Live missiles showcase pilots', maintainers' skills

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Airmen from the 115th Fighter Wing, Madison, Wisconsin, participated in the Combat Archer exercise conducted at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, May 4-21.

The 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group hosted the two-week exercise designed to showcase air-to-air capabilities.

"This exercise was a special mission since it has been over a decade since our pilots last had the opportunity to fire live missiles, and some have never fired a live missile before," said Lt. Col. Jon Kalberer, 176th Fighter Squadron commander.

There were 10 F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft from the 115 FW that were evaluated, along with maintenance and operations. The 115 FW successfully flew 141 sorties, otherwise known as training flights, totaling 183.7 hours of flight time. The pilots also fired 17 live missiles.

"Firing live missiles is advantageous for the pilots in order for them to gain the experience in case of a real-world scenario," Kalberer said.

Working with live missiles also gave the maintainers a chance to showcase their abilities.

"Our maintainers had the opportunity to load live missiles and ensure their loading and handling procedures were verified," Kalberer said. "Combat Archer tests the entire process from loading to employing live missiles, and we passed with flying colors."

In order to ensure the aircraft were mission capable for the entire exercise, Airmen from the 115 FW maintenance squadron thoroughly checked and examined the aircraft before and after every launch. The maintenance Airmen exceeded the Air National Guard's expectation of 69% by ensuring 89.7% of the deployed aircraft were mission ready.

"I'm extremely proud of our Airmen for their hard work providing mission capable aircraft and for the quality of maintenance they performed which resulted in a perfect rating during the evaluation," said Maj. Jason Crabb, 115 FW aircraft maintenance officer.

The Airmen who attended the exercise were tested on 205 different criteria and passed all of them, sending them home with a perfect score.
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