editor’s sat down and hashed out the Top 5 Fighter Det (Detachment) locations. We know we got it right from our perspective–but what about yours?

One of the best things about flying fighters: The Fighter Det. Getting away from home base and being able to concentrate on training, plus having a few beers (…or 7) with your squadron buddies on liberty is what it’s all about. Maybe the per diem helps out a little bit also.

A Fighter Det makes you a better aviator for several reasons: you’ve got to learn new course rules, you improve your flying skills in a different area, and most importantly you are concentrating on becoming tactical.

However, the best part is the camaraderie you build with your fellow aviators. Whether it is out at the O’Club for a post flight debrief and some beers or heading out to the local steak joint to play “credit card roulette”, the friendships you build while on Det last a lifetime.

So we present to you our “Official” Top 5 list of Fighter Det locations because we know you wanted to know, right?   Tell us where we got it right and where we got it wrong!


#5 RED FLAG–Eielson Air Force Base and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska

A-10 Thunderbolt Red Flag, U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley Nicole Taylor/Released)
A-10 Thunderbolt Red Flag, U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley Nicole Taylor/Released)

Old timers will know this Det by its original name of “COPE THUNDER”. RED FLAG-Alaska participants are organized into “Red” aggressor forces and “Blue” coalition forces. “White” forces represent the neutral controlling agency—their job is to control the mock war and ensure safety.

It’s a pretty realistic training environment with a variety of targets and threats. There are a full spectrum of missions, ranging from personnel recovery to penetrating an area with heavy anti-air defenses. Flying through the Alaskan wilderness in the Joint Pacific Range Complex is pretty awesome too.  Up to 70 jets can be in the same airspace at once during the height of the exercise.

At the end of the night, you might even find yourself balls deep in a CRUD match at the O Club.

#4 NAS New Orleans, LA

Bourbon Street, Credit:
Bourbon Street, Credit:

The River Rattlers of VFA 204 may have one of the best jobs in the Navy: Flying F/A-18 Hornets as aggressors out of the Big Easy.

While the airspace for Basic Fighter Maneuvering (BFM) and air to air intercepts is reasonable, unfortunately there is not much of an air-to-ground range. However, an offensive BFM set with a professional bandit can be an eye opening experience.

But don’t worry, the French Quarter makes up for lack of a full up training area. Plus, you can soothe your BFM errors and lack of dropping real ordnance over a much needed Hurricane. Or maybe you can even try and grab some beads from some unsuspecting college coeds on Rue Bourbon!

#3 MCAS Miramar, San Diego, CA

San Diego at Night, credit:
San Diego at Night, credit:

No one is sure if the USMC knows just how great they’ve got it. MCAS Miramar (aka FighterTown) is the premier jet base on the West Coast. It’s also home to America’s Finest City–San Diego, and all that comes with it!

The Southern California area is clear and 70 degrees year round.  The base location puts it within easy striking distance of NAF El Centro ordnance ranges and the Yuma Range Complex (complete with a supersonic area and live bandits from VMFT-401).  If you decide to go West, there is a great TACTS range area over the Pacific Ocean along with San Clemente Island where the Navy SEALS train.

But the base at Miramar is located next to one of the best urban centers in America. You’ve got the Gas Lamp District in downtown San Diego along with the Chargers (hopefully) in the fall, Padres in the spring, and for you hockey buffs the San Diego Gulls just relocated into town. Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, and upscale places like La Jolla give a Fighter Det “gorilla” lots of night options.

#2 Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, NV

A B-52 Stratofortress, 96th Bomb Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, La., taxis before takeoff during Red Flag 16-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristin High/Released)
A B-52 Stratofortress taxis before takeoff during Red Flag 16-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristin High/Released)

Vegas Baby!  What more can we say?

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Nellis is home to the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR), the largest contiguous air and ground space available for peacetime military operations in the free world. It has more than 15,000 square miles of airspace and 4,700 square miles of restricted land in an awesome desert environment. More than 75 percent of all live munitions used by the Air Force for training are dropped on the Nevada Test and Training Range.

Red Flag, Green Flag-West, and Advanced Integration for the U.S. Air Force Weapons School all take place at Nellis. This makes the training both advanced and fun.

But maybe the best part are the stories you hear on a Sunday morning from everyone. Someone probably lost their entire BAH at the tables. Another guy won $2000 and immediately gave it back to the casino by putting it “all on black”. There is also one guy who simply lost his lunch (and supper) on the sidewalk near Caesar’s at 4 am.

And just like the Chief Master Sergeant warned you: If a really pretty girl is interested in you at the bar, and this does not normally happen to you…son, she is a “lady of the evening”.

#1 NAS Key West, FL

VFC-111 Sun Downers, credit:
VFC-111 Sun Downers, Photo credit:

One FighterSweep editor simply said: “Key West. Burn the rest of the list”.

We have to agree.  NAS Key West might be the greatest Fighter Det location known to the human race. With perfect weather, ranges that are less than 2 minutes away, and the Conch Republic nightlife you simply can’t go wrong. VFC-111 is the resident professional bandit group on site, so you don’t need to go far to find your aggressor. What a life those guys have!

During the day if you aren’t in a BFM hop, you might be out deep sea fishing or snorkeling for lobster. At night you can easily get lost until 4 am on Duval Street somewhere between Sloppy Joe’s/Hog’s Breath Saloon and the Green Parrot. If there isn’t a Buffett party, Spring Break, or Fantasy Fest while you are there–be thankful! You probably added back a few years to your life.

So FighterSweep Nation, what’s your favorite Fighter Det location?

Top Photo credit: ©Jonathan Derden–All Rights Reserved