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What’s Up at WSEP?

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Zoie Cox
  • 633rd ABW Public Affairs Office

The 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida recently hosted the 1st Fighter Wing’s 27th Fighter Squadron, along with several other squadrons for the Weapons System Evaluation Program-East February16-26, 2021. This exercise provides ground crews and first-time missile shooters with a unique experience to enhance readiness for real-world operations.

WSEP is a formal evaluation of a squadron's ability to conduct air-to-air live fire missions. The program analyzed the total weapon system to include operators, aircraft, and weapons. Beyond evaluation, live-fire air-to-air experience against threat-representative targets boosts confidence and provides critical feedback to the entire team.

“WSEP is an incredible opportunity for our pilots, maintainers and ammo personnel to get real world experience loading and employing live air-to-air weapons, allowing us to validate our processes while gaining valuable experience that simply cannot be replicated in a ‘simulated’ environment,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Zachary Helton, 27th FS A Flight Assistant Flight Commander. “The data gained from each of these shots further benefits the CAF as a whole as we are able to train within the observed capabilities of each missile.”

According to U.S. Air Force Capt. Nathaniel Jewell, 27th Fighter Squadron Assistant Chief of Weapons, WSEP provides the opportunity to participate in Large Force Exercises where members of the 1 FW can train with a wide variety of airframes. This exercise included the F-22 Raptor, F-35C Lightning II, F-15E Strike Eagle, F-18E and F-18F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growler. JBLE Airmen gained valuable experience, training to wartime mission sets and integrating with members of the United States Navy and Marine Corps.

Participation in WSEP did not mean compromising on COVID-19 precautions for the 1 FW. While at Tyndall AFB, members adhered to strict mask-wearing and social distancing protocols. Additionally, the 27th FS Flight Surgeon traveled to WSEP and ran a daily sick call clinic for the Airmen.

By the conclusion of WSEP, the 27th FS employed 6 air-to-air missiles and practiced shooting the F-22’s six-barrel, 20mm Gatling gun, the M61A2 Vulcan at the Advanced Gunnery Target System. This knowledge is invaluable, ensuring the team is ready if called upon.

“Flying and firing live weapons is something that is not accomplished often in training, and it dramatically increases confidence in those systems for real-world operations,” said Jewell.  “As such, being more familiar and thus confident will only help in real world operations. WSEP is a tremendously worthwhile experience for fighter squadrons and I can’t recommend the experience enough as valuable training necessary to accomplish the 1 FW’s mission of delivering F-22 air power worldwide on short notice to support Combatant Commander taskings.”