419 Squadron conducts important training in El Centro, California


419 Squadron Hawks take to the skies over California.
Photo: OS Erica Seymour, Wing Imaging


419 Squadron and CAE personnel head out for their second flight of the day.
Photo: OS Erica Seymour, Wing Imaging

2Lt Camille Dolphin

419 Tactical Fighter (Training) Squadron has deployed with their CT-155 Hawk jets to El Centro, California to conduct warm weather training exercises at Exercise Antler South.

“The southern deployments give 419 Squadron the ability to escape the snow and ice in northern Alberta, and to continue our fighter lead-in training where the skies are clear,” said LCol Colin Marks, Commanding Officer of 419 Squadron.

Composed of pilots, regular force and reserve instructors, contracted engineers from CAE and support personnel, the deployment convoy will train with seven Hawks. They will conduct up to 20 missions per day, including night missions. Most missions will take place in the Restricted Airspace and the Military Operations Area of Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro.

The more consistent weather patterns in California allow the RCAF to maximize the quantity and quality of CT-155 training in a relatively short period of time. Under typical winter conditions in Cold Lake, it could take several months to achieve the same level of training.

“During these winter deployments we have the opportunity to focus 100 per cent on fighter training,” LCol Marks said. “We don’t have any of the usual distractions that we have at home. Everyone has arrived in El Centro very well prepared, and we are looking forward to getting our students closer to graduation.”

NAF El Centro was chosen for Exercise Antler South for its temperate weather, and because it offers a confined and secure airspace for training. “This location being a military airport permits the Hawk to train at faster speeds than a civilian airport would allow” said Captain Louis Maloux, 419 Squadron Operations Officer.

The airspace in El Centro has more traffic, both civilian and military, than the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range. This makes the exercise a great opportunity to train in an unfamiliar environment.

There are zones above, below and all around the pilots – such as the Mexican border – where they cannot fly. These restrictions, combined with the increased traffic, simulate modern aerial battle and provide a valuable training opportunity.

Training with the assistance of the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps helps keep the Canadian fighter force well positioned for future coalition operations.

While in El Centro, students from 419 Squadron will conduct air-to-ground missions and air-to-air missions including air combat tactics, air combat manoeuvres and low-level awareness and other training.

This is the second time 419 Squadron has traveled to El Centro for an exercise.