Celebrating 65 years: USAF Aircraft Gunnery School evolves into USAFWS
By Airman 1st Class Jake Carter, 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 15, 2014
NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- The United States Air Force Weapons School celebrates the 65th anniversary of their ongoing mission here May 15.
Beginning in the late 1940s, the USAF Aircraft Gunnery School performed fighter gunnery training for more than 3,000 enlisted cadets and pilot officers. Pilots attending the school had to have 300 hours in combat-type aircraft. The first class included both enlisted cadets and pilot officers. The cadet program was a continuation of the Army Air Forces policy that ended in the early years of the Air Force.
The 3595th Flying Training Wing conducted the first AF Fighter Gunnery Meet May 2, 1949. The school invited all tactical fighter units within the continental United States and within Air Training Command.
USAF Aircraft Gunnery School, a forerunner of today's USAFWS, opened its doors on May 15, 1949. The USAFWS itself activated as the USAF Fighter Weapons School in 1965, inactivated in 1966, and activated once again in 1981 as the USAF Weapons School, a designation it carries to the present day. Smaller units, known as named activities, performed the mission during the periods of inactivation.
Assigned aircraft changed over the years in concert with Air Force inventories and technological advancements.
In the early 1970s, the 64th and 65th Aggressor Squadrons, flying T-38s and F-5s were established as a part of the school to improve air-to-air skills by providing accurate threat replication for dissimilar air combat training.
With the standup of Air Combat Command in 1992, the school entered a dramatic shift from its 43-year focus on almost exclusively fighter aviation. At that time, the "fighter" was dropped from its title and became the 'United States Air Force Weapons School,' bringing in bomber, helicopter, electronic combat and space Weapons Instructor Courses over the next several years,
The mission of the USAFWS is to train tactical experts and leaders of Airmen, skilled in the art and science of integrated battle space dominance across all war fighting domains.
"Today the Air Force weapons school boasts 18 squadrons at eight geographic locations, 24 WICs and three advanced enlisted courses in its arsenal. The school sends over 100 new graduates out to the field every six months with the mission to take what they've learned and prepare their units for combat operations," said Col. Adrian Spain, USAFWS commandant. "As a school, they holistically ensure the readiness of the entire force by updating new graduates with the latest education in tactics, techniques and procedures for their primary weapons systems and integrated war fighting."
With the latest sequestration, the USAFWS has seen some of the largest numbers of students in the school's history.
"The weapons school is currently executing class 14A, the largest in recent history with 155 students accepted, and is coming off a virtually unprecedented shutdown in the fall of 2013 due to sequestration," Spain said. "It is three months into a revamped syllabus that maintained the quality the Air Force has come to expect of its graduates at a significantly reduced cost."
The 65-year tradition of excellence associated with the mission performed by the USAFWS continues as today's graduates help to transform and inspire our nation's combat capabilities and the next generation of Airmen.
"The difference on tomorrow's battlefield will be determined by our ability to effectively integrate war fighting capabilities in Air, Space [and] Cyberspace with our Joint and Coalition partners," Spain said. "It's the graduates of the Air Force weapons school that are best armed with an education and experience that allows them to teach those hard lessons to our front line units to ensure readiness across the force."