The future of naval aviation, and some surface warfare capabilities, is being shaped at a little known air station that is 200 miles from an
ocean but is on the cutting edge of nearly every aspect
of modern air warfare.
Naval Air Station Fallon, Nev., is home to the Naval
Strike and Air Warfare Center (NSAWC), which is dedicated to making naval aviation better, from the individual pilot and crew member up to the integrated
warfighting instrument of the carrier air wing and the
associated air, sea and land components.
Although NSAWC runs the iconic Naval Fighter
Weapons School, or TOPGUN, what that program and
the other weapons and tactics schools at Fallon are
doing today bears little resemblance to the 1986 movie
“Top Gun” that made it famous.
The air warfare center first evolved TOPGUN, which
focused on air-to-air combat, into “Strike U” by adding
the ground attack missions that primarily have occu-
pied U.S. combat aviators since 9/11. And NSAWC now
has weapons schools sharpening
the combat skills of crews for E-2C
carrier airborne early warning
planes, the multimission H- 60 hel-
icopters and the EA-18G electronic
But Fallon goes far beyond crafting better individual aviators and air
crews by fusing the carrier air wing
into a tightly integrated combat tool,
producing planners and managers
who can devise and execute complex
air campaigns, developing the tactics,
techniques and procedures (TTPs) to
guide all of tactical aviation, and proposing requirements to improve current and future naval aircraft.
It also sends its skilled professionals out to help the regional combatant commanders resolve tactical
air problems in current operations.
While most of the center’s focus is on carrier-based
aviation, its experts also work with the land-based P- 3
community, train surface warfare Tomahawk strike and
air intercept specialists, and instruct SEALs and other
ground personnel to call in precision air strikes.
And with the growing demand for joint and inte-
grated combat operations, the NSAWC staff works
closely with similar Air Force tactical specialists.
The scope of the center’s responsibilities was indicated by Rear Adm. Andrew L. “Woody” Lewis, NSAWC
commander, who said: “We train at the individual level,
the unit level and then the air wing level.”
The center’s “schoolhouses,” Lewis said, include the helicopter course “that trains MH- 60 Sierra and Romeo
pilots and air crewmen. We have the traditional TOPGUN,
which trains strike fighter pilots and weapons systems officers. We have an E- 2 course that trains not only our E- 2
naval flight officers but our enlisted AICs [air intercept
controllers] for the surface community.”
Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center builds on
TOPGUN legacy with broader range of training
By OTTO KREISHER, Special Correspondent
On the Cutting Edge
The Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center (NSAWC) at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nev., has expanded its focus from air-to-air combat to
include air-to-ground training and other aspects of modern air warfare.
n NSAWC weapons schools also sharpen the combat skills of crews
for E-2C carrier airborne early warning planes, H- 60 helicopters and
EA-18G electronic warfare jets.
n The center also produces planners and managers who can
devise and execute complex air campaigns.
n Looking forward, NSAWC’s commander Rear Adm. Andrew L.
“Woody” Lewis said that after a decade of naval air conducting primarily counterinsurgency ground-support missions with no anti-air
threat, “I think we’re going to transition to what we would call more
high-end warfighting skills, a greater percentage of the time.”