April 20, 2012 (by Capt. Ashley Conner) - Alaskan F-22s met a major milestone during a recent training sortie when new upgrades to the fighter allowed for a Joint Direct Attack Munition to be dropped on self generated coordinates.
Software and hardware upgrades, part of the F-22 modernization plan known as Increment 3.1, allow for pilots to map the ground using the radar before dropping the munitions. Previously they had to rely on outside sources to locate targets and provide coordinates before dropping a weapon. Increment 3.1 drops have, until now, only been accomplished on test missions.
"The ability to drop weapons on self generated coordinates is significant because it gives commanders the ability to task us against dynamic targets," Lt. Col. Robert Davis, 90th FS
director of operations. "When combined with other recent modifications, the F-22 now has significantly more lethality, flexibility, and survivability in an Anti-Access/Area Denial scenario."
This milestone sortie kicked off a week of JDAM
training for the 90th FS and its Reserve Total Force Integration partner, the 302nd FS.
"Like any other skill, if you don't practice it you run the risk of losing proficiency," said Capt. Evan Parr, 90th FS F-22 pilot and flight lead during the first sortie of the week. "We practice dropping simulated JDAMs
every couple months as a part of our training plan. Nothing can replace the feeling of something falling off of your jet when you hit the pickle button - let alone all of the things that must be considered prior to hitting the pickle button."
Over a five day period the 90th FS dropped eight live and 12 inert JDAMs on target without incident on the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex.
Dropping air to ground ordinance is not only good training for the pilots but also for Airmen from the 3rd Munitions Squadron, who build the bombs, and the 3rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit, who load the bombs on the jets allowing for the entire Arctic Warrior team to receive valuable training.
Air Force Reserve maintainers from the 477th Fighter Group are integrated with their active duty counterparts on a daily basis and were involved in this training to maintain proficiency as well.
"We have evaluators that go out on launches as the weapon crews are arming the aircraft to ensure they are conducting proper arming procedures," said Senior Master Sgt. Benjamin Dorsey, Weapons Standardization superintendent for the 3rd Wing and 477th FG. "Once the jets land we also conduct the recovery procedures to ensure that no parts are damaged and the rack is clean."
With the ability to generate F-22s for realistic training carrying both live and inert weapons, high fidelity air-to-air training with the aggressors, robust embedded training capability in the F-22's software, along with live emitters and targets on the JPARC makes training in Alaska a unique and valuable experience for the Raptor pilots and maintainers.
"The key to our continuous improvement and constantly increasing level of combat capability is the tremendous talent and leadership by our Airmen, young NCOs, and Company Grade Officers," said Col. Dirk Smith, 3rd Wing commander. "It is a privilege to be a part of this team and to see them in action every day. Seamless teamwork between the 477th FG and the 3rd WG is simply a part of every aspect of our F-22 operation every day and it is critical to our combat readiness."
In the upcoming week the 525th FS, the other active duty F-22 squadron here which is also partnered with the Reserve 302nd FS, also plans to drop JDAMs from F-22s upgraded with Increment 3.1.