November 4, 2010 (by SrA Cynthia Spalding) - The 90th Fighter Squadron, 3rd Wing, deployed F-22s and personnel to Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 30, to participate in exercise Combat Archer, the air-to-air evaluation portion of the United States Air Force's Weapons Systems Evaluation Program.
A1C. Jennifer Craig, 90th AMU, left, and Australian Maj. Matthew Harper, 90th FS pilot prepare an F-22A block 30 no. 07-4139 for departure to Tyndall AFB on October 30th, 2010 from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. [USAF photo by SrA. Cynthia Spalding]
The 90th FS
is training and being evaluated with the maintainers of the 90th Aircraft Maintenance Unit and their reserve counterparts from the 302nd Fighter Squadron, 477th Fight Group, for this temporary duty assignment.
During this three-week deployment, pilots and maintainers are working together to validate the air-to-air combat capability of the newest F-22 Raptors in the Air Force inventory.
The jets assigned to the 90th FS have never fired live air-to-air missiles before and this deployment will ensure the squadron is ready for any contingency operation, leaders said.
Combat Archer provides a unique opportunity for our fighter pilots to experience firing a live air-to-air missile prior to combat, said Lt. Col. Joseph Kunkel, 90th FS commander.
"Particularly because these jets are brand new, this program allows first-time jets and pilots to experience what it feels like to fire a missile while in flight," Kunkel said.
WSEP creates an opportunity for pilot-maintainer interaction, he said. The full mission includes loading missiles, flying with and firing missiles and hitting targets.
This means that pilots, crew chiefs, armament systems specialists and avionics specialists are all working together to complete the mission, Colonel Kunkel said.
The squadron will be flying more than 10 sorties per day; shooting air-to-air missiles, 20-mm Vulcan cannon rounds, and dropping GBU-32 GPS
guided bombs during the deployment, Colonel Kunkel said.
All of the weapons evaluations will be conducted over water in the warning areas of the Gulf of Mexico range complex, he added.
To prepare for this deployment, the 90th FS conducted a number of simulator programs as well as academic programs.
"Being one of the pilots in this training mission, the experience is what I gain. When it comes time to fight in flight, I will be comfortable using this aircraft for what it was made for," Colonel Kunkel said.