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F-35s drop GBU-49s at Combat Hammer

A pilot assigned to the 388th Fighter Wing's 34th Fighter Squadron drops a GBU-49 bomb from an F-35A Lightning II Nov. 7. 2018. The 34th FS is the first unit to employ the GBU-49 in combat training. The squadron recently completed a Combat Hammer weapons evaluation exercise at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Pilots say the GBU-49 is effective and accurate and will make the F-35A even more lethal. (Courtesy Photo by 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron)

A pilot assigned to the 388th Fighter Wing's 34th Fighter Squadron drops a GBU-49 bomb from an F-35A Lightning II Nov. 7. 2018. The 34th FS is the first unit to employ the GBU-49 in combat training. The squadron recently completed a Combat Hammer weapons evaluation exercise at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Pilots say the GBU-49 is effective and accurate and will make the F-35A even more lethal. (Courtesy Photo by 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah; -- The 388th Fighter Wing’s 34th Fighter Squadron recently returned from a weapons system evaluation exercise at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, where they employed the GBU-49 for the first time in F-35A combat training.

The GBU-49 is a laser and GPS guided bomb that can be used in a variety of conditions against many types of moving or stationary targets.

“It’s a really flexible weapon. It was reliable, accurate, and effective,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Johnston, 34th Fighter Squadron commander. “Like any new weapon, what we learned, and what we will learn as we continue to train with the GBU-49, will directly impact our tactics and will make the F-35A even more lethal.”

During the exercise, known as Combat Hammer, teams assessed the readiness of Hill’s weapons crews, maintainers, and pilots as they built, loaded, and employed the F-35As weapons.

“Combat Hammer validates our tactics, techniques and procedures and builds the confidence in our Airmen that we are ready for our wartime mission,” said Johnston.

While the pilots have been training to employ the GBU-49 in the F-35A flight simulators at Hill AFB, they learned a lot while flying in this Combat Hammer, said Lt. Col. Michael Albrecht, 388th Fighter Wing director of staff.

“In a normal Hammer, you’ve dropped these weapons a hundred times in live training and you’re validating the process,” Albrecht said. “This was our first time with this particular weapon. The pilots communicated well, and every day shared things from sortie to sortie that refined our tactics.”

Combat Hammer is managed by the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron, part of the 53rd Wing, headquartered at Eglin.