Combat Archer combines with Checkered Flag

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An F-22 Raptor taxis on the flightline during the Combat Archer 19-8 exercise at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., May 14, 2019. Combat Archer 19-8 allowed leaders to monitor the lifespan of a missile to assess execution performance by maintenance crew members, aircraft armament systems members and aircrew members. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Monica Roybal)

The 325th Fighter Wing concluded Combat Archer 19-8 that was conducted in conjunction with the on-going Checkered Flag 19-1 exercise at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., May 6-17.

The Combat Archer exercise, also known as the Weapons Systems Evaluation Program, is the Department of Defense’s largest air-to-air live-fire evaluation exercise. Squadron leaders monitor the lifespan of a missile to assess execution performance by maintenance crew members, aircraft armament systems members and aircrew members.

“Combat Archer is readiness,” said Lt. Col. Vaimana Conner, 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron commander. “In addition to providing confidence to senior leaders, it also ensures both the operations and maintenance crews are ready to employ in combat in an air-to-air environment.”

Exercise participants from across the Air Force, to include members from the 494th Fighter Squadron, 67th FS and the 94th FS, employed variations of live air-intercept missiles against unmanned aerial targets that were remotely operated by the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron. The aircrew battled against the simulated threats over the Gulf of Mexico.

While Combat Archer 19-8 is an extensive exercise on its own, Tyndall AFB leaders combined the operation with Checkered Flag 19-1 because of their complementary objectives that focus on air-to-air conflict.

Aircraft assigned to the 494th Fighter Squadron, 67th FS and the 94th FS, park on the flightline at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., May 15, 2019. Airmen and aircrew participated in the Combat Archer 19-8 and Checkered Flag 19-2 exercises from May 6-17, 2019. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Monica Roybal)

“There is a lot of synergy with the two exercises, but they are two separate exercises with their own objectives,” Conner explained. “In addition to evaluating the systems during Combat Archer, this was also an opportunity for the squadrons to practice and train for something they can’t do anywhere else.”

According to Conner, more than 40 aircraft and 800 personnel participated in the exercises, making it the largest training operation since Hurricane Michael.

“This exercise is all about readiness,” Conner said. “(The Airmen) were definitely well-prepared, especially in this austere environment currently at Tyndall and the challenges that come with operating in a state of recovery. They were able to outstandingly execute their mission.”

Combat Archer and the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group are geographically separated mission and unit of the 53rd Wing, headquartered at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.