Misawa Air Base Airmen with the 13th Fighter Squadron pose for a photo at joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, June 18, 2018. The 13th Fighter Squadron and AMXS participated in Combat Hammer, which is a part of the Air Force's weapons system evaluation program. Combat Hammer gave pilots and maintainers an oppertunity to train with live munitions, they don't usually get to handle. (Photo by Senior Airman Brittany A. Chase)
A 13th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, taxis in a F-16 Fighting Falcon at joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, June 18, 2018. The 13th Fighter Squadron and AMXS participated in Combat Hammer, which is a part of the Air Force's weapons system evaluation program. Combat Hammer gave pilots and maintainers an oppertunity to train with live munitions, they don't usually get to handle (Photo by Senior Airman Brittany A. Chase)
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- The 13th Fighter Squadron participated in Combat Hammer at JBPH-H, an evaluation exercise, which is part of the Air Force’s weapons system evaluation program from June 11-15.
“Combat Hammer is where we evaluate cradle-to-grave precision guided munitions,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Shannon Beers, 86th Fighter Squadron Exercise Combat Hammer F-16 lead evaluator. “By this, we mean from storage, to maintenance putting them on aircraft, to how the aircrew employs them.”
Combat Hammer is one phase of WSEP, which encompasses a week-long evaluation of munition crews, maintenance, pilots and aircraft.
“This evaluation gives us the number of probabilities of target hits with these munitions,” continued Beers. “If something doesn’t work, we then evaluate the cause, and it will be determined whether it was the aircrew, munition or aircraft.”
The information gathered during WSEP gives the Commander of Air Combat Command an idea of how the units are doing. He will also see how the PGMs are doing and whether they are performing as advertised. If they’re not working, the Combat Hammer team can further investigate to understand why it isn’t working the way it should.
Misawa Air Base’s F-16 Fighting Falcons deployed GBU-12s and GBU-39s during the exercise. This is a valuable opportunity since this doesn’t occur in most pilots’ careers due to the limited ranges that can support the employment of the precision guided munitions.
“This exercise is significant because you can go a whole career without dropping these specific weapons,” said Maj. Jason Markzon, 13th FS assistant director of operations and WSEP detachment commander. “I have been in the Air Force for 10 years and have never dropped the GBU-39, so getting the newer pilots the opportunity to employ it early on in their career is essential.”
During WSEP, pilots get a better understanding of how to best employ their weapons systems and properly train with them in case of a real-world contingency.
The Combat Hammer team evaluates mission-ready or mission-capable pilots. Although the precision guided munitions are an essential part of the exercise, it’s also important to review how the aircrew employs the PGMs.
“Aircrew training is a definite part of what Combat Hammer is,” Beers said. “When you are in day-to-day training, all you do is simulate weapons. When you simulate weapons, there is no feedback; there’s no weapons dropping from the aircraft. Simulated weapons don’t have malfunctions like their real-world counterparts. This exercise allowed them to get weapons on targets and they did great. That was a win for the 13th.”
Soju visited here to observe Combat Hammer and meet with the 13th FS Airmen. He was impressed by the effort Airmen put forth to ensure all aircraft were mission-ready, despite obstacles.
“Misawa has done a lot of the leg work to get here to participate and execute Combat Hammer, but you also have the Combat Hammer folks who are providing a lot of support, different logistics and equipment,” said Markzon. “This has really been about give and take and working together to get the opportunity to execute this evaluation.”
During their tenure at JBPH-H, the 13th FS flew a total of 48 sorties, totaling 116 hours. Throughout the week-long Combat Hammer phase of the exercise, they flew 11 sorties totaling 34.9 hours and employed 10 GBU-12s and nine GBU-39s.
“Combat Hammer is an awesome opportunity we don’t get but every three to four years, if we are lucky,” Markzon said. “Coming out here really gave us the opportunity to do something new and beneficial that we wouldn't get to do otherwise at home. We can bring back what we learned and use these tools for future engagements.”