September 2, 2008 (by Capt. Torri White) - Eight F-22A Raptors and about 140 Airmen from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, deployed August 17-28 for the Weapons Systems Evaluation Program hosted by the 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron.
525th AMU crew chiefs prepare to launch F-22A Raptors. Eight aircraft and about 140 maintenance personnel deployed to Tyndall for the WSEP from August 17-28, 2008.
WSEP allows Airmen to experience live air-to-air weapons before going into combat. Each pilot has the opportunity to shoot live-fire missiles at sub-scale or full-scale drones. The pilots also have the chance to fire the gun at a 40-foot banner towed by a Learjet. This aerial gunnery practice allows pilots to improve their shooting accuracy while testing gun systems.
After the missions, experts evaluate the aircraft, munitions system, targets and banner. Maintenance personnel are also carefully evaluated during the process for safety.
"This is the first time most of us have shot missiles or the gun in the F-22," said Maj. Wade Bridges, a Reserve pilot with the 302nd Fighter Squadron. "WSEP builds confidence in the whole chain: pilots, maintainers, weapons loaders and the aircraft. It proves that our process works."
Despite multiple weather and scheduling challenges maintenance personnel worked around the clock to keep the jets in the air. There were a total of 66 sorties on the schedule for the deployment, not including the deployment and redeployment sorties.
"Over the last two weeks, we've supported a very aggressive flying schedule, and we've had our challenges," said 1st Lt. Luke Stover, 3rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron deployed officer-in-charge. "I've had so many outstanding performers here it's hard to pin-point individuals. Everyone has risen to the occasion and worked as a seamlessly integrated team."
"The crew chiefs make things happen day after day with a positive can-do attitude," Chief Master Sgt. Steven Yost, said about all of the deployed maintenance personnel. Chief Yost is the 3rd AMXS deployed NCO
-in-charge. "The weapons loaders have no margin for error working with live munitions, and they have proven they excel under pressure."
It took a Total Force Initiative to make WSEP become reality for the 525th Fighter Squadron.
"Team Elmendorf made this deployment happen," said Lt. Col. Chuck Corcoran, 525th FS
commander. "That's the real story here. Without active duty, Guard and Reserve working together, this deployment might not have happened."
The 517th Airlift Squadron and Air National Guard's 249th Airlift Squadron supported the airlift for the deployment. Air Force Reserve pilots from the 302nd Fighter Squadron and maintainers from Reserve's 477th Maintenance Squadron personnel also accompanied the 525th FS and 3rd AMXS to WSEP.
"Our success, active duty and Reserve, at WSEP is a true testament that we are doing things right on our day-to-day missions at Elmendorf," said Col. Eric Overturf, 477th Fighter Group commander. "You fight like you train, and in this case, we were able to hit the bull's-eye!"
The 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron evaluated the overall deployment on aircrew participation, employment results, missile and gun participation, foreign object damage progam, housekeeping and maintenance. They performed 74 vehicle, FOD, housekeeping and maintenance observations with no findings, and performed 122 weapons and munitions observations with no findings.
"Overall your unit was outstanding," said Lt. Col. Terry Scott, 83rd FWS commander in the out brief. "The schedule was challenging and there were limiting factors. What's important is this is reflective of how it will be in a real world deployment and based on your performance here, the 525 is ready for combat!"