By Dario Leone
Aug 24 2017
Share this article

“Tactical Combat Training System Ranges across the country allow fighter aircraft and aircrew to conduct the most realistic training possible without going into actual combat,” pilot Lt. Cmdr. Brad “DUG” Williams

On Aug. 2, 2017 the U.S. Navy completed the debrief for the 100,000th sortie using the Tactical Combat Training System (TCTS) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West, marking the most sorties flown on naval ranges using the system.

As told by Troy Clarke, Naval Surface Warfare Center Corona Public, in the article Naval Aviation Hits Historic Milestone, the sophisticated TCTS, which is in use for more than a decade, is the high velocity learning tool managed by Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Corona for the Navy and U.S. Marine Corps (USMC).

Noteworthy this tool provides live monitoring and control during mission execution, plus a fully instrumented event reconstruction debrief, similar to “coaching tape” debriefs in pro football.

“Over the years, thousands of visiting pilots have trained with our outstanding pilots from the Sun Downers of Fighter Squadron Composite 111 using this system that has been expertly managed under the guidance of [NSWC Corona’s Key West] Range Systems Manager Orville Brown,” said Capt. Bobby Baker, NAS Key West commanding officer. “Bravo Zulu to the entire TCTS team.”

Brown, who’s been at Key West for the last 18 years, explains. “The debriefing of pilots – where they learn what they did right and what they did wrong – is the key. Many aircrew find the training they receive as a textbook for them to succeed as pilots.”

The milestone was set on Aug. 1 by an F/A-18F Super Hornet pilot attached to Strike Fighter Squadron 32, the Fighting Swordsmen, out of NAS Oceana, Virginia.

VFC-111 F-5N Print
This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-5N Tiger II – Sundowners Rising, VFC-111 Sundowners, 2007

“TCTS Ranges across the country allow fighter aircraft and aircrew to conduct the most realistic training possible without going into actual combat,” said pilot Lt. Cmdr. Brad “DUG” Williams. “Key West provides U.S. Navy aircrew the absolute best tactical air-to-air training ranges, and the support we receive from [Corona’s] staff at TCTS is world-class. [What] Corona provides the warfighter has a direct contribution to ensuring we remain the preeminent military force in the world.”

Sometimes referred to as “the engine behind Top Gun,” NSWC Corona manages Tactical Combat Training System at Navy and Marine Corps tactical ranges across the country that support training from single platform to unit-level operations to complex, multi-platform scenarios typical of fleet exercises. NAS Fallon currently has the second-most sorties with nearly 80,000 and Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, has the third-most with nearly 56,000.

Key West – the nation’s southernmost range – supports high fidelity training used by fleet carrier air wings, strike fighter squadrons and Navy F/A-18, EA-18G and F-35 fleet replacement squadrons. The Key West Tactical Training Range began as a small detachment of the Homestead Air Force Base in Florida in 1989 using the TCTS predecessor, the Tactical Air Combat Training System, which used ocean towers to track an area approximately 1,800 square miles. In March 2006, it became the first tactical training range to employ the Tactical Combat Training System, which uses GPS tracking, increasing the range to more than 32,000 square miles of unencumbered trackable airspace.

VFC-111 F-5Ns

NSWC Corona is headquartered in Norco, California, and is also the premiere center that analyzes warfare and missile defense systems and sets measurement and calibration standards for the Navy and Marine Corps.

Photo credit: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Cody R. Babin / U.S. Navy

Artwork courtesy of

Share this article

Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.
Share this article

Share this article
Back to top