After eight years on the shelf, the U.S. Air Force's William Tell air-to-air combat competition is being resumed and will take place at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida from November 9 through 19 this year. The meet was placed on hold over the past eight years due to the pace of military operations and other requirements. Representatives from F-15 fighter units from all four major commands and the Air National Guard will be participating.
Named after the legendary Swiss archer, William Tell had been a biennial competition and was a high-visibility event. Some commands would strip their best planes and pilots out of units a year in advance to train for the event, sparing little expense on spare parts and the best maintenance crews, but this year's competition is operationally orientated with very strict rules on personnel and aircraft selection; no "ringers" this year. Teams will be tested and evaluated on weapons use (missile and cannon), tactics used, weapons loading, and maintenance.
One of the reasons William Tell has returned is the Air Force's performance in the Cope India exercise. The exercise pitted a variety of Indian fighters against F-15Cs without the latest advanced radars and additional handicaps limiting long-range missile shots to 30 kilometers with engagements conducted at 4 to 1 odds in India's favor. William Tell 2004 will include F-15s equipped with AESA radars and no weapons handicaps. Future competitions are expected to include the Air Force's newest aircraft, including the F/A-22 and the Joint Strike Fighter, as well as exercises for cruise missile defense. Doug Mohney