144th Fighter Wing Home after Successful Combat Archer

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn
  • 144 th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
More than 100 members of the 144th Fighter Wing along with eight of the Wing's F-16C Fighting Falcon aircraft returned to their home station, California Air National Guard Base in Fresno, today after participating in the Combat Archer exercise Oct. 5-20.

An air-to-air weapons system evaluation program conducted by the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group (WEG), Combat Archer tested the complete air-to-air weapon system capabilities of the F-16C Fighting Falcon and evaluated Airmen on everything from flight operations to maintenance.

"Combat Archer is an extremely valuable exercise that we attempt to participate in every couple of years," said Col. Reed Drake, 144th Operations Group commander. "Combat Archer tests both men and machines; the 144th FW's success during this evaluation was a direct result of everyone working together as one team.

"It takes from the youngest Airman to the most experienced pilot working in concert to ensure success in both training and combat," he added.

Over the course of the two-week exercise, pilots from the Wing's 194th Fighter Squadron shot eight AIM-9M Sidewinder missiles, six AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range, Air-to-Air Missiles and more than 6,000 rounds from a 20 mm multi-barrel cannon.

"Since our air crews rarely get the opportunity to engage in actual air-to-air combat, this is a truly unique opportunity for us," said Lt. Col. Dodd Wamberg, 194th Fighter Squadron commander. "During our standard training flights at home station, we go through all the steps to lock on and fire a missile, except actually firing one, so there is no way to clearly validate whether the shot would have hit the target other than what qualifies as a valid simulation."

The training not only benefited the air crews but the maintainers as well.

"This exercise is a great opportunity for us, as maintainers and weapons load crew personnel, to get real world practice for eventual combat situations," said Maj. Robert Gellner, commander of the 144th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "It also allows our members who haven't loaded live munitions before the chance to get a better understanding of what loading live missiles involves."

Out of 196 individual evaluations, the WEG found no discrepancies, Gellner said.

"We scored 100 percent in live fire tests as well as performing quality and timely maintenance," he said.

Not only did Combat Archer provide air crews with confidence loading and firing live missiles, but it also gave Air Force weapons system managers a forum to verify system performance, capabilities and limitations.

"This was my first time loading live missiles. We would come in at 3 a.m. to accept missiles and get everything loaded and ready for the air crew," said Airman 1st Class David Villarreal, a weapons load crew member with the 144th. "It was a great experience. ... The best part is seeing the rails on the F-16 comeback empty!"

"We train for combat every day, so safety and procedures do not change regardless of inert or live munitions," said Chief Master Sgt. Anne Rice, 144th FW Weapons Manager. "The exercise is extremely valuable because we can identify problems or deficiencies in performance and handling before we are in a serious combat situation."

"It's great for our Airmen to put their skills and training to the test," added Chief Rice, "they have performed exceptionally well!"

In addition to Combat Archer, the Wing took part in Combat Shield, which tested the radar and jamming equipment on the Fighting Falcons to ensure they are within Air Force standards.

"Overall the exercise was a huge success. The 144th FW clearly demonstrated our readiness and capability to provide combat power to the combatant commander on demand," said Col. Clay Garrison, 144th Fighter Wing vice commander. "The men and women of the Wing can be very proud of their performance on this deployment!"