By 1st Lt. Savanah Bray, 53d Wing
/ Published March 19, 2021
An F-16 from Holloman Air Force Base, 49th Wing, fires an AIM-9M at WSEP East on March 10, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt Savanah Bray)
An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 422 Test and Evaluation Squadron takes off at Nellis Air Force Base carrying Small Diameter Bombs II to drop during WSEP West at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. (U.S. Air Force photo by William Lewis)
An F/A-18C from the U.S. Marine Corp and a F/A-18E from the U.S. Navy fly in WSEP East. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt Savanah Bray)
An F-15E carrying a small diameter bomb II takes off from Nellis Air Force Base to drop the weapon at WSEP West. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexandre Montes)
An F/A-18C Hornet from the U.S. Marine Corp fires a missile at WSEP East (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt Savanah Bray)
The 53d Weapons Evaluation Group hosted air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons system evaluations at Tyndall and Hill Air Force Bases, respectfully, from March 8-19, 2021.
The dynamic event at Tyndall, WSEP East, welcomed F-16 instructor pilots, to include 16 first time shooters, from Holloman Air Force Base, NM, as well as F-16 student pilots who flew in the sorties as a learning opportunity. Additionally, Navy F/A-18s, and Marine Corps F/A-18s and F-35Bs participated the event to include firing AIM-9 and AIM-120 missiles. The WSEP also conducted the first employment of the F-35B gun pod in aerial gunnery.
F-22s and F-15Cs from the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron and the 433rd Weapons Squadron participated in WSEP West to accomplish operational test and Weapons School objectives. These test objectives included an Extended Time of Flight AIM-120 missile shot fired from an F-15C, among others.
Capt. Bryan Moore, F-16 instructor pilot from the 314th Fighter Squadron explained that more than just the first-hand experience of firing a live missile, WSEP allowed him the opportunity to mission plan and talk with pilots from other platforms, like the F-22 and F-35, as well as other branches.
The 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron developed various profiles, to include high-G “Combat Free” mission sets, against full- and sub-scale drones from the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron to provide scenarios to accomplish the various necessary objectives. In total, the combined units flew 295 sorties, firing 37 missiles and conducting 27 aerial gunnery missions.
At Hill Air Force Base, WSEP West, 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron hosted A-10s, B-52s, and MQ-9s which dropped munitions at the event to train and evaluate air-to-ground weapons employment.
Most notably during WSEP West, F-15E Strike Eagles from 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron dropped the first live Small Diameter Bomb II during the event in an operational test sortie. Aircrew from the 706th Fighter Squadron supported the test sorties as well.
“We dropped six total SDBIIs against both moving and static targets,” said Maj. Derek Anderson, director of operations, 706th Fighter Squadron. “The SDB II performed as expected and on target using the normal mode and net enabled features.”
In all, the Weapons System Evaluation Program continues to be a premier joint event of live fire weapons employment for combat aviators across the United States military.