177th Fighter Wing at Combat Archer 2015
By Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley, 177th Fighter Wing
/ Published May 19, 2015
TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, FL. -- Airmen from the 177th Fighter Wing travelled to the Gulf Coast of Florida to participate in the Air Force's air-to-air Weapon System Evaluation Program, also known as Combat Archer, from May 4 through May 15.
Pilots, crew chiefs, maintainers and support staff launched and flew an average of 15 F-16 Fighting Falcon sorties per day in temperatures approaching 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity.
The WSEP is conducted by the 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron, part of the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group, an Air Combat Command tenant organization that reports to the 53rd Wing, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
The 83rd evaluates the total air-to-air weapons system including aircraft, weapon delivery system, weapon, aircrew, support equipment, technical data and maintenance actions.
"Using real firepower is absolutely imperative to our training," said Capt. Michael Gallinoto, a pilot with the 177th FW. "It helps build confidence in the fact that if we ever have to go up and employ these types of firepower, it is going to work in battle."
The 177th was not the only fighter unit at Combat Archer. The U.S. Navy had two squadrons of FA-18E and F Super Hornets at WSEP, VFA2-13 Fighting Black Lions and VFA-31 Tomcatters from Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va.
"The unique thing we get to do down here is to actually integrate U.S. Navy with Air Force assets," said Lt. Cmdr. Mike Mitchell, FA-18 Program Manager and liaison for Navy Fighters at Combat Archer. "It is a great chance to share tactics as well as the experience of operating with, not just another unit, but a completely different service and the different ways we work toward the same mission."
In addition to the sorties for weapons systems evaluation, those deployed flew a unit record number of incentive flights designed to reward airmen with the ride of a lifetime for a job well done.
"You know they call it an incentive ride, but after my flight, I call it a whole new perspective ride," said Master Sgt. Frank Beck, 177th FW weapons armament systems NCOIC, and recipient of an incentive ride after approximately 35 years of service. It made me realize the importance of the work maintainers do on the aircraft and how important our job is, said Beck.
"It's been quite a few years since we had the incentive flight program running," said Maj. Jason Halvorsen, a 177th FW pilot who flew an incentive ride on this trip, and graduate of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School. "It's an absolute blast...getting to show somebody else what we do on a day-to-day basis is unbelievable."