The William Tell Air-to-Air Competition showcased the air-to-air capabilities of the F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II and F-15 Eagle and Strike Eagle units representing various Air Combat Command, Pacific Air Force and Air National Guard units.
The Air Force wrapped up its first William Tell Air-to-Air Competition in 19 years on Sep. 15, at the Air Dominance Center in Savannah, Georgia.
Airmen from across active and guard wings participated in William Tell 2023, which tested aircrew performance in air superiority, weapons and tactics use, weapons loading, maintenance, command and control, intelligence and weapons director competitions.
“Rule number one for fierce competitors is when the competition is over, you celebrate and congratulate the winners,” said Gen. Mark Kelly, commander of Air Combat Command.
The week-long event showcased the air-to-air capabilities of the F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II and F-15 Eagle and Strike Eagle units representing various Air Combat Command, Pacific Air Force and Air National Guard units.
According to a USAF news release, the winners were announced at the William Tell 2023 Closing Ceremonies Friday night.
As reported by Air & Space Forces Magazine, the team awards included categories for the three types of aircraft competing—as well as one—the Major Richard I. Bong Fighter Interceptor Trophy—for individual teams that demonstrated the best fighter integration across multiple platforms and systems:
- Major Richard I. Bong Fighter Integration Trophy – 3rd Wing (F-22s), 366th FW (F-15Es), 388th/419th FW (F-35s)
- Big Eye Task Force Top C2 Wing – 552nd ACW
- Lieutenant Colonel James H. Harvey, III Top F-15 Wing Award – 104th FW
- Captain Eddie Rickenbacker Top F-22 Wing Award – 1st FW
- Brigadier General Robin Olds Top F-35 Wing Award – 158th FW
- Colonel Jesse C. Williams Top Intel Tradecraft Wing Award – 1st FW
- Chief Master Sergeant Argol “Pete” Lusse Maintenance Team Award – 1st FW
The individual awards recognized the top crew chiefs and pilots from each aircraft type:
- Top F-15 Crew Chief – 366th FW
- Top F-22 Crew Chief – 1st FW
- Top F-35 Crew Chief – 158th FW
- F-15 Individual Superior Performer – 104th FW
- F-22 Individual Superior Performer – 3rd WG
- F-35 Individual Superior Performer – 158th FW
- Overall Weapons Load Competition – 104th FW
Overall, the 1st Fighter Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., emerged as the big winner from the competition, capturing four trophies.
The 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base, Mass., also took home three wins, including the overall weapons load competition, a head-to-head contest against crews with other types of aircraft. That competition took place in front of a large crowd including distinguished visitors on Sep. 14.
“Take the camaraderie, lessons learned and the spirit of competition from this week back home,” said Lt. Gen. Russ Mack, deputy commander of Air Combat Command. “Challenge yourselves to improve your units, improve your units to increase mission readiness, and increase mission readiness to develop a culture of competitive endurance.”
“We must keep our adversaries continually arriving at the realization that today is not the day,” said Mack. “Not the day to mess with the United States of America and not the day to mess with the U.S. Air Force. The best in the world and second to none.”
William Tell Air-to-Air Competition, which has not been held since its 50th anniversary in 2004 due to the War on Terror, will simulate a multitude of air combat scenarios with 4th and 5th generation fighter aircraft acting as enemy “red teams” to prepare Airmen for real-life combat.
In the 19-year hiatus the Air Force has changed with fighter integrated tactics, 5th generation aircraft and near-pear threats.
The historic competition is named after the legendary Swiss archer and was a biennial competition that encouraged the most challenging air-to-air scenarios since 1954.
However, the first ever Air Force Weapons’ Meet was held in 1949 at a test airfield outside of Las Vegas, NV, now called Nellis Air Force Base.
In 1956, the competition was unofficially given the name of “William Tell” and included nine teams representing seven major air commands.
The last edition of the competition was held at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Fla., from Nov. 8 to Nov. 19, 2004.
According to Stars and Stripes, William Tell 2004 tested aircrew performance in the air dominance and air sovereignty missions, while evaluating cold/live-fire weapons employment and the tactics executed. The meet showcased air-to-air capabilities of F-15C units from four major commands and the Air National Guard.
While the US Air Force still maintains a steady operations tempo, William Tell planners hope resuming the event will foster the exchange of tactics and better prepare Airmen for combat operations.
Photo credit: Tech. Sgt. Morgan Whitehouse / U.S. Air National Guard and Air Dominance Center Facebook Page