Unifying the WSEP, CF 16-1 training efforts

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — When several military organizations come together to accomplish a common goal, it not only validates their commitment to the mission, but it strengthens the morale of its members.

Nowhere was this more evident than in this year’s combined Checkered Flag 16-1 and Combat Archer exercise.

The 83rd Fighter Weapon Squadron came together with the 325th Fighter Wing for the second time to host the Air Combat Command’s Checkered Flag 16-1 exercise. Checkered Flag is a large-force exercise that gives several legacy and fifth-generation aircraft the chance to practice combat training together in simulated employment from a deployed environment.

Every year, the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group’s 83rd FWS hosts 12 Weapon System Evaluation Programs, known as Combat Archer, a platform that evaluates the air-to-air weapon system capability of combat aircraft.

“The data gathered from the Combat Archer evaluation is used to make strategic decisions on air-to-air weapons by senior U.S. Air Force leaders and combatant commanders,” said Col. Scott Ward, 53rd WEG commander. “Part of the (53rd) WEG’s mission is to evaluate air-to-air weapons, so these evaluations are vital to accomplishing that mission.”

The 325th FW and 83rd FWS hosted Checkered Flag units, and together they provided all of the required support for the visiting squadrons, including office, maintenance, equipment, airspace, scenario development and weapons support accommodations, said Ward.

Integrating both these exercises has provided supporting units with increased resources and saved the Air Force money.

“When you take a look at the amount of assets we’re bringing in for the WSEP it makes sense to integrate more assets together and garner some costs savings,” said Col. Joseph Kunkel, 325th FW vice commander.

Once Checkered Flag is finished, the lessons learned will be highlighted to Air Combat Command staff.

“From what I’ve seen, it went very well,” Ward said. “The various units got the opportunity to train together in an exercise that’s larger than the unit-level training they would usually get at home-station.”

“Training like this is the foundation for everything the Air Force does, and it is vital to every mission,” Kunkel said. “The Air Force is always looking for ways to save taxpayer dollars and with combining Checkered Flag and the WSEP they did just that. Not only is this going to improve our force, but it is also going to make our Airmen better.”

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