TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - April 8th marked the kick off of the Weapon System Evaluation Program (WSEP) 2019, a two-week long exercise designed to test and assess weapon systems and pilots in air-to-air combat scenarios in an operation is known as “Combat Archer.”
156 aircraft maintainers, operations specialists, weapons loaders, and pilots from the 142nd Fighter Wing, Portland Air National Guard Base, Ore. participated in the evaluation.
Per U.S. Air Force requirement, pilots must qualify through WSEP every three years. The program offers a unique and highly valuable training experience for those involved.
Lt. Col. Nicholas Rutgers, 123rd Fighter Squadron Commander, appreciates the challenges WSEP presents for the pilots.
“In and of itself, WSEP is a challenging program,” says Lt. Col. Rutgers. “There’s a lot of stress. The program is specifically designed to create the most realistic and stressful combat representative environment as possible.”
The high-stakes nature of this program ensures pilots get the most out of the experience by learning how to perform efficiently and effectively under pressure.
In addition to putting pilots to the test, WSEP allows the people on the ground to have a hand in how the mission is carried out, attributing directly to mission success or failure.
Aircraft maintainers and weapons loaders alike play important roles in ensuring the safety and functionality of the F-15 Eagles.
Weapons loaders in particular stand to benefit from the from the real-world experience the evaluation has to offer.
Chief Master Sgt. Shawn Harbert, non-commissioned officer in charge of 142nd FW participants, sees the program as an opportunity for weapons loaders to be evaluated and have their abilities and performance tested.
“It gives them a chance to really flex their technical muscles in fully functioning within the role and what they would do in a real world situation,” says CMSgt. Harbert.
Typically, our weapons loaders practice their skills with training missiles, but WSEP offers Guardsmen in this career field the chance to perform their duties with “lives” or live missiles.
Both weapons loaders and maintainers alike get to see the results of their labor when the F-15s leave the ground and pilots are able to complete their missions safely and with full functionality of the aircraft and the weapon system.
2019’s WSEP came at a challenging time for Tyndall AFB and the surrounding area. Having endured Hurricane Michael only six months earlier, sections of the base were still in a state of disrepair. In spite of the irregular working conditions this presented, 142nd FW Guardsmen worked diligently to carry WSEP through to its successful completion.