Military News

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Hammer Time, RPA, maintenance crews test skills in Combat Hammer exercise

by Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen
432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

8/10/2015 - CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nevada  -- Airmen from four squadrons within the 432nd Wing and 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing participated in the annual Air-Ground Weapon Systems Evaluation Program, also known as Combat Hammer exercise, at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, Aug. 3-7.

The exercise tested the maintenance crews, pilots, sensor operators, and intelligence Airmen on operationally assessments evaluating the reliability, maintainability, suitability, and accuracy of remotely piloted aircraft munitions.

"Combat Hammer is an air-to-ground weapons system evaluation program that spans over four days and tests the entire phase of employing a weapon," said. Capt. Ron, 432nd Operations Support Squadron, wing weapons plans officer. "This includes everything from building and loading a weapon, maintenance that generates the aircraft, getting the aircrew in the seat and ultimately employing the weapon."

Ron went on to say exercises like this allow crews to generate combat efficiencies, learn what they could do better, and learn how to be more effective in a safe manner.

All of the crews were evaluated on speed, accuracy, and precision while still maintaining proper safety procedures. More specifically, maintenance personnel were inspected on proper loading of munitions, while the aircrew members were charged with flying to the Utah Test and Training Range, locating targets, striking, and returning home as proficiently as possible.

"They had to transit to the airspace, employ the weapons, and exit the airspace," Ron said. "Half of the targets were stationary and the others were moving.
The mission put aircrews of all ranks and skill levels to the test, for some it was their first time employing an AGM-114 Hellfire missile or GBU-12 Paveway II laser guided bombs."

"We had five first time GBU-12 and three first time Hellfire shooters," said Capt. Marcus Kollross, 86th Fighter Wing Squadron, RPA WSEP lead evaluator. "Being able to employ in training or an exercise before shooting in combat not only builds confidence in the individual, but also teaches the crew realistic expectations prior to their first combat engagement. No other major weapon system goes into combat without having the opportunity to employ first."

The crews from Creech AFB were joined by 432nd AEW crews at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, during the week-long exercise via remote split operations (RSO).

"The RSO capability allows us to split operations from other bases across time zones," Ron said. "We were able to preserve Ellsworth's capability to continue combat without having to send their people here for the exercise. They were able to dial in to the aircraft and fly the exercise from their home station."

This year's exercise marks the fifth anniversary of RPA's participating in WSEP.

"Overall everyone did a great job, they were well prepared and had positive attitudes," Kollross said. "There was a lot of learning, but being able to learn in this type of environment allows the crews to gain confidence to be able to execute a mission they've never done before."

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