U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors from the 27th Fighter Squadron and F-35 Lightning IIs from the 58th Fighter Squadron successfully flew more than 140 sorties and fired 13 missiles to culminate the first post-Hurricane Michael Combat Archer air-to-air exercise at Eglin Air Force Base on Dec. 14.
“This is the final step of our combat readiness – we assess our operations and maintenance personnel as well as the aircraft itself,” said Lt. Col. Marcus McGinn, 27th Fighter Squadron commander. “We need to make sure we have the ability to load missiles, the aircraft are configured correctly, the aircraft perform as they should when you press the pickle button, the missile performs as advertised and the pilots know what to expect. All of these aspects must be tested and proven prior to actually needing the process to work in combat.”
The 27th FS brought 200 personnel from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, to participate in the exercise, which was flown out of Eglin AFB due to the rebuilding efforts at Tyndall AFB.
“The amount of coordination that goes into a single missile shoot cannot be quantified. The ability for the 83rd Fighter Weapon Squadron to accomplish this coordination across two different locations, with the infrastructure limitations that Tyndall (AFB) currently has, was unbelievable,” said McGinn.
This was the second Combat Archer the 27th Fighter Squadron has participated in this year. Of the 30 F-22 pilots, six were first-time shooters.
“While this was the first time I fired a live missile, I wasn’t nervous,” said 1st Lt. Jake Wong, 27th Fighter Squadron F-22 pilot. “There is the seriousness that I have a live missile on my jet today, which is not something we do every day. The training is really good and the flight profile is controlled so we know what to expect to ensure we fire the missile safely.”
While the aircraft took off from Eglin AFB, the sub-scale drones assigned to the 82 ATRS, took off from Tyndall AFB.
“No other Air Force in the world comes close to the same scale of weapons testing as the U.S. Air Force,” said Lt. Col Ryan Serrill, 82nd ATRS commander. “We recognize the importance of this data to continually improve our warfighters’ ability which is why it was important to resume the Combat Archer mission so soon after the hurricane.”
The 83rd FWS conducted telemetry data collection and missile analysis, 81st Range Control Squadron conducted command and control and the 53rd Test Support Squadron provided electronic attack pods out of Tyndall AFB.
Maj. Ashley Conner, 53rd Wing