From Tangier to Tucson

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Photo by Master Sgt. Jack Braden

If you’re a foreign policy nerd like some of us on the Air Force Times staff, then you can’t help but think the 162nd Fighter Wing has one of the cooler gigs in the Air Force.

The 162nd, an Arizona Air National Guard unit, trains foreign militaries how to fly the F-16. They operate out of Tucson International Airport – home of the famed Tucson International Mariachi Conference! – and get to enjoy the lovely weather of the American Southwest.

Their latest customer? The Royal Moroccan Air Force, which sent four F-5 pilots to train up on the Fighting Falcons. The Moroccans will soon wrap up 15 months of training in Tucson, where they attended courses in basic qualification, flight lead upgrade and instructor-pilot certification. The students averaged three sorties per week and totaled more than 150 hours in the F-16.

Six other pilots are attending the basic F-16 course in Tucson and will graduate in September.

Some of the Arizona Air National Guardsmen will soon travel to Morocco as the first four of the kingdom’s 24-aircraft purchase arrives off the assembly line. They will help stand up F-16 operations at Ben Guerir Air Base, north of Marrakesh.

“It’s a big commitment to be the first F-16 pilots for Morocco,” Lt. Col. Steve Haase, the Morocco program manager for the 162nd, said in a release. “It’s a testament to their positive attitude and work ethic. They are excited about the F-16 and its capabilities yet they understand how much work there will be to build up an F-16 base.”

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