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Massachusetts Air Guard Airmen Test New Air Combat Tactics

  • Published
  • By Jerry Hewitt,
  • 104th Fighter Wing

BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. – Members of the 104th Fighter Wing attended the U.S. Air Force weapons school integration exercise April 6-20 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. The two-week exercise combined multiple squadrons to test new air combat tactics via offensive and defensive counterair measures while using fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft.

Maj. James Hurley, 131st Fighter Squadron weapons officer, stressed the significance of the exercise through the potential for fourth-generation fighter units to provide air combat support to fifth-generation aircraft for future missions.

“We received an invite from the 433rd Weapons Squadron and the 17th Weapons Squadron there for the F-22 Raptor and F-15E Strike Eagle, respectively,” said Hurley. “Our role within the exercise was to integrate with them to focus on advanced-threat defensive counterair the first week and offensive counterair the second week. Overall, our goal here was to provide the sensor, as well as the fourth-generation role in that against fourth and fifth-generation fighter integration.”

Providing fourth-generation fighter F-15 support in the exercise effectively enables the Air Force to practice and analyze the validity of the new air tactics listed in the Air, Land, Sea, and Space application fighter integration doctrine. This also enables the weapons school students at Nellis to learn these new tactics and be able to teach them to their future units when they graduate.

“Helping to be the platform that validates the new tactics, whether it’s operational tests or the weapons school, is great,” said Hurley. “But when you bring in units like us who are going to be the ones to get called on to do it, it’s crucial we have invaluable experience in practicing it.”

By having as many as 25-30 sorties per day, the Air Force can effectively analyze how fourth-generation fighters can provide critical support to fifth-generation fighters through combat and tactics integration.

“While the fifth-generation fighters are certainly capable, they are limited in their gas and missiles,” said Hurley. “If we talk about how fourth-generation can enable that, we have extra missiles, extra sensors that we can use to support them, in so doing making everyone more lethal and survivable than they would be if they were doing so standalone.”

The exercise provided the 104FW with valuable lessons and experience in practicing integrating with the weapons school students and having the ability to sit through their brief, debrief and mission planning. 

“It’s definitely a valuable experience to get to learn the latest tactics they’re coming out with from the weapons school,” said Hurley. “The validation of the new tactics manual and just learning exactly how best to do it with the changes happening daily as we progress and work our way closer to what looks right. Overall, this was the most useful temporary duty assignment I’ve been on, tactically speaking since I’ve been here.”