The two pilots flew their respective aircraft during the hour-long game June 29. The event was live-streamed on Twitch so viewers could watch and call in, asking the pilots questions about flight training.
Ace Combat 7 takes place in a fictional world in which pilots attempt to secure the skies during an air campaign between two sparring rivals. Holmes and Holmes played on an Xbox One system.
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Lt. Holmes, who is in the Air National Guard and stationed at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, noted that the realism of the game was better than some training simulators he's used as a pilot. Gen. Holmes, however, pointed out that the purpose was different, and that the hand controls didn't have the same functions. At one point during the game, the two swapped aircraft and flew each others' fighters.
The two discussed topics ranging from what it's like to work with air battle managers in hot zones like the Middle East running air wars to air-to-air combat training and the high G-levels they've sustained in flight.
Holmes, who said he's suffered neck and back pain from G-forces over the last decade, says the service is trying to incorporate more physical therapists in squadrons so pilots do not become physically worn down from years of flying.
The officers -- who both said that, aside from their own aircraft, their favorite plane is the F-22 Raptor -- discussed improvements the Air Force is trying to make to encourage pilots to stay in service longer amid the pilot shortage.
The general, stationed at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, said it was easy to understand why pilots have tough choices to make.
"Part of it is just how busy we keep all those pilots, the time they've spent deployed and fifteen-plus years of war; part of it is as you get further along in your career, they have a family and spend a lot of time thinking about what's going to happen with their families ... and then another part of it is, do we allow them to focus on the mission of flying and combat and the things they want to focus on, and how much time is spent doing things unrelated to it," Holmes said.
Last month, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein told audiences at an Association for Defense Communities conference in Washington, D.C. that the pilot shortage has "leveled off" and that the service expects the downward trend to reverse course within the next five years. He did not provide specific numbers regarding the current shortfall.
In line with Goldfein's list of initiatives, Holmes said there are other improvements on the horizon, such as upgraded flight suits.
Holmes said his longest flight from the Pacific to Panama City, Florida, took 14.3 hours, and was often uncomfortable because of the flight suit mechanism by which pilots relieve themselves. Lt. Holmes mentioned a 9.5-hour flight in his F-16, from Korea to Hawaii.
"When you're up for that long, you want to drink a lot of water and stay hydrated, but then you have to urinate to get rid of it and there are different ways the Air Force has made to be able to do that to keep it secure; it's a lot easier to make ways for men to do it than it is for our women fighter pilots to do it, so that is something we continually need to work on," the general said.
Within a few rounds, Lt. Holmes racked in the points he needed to win.
"Air Combat Command does not teach me to take pity on my adversary," he said, upon claiming victory, according to the release.
The officers said they hoped the recruitment-focused event attracted the interest of prospective Air Force pilots who might be watching.
"We enjoyed having a chance to talk to you for a little bit," the general said. "As the Air Force, we're trying to reach out to people [who] could find a home in the Air Force. We hope you'll consider finding a way to serve your country in some way."
-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.