WSEP tests 33rd Fighter Wing ability to send fire from the clouds

  • Published
  • By Chrissy Cuttita
  • Team Eglin Public Affairs
As the Nomad motto forecasts, "fire from the clouds," rained through gulf skies after live ordinance deployed from F-15 Eagles during a recent evaluation.

More than 140 Nomads from the 33rd Fighter Wing tested the lethality of eight combat-coded F-15C aircraft from the 58th Fighter Squadron during a Weapons Systems Evaluation Program Feb. 16-27 at Tyndall.

"The (58th FS) Gorillas and 33rd FW continue to represent the finest in aerial combat and have a proud history to prove it," said Lt. Col. Peter Ford, 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron commander, Tyndall AFB. "We are proud to work with such professionals. Each sortie increased the Air Force's air-to-air lethality in the joint and coalition environment."

According to Capt. Mike Reilly, 58th FS pilot, they tested and evaluated the electronic-counter measures suite which encompasses the entire defense system of the F-15. The captain coordinated all WSEP requirements with maintainers as the project officer for operations during the evaluation.

"WSEP is about ensuring our weapon system, which includes the men and the machine are ready for combat. It's a unique opportunity that cannot be replaced," he said.

Not only were aircraft evaluated, ground crews were tested on how quickly they could get an aircraft airborne with safe and precise weapons loading.

"Although maintainers do not receive an official grade, they are pressed with time constraints of loading aircraft between missions and turning the aircraft for the next scheduled sorties," said Chief Master Sgt. Donald Morris, 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "The goal for the 103 maintainers was to give pilots the most capable aircraft for their mission - shoot down enemy aircraft or in this case Air Force drones."

The Gorillas shot 15 air to air missiles, a mix of AIM-120 and AIM-9, and fired more than 8,500 rounds of 20mm bullets at towed banners during the two week WSEP.

"It was an outstanding experience and extremely valuable training." said Lt. Col. Mark O'Laughlin, 58th FS commander. "Seeing the banner once we landed gives an appreciation for how well the gun works."

The commander was one of the pilots who had the unique opportunity to experience live fire for the first time while other pilots had not had the opportunity in several years. With Marine F-18s and Singapore F-16s temporarily stationed on Tyndall AFB's runway, pilots were also able to gain some experience in dissimilar aircraft training.

Even though the 33rd FW is transitioning from the mighty F-15C Eagle fighter to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter schoolhouse, maintainers and pilots agree WSEP provides training they will use for the rest of their career.

"The WSEP mission will always enhance a maintainer's ability to perform his or her duties no matter where they are stationed throughout the world," Chief Morris said.

"We have a real-world combat-ready stance," Captain Reilly said. "It ain't over 'till it's over."