The 388th Fighter Wing’s 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, recently returned from a weapons evaluation exercise at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., where they employed the GBU-49 for the first time in F-35A Lightning II combat training.
The GBU-49 is a laser and GPS guided bomb that can be used in a variety of conditions against many types of moving or stationary targets.
“It’s a really flexible weapon. It was reliable, accurate, and effective,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Johnston. “Like any new weapon, what we learned, and what we will learn as we continue to train with the GBU-49, will directly impact our tactics and will make the F-35A even more lethal.”
During the weapon’s exercise, Combat Hammer, teams assessed the readiness of Hill’s weapons crews, maintainers, and pilots as they built, loaded and employed the F-35As weapons.
“Combat Hammer validates our tactics, techniques and procedures and builds the confidence in our Airmen that we are ready for our wartime mission,” Johnston said.
While the pilots have been training to employ the GBU-49 in the F-35A flight simulators at Hill AFB, they learned a lot while flying in this Combat Hammer, said Lt. Col. Michael Albrecht, 388th Fighter Wing director of staff.
“In a normal Hammer, you’ve dropped these weapons a hundred times in live training and you’re validating the process,” Albrecht said. “This was our first time with this particular weapon. The pilots communicated well, and every day shared things from sortie to sortie that refined our tactics.”
Local training on the Utah Test and Training Range with live and inert GBU-49s will begin soon.
Hill AFB is slated to be home to three F-35 fighter squadrons with a total of 78 aircraft by the end of 2019. The active duty 388th FW and Air Force Reserve 419th FW will fly and maintain the jets in a Total Force partnership, which capitalizes on the strength of both components.