Fresno's 144th Fighter Wing hosting training exercise for pilots

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- If you were near Fresno Yosemite International Airport Wednesday morning, there's a good chance you saw and heard plenty of military aircraft activity.

It's all part of a California Air National Guard training exercise.

The sights and sounds of fighter jets taking off from the Fresno Air National Guard Base were hard to miss.

"Loud, yeah it is deafening. It's really neat the way each one takes off in a different way," said Gloria Long.

Gloria Long and her husband watched as pilots hit the afterburners from the comfort of their SUV.

"One of them I swear was going right straight up, it was really cool," said Long.

For the next week and a half, Fresno's 144th Fighter Wing is hosting a training exercise called "Valley Thunder."

It's a chance for fighter pilots to gain valuable experience conducting complex practice missions in the region.

This is the first time the base has executed an event of this size.

"We will be simulating that we are protecting either a point or an asset against enemy air attack and or bombing. For offense counter-air, we're going to be simulating air to ground strikes," said Major Jamie Hastings.

Multiple squadrons using several different aircraft from various west coast military units are participating in this unique air combat training -- including F 35s, F 15s and T 38s.

"Fresno is unique in that we have the ability to be centrally located in California. We have great access to multiple air spaces throughout the state," said Major Hastings.

Fresno's ideal winter weather conditions were another reason to bring the training mission here -- while giving aircraft enthusiasts a chance to see these warplanes up close.

"Great, spectacular, so neat just to be able to hear and see them in person," said Long.
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