August 18, 2006 (by Capt. J.P. Lage) - With the call "Fox 2", F-16 pilots at Kunsan employed AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles on Aug. 16 for the first time in the history of 7th Air Force in Korea, serving as the driving force behind implementing a weapon system evaluation program here.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot fires one of the first air-to-air missiles launched by a South Korean-based F-16 on Aug. 16. The live fire is part of a process for implementing a weapon system evaluation program for jets assigned to Kunsan Air Base, Korea. [USAF photo by TSgt Jeffrey Allen]
The initiative by the 80th Fighter Squadron at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea
, to shoot live, heat-seeking AIM-9 Sidewinder
missiles serves as a means for evaluating fighter assets in South Korea.
"Typically the way a unit does this is [to] deploy to a weapon system evaluation program or WSEP," said Lt. Col. Al Wimmer, 80th FS
commander, about Combat Archer conducted at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.
Spearheading the initiative was Lt. Col. Dan Tippett, the 80th FS director of operations.
"The significance of this event is threefold," Colonel Tippett said. "First, due to logistics issues and fiscal constraints in PACAF
, [Republic of Korea]-assigned jets don't have the opportunity to deploy
back to the U.S. for Combat Archer. As a result, we have no ability to verify the integrity of our air-to-air weapon systems here. This missile shoot program gives us the ability to test our systems."
The purpose of the programs is to "evaluate the man, the machine, and the weapon to see how well we're doing and whether we are ready to go into combat," Colonel Wimmer said.
The jets assigned to the 80th FS have never deployed to WSEP because of obligations in the 7th AF theater of operations, the colonel said.
"This program also gives my fighter pilots the experience of actually employing an air-to-air missile, which also occurs primarily at Combat Archer. Without such an experience, the first time a pilot fires a live missile would be in combat," Colonel Tippett said. "Accomplishing this in a training environment first alleviates any surprises or anxiety of shooting an actual missile."
Every fighter squadron in 7th AF participated in the week's historic flying. A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from Osan provided targets, dropping illumination flares that hang under parachutes that give the missiles
something to guide on.
"This has been about a 10-month process from inception to this point," Colonel Wimmer said. "We hope this will be recurring."