TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The skies over Tyndall Air Force Base will soon be filled with F-35A Lightning IIs, F-22 Raptors, F-15E Strike Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons, HH-60G Pave Hawks, and command and control aircraft, like the E-3 Sentry, as part of Checkered Flag 17-1 and Combat Archer 17-3, concurrent large-scale total force aerial integration exercises scheduled to run Dec. 5 through 16.
Units will be evaluated on their ability to mobilize, integrate, deploy and employ combat air power assets on a much larger scale than most other exercises, focusing on the tactical integration of three fighter squadrons and select units.
Air Combat Command established the 325th Air Expeditionary Wing for the duration of the exercise, which will operate from Tyndall AFB.
“The nature of air power includes speed, surprise, maneuver and focused firepower. Units from greatly dispersed locations are able to rapidly assemble to form a formidable airpower team,” said Col. Randall W. Cason, 44th Fighter Group and 325th Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “Rapid global mobility begets air and space superiority at a pace and place our adversaries are heavily challenged to adequately defend.”
Air power assets will include units from six Air Combat Command installations: Tyndall AFB; Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina; Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho; Moody Air Force Base, Georgia; Eglin Air Force Base Florida; and Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The Florida and Louisiana Air National Guards will also provide air assets during the exercise.
The units will integrate to form a large scale total force integration element and provide the 325th AEW with the ability to execute rapid global mobility, precision engagement, and air and space superiority in a training environment -- three core competencies of the U.S. Air Force.
As a force provider, ACC provides organization, training and equipment to maintain combat-ready forces for rapid deployment and employment to ensure strategic air defense forces are ready to meet the challenges of peacetime air sovereignty and wartime air defense.
“Checkered Flag is an outstanding opportunity for combat units to familiarize and synchronize in order to become even more effective in their combat missions,” Cason said. “In short, it builds a better combat team.”
The combination of Checkered Flag 17-1 and Combat Archer 17-3, the designated name for the U.S. Air Force’s air-to-air Weapons System Evaluation Program under the 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron, will save resources and provide a unique training battlefield for more than 50 aircraft and support Airmen from different ACC units.
The primary objective of a typical Combat Archer is to prepare and evaluate operational fighter squadrons’ readiness for executing combat air-to-air operations.
“Our primary purpose is to provide experience for the pilots and aircrew to deploy and employ live weapons from their aircraft versus simulated munitions,” said Lt. Col Jeffrey Rivers, 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron commander. “In addition to ordinance, we also train with aerial gunnery to provide the pilots with real world experience on how those munitions interact with the aircraft.”
The 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron hosts 12 to 14 Combat Archer evaluation periods annually, and the training period typically lasts two weeks. The program evaluates over 200 fighter aircraft and 4,000 Airmen each year, and employs more than 300 air-to-air missiles.
The evaluation is all-inclusive, covering everything from the aircraft itself to aircrew and support equipment to technical and maintenance related activities.
“Practicing integration of airborne assets is absolutely key, you have to be able to function together as a team,” Cason said. “We’re bringing the entire air power team together to ensure everyone is working from the same playbook to accomplish the mission.”