.

Colonel Sam Said is the commander of the 144th fighter wing.

Colonel Sam said, "It's what we live by. Without these exercises, we would not be able to validate we're up to air force standards to do our missions."

30 inspectors, from bases around the country, flew in to oversee the detailed operation. Before each take off, maintenance crews, each one assigned to a specific jet, spent hours checking fuel levels, installing virtual weapons, and performing electronics tests.

Colonel Reed Drake said, "They got here about 3:00 this morning, and started to get everything ready to go and that's for an 8:00 take-off, so a lot of preparation, and that started throughout the week, getting the jest ready to go for a big operation like this."

On the ground preparedness is just one part of this exercise. Once in the air, pilots take part in a simulated battle against Navy aircraft from Lemoore.

"So the simulation is so realistic, when you hit what we call the pickle button, you actually, in your cockpit, it looks like a missile came off your airplane, it will fly out, the airplane that it intended to target will know if it's dead, it will be called dead and they will remove themselves from the fight."

Military personnel describe it as a virtual video game. One where, mistakes aren't allowed.

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