HomeNewsArticle Display

F-22 pilots fire live missiles at Combat Archer

325th Fighter Wing

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., travels down the flightline at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., July 11, 2018. The Raptors were a part of Checkered Flag 18-2, a large-scale aerial exercise designed to integrate fourth and fifth-generation airframes to enhance the capabilities of Airmen while providing training to rapidly respond to current, real-world conflicts and preparing for the future of air superiority. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sergio A. Gamboa/Released)

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. (AFNS) -- More than 200 pilots, maintainers and operations support staff from the 1st Fighter Wing are gaining firsthand experience in loading and firing live missiles at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, from July 6-20, 2018.

During these two weeks, the 1st FW from Joint Base Langley Eustis participated in Combat Archer as part of the Weapons System Evaluation Program, in conjunction with Checkered Flag 18-2. The goal of these combined exercises is to train and evaluate the F-22 Raptor and other weapons systems under simulated combat environments, to include firing live missiles against remotely piloted targets. While many units and military aircraft come together for major exercises a few times a year, Combat Archer is unique because it’s one of the few opportunities pilots have to fire live missiles in training.

“Outside of combat missions and operational or developmental test flights, the 1st FW doesn’t train with live missiles,” said Capt. Robert Pupilis, 1st FW project officer for Combat Archer/Checkered Flag 18-2. “It’s an opportunity that is not taken for granted, and for some pilots, this exercise is the first time they have ever fired a live missile. “

Pupilis said, the experience of firing a live missile is difficult to explain.

“You prepare yourself, study your shot profile and every possible thing that could go wrong,” Pupilis said. “When flying (in position to take the shot), you are soda straw-focused, and you tend to experience temporal distortion. When you hit the button (that fires the missile), it takes only a few moments for the missile to leave the jet and launch in a smoke trail across your nose. For my first shot, those few seconds seemed like 100, but once you catch up to reality, the feeling of awe is hard to forget.”

According to a welcome letter from the host unit, the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group, Combat Archer is not just a training event; it is a formal evaluation of the total weapon system, man, machine, and missile and a squadron's ability to conduct air-to-air missions. It is a rare opportunity for squadrons to load live weapons and shoot them at threat-realistic targets. The goal is to maximize live-fire experience throughout the combat Air Force, so priority is given to first-time shooters.

This training and live-fire experience is critical to Raptor pilots, as air superiority is the primary mission for the F-22. In addition to the experience pilots and maintainers gain from loading and launching live missiles during Combat Archer, Checkered Flag provides the opportunity to work alongside multiple weapons systems and services.

“In one fight, more than 50 aircraft may participate from multiple services, including fourth and fifth generation fighter jets, bomber platforms, refueling aircraft, and command and control aircraft,” Pupilis said. “At Langley, typical training consists of only F-22s and T-38 Talons. Being able to integrate with the other fighters on the same side of the fight, and fight against different platforms on the enemy side provides great training for all involved.”

In total, the JB Langley-Eustis’s F-22s and T-38s were scheduled to fly 300 sorties. The F-22 shot 20 missiles: five AIM-120 medium range missiles and 15 AIM-9 heat seeking missiles.

According to Pupilis, a lot of work and planning goes into launching that many jets and firing 20 missiles, but Combat Archer provides unparalleled live-fire experience for the pilots and maintainers of the 1st FW, as the F-22 Raptor continues to be the most dominant air superiority fighter in the world.


Facebook Twitter
RT @AirMobilityCmd: The four fans of freedom are blowing strong as a U.S Air Force C-130J Hercules from Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansa…
RT @ActingSecAF: Kudos to @AirForceAssoc on #ASC19 👏🏻 What a wonderful professional opportunity for #Airmen & industry to expand our compe…
.@ACC_Commander designates the 16th Air Force as a new information warfare numbered #AirForce at #ASC19. As… https://t.co/LMiMJ3rWNO
RT @AstroHague: Thank you to the Airmen across the globe who make the human exploration of space possible. Wishing the @usairforce a happy…
RT @Hanscom_AFB: “The @usairforce is leading the charge across @DeptofDefense. No one else in #government has as much ... of this software…
RT @PACAF: Commanders from Australia, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Philippines, Thailand and the U.S. met for the 2019 Logistics and Safet…
To all those who helped establish the long blue line past, present and future, we honor you and we remember with th… https://t.co/teymF7proy
#ASC19: "We’re all in this together trying to make your service to country the best experience on the planet. We w… https://t.co/rdbCDBJr2c
#VCSAF Gen. Stephen Wilson speaks on what makes the #AirForce unique. #ASC19 https://t.co/gStwUZoaQC
RT @AFSpace: @AstroHague takes #aimhigh to the extreme by celebrating the @usairforce's birthday from the @Space_Station! #FrontiersofBlue
RT @VP: Happy 72nd birthday to the @usairforce! On behalf of a grateful nation, thank you to the amazing men and women of the Air Force for…
#ASC19: There's a challenge to maintain warfighting capabilities until new bombers and missiles arrive. Hear more f… https://t.co/SWB3VjNod8
#ASC19: Want to know which three acquisition trends #AirForce acquisition experts believe should "go viral?" Click… https://t.co/hsiH3oQXOX
RT @NSAGov: Happy Birthday to the @usairforce! For 72 years you've taught us to aim high. We look forward to continuing to fly, fight, and…
RT @AFGlobalStrike: The Air Force is celebrating 72 years of service, so here is 72 seconds of Global Strike Command! #USAFBday #ThisIs72 h…
Moments like this one between @GenDaveGoldfein and retired Col. Charles McGee remind us of where we've been as we f… https://t.co/LlhJhfdHQb
ICYMI: @ActingSecAF Matthew Donovan announced Sept. 16 at #ASC19 that the B-21 Raider is being produced in Northrop… https://t.co/XTsOnLwrTw
ICYMI: @ActingSecAF Matthew P. Donovan announced on Sept. 16 at #ASC19 that the Air Force’s all-new advanced traine… https://t.co/9MULuV7vFN
RT @USNavy: To be young again... #HappyBirthday, @usairforce! Congrats on 72 years playing a key role in the National Defense Strategy. He…