Stingers Prove Lethal at Combat Archer

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Beth Holliker
  • 180th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
More than 120 members of the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard, deployed 38 short tons of cargo and eight F-16 fighter jets to Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida in September to participate in Combat Archer.

The two-week exercise is part of the Air Combat Command Air-to-Air Weapons Systems Evaluation Program, which assesses a units overall operational effectiveness, weapons systems performance and reliability.

"Combat Archer is not just a training event," said Maj. Gregory Barasch, 112th Fighter Squadron director of operations. "It is a formal evaluation of the total weapon system; man, machine and missile, as well as the squadron's ability to conduct air-to-air missions."

With over 30 Combat Archer exercises conducted annually, the primary purpose of WSEP is to evaluate the effectiveness of the total air-to-air weapons system including aircraft, weapon delivery systems, munitions, aircrew, support equipment, technical data and overall maintenance operations. The secondary objective of Combat Archer is live-fire missile training for pilots before ever deploying to a combat environment.

"Exercises like Combat Archer provide a rare opportunity to load and employ live missiles with threat-realistic targets, maximizing the live-fire opportunities," Barasch said.

180th FW Weapons Supervisor, Senior Master Sgt. Roger Newsome, said that over the course of the two-week exercise our eight jets logged 129 flight hours, flew 122 sorties and fired 10 live missiles, meeting all requirements with zero discrepancies.

"The experience of shooting an air-to-air missile for the first time takes away any questions," said Capt. Roy Poor, an F-16 pilot with the 180th Fighter Wing. "Now we can employ in combat with confidence."

Along with the rare chance to fire live missiles, Combat Archer also provided the opportunity to conduct Force Integration sorties, training with dissimilar aircraft, fourth and fifth generation fighters like the F-15 Strike Eagle and F-22 Raptor, as well as the Navy's F-18 Hornet.

Training with dissimilar aircraft allows sister services and coalition partners to work together on mastering combat tactics and operational-level campaigns in a controlled, strategic, advanced and realistic environment.

"It's been great working alongside some of the other forces," said Dice. "We're out here with the Navy and the Active Duty Air Force, flying alongside other aircraft from those units."

Though the F-16 pilots and maintenance personnel from the 180th Fighter Wing train maintaining their currency and efficiency to provide effective combat power at home and abroad, sorties are conducted utilizing training munitions. These training munitions are built and weighted the same as live munitions, giving pilots a realistic feel of flying fully loaded jets.

Flying with training missiles affords pilots opportunities to familiarize themselves with the feel of the jet loaded with various munitions configurations during simulated combat training missions similar to what might be experienced in a real-world combat environment. The pilots train on the step-by-step process of firing a missile without actually employing one.

Not only that, this training provides the strategic agility needed to fight against a formidable and aggressive adversary in a continually strained fiscal environment.

"We were able to learn the strengths and weakness of each airframe," said Poor. "While also learning how best to maneuver together allowing for maximum lethality in a combat situation."

"Our mission here at the 180th Fighter Wing is to be the most lethal, innovative and efficient fighter wing in the Total Force," said Master Sgt. Stacie Dice, an F-16 mechanic with the 180th Fighter Wing. "Nothing says lethality like putting missile on target."

With more than 500 personnel from five units, 30 fighter aircraft and over 45 live missiles shot, this exercise was the largest in Combat Archer history.

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