Air Force Commander, Pilot Son to Dogfight in Livestreamed Flight Game

Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, watches Airmen from the 4th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load inert weapons onto an F-15E Strike Eagle during training, Feb. 26, 2019, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Kenneth Boyton)
Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, watches Airmen from the 4th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load inert weapons onto an F-15E Strike Eagle during training, Feb. 26, 2019, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Kenneth Boyton)

In a high-profile demonstration of skill, two U.S. Air Force fighter pilots will take each other on in aerial battle on Saturday.

It just won't happen in this world.

Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Holmes, an F-15 Eagle pilot, will battle his son, 1st Lt. Wade Holmes, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, in the game Ace Combat 7, the command said in a release this week. The recruitment-focused event will be livestreamed so the two pilots can interact with viewers, answering questions about what it takes to be a real Air Force pilot.

Ace Combat 7, which has a virtual reality component, takes place in a fictional world where pilots attempt to secure the skies during an air campaign among two sparring rivals.

Holmes and Holmes will be playing on Xbox One, not using the virtual reality component, ACC officials told Military.com. Each will fly their respective aircraft.

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Ace Combat 7 is part of the Ace Combat series of flight arcade action games. The game was released earlier this year for Xbox One and PlayStation.

"Discover the glory of being an elite fighter pilot. Become an Ace pilot by taking down enemies through tactical dogfighting while experiencing the exhilaration of flying freely in a fully immersive world," the game's PlayStation description states.

The game allows a player to select and customize his or her aircraft. Choices include a range of single and twin-engine jets, plus fifth-generation fighters such as the F-22 Raptor, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and the YF-23, which never made it into production.

Players can also choose, or "unlock" various weapons to use in battle.

The event should last 30 to 45 minutes, and will be livestreamed on Twitch.tv at www.twitch.tv/ACCplays, on June 29 at 1 p.m. EST, according to the command. While the audience can't play along, a moderator will collect the questions as viewers watch them play on Xbox One.

Air Combat Command said the event is intended to engage the 18-to-35 demographic.

"Based on our research, a large portion of individuals in this age group either play video games are aware of, or have seen someone stream a video game on Twitch," ACC said. "This platform provides a new tool for us to engage and have discussions on key ACC priorities. The interview format during the game is very informal and casual."

The event comes as the Air Force looks for new ways to elevate interest in pilot training. That includes the service's new experimental program, Pilot Training Next -- a program based in Austin, Texas, that tests whether pilots can learn faster to expedite the training pipeline.

Outgoing Air Education and Training Command Commander Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast recently told Military.com the service sees value in finding prospective recruits in virtual-gaming communities.

"We can start [by] recruiting excellence," Kwast said.

Holmes additionally said ACC is starting to look at using more virtual reality and simulation training.

Using the low-cost immersive environment of virtual reality together with "competency-based learning," and moving graduate-level skill testing earlier into the training model, "would experience our pilots much faster," Holmes said during a May interview.

"Those are two things that are poised to make a revolutionary change in how well we train pilots and in how long it takes us to train pilots," he said.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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