NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. - --
The U.S. Air Force Weapons School serves as the pinnacle for advanced weapons training and tactics employment. The USAFWS accepts only the top weapons officers and enlisted specialist applicants to participate in its graduate-level curriculum, which is capped off by a two-week staged battle known as the Weapons School Integration [WSINT].
Students from the USAFWS class 16-B completed their five-and-a-half month course with the last sortie of WSINT, defensive counter air, taking place over the Nevada Test and Training Range recently.
“DCA, is a vul [vulnerability window] where ‘blue’ air defends against a threat that is attempting to attack targets of value on the surface,” said Maj. Drew Maulsby, 433rd Weapons Squadron chief of adversary integration. “Basically, all of our ‘blue’ forces are dedicated to the defense of critical airborne and surface assets, so we are primarily focused on air-to-air with enemies dropping air-to-surface munitions. Around 40 ‘blue’ air assets face anywhere from 150 to 180 attacking ‘red’ air forces.”
The defense of targets during the DCA vul serves to test the students as they are forced to operate in conjunction with different air frames.
“The biggest thing is that throughout the course, the Weapons School uses the individual building block approach to perfecting their trade,” said Lt. Col. Jason Nalepa, 433rd WPS director of operations. “Then at the end of the course, advanced integration sorties put all of those lessons together. Now, instead of individual weapons schools that execute separately, we execute together for one common goal. Everything that is ‘air breathing,’ as far as airframes go, participate in this vul.”
By combining these schools to accomplish the mission, DCA serves as a showcase of airpower with the multitude of different airframes participating.
“We needed a significant number of adversaries and capabilities throughout to explore options on how to accomplish this vul,” said Nalepa.
Working side-by-side, students from different air frames have to formulate a plan in order to solve the puzzle of DCA.
“Part of the reason that DCA is at the end of advanced integration is because of the difficulty of the problem it presents,” said Nalepa. “It’s nearly an impossible problem where ‘blue’ forces are outnumbered nearly four to one. All of the ‘blue’ aircraft have to identify the problem, the weaknesses, and mission plan as a team to ensure success. DCA serves as a perfect culmination of their weapons school class, because of how all the students have to work together to achieve the same common objective.”
Once this objective is met and the DCA vul is completed, the student moves on to become one of approximately 130 Airmen to complete the 400-hour course that is the USAFWS.