Eielson AFB F-35s take part in air-to-air weapons evaluation

The 356th Fighter Squadron (FS) made history as the first Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II squadron in the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) to take part in an air-to-air weapons evaluation.

Nicknamed the “The Green Demons” 356th FS of the 354th Fighter Wing stationed at Eilson Air Force Base, Alaska took part in the weapons evaluation at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida on October 8-23. 

Eilson AFB F-35
F-35A Lightning IIs assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, taxi in preparation for takeoff at Tyndall AFB, Fla. USAF/ Airman 1st Class Tiffany Price

The successful completion of the weapons system evaluation programme (WSEP) dubbed ‘East 22.01’ is another key milestone that “The Green Demons” have achieved as they take one crucial step closer to becoming the first initial operational capable F-35A Squadron in the PACAF.

Chief Master Sgt. Scott Grabham, 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group chief enlisted manager said: “An F-35A stationed in the Pacific is one thing, an F-35A stationed in the Pacific that has successfully passed WSEP is another. WSEP tests the effectiveness of their daily regime by injecting a deployed environment and live munitions. This is often the first-time maintainers get a chance to load a live munition onto their aircraft and the first time aircrew experience launching a missile at a threat representative, maneuvering target. This is strategic deterrence in the region that needs it most.” 

F-35A Lightning
An F-35 Lightning II assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, taxis at Tyndall AFB, Fla. USAF/Airman 1st Class Tiffany Price

The F-35A is the second fifth generation platform after the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor to be evaluated on live-fire air-to-air weapons employment in support of National Defense Strategy objectives.

A total of nine live missiles were fired by the 356th FS during the exercise, all the shooters were first timers. Weaponry fired included the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile and the AIM-9X Sidewinder. In addition, the F-35A pilots had the opportunity to fire the F-35A’s 25mm cannon for the first time against a QF-16-towed aerial target gunnery system. To find out more about the QF-16 drone, see the upcoming AFM Dec issue on sale in mid-November.