Air National Guard strikes hard in first ‘Combat Hammer’ exercise

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Robert Shepherd
  • 132nd Wing Public Affairs


(EDITOR’S NOTE:  Due to ISR and 132nd Wing policy regarding the MQ-9, the last names of maintenance, operations and intelligence personnel are removed.)


DUKE FIELD, Fla. – Airmen from multiple Air National Guard units of Texas, New York, Iowa, Ohio, California, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and North Dakota supported and flew MQ-9 Reaper aircraft during Operation Combat Hammer, the first operational air-to-ground weapons evaluation for the Air National Guard to be a part of as the sole MQ-9 Reaper mission set.

The Combat Hammer exercise takes place twice each year at Eglin AFB, Florida and twice annually at Hill AFB, Utah, and is part of the Weapon System Evaluation Program (WSEP). WSEP has two parts: Combat Hammer evaluates all U.S. Air Force air-to-ground weapons, mostly bombs, while Combat Archer evaluates all the air-to-air weapons, mostly missiles.

“WSEP is an opportunity for the Air National Guard to provide our war fighters with ‘as real as it gets’ combat training outside of the combat zone, said 1st Lieutenant Josh, WSEP Project Officer for 132nd Wing, Des Moines Iowa.”

The 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group out of Eglin, Air Force Base conducted a maritime Weapons System Evaluation Program in the Gulf of Mexico and in Choctawhatchee Bay, Nov. 1-3 and Nov. 6-8. Within the 53rd WEG, the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron is the lead for Combat Hammer, an annual exercise conducted to evaluate weapons systems.

"As a whole, Combat Hammer has to do that on a much larger scale since we have three to four units here each WSEP...A lot of hours by a lot of people goes into making this happen and it couldn't be done without a whole team effort," Maj. Marcus said, Assistant Director of Operations for WSEP at the 86th FWS, Eglin AFB, Florida.

Participating this year were F-22’s from the 94th Fighter Squadron of Langley, AFB, F-16’s from the 55th Fighter Squadron of Shaw AFB, A-10’s from the 75th Fighter Squadron of Moody AFB, and MQ-9’s from multiple Air National Guard units of Texas, New York, Iowa, Ohio, California, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and North Dakota and the 2nd Special Operations Squadron of Hurlburt Field.

Approximately 30 boats simulated realistic swarm attack formation maneuvers in the Choctawhatchee Bay while military aircraft target them from above to practice simulated “real time kills” and evaluate the precision of guided munitions.

The 96th Range Control Squadron gathered data from the aircraft, weapons, targets, and a multitude of other range sensors. This combined information will provide full situational awareness to the WSEP engineers, allowing them to make real-time decisions on the performance of the various weapons systems.

The exercise also marked the first time an MQ-9 Reaper across multiple states back to its home unit instead of being shipped back. The 171st Attack Wing in Syracuse, New York flew its MQ-9 over 1,200 miles from Duke Field, Florida.

Combat Hammer ensures that the employment of weapons work as intended, thus enabling the warfighter to accomplish the mission downrange