Duke Field, Florida --
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to ISR and 132nd Wing policy regarding the MQ-9, the last names of maintenance, operations and intelligence personnel are removed.)
Airmen from multiple units across the Air National Guard supported and flew MQ-9 Reaper aircraft during Operation Combat Hammer, the first operational air-to-ground weapons evaluation for the ANG to participate in with the MQ-9 Reaper mission set.
ANG Airmen from Texas, New York, Iowa, Ohio, California, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Arkansas and North Dakota supported and flew the MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft.
The Combat Hammer exercise takes place twice each year at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and twice annually at Hill AFB, Utah, and is part of the Weapon System Evaluation Program (WSEP). WSEP has two parts: Combat Hammer evaluates all U.S. Air Force air-to-ground weapons–mostly bombs–while Combat Archer evaluates all the air-to-air weapons–mostly missiles.
“WSEP is an opportunity for the Air National Guard to provide our war fighters with ‘as real as it gets’ combat training outside of the combat zone, said 1st Lieutenant Josh, WSEP Project Officer for the 132nd Wing, Iowa ANG.”
The 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group out of Eglin AFB conducted a maritime Weapons System Evaluation Program in the Gulf of Mexico and in Choctawhatchee Bay, Nov. 1-3 and Nov. 6-8. Within the 53rd WEG, the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron is the lead for Combat Hammer, an annual exercise conducted to evaluate weapons systems.
"As a whole, Combat Hammer has to do that on a much larger scale since we have three to four units here during each WSEP,” said Maj. Marcus, assistant director of operations for WSEP at the 86th FWS. “A lot of hours by a lot of people go into making this happen and it couldn't be done without a whole team effort."
Approximately 30 boats simulated realistic swarm attack formation maneuvers in the Choctawhatchee Bay while military aircraft targeted them from above to practice simulated “real-time kills” and evaluated the precision of guided munitions.
The 96th Range Control Squadron gathered data from the aircraft, weapons, targets, and a multitude of other range sensors. This combined information will provide full situational awareness to the WSEP engineers, allowing them to make real-time decisions on the performance of the various weapons systems.
Participating this year were F-22s from the 94th Fighter Squadron at Langley AFB, F-16s from the 55th Fighter Squadron of Shaw AFB, A-10s from the 75th Fighter Squadron of Moody AFB, and MQ-9s from Air National Guard units as well as the 2nd Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field.
The exercise also marked the first time an MQ-9 Reaper flew across multiple states back to its home unit instead of being shipped back. The 174th Attack Wing in Syracuse, New York, flew its MQ-9 over 1,200 miles from Duke Field, Florida.
Combat Hammer ensures that the employment of weapons work as intended, thus enabling warfighters to accomplish the mission downrange.