JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --
For many units across the Air Force, the COVID-19 pandemic has created an obstacle to maintaining a high level of mission readiness. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, the 1st Fighter Wing has maintained a lethal, ready force, enabling support of Air Force mission priorities around the world.
On Sept. 18, 2020, U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors assigned to the 1 FW’s 27th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, trained with F-15 Eagle aircraft assigned to the 4th Fighter Wing from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. This training was part of the Weapons System Evaluation Program East, which took place at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.
“Our Airmen have risen to the challenge to maintain mission readiness despite the challenges of COVID-19,” said U.S. Air Force Col. David Lopez, 1 FW commander. “Their efforts enable the 1 FW to continue providing air dominance.”
WSEP East is an annual exercise which tests maintenance crews, pilots, and weapons Airmen, evaluating the reliability, maintainability, suitability, and accuracy of weapons systems.
Commanders evaluate the effectiveness of the weapons systems used by various fighter wings and provide critical feedback to improve training.
“Being able to do what we are trained to and actually fire missiles is something we don’t get to do every day,” said Capt. Kate Archer, 27 FS assistant project officer. “This has been a dynamic job and helps us really figure things out on our feet.”
All crews were evaluated on speed, accuracy, and precision while still maintaining proper safety procedures. More specifically, maintenance personnel were inspected on proper loading of munitions, while the aircrew members were charged with flying to a test range, locating targets, shooting, and returning home as proficiently as possible.
“It is our job to deliver F-22 air power world-wide on short notice,” Lopez said. “Participating in WSEP helps maximize our combat readiness so we can respond at a moment’s notice in support of combatant commander taskings around the globe.”
Although WSEP may have looked differently due to COVID-19 procedures, the exercise put aircrews and maintenance personnel of all ranks and skill levels to the test.
To maintain mission capabilities outside training exercises, the 1 FW maintains a consistent ops tempo by conducting daily training sorties, supplemented by an Adversary Air Squadron, to meet Air Force airpower requirements despite COVID-19 restrictions.