Brothers take to the air in rare dogfight opportunity

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jerron Barnett
  • 33d Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Two brothers, whose looks practically mirror each other as much as their Air Force careers do, got an opportunity to match their respective air-to-air combat skills in a competitive dogfight here Nov. 5.

Capt. Gary Beene, a 58th Fighter Squadron pilot here, and his brother, Maj. Lane Beene, a pilot from the Air Force Reserve Command's 457th Fighter Squadron at Carswell Air Reserve Station in Fort Worth, Texas, chased each other in the skies over the Gulf of Mexico in a long-anticipated matchup of air superiority.

"I've known about it for about three months," said Lane. "When I first found out about this TDY, I checked Gary's schedule to see if he was going to be in town and wasn't going to be deployed, and then we started to do some coordination, which was not difficult at all."

"I was all for it," said Gary. "I was anxious to get a chance to take on my brother."

Aircrews from the 457th FS were on temporary duty here to get their air-to-ground munitions capability re-certified. But they also used the opportunity to get some dissimilar air combat training sorties in as well, said Lane. DACT allows pilots flying different aircraft, in this case an F-15 Eagle and an F-16 Fighting Falcon, to fly air-to-air combat maneuvers against each other. It is training that they don't get an opportunity to do too much, let alone against a family member, Lane said.

"It's not very often we get a chance to do this sort of thing, but when we do, we like to fly against those guys," said Lane, an F-16 pilot.

Inclement weather blanketed the sky over Eglin the day of the family duel, which pushed the takeoff times back a little, but Lane said he was ready for the challenge by the "enemy."

"Oh, it should not be a problem taking these guys out," he said as he strapped on his helmet shortly before takeoff. "Should be a piece of cake."

The way the sortie was set up was that Gary and his wingman, Maj. David Nahom, were to employ enemy or "red" aircraft tactics, which limited how they engaged and maneuvered against his brother and his wingman, who flew as "blue" or U.S. forces.

Lane's element also had a few limitations as well. His F-16 was fitted with large targeting and fuel pods that added weight and cut down a little of his maneuverability in the single-engine fighter. He compared his brother's F-15 to his loaded F-16 as a race between a Corvette and a Mustang, but one had a trailer attached to it.

Once both groups took off and got into position about 125 miles southeast of Fort Walton Beach, the battle for air superiority began. Gary sent his wingman in first to chase the F-16 pair off, but Lane engaged and "took out" the F-15 aggressor pretty quickly, all at about 10,000 feet and speeds of 300-450 miles per hour. After repositioning, Lane said he saw his brother about four miles out in front and knew this was his chance.

"I saw him and I thought this is for the whole family," said Lane. "I got to gun-track him."

Both pilots agreed that taking out an enemy fighter with guns is much harder to do than with air-to-air missiles, so getting one in this fashion was added incentive and would showcase each pilot's skills.

As Lane was trying to get his wingman into position for the kill, Gary quickly got into an offensive position and gun-tracked his older brother. Gary also said that about 25 seconds before that engagement, he gun-tracked both his older brother and his wingman, but it was never called over the radio.

Overall, the brothers were engaged in dogfighting tactics eight minutes of the 20-minute standoff. Although the brothers offer different accounts on what actually happened in the skies over the Gulf, it was all good natured and they called it a draw.

"He's got game," said Lane of his younger brother. "He definitely has some skill and potential. I was impressed."

"He (Lane) was limited some because of the extra fuel pods whereas I could pull more Gs than he could," said Gary. "I've got some highlights in my career, but to fly against 'knucklehead' here was great."

Although the exercise was very competitive in nature, the brothers have had more of a cooperative relationship rather than a competitive one that has extended back to their childhood days.

"I'm three years older than Gary, so because of the age and grade difference there really wasn't that kind of competition," said Lane. "I've always tried to just give him advice as time went along."

Advice that Gary said has been very helpful in his Air Force career.

"We talk about two or three times a week and some of the best advice he's ever given me was to shut up, listen and be a sponge to information," said Gary, who followed his brother through the Air Force Academy and on to becoming a fighter pilot. "That's what I've done and it works. I kind of looked up to him, he's sort of like my hero. I was kind of in his shadow up until today when I gun-tracked him. Now he's in my shadow."

Both brothers laughed.

"I can always look back at my Air Force career and say, 'My brother was all right,'" said Lane. "He might one day, many years from now, be able to top me."

The brothers offered no prediction to the outcome of a future match-up in air superiority between them.

"We'll cross that bridge when we get there," said Lane.