Combat Archer provides Nellis’ first operational test for AIM-9X Sidewinder Missile

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Airman assigned to the 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, preform a foreign-object damage walk during Combat Archer 19-12 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Sept. 24, 2019. FOD walks are designed to retrieve trash, rocks or other loose objects that pose a hazard to running aircraft. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

F-15C Eagle, F-15E Strike Eagle and F-22 Raptor fighter jets and pilots assigned to the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron and 433rd Weapons School took to the skies to participate in Combat Archer 19-12, Sept. 16-27 for the first operational testing of the AIM-9X Sidewinder missile.

Combat Archer, which is held at Tyndall AFB, Fla., is the Department of Defense’s largest air-to-air live fire missile employment exercise and a portion of the 53rd Wing’s Weapons System Evaluation Program.

“Historically, WSEP has always been focused on evaluating fielded weapons systems,” said Lt. Col. Vaimana Conner, 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron commander. “However, in order to bring capabilities faster to the warfighter, WSEP has adapted to incorporate operational testing aircraft and weapons.”

Senior Airman Caleb Crook, an aircraft electrical and environmental systems specialist assigned to the 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, assists an aircraft launch during Combat Archer 19-12 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Sept. 24, 2019. The F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet has the capability to fight its way to a target over long ranges, destroy enemy ground positions and fight its way out. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

For Nellis’ aircraft, this exercise was the first employment of the AIM-9X Sidewinder missile, a technologically advanced version of its predecessor, the AIM-9. The new system includes infrared-tracking, air-to-air and air-to-surface capabilities, making it a better fit for fighter aircraft. The 422nd TES aircraft capitalized on the exercise to complete test objectives focused on the compatibility of the F-15C and F-15E aircraft and weapons software programs.

“The purpose of this exercise was to evaluate the full spectrum of air-to-air employment,” said Conner. “It included weapons loading, aircraft generation, weapons integration, aircrew employment and weapons effectiveness, ensuring streamlined efforts across the test and evaluation enterprise.”

Airman 1st Class Bonifacio Garcia, a tactical aircraft maintainer assigned to the 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, prepares an F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet for its flight back to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., at the conclusion of Combat Archer 19-12 at Tyndall AFB, Fla., Sept. 24, 2019. The 757th AMXS participated in Combat Archer to test new software on their aircraft and evaluate their performances. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

F-15C and F-22 weapons officers employed their weapons and fired their guns against an Aerial Gunnery Targeting System towed by an 82d Aerial Targets Squadron QF-16 aircraft.

“Combat Archer is the only opportunity for units to load and employ air-to-air weapons – the test and training range near Tyndall is the only air space that can support this type of large-scale event,” said Conner. “It’s a critical element of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School syllabus. Future weapons officers are able to gain invaluable expertise they can take back to their squadrons.”

The 83rd FWS hosts approximately 38 air-to-air WSEP deployments annually to verify weapons system performance, determine reliability, evaluate capability and limitations, and maintain combat DOD-wide data in order to determine future firing requirements.
 

An F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet assigned to the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., takes off during Combat Archer 19-12 at Tyndall AFB, Fla., Sept. 24, 2019. The F-15E is a dual-role fighter designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

 
An F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet assigned to the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., remains parked on the flightline during Combat Archer 19-12 at Tyndall AFB, Fla., Sept. 24, 2019. Combat Archer is the Department of Defense’s largest air-to-air live fire missile employment exercise. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

 
Three aircraft armament systems technicians assigned to the 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, load an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile onto an F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet during Combat Archer 19-12 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Sept. 24, 2019. The AIM-9X system includes infrared-tracking, air-to-air and air-to-surface capabilities. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

 
Staff Sgt. Samuel Walker, a tactical aircraft maintainer 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (AMXS), prepares to launch out an F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet during Combat Archer 19-12 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Sept. 24, 2019. The 757th AMXS supports flying operations for the U.S. Air Force Weapon School, 64th Aggressor Squadron and Test and Evaluation missions. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

 
Staff Sgt. Troy Everson, an aircraft armament systems technician assigned to the 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, prepares an F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet for takeoff during Combat Archer 19-12 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Sept. 24, 2019. A new software on the F-15E aircraft was evaluated during this iteration of Combat Archer. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)