Munitions put to test by Combat Hammer

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Beth Woodward
  • 388th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Those around Hill Air Force Base may have noticed an increased number of sorties and a diverse group of aircraft flying west to the Utah Test and Training Range recently.

From Aug. 12-23, approximately 250 sorties and six types of aircraft took part in the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadrons' Weapons System Evaluation Program, better known as "Combat Hammer."

Airmen across the country spent months preparing for the program to gauge the effectiveness of weapons systems in combat scenarios. But Combat Hammer studies more than the end result of a bomb hitting target.

"We evaluate the entire kill chain," said Lt. Col. Jeff Zemke, 86th FWS Detachment 1 commander. "From getting the bombs on base, building them in the bomb dump, hanging them on the aircraft, and to analyzing them with cameras during the drop."

"If I was a commander in theater asking for fighters and their weapons arsenal, I would know which weapons have a certain success ratio because of what we've learned at WSEP," said the colonel.

In the months following the program, Airmen will collect and analyze telemetry data from these precision weapons. The results of the deployed bombs' performance will then be utilized by the commander of Air Combat Command and deployed commanders.

Maintainers and pilots are also put to the test during the two-week exercise.

"It's different carrying and employing live munitions," said Capt. Nick Edwards, a pilot with Hill AFB's 421st Fighter Squadron, who participated in Combat Hammer. "I've never shot the AGM-65K Maverick before. Your heart races a bit, but it's great to see the results of our training and how we would deploy the weapon in combat."

The 86th FWS, which is based in Eglin AFB, Fla., established a detachment at Hill AFB in 2002 to conduct larger-scale exercises over the Utah Test and Training Range.

"The UTTR is a national asset. Its airspace is bigger and higher, allowing us to drop a more diverse set of weapons," said Colonel Zemke.

Five test sites on the southern portion of the range were configured for the evaluations.

This year's Combat Hammer saw the first small diameter bomb and MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle deployed as part of the evaluations.

Participating ACC units included F-22 Raptors from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley AFB, Va., F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw AFB, S.C., F-15 Eagles from the 366th Fighter Wing at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, A-10 Warthogs from the 57th Wing at Nellis AFB, Nev., and MQ-9 Reapers from 432nd Wing at Creech AFB, Nev.