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Revamped weapon school program takes flight

Two C-17 Globemaster IIIs park on the flightline June 17, 2014, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The C-17s are assigned to the 62nd Airlift Wing, McChord Air Force Base, Wash., and are temporally deployed to Nellis AFB in support of the U.S. Air Forces Weapons School, Joint Forcible Entry. JFE is part of the school’s Advanced integration phase. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Rachel Loftis)

Two C-17 Globemaster IIIs park on the flightline June 17, 2014, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The C-17s are assigned to the 62nd Airlift Wing, McChord Air Force Base, Wash., and are temporally deployed to Nellis AFB in support of the U.S. Air Forces Weapons School, Joint Forcible Entry. JFE is part of the school’s Advanced integration phase. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Rachel Loftis)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) -- The U.S. Air Force Weapons School recently unleashed the next stage of its newly revamped graduate program.

The 5-month program includes a revised integration phase, significant changes to each Weapons Instructor Course syllabus and changes to the Core I and II academic blocks brought on as a result of budget cuts.

"Shortly after the cancelation of USAFWS Class 13B (as a result of sequestration), the weapon school staff was charged with developing a long-term plan that would maintain the integrity of the institution, produce the quality graduate Air Force senior leaders demand, maintain current production levels and reduce costs," said Lt. Col. John Kent, the USAFWS deputy commandant. "To get there, each Weapons Instructor Course had to remove or modify any nice-to-have or exposure events. Through increased simulator usage and a focus on must have skill sets the quality of developing mission design series experts is expected to be maintained."

Despite the modifications the school is fully confident in providing top-notch instructors and tacticians.

"The new program, at its core, continues to produce graduates who are expert instructors, mission area experts and integrated warfare specialists," said Col. Adrian Spain, the USAFWS commandant.

Core I provides the basic academics. Each WIC enters into mission design series-specific phases to build the requisite mission experts.

Additionally, WICs start small-scale integration in specific mission sets to prepare students for the integration phase where more complex missions are completed.

Core I also provides weapons officers the fundamentals on instructional skills such as briefing, debriefing, writing, communication and focused systems academics like low observable, radar, infrared, command and control, GPS, data-links, weapons, remotely-piloted aircraft, cyber and space. Core II academics lead into the robust integration phase.

Core II remains focused on providing integration academics and hands-on mission planning exercises. Integration academics are focused on the mission sets and tactical problems students will face such as offensive-counter air, defensive-counter air, suppression-of-enemy air defenses, electronic warfare, electronic attack, low-observable strike, nuclear, space and cyber.

These blocks of academics are then followed by 10 mission planning exercises representing the advanced integration flying windows, students will execute in the subsequent integration phase.

"The integration phase was completely revamped. It is now completely run and synchronized by the commandant's integration shop,” Spain said. “It was built around a common core of institutional level desired learning objectives."

The phase consists of a three-step building block approach that includes basic, intermediate and advanced integration.

Basic integration focuses on simple mission integration coupled with advanced MDS tactics exposure. Integration varies throughout this phase based on MDS and consists of intelligence preparation of the operational environment, offensive-counter air, aerial interdiction, and the bomber, nuclear enterprise events.

The intermediate integration phase starts to build in complexity via numbers and scenarios. This phase consists of combat search and rescue, deliberate strike night and special operations events.

The special operations phase of the syllabi was originally established because of integration challenges with combat air forces and mobility air forces in Kosovo.

The first two weeks of the integration phase is known as the Special Operations Forces Exercise. SOFEX will be conducted at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. for the first time during class 14A.

The 14th Weapons Squadron students will integrate special operations forces with CAF and MAF platforms, in missions with increasing difficulty.

"Students are well prepared to plan and execute highly complex missions that require the integration of many assets to achieve success," said Lt. Col. Marcel Benoit, the 14th WPS commander. "A core skill that is developed throughout the course is critical thinking; graduates must be able to deconstruct a problem into its component parts and identify the root cause."

By week three of integration phase, the students are well postured to work with their CAF and MAF partners on larger-scale missions.

Advanced integration will start the third and final week; this phase will continue to teach skills and missions that used to be a part of mission employment and includes five large warfighting integration missions consisting of joint forcible entry, dynamic targeting, offensive-counter air, special air operations and defensive-counter air.

"To fight and win in today's battle-space requires a synergistic joint effort, utilizing all capabilities effectively and efficiently to drive successful outcomes," Kent said. "The foundation of that is a platform tactical expert. The weapons school takes the best instructors in every platform and develops them into the unquestioned tactical expert in their respective platform. Our syllabus has evolved to not only produce the tactical expert, but also to produce graduates and leaders trained in the art of integration of our Department of Defense warfighting capabilities to win our nation's wars. The USAFWS is the only DOD school that teaches the most advanced level of integration across all five domains; air, land, sea, space and cyberspace.

"The future for the USAFWS is certainly bright. Graduates are without question still the expert instructors, mission area experts, and trained as an integrated warfighter," Kent continued. "The USAFWS will continue its long history of graduating the world's best instructors and tacticians on June 28th with 127 new weapons officers receiving 'the patch.'"

In the end, the new USAFWS program allows for two classes per year at previous graduate levels to meet weapon school instructor manning, reduce flying hours and budget costs and push to maintain high graduate quality.

"We don't know what the future holds, in fact we're notoriously bad at predicting the next wars,” Spain said. “However, I do know our graduates are the only ones truly immersed and trained at the highest level of today's modern battle-space. Their education and training prepares them to deal with the full spectrum of conflict they could encounter, rapidly assess their options, understand where and how to best integrate with the platforms and capabilities available, implement a plan to ready their squadrons and ultimately to win."

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