The 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group hosted both Weapons System Evaluation Program East and West from Nov. 2-13. The evaluations included more than 86 aircraft participating at two installations, Tyndall Air Force Base and Hill AFB, Utah, in live-fire air-to-air and air-to-ground evaluations.
At Hill AFB, the WSEP West was especially unique for two reasons: more than half the evaluation took place at night, and for the first time in recent history, the participation of AC-130 gunships from Air Force Special Operations Command.
“Through having units from AFSOC participate, we are able to collect more data and give our Airmen a different feel and perspective of their job,” said Staff Sgt. Trisha Himes, 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron weapons systems evaluator. “It’s really unique to have a gunship involved and see how they operate.”
Himes’ job is to evaluate and analyze the weapons-load process during WSEP West, ensuring safety and accuracy. She also explained how unique it is for weapons and ammo troops to integrate as closely together as they do for WSEP, and that experience provides greater understanding for the entire evaluation.
“It’s really important for us to do our jobs well, because it impacts people going down range,” Himes said. “For them to get this experience stateside and under evaluation ensures they can do their job effectively while deployed.”
In addition to the AC-130s, participants in WSEP West included F-35A Lightning IIs from Hill AFB; F-16 Fighting Falcons from Shaw AFB, South Carolina; and B-2 Spirits from Whiteman AFB, Missouri. Altogether, these platforms released various weapons, such as the GBU-31, GBU-39, AGR-20, AGM- 88, AGM-114 and AGM-167.
Meanwhile, at Tyndall AFB, alongside exercise Checkered Flag 21-1, the 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadrons managed the employment of more than 50 missiles in nearly 400 sorties during WSEP East.
“It’s always a great opportunity to run a WSEP at the same time as Checkered Flag,” said Lt. Col. Orion Vail, 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron commander. “The execution of the two events enables unparalleled joint warfighter training, air-to-air weapons employment for first-time shooters and valuable weapons data for emerging joint platforms.”
WSEP East included F-35s from Hill AFB, F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, F-15C Eagles from the California Air National Guard, F-15E Strike Eagles from Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, and F/A-18Es from Naval Air Station Lemoore, California.
These WSEPs were supported by the other essential squadrons in the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group – the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, the 53rd Test Support Squadron and the 81st Air Control Squadron, who provided for both WSEP East and Checkered Flag. Together, the 53rd WEG worked within COVID-19 restrictions to ensure a safe and beneficial WSEP for Airmen across the Air Force, as well as sailors from U.S. Navy joint partners, at both Hill AFB and Tyndall AFB.