Fighter pilots from across the US Air Force assembled at Luke AFB, Arizona, in March for ‘Haboob Havoc’ — a competition designed to enhance squadron camaraderie and culture.

Under an uncharacteristically gloomy Arizona sky, Col Matt Renbarger, 56th Operations Group commander, opens up with the F-35A’s GAU-22 25mm cannon during a low-angle strafing run.

GUNNERY COMPETITIONS HAVE long been an effective means of bringing fighter pilots from various communities together to pit their skills and tenacity against one another, while also building morale and encouraging the competitive spirit of aggression necessary for success in the profession of arms. The waning years of the Cold War were a heyday for such competitions, annual meets like ‘William Tell’ and ‘Gunsmoke’ giving combat aviators ample opportunity to face offagainst their peers. In times of fiscal austerity, however, activities not directly related to combat-readiness tend to be the first to be cut, with gunnery competitions being an easy choice for leaders to axe.

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