First operational F-16 pilot to fly with Auto GCAS reaches 4000-hour milestone in the Viper

First operational F-16 pilot to fly with Auto GCAS reaches 4000-hour milestone in the Viper

By Dario Leone
Aug 6 2022
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Lt. Col. Kevin “Mongo” Jens’ military flight time totals close to 5,000 hours, which includes active duty combat time in the A-10 prior to his transition to the Air Force reserves.

Lt. Col. Kevin “Mongo” Jens, 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron F-16 Test Director, achieved 4,000 hours in the F-16 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, on Jul. 8, 2022. As told by 1st Lt Lindsey Heflin in the article 59 TES Pilot reaches 4000-hour milestone in the F-16, Jens’ military flight time totals close to 5,000 hours, which includes active duty combat time in the A-10 prior to his transition to the Air Force reserves.

Jens graduated Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training in 1987, earning his pilot wings and fulfilling a childhood dream he began pursuing after first envisioning himself in the cockpit at the age of five. He was initially assigned to the A-10, which he flew for four years accumulating 700 flying hours.

Jens has flown 107 combat sorties garnering over 360 combat hours in two different platforms, a feat that few pilots achieve in their Air Force career. The first campaign he flew in was Operation Desert Storm, where he provided Close Air Support from the A-10 as a young Captain. Jens also served in Operations Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom as an F-16 pilot.

Between the Active Duty and Reserves, Jens has been flying for over 35 years. He has been with the 59th TES for 13 of those years. As the F-16 Test Director, Jens and his team work with engineers to modernize the airframe and test new equipment and software that will eventually be fielded to the Combat Air Force.

“Mongo has yielded an immense impact on the F-16 community by remaining operationally-focused and delivering countless capabilities to the warfighter over the years,” said Lt. Col. Nathan Malafa, 59th TES commander. “The CAF is more lethal and survivable because of him.”

First operational F-16 pilot to fly with Auto GCAS reaches 4000-hour milestone in the Viper
Lt. Col. Kevin “Mongo” Jens, pilot assigned to the 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron, 53d Wing, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, completes four thousand flight hours as an F-16 pilot at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 8, 2022. Jens started in A-10s and flew in Desert Storm as a Lt. and flew his first F-16 in 1997. 

Having worked in a test squadron for more than a decade, Jens has the unique opportunity to closely follow the results of his own efforts. One example was the integration of the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System in the F-16, an innovative system built to reduce fatal crashes from pilots succumbing to G-induced Loss of Consciousness or spatial disorientation while performing high-speed fighter aircraft maneuvers. Jens was the first operational pilot to fly with Auto GCAS back in 2010.

“It’s cool to see things in the cockpit and know that you had a direct impact on getting it there,” said Jens. “Knowing that what we are delivering has the potential to save lives and better equip the warfighter is why guys like me do this job. It’s not about us, it’s about the CAF.”

Jens attributes his success attaining 4000 F-16 hours to luck, saying that at the end of day he’s just fortunate to have been able to fly as long as he has. Jens says that the longevity of his career has direct correlation with his passion for the work.

“You need to enjoy it, and it has to be something you want to do.” said Jens. “It’s a lot of work, long hours, and a lot of TDYs. But if you enjoy the work you do, then it’s easy.”

The 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron is assigned to the Air Combat Command 53d Wing, 53d Test Management Group at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

The 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron is responsible for the management of A-10, F-15C/E, F-16, F-22, F-35, HH-60, HC-130J and Guardian Angel weapon system testing including force development evaluations, tactics development and evaluations, and software evaluations. Squadron personnel direct operational test planning and execution, as well as data gathering, analyzing, and reporting for the above systems operated by the combat air forces. The squadron also manages Operational Test and Evaluation of weapons and support systems in order to improve current and future U.S. Air Force combat capabilities.

Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Josey Blades / U.S. Air Force

First operational F-16 pilot to fly with Auto GCAS reaches 4000-hour milestone in the Viper
Lt. Col. Kevin “Mongo” Jens assigned to the 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron, 53d Wing, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, hugs his wife after completing over four thousand flight hours as an F-16 pilot at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 8, 2022. This is a feat few pilots have been able to accomplish in the Air Force’s 75-year history. 

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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.

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