Commentary

February 14, 2014

Weapons school program back up, running

Col. Adrian Spain
USAF Weapons School

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — USAF Weapons School Class 13B was cancelled as a result of sequestration and marked a significant event in the history of the weapons school.

The school was at a cross-road. The fiscal realities of the future meant difficult choices about the future of the school had to be made.

Initial proposals from higher headquarter staff included one class per year or two four-month classes per year.

U.S. Air Force leadership quickly realized neither of these options would serve the long-term expectations of our warfighting commanders. Thus, I charged my staff to develop a plan that would produce the quality USAFWS graduate demanded by the Air Force’s senior leaders, maintain production levels and reduce costs.

Lt. Col. Richard Piazza, USAFWS deputy commandant, and the commandant’s integration shop led this effort. The end product approved by Air Combat Command was a revamped five-month program starting with class 14A, which kicked off Feb. 3.

The new program “broke a lot of glass” and isn’t simply the old five and a half month weapon’s school syllabus with the Mission Employment Phase chopped off. The new program includes significant changes to each weapons instructor course syllabi, changes to the Core I and Core II academic blocks, and a revised integration phase.
The new program, at its core, continues to produce graduates who are expert instructors, mission area experts and integrated warfare specialists.

Core I provides the basic academics. Then, each WIC enters into mission design series-specific phases to build the requisite mission experts. Additionally, WICs start small-scale integration in specific mission sets to prepare students for the integration phase where actual mission are completed. Core II academics lead into the robust integration phase.

Core I also provides weapons officer fundamentals focused on instructional skills such as briefing, debriefing, writing, communication and focused systems academics low observable, Radar, infrared, command and control, GPS, data-links, weapons, remotely piloted aircraft, cyber and space.

The mission design series expert block of phases concentrates on “must have” MDS skills.

To manage resources, such as flight hours and budgets, the new syllabi meant sorties had to be cut; however, through increased simulator usage, focus on “must have skills” and primary mission sets, the quality of the “Patch is maintained.” The pre-integration phase maximizes small integration opportunities earlier in the syllabus based on mission sets and blends basic asset integration into MDS expertise mission sets.

Some examples include A-10 Thunderbolt II, airborne forward air controller, F-16 Fighting Falcon, with joint tactics … a very likely and common integration in combat; F-15C Eagle and F-22 Raptor Integration–integrated execution the way they will fight … not alone but integrated; and F-16 suppression of enemy air defense conducting force protection for F-15E Strike Eagle.

Core II remains focused on providing integration academics and hand’s on mission planning exercises. Integration academics are focused on mission sets at the core warfighter level are offensive counter air, defensive counter air, suppression of enemy defenses, electronic warfare, electronic attack, situational awareness, low observable, nuclear, space and cyber.

These blocks of academics are then followed by 10 mission planning exercises representing the advanced integration vuls, or flying windows, students will execute in the subsequent integration phase.

The integration phase was completely revamped. It is now completely run and synchronized by commandant’s integration shop, and it was built around a common core of “institutional level” desired learning objectives.

MDS specific distributed learning objective are imbedded throughout this phase, but the institutional level “integration distributed learning objectives” have supremacy and drive the overall phase and execution priorities. The phase consists of a three step building block approach including basic integration, intermediate integration and advanced integration.

In the end, the new USAFWS program continues to produce the quality graduate demanded by Air Force senior leadership, maintains production levels and reduces overall costs. Specifically, the new weapons school program allows for two classes per year at previous graduate levels to meet weapon school instructor manning, reduces flying hour and budget costs, and maintains high, and expected, graduate quality. Each graduate remains an expert instructor, is a mission area expert and is trained as an integrated warfighter.

The USAFWS will continue its long history of graduating the world’s best instructors and tacticians with the 140 students of Class 14A.




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