HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
The 314th Fighter Squadron and 314th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, also known as the Warhawks, along with other supporting units from the 49th Wing participated in Weapons System Evaluation Program, March 5 to 19, at Tyndall AFB, Florida.
WSEPs are periodic events used to evaluate air-to-ground and air-to-air weapons systems on behalf of Air Combat Command.
Holloman Airmen and F-16 Vipers completed about 180 sorties and were joined by six other aircraft representing units from Eglin AFB, Florida, Nellis AFB, Nevada, Tyndall AFB, Louisiana Air National Guard, Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, NAS Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, and Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona.
The joint training environment allowed for the Airmen to simulate operations in a deployed environment.
“Training with our joint partners is important because we deploy and fight as a joint team,” said Col. Ryan Keeney, 49th Wing commander. “Our instructor pilots will take this experience to become better instructors, and continue to make the 49th Wing the Air Force’s premier F-16 Viper training location where we build the backbone of combat airpower.”
For the pilots, WSEP is a great opportunity to learn about the capabilities of other aircraft and what they bring to the fight.
“Being able to fly with different airframes and working with other services is an amazing experience,” said Capt. Bryan Moore, 314th FS instructor pilot. “It’s great because when we deploy we work with all services. With this evaluation we were able to see what they do outside of a deployed environment and we get valuable experience.”
During WSEP, the operations and maintenance teams were able to practice the skills needed in combat and for many, this was their first time seeing or firing live missiles.
“The primary goal was to ensure that from maintenance to the weapons crew to the pilot, we have the ability to shoot live missiles,” said Moore. “This is most likely a once in a career chance for these pilots, so it is a big deal and a rare opportunity.”
This evaluation was a milestone for Holloman, as it was the first time a full squadron has gone on a temporary duty assignment from the base since the COVID-19 pandemic started in March, 2020. With the restrictions of maintaining six feet of physical distance from others and wearing face coverings, this TDY demonstrated the ability to deploy while keeping the force COVID-safe.
“Hopefully more units will be able to have this opportunity,” said Tech. Sgt. Faith Olson, 314th AMU weapons expeditor. “I think we can really set the standard for sending aircraft and personnel TDY safely during the pandemic.”