An F-4 Phantom, piloted by Lt. Col. Patrick Karg, Detachment 1, 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron commander, flies during an air-to-air Weapon Systems Evaluation Program at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., June 18. Karg was flying chase to allow WSEP evaluators to observe how the F-22 Raptor’s weapon systems would function during a combat situation. Over the course of the WSEP, F-22 pilots shot down two QF-4 Drones and also qualified on aerial gunnery. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Siuta B. Ika/Released)
Members of the Detachment 1, 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron aircrew connect a chain from the “Combat Banner” to an F-4 Phantom during a Weapon Systems Evaluation Program at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., June 19. During “Combat Banner” missions, a 40-foot banner is towed behind an F-4 Phantom, which is flown into the airspace to be shot at by the F-22 Raptor’s 20 mm cannon. The main purpose of the WSEP is to evaluate the total air-to-air weapon to verify the system’s performance, reliability, capabilities, limitations, recommend corrective actions, and maintain combat Air Force-wide data. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Siuta B. Ika/Released)
by Senior Airman Siuta B. Ika
49th Wing Public Affairs
6/29/2012 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The Holloman AFB and White Sands Missile Range airspace saw F-22 Raptors take to the skies to have their missile systems and 20 mm cannons evaluated during an air-to-air Weapon Systems Evaluation Program, known as Combat Archer, June 18-21.
Over the course of this four-day WSEP, F-22 pilots shot down two QF-4 Drones, and qualified on aerial gunnery thanks to the Detachment 1, 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron's unique "Combat Banner" capability.
"Tuesday and Thursday were our Combat Banner days, where we towed a 40-foot banner behind an F-4 [Phantom] and flew it into the airspace to be shot at by the F-22's cannon," said Lt. Col. Patrick Karg, Det. 1, 82nd ATRS commander. "Monday and Wednesday were the missile-shooting days, but on Monday they were also supposed to drop [Joint Direct Attack Munitions] as part of Combat Sword."
Due to complications, the Combat Sword portion of the mission never took place, but that didn't deter the aircrews from ensuring the second day of missile shooting was a success, said Lt. Col. Chris Kane, 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron commander, based out of Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.
"Even though we didn't accomplish the combined WSEP on Monday, all 12 missiles launched Wednesday were hits," Kane said. "So a total of eight F-22s participated in either aerial gunnery or in the 12 missile shots employing eight AIM-120s and four AIM-9s at two QF-4s, in which we ended up splashing them both."
The main purpose of this WSEP is to evaluate the total air-to-air weapon to verify the system's performance, reliability, capabilities, limitations, recommend corrective actions, and maintain combat Air Force-wide data, said Lt. Col. Lance Wilkins, 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron commander.
"We're just now starting the analysis of all the weapons we just fired out here, so my squadron has a team that will look at the data from the missiles' telemetry streams that show us exactly what the missile was doing throughout it's time of flight, which will allow us to figure out whether the missile was a success or not," Kane said. "These are very expensive weapons, so it is important to get enough data when we shoot them, because obviously they're not recoverable. But once we've got that data, we are able to apply it to all the missiles we have in the war-time reserve and we can at least know what to expect in combat."
Kane stated that the 83rd FWS chose to conduct Combat Archer operations here because of two unequaled features Holloman AFB has to offer: the QF-4s, which are full-scale target drones modified from the F-4; and the airspace.
"As far as overland ranges go, this is one of the best; and the full-scale aerial target, the QF-4, provides the most realistic combat environment for our aircrews, weapons and aircraft," he said. "The vast majority of our shots are done over the Gulf of Mexico; however, overland missions present different problems for the various missiles, so we need to evaluate that to make sure that the missiles don't have trouble with the terrain. Up at the Utah training range, they've got the same overland, mountainous terrain, but they don't have full-scale capability. So we can only shoot at the subscale drones."
The benefits gained from such training will impact aircrews throughout the Department of Defense, Kane said.
"The data we collected from November's Combat Hammer, and now June's Combat Archer will be briefed to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and the Security of the Air Force," Wilkins said. "We show how the weapons systems are working, and the only overland data we have this year for combat archer is from this WSEP here. The bottom line is that we now have data from 12 overland shots from this year that will be distributed out to all of the Combat Air Forces to include the Navy and the Marine Corps. That drives tactics, training, procurement, acquisition and the whole chain-of-events in regards to weapon systems."
Because the 82nd ATRS and Det. 1, 82nd ATRS are the DoD's sole provider of full-scale aerial targets, the squadrons' commanders know there can be a learning curve for all operators and maintainers.
"There are hundreds of people involved in this that learned a lot of good lessons to make it happen, and they did a great job, they worked hard, and we got a lot done out here," Karg said. "I think as evidence by Wednesday's success, compared to Monday's mission that didn't go so well, it's just part of that learning curve."
Overall, all parties involved couldn't have accomplished their missions without the help from each other, Wilkins said.
"First off, I want to thank Colonel Karg for his tremendous support of both Combat Archer and Combat Sword. Through his capable leadership we were able to come out here and accomplish what we needed to," he said. "I also want to thank the 586th Flight Test Squadron, White Sands Missile Range, and the 49th Wing, who all came together as a team to put together a successful weapon system evaluation deployment. It has been a great experience and we all we take so much from this."