William Tell competition resumes after nineteen years and will showcase the air-to-air capabilities of USAF and ANG F-22, F-35 and F-15 Eagle units

William Tell competition resumes after nineteen years and will showcase the air-to-air capabilities of USAF and ANG F-22, F-35 and F-15 Eagle units

By Dario Leone
Apr 18 2023
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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.

The Air Force’s first William Tell air-to-air competition in almost twenty years takes flight at the Air Dominance Center, Savannah, Georgia, Sep. 11 to 15, 2023.

According to Michelle Clougher, HQ Air Combat Command Public Affairs, in the article William Tell competition resumes after nineteen years, William Tell 2023 will test aircrew performance in air superiority, while evaluating weapons use and the tactics used. The meet also includes weapons loading, maintenance and weapons’ director competitions.

“I am thrilled about the long-awaited return of the William Tell 23’ Air to Air Competition, after a 19-year absence. This prestigious event brings together the best of the best from various units within the U.S. Air Force, showcasing their skills and expertise in simulated air combat scenarios,” according to Gen. Mark Kelly, commander of Air Combat Command.

The two-week event will showcase the air-to-air capabilities of the F-22, F-35 and F-15 Eagle units representing various Air Combat Command and Pacific Air Force wings and the Air National Guard.

William Tell competition resumes after nineteen years and will showcase the air-to-air capabilities of USAF and ANG F-22, F-35 and F-15 Eagle units
Patch for William Tell 2023. The Air Force’s first William Tell air-to-air competition in almost twenty years takes flight at the Air Dominance Center, Savanah, Georgia, September 11 to 15.

“Air Superiority is not American birth right – it’s a constant fight,” said Maj. Kyle Brown, William Tell competition director, “William Tell 2023 is about resurrecting our heritage, sending us your champions, and competing. The USAF sets the standard for the Air Superiority mission, and it’ll be on display this September at the Air Dominance Center in Savannah GA.”

In the 19-year hiatus the Air Force has changed with fighter integrated tactics, 5th generation aircraft and near-pear threats.

“Our unwavering commitment to air dominance remains steadfast, as we pursue and push the boundaries of innovation and excellence. As we participate in the long-awaited return of the William Tell competition, we reiterate our steadfast dedication to maintaining control of the skies in support of our Joint Force and multi-national partners,” said Gen. Kelly.

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 (Top Gun) 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.

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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.

The 2004 also marked the 50th anniversary of William Tell competition.

The meet was placed on hold for the past 19 years because of military operations tempo and contingency requirements.

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: U.S. Air Force

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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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