Editor’s Note: There are two different Weapons System Evaluation Programs (WSEPs) currently run by the U.S. Air Force. One is Combat Archer, which is for air-to-air weaponry, and Combat Hammer, which is geared toward air-to-surface munitions. Combat Hammer is held either over the vast Utah Test and Training Range adjacent to Hill Air Force Base in Utah, or on the live ranges at Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida panhandle.

Here we see our brothers and sisters from the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, dropping all kinds of lethal goodies from the mighty BUFF!

Minot B-52 aircrew and munition members were put to the test recently during a week-long air-to-ground combat training exercise called Combat Hammer.

According to exercise officials, the objective of Combat Hammer, which took place from Feb. 8-10, was to evaluate the reliability and efficiency of existing combat weapons systems while also assessing the Air Force’s air-to-ground munitions program.

Hammer Time: B-52s Go Live at Eglin AFB!
Staff Sgt. Eric Hathaway, 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew chief, loads a laser-guided GBU-12 bomb onto a B-52H Stratofortress during Exercise Combat Hammer at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Feb. 8, 2016. According to exercise officials, the objective of Combat Hammer is to evaluate the reliability and efficiency of existing combat weapons systems while also assessing the Air Force’s air-to-ground munitions program. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong)

“We exercise to ensure we are able to hit a target that the Air Force tells us to hit, with weapons they tell us to use, at a time they want it to be hit,” said Maj. Ryan Cox, 5th Operations Support Squadron chief of wing scheduling. “The exercise evaluates everything from building the bomb, to loading the bomb, to planning the sortie, to dropping the weapon, to hitting the target.”

Events like Combat Hammer allow exercise evaluators to assess the employment of various conventional munitions used by the B-52 from storage through impact. Under realistic combat scenarios, members gain experience in the capability to build, load and employ various weapon systems said evaluators.

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“Combat Hammer allows Air Force leaders to understand the effectiveness they can expect from the weapons systems they will take to combat,” said Maj. Mike Middents, 5th Bomb Wing Director of Staff. “The evaluation identifies where planners and operators might expect issues in weapons employment. The evaluation also builds confidence in all personnel engaged in the event as they see how their weapons loads and flying result in effectively hitting the target.”

During this specific weapons system evaluation, six B-52Hs from the 69th Bomb Squadron  dropped laser-guided GBU-12 and GPS-guided GBU-38 bombs on moving targets at the Eglin Test and Training Complex Range at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

“Exercises like Combat Hammer give the Air Force metrics on how well the weapon works, as well as how well the operations group and maintenance group work together to get the weapon onto the target,” said Cox.

Hammer Time: B-52s Go Live at Eglin AFB!
A pair of B-52H Stratofortress bombers taxi for takeoff. The 5 BW at Minot AFB fields this old, magnificent warfighters. (Photo by Scott Wolff)

The air-to-air and air-to-ground WSEP evaluations are accomplished during tactical deliveries of fighter, bomber and unmanned aircraft system precision guided munitions. This is performed on realistic targets with air-to-air and surface-to-air defenses said Eglin officials.

According to Middents, the 23rd Bomb Squadron will participate in their own WSEP later this year. Although the scenario may change depending on exercise objectives, the current and predicted security environment drive exercise objectives.

The WSEP program is managed by the 53rd Wing, headquartered at Eglin.

The original article can be seen here.

(Featured Image: A B-52H Stratofortress takes off during Exercise Combat Hammer at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Feb. 9, 2016. U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong)