The T-45 Goshawk is a tandem-seat, carrier capable, jet trainer whose mission is to train Navy and Marine Corps pilots.
SNAs (student naval aviators) get their first taste of true Naval Aviation. Tactical concepts are taught in various phases like advanced TACFORM, Night Formation, WEPS, ACM, and the biggest one of all: Carrier Qualifications.
In the TACFORM phase, students learn how maneuver dynamically from the “spread formation,” one nautical mile apart. WEPS is where SNAs master the principles of unguided bombing, as well as low altitude attacks and CCIP bombing. The ACM phase (my personal favorite), students learn the fundamentals of 1v1 perch BFM, as well as neutral high aspect and 2v1 concepts. Phase 2 is a lot of work, but a LOT of fun.
For CQ, students will Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP) both in Intermediate as well as in Advanced in preparation to go the boat. A class of a dozen or two SNAs will be assigned an LSO to teach them the art of meatball, lineup, and angle of attack. The landing pattern will be flown very precisely and each pass at the field will be graded and debriefed. The LSOs will use their judgment to discover trends and corrective action for students’ performance. When they are ready, they will go to a fleet aircraft carrier for their CQ which lasts over the course of a couple of days.
The entire time at the boat the SNAs are solo, and most likely are suffering from a helmet fire at least on the first day. After 4 touch and go’s and 10 traps, if they meet the minimum boarding rate and GPA, they’ve qualified and can join the proud few who wear the Wings of Gold. Students will always make bets with their LSOs on their performance, and almost always lose (the wager is usually the LSOs’ favorite beverage). These include things as simple as “3 wire on the first pass” to the fabled IronMan: no bolters, waveoffs, or 1 wires. It gets pricey for the SNAs but worth it for the wings!