Military News

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Projecting capability, Alaska F-22s 'drop' in on Combat Hammer, Archer

by 1st Lt. Matthew Chism

1/25/2013 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- During the December Combat Hammer and Archer exercises at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., active duty and Reserve F-22 pilots were able to employ weapons on ground and air targets using the Increment 3.1 upgrade.

Combat Hammer, a weapons system evaluation program sponsored by the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron, and Combat Archer, an air-to-air evaluation run by the 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron, provided the opportunity for the 525th Fighter Squadron and the Reserve 302nd FS to train in a realistic tactical training environment.

Before the Increment 3.1 upgrade pilots relied on outside sources to locate ground targets and provide coordinates before dropping a weapon on the ground. The upgraded Raptor's can use their Synthetic Aperture Radar to map targets on the ground.

"The Increment 3.1 upgrade gives us the ability to self-generate coordinates from our SAR maps, which at this time is unique to Alaskan Raptors," said Capt. Graham Stewart, a pilot and flight commander with the 525th FS. "This upgrade vastly increases our air-to-ground capabilities."

The 12 F-22s from the 525th FS making the flight were supported by more than 160 Airmen from the 3rd Wing and the Reserve 477th Fighter Group. The team employed 15 missiles, 11 small-diameter bombs and eight Joint Direct Attack Munitions during the exercises.

"Combat Hammer and Archer provides a unique opportunity for our pilots," said Lt. Col. Brett Paola, the 302nd Fighter Squadron commander. "The training gave them the opportunity to drop the SDB and shoot missiles in a real world training environment. The ranges around Tyndall Air Force Base are one of the only places that we are able to employ in this fashion."

This training event allowed for Total Force Integration across the F-22 fleet. The 525th Fighter Squadron led a Total Force team from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Pilots from both the 525th and the 302nd Fighter Squadrons and maintainers from the 3rd Maintenance Group and the 477th Fighter Group filled the deployment roster making it a true total force effort from Alaska.

"We needed every person to make the mission happen," Stewart said. "It also increases our squadron's relationships, because we have the opportunity to work together so much more on these temporary duty assignments."

Exercises like this are critical to squadron readiness because it allows the unit to practice actual weapons loading, preflight, and employment. In addition, they validate that the aircraft are ready to employ their new Increment 3.1 capability.

"For many of our pilots it was our first time shooting a missile or dropping a bomb with the new system," Stewart said. "In less than two weeks each pilot had an opportunity to shoot a missile, drop a bomb, and shoot the gun."

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