July 12, 2008 (by TSgt. April Wickes) - An integrated team of Raptor pilots from the 71st and 94th Fighter Squadrons and more than 130 maintainers left July 12 in support of Combat Archer at Tyndall AFB.
This F-22A Raptor #03-4058 from the 27th FS at Langley AFB fires an AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile at an aerial target drone over the Gulf of Mexico during a Combat Archer mission February 14. 2006. This missile is one of the first fired from an F-22A Raptor. [USAF Photo by Master Sgt. Michael Ammons]
During the exercise, the squadrons will test the reliability and effectiveness data of aircraft and missiles and complete required training for their Air Expeditionary Force cycle.
Combat Archer is an air-to-air weapons system evaluation program, also known as WSEP is designed to evaluate air-to-air weapons from buildup and loading, to employment. The exercise provides jet and missile testing along with training for all Airmen; maintainers gain experience loading live missiles, and the pilots fly combat missions.
"If a pilot has never shot a live missile, this is their first opportunity to feel, see and hear it," said Capt. Brumbaugh, 71st Fighter Squadron flight commander. "Now when they're in a combat arena they know what to expect."
There are typically two squadrons tasked for each Archer, and during this exercise, the squadrons are from Langley. The 94th FS
has not been to an Archer since becoming an F-22 squadron, according to Lt. Col. Kevin Fesler, 94th Fighter Squadron commander.
"Every shot taken by a 94 FS pilot will be the first missile shot for that pilot in an F-22," Colonel Fesler said. "Archer is a great opportunity and necessary exercise for any Combat Air Force unit. It is another example of why our Air Force stands out among all those in the world."
The tactical objectives of Combat Archer are to employ the missiles and gun within the specified parameters, which tests a jets' ability to shoot live missiles and provide information on the missiles' performance. This information is used to evaluate the effectiveness of each missile.
"Even though the AIM-9
(missile), for instance, has been around for years, we need data on its performance when employed from the F-22. Combat Archer is our venue in the CAF to collect the data."
In addition to training and experience, Combat Archer also mentally prepares Airmen for deployments.
"It gives our guys the experience so when they're actually asked to go down track and shoot at another aircraft, they'll have the confidence in themselves and their systems to make that happen, "said Lt. Col. Matthew Esper, 71st Fighter Squadron operations officer.
Combat Archer not only prepares squadrons for deployments, but it can also enhance team work and build unit cohesiveness.
"Just as it would be if we deploy, we have to count on the person that is standing next to us; whether it's training someone on a task they haven't yet performed or it's just holding a flashlight for your fellow maintainer during an inspection," said Staff. Sgt. Christopher MacDonald, 94th Aircraft Maintenance Unit F-22 dedicated crew chief. "When you leave home station and are tasked to go somewhere else, the people you go with become your family; you depend on them and that makes a closer unit."