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Bomb's away
A Canadian Air Force CF-18 releases a Guided Bomb Unit-12 over the Eglin Air Force Base range during an air-to-ground Weapons System Evaluation mission. The 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron conducts the WSEP program at Eglin. The WSEP program is used to evaluate the effectiveness and suitability of combat air force weapon systems. The evaluations are accomplished during tactical deliveries of fighter, bomber and unmanned aerial system precision guided munitions, on realistic targets with air-to-air and surface-to-air defenses. For many of the aircrew participating in WSEP, it is the first time employing live weapons. This provides a level of combat experience many units face during combat. Courtesy photo.
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Canadians hammer Eglin's range

Posted 10/19/2010   Updated 10/19/2010 Email story   Print story


by Chrissy Cuttita
Team Eglin Public Affairs

10/19/2010 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Munitions deployed from Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornets target the start of another fiscal year for Eglin's Combat Hammer personnel.

This Air-to-Ground Weapons System Evaluation Program is something the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron here looks forward to conducting for U.S. military and allied forces annually. Schedules fill up fast for the only unit in the Department of Defense charged with conducting predictive battle damage analysis of precision guided air-to-ground munitions using operational weapons, aircraft, maintenance personnel and aircrews.

"The purpose of Combat Hammer is to evaluate the 'cradle to grave' employment of air-to-surface weapon systems which includes munitions build-up, loading, employment and accuracy of Guided Bomb Unit-10s, GBU-12s, GBU-16s and 20 mm (Laser Guided Bombs and Air-to-Surface Gun) under simulated combat scenarios," said Maj. Scott Charlton, 86th FWS, who serves as the officer in charge for the RCAF. "Furthermore, we look to enhance pilot experience given the unique opportunity to employ 20 mm and LGBs against moving targets."

Seven aircraft and 98 personnel from the 409th Tactical Fighter Squadron "Nighthawks" came to Eglin from their wing in Cold Lake. The Air Element of the Canadian Forces' 4th Wing is their country's largest and busiest fighter wing with two operational CF-18 squadrons, two training squadrons and support units.

"This will be the first time CF-18s employ their 20 mm Gatling guns during a WSEP. Additionally, they will be conducting their A/G strafe runs against a moving target set," said Major Charlton, of this international effort.

As the Canadian's frontline multi-role fighter, the CF-18 is used for air defense, air superiority, tactical support, training, aerobatic demonstration and aerospace testing and evaluation.

"This exercise is being conducted as part of the System Effective Monitoring Program, meant to evaluate how well our aircraft, weapons, sensors and personnel function in a combat environment," said Capt. David Chamberlin of the 409th TFS. "While the 20 mm "M61A1" is not new to us, we are taking advantage of the opportunity to employ it against a moving target on the ground. We are also evaluating our ability to employ laser guided bombs against a moving target."

Eglin's squadron hosts an average of 18 Combat Hammer evaluations annually. Most WSEPs ran by the 86th FWS in the past two fiscal years were conducted at Hill AFB, assessing weapon system performance, reliability, capabilities, and limitations in realistic combat scenarios against representative real-world targets.

The Canadian CF-18 fleet recently completed  two major system upgrade programs, according to the captain.  

"Combat Hammer affords us the opportunity to accurately and precisely measure the end result of those upgrades," he said.  "We will also be able to identify and address any shortcomings prior to engaging in actual combat."

According to the 53rd Wing fact sheet, Combat Hammer identifies weapon system and training deficiencies and provides recommendations for corrective action to military leaders.

"The last time Canadians deployed to and staged out of Eglin AFB was in March 2008," said Major Charlton. "However, the 53d Weapons Evaluation Group has hosted them during Combined WSEPs from Tyndall AFB in April and December 2009. During these events, they were evaluated from both A/A perspective, shooting A/A missiles and the A/G perspective, dropping A/G munitions."

Additionally, the squadron maintains the DoD's comprehensive database on PGM performance and investigates capabilities and limitations of currently fielded PGMs. The 86th FWS evaluates each and every air-to-ground PGM and PGM-capable fighter, bomber and unmanned aerial vehicle type in the combat Air Force.
"The data collection capability of this and other 53rd WEG facilities is something we simply don't have at home," said Captain Chamberlin.

Other weapons assessed during Combat Hammer exercises include: GBU-10, 12, 24, 27, 28, 31, 32, 38, 39, 54; CBU-103 and 105, EGBU-15 and AGM-130, AGM-65, 86, 88, 114, 154 and 158. A/G WSEP provides liaison support for pre-deployment, employment, and re-deployment of Air Combat Command, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Pacific Air Forces, Army National Guardand Reserve forces participating in WSEP and conducts investigative firings of air-to-ground PGMs to address CAF employment issues and support ongoing operational test and evaluation effort.

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