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News | March 15, 2007

Maintainers, pilots take aim at Combat Archer

By Staff Sgt. Francesca Popp 3rd Wing Public Affairs

For the first time in three years, members of the 12th Fighter Squadron and its corresponding aircraft maintenance unit participated in a Weapons System Evaluation Program Feb. 20-March 2.

Combat Archer, as it's more commonly known, is a two-week exercise, which provides training opportunities not available in Alaska. It is hosted by the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.

"They have all the facilities and over-water range space required to achieve WSEP objectives on location," said Lt. Col. Alan Kollien, 12th FS commander. "The 53rd WEG provides opportunities to live-fire missiles at full-scale and sub-scale drones, and provides towed banner targets for live gun missions."

WSEP evaluates the complete system to include people in the weapons employment loop. The combined efforts of the weapons builders and loaders, maintainers and the pilots mission planning and execution must function properly to achieve the desired result -- "A mission kill of the target," Colonel Kollien said.

Capt. Jason McFeaters, 12th Aircraft Maintenance Unit OIC, agreed.

"It gave us the opportunity to verify that our jets are combat ready, and our pilots and maintainers can deploy at any time and successfully employ our weapons systems to their max capabilities," he said. "Due to the fact that we have an alert cell here at Elmendorf, our Airmen are used to working with and around live munitions, but it verified for the Air Force to see that we are top-notch when it comes to their combat tasking."

With 146 people from Elmendorf participating in this exercise, they were able to better their skills with this training. The colonel said the schedule required 20 live-gun sorties and 22 live-fire missile sorties.

"Each of those weapons needs to be prepped and loaded on a rapidly changing schedule," the colonel said, noting two 19th FS pilots also made the trip due to the number of firing opportunities. It was "a dramatic shift from normal training ops at Elmendorf."

It was the training the pilots received during Combat Archer that allowed many of them to live fire for the first time.

Colonel Kollien said the live-fire training was an issue the 53rd WEG discussed with Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Air Force Chief of Staff.

"We fired 150 percent of a normal missile allocation and still had one person from the deployment who has never fired a missile in his career," he said. "Over the years, WSEP funding and priorities have dropped. The CSAF stated he intends to change that. Our robust live-fire employment was just the first step to achieving his vision."

Capt. McFeaters added, "We had zero aircraft-related missile issues and zero issues with our gun systems. The 53rd WEG benchmarked our WSEP preparation, as far as our aircraft prep goes, for future F-15 units participating in future Combat Archers."

The 12th FS was evaluated on the 141 sorties flown during Combat Archer. The squadron also flew dissimilar air combat training missions with the 114th and 119th Fighter squadrons from the Oregon and New Jersey Air National Guard, respectively. The DACT missions allowed F-15C pilots to fly with F-16C pilots.