FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --
The 509th Weapons Squadron partnered with the 92nd Operations Group to participate in U.S. Air Force Weapons School Integration, a large in-house exercise that serves as the capstone for the Weapon School classes, over the Nevada Test and Training Range from May 26 to June 11 at Nellis Air Force Base.
Weapons School Integration is a five-and-a-half-month course, followed by a three-week exercise, where all weapons schools come together and perform peer-to-peer combat to perfect their skills as much as possible.
“It’s a grueling course of academics and real world employment that teaches weapons employment, tactics, and battle management,” said 1st. Lt. Andrew Masel, 97th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker co-pilot. “Airmen from Fairchild AFB flew down to support multiple aircraft in a massive simulated air-to-air and air-to-ground engagement. Over the course of about 90 minutes, we offloaded over 93,000 pounds of fuel to aircraft in one of the most complex and congested airspaces in the world.”
The Nevada Test and Training Range offers more than 15,000 square miles of air space, which allows WSINT to execute their air, space and cyber combat operation training.
“The weapons school is the premier upgrade training for tactics and everyone’s community pilots rated officer program,” said Capt. Patrick “RIP” Kilbaine, 509 WPS instructor and KC-135 Stratotanker navigator. “It really fine tunes our skills and mission planning, making us the experts in integration throughout the Air Force and Department of Defense.”
WSINT happens only twice a year, and hosts over 150 aircraft and 21 different WPS to sharpen the skills of U.S. military pilots.
“WSINT gives us the chance to practice the complex planning and execution that come with a peer- or near-peer adversary engagement,” Masel said. “This includes navigating complex airspace and dynamic employment environments. These missions challenge our aircrews to use skills and knowledge that don’t come up on day-to-day training missions, but are crucial to real world operations.”
The 509th WPS had many challenges due to the global pandemic, COVID-19, and had to scale back to execute the mission from a distance.
“This is good and bad; bad because we can’t do this face-to-face, but good because we are experiencing a lot of lessons learned and how to mission plan through software and hardware growing pains that we wouldn’t normally utilize,” Kilbaine said.
Since the start of the pandemic, most Air Force courses similar to WSINT have adapted to distance learning and have been forced to find innovative ways to communicate and to execute the mission.
“The students are definitely learning that the gas plan is a little bit more unique this time, along with all the receivers that we refuel, fighter and bomber jets,” Kilbaine said. “Unfortunately, our Tankers offload less gas to our receivers due to losing fuel flying to and from Nellis.”
The WPS cadres and students reached out to several Air Refueling Wings to support WSINT to include: McGhee Tyson, McConnell, Scott, Tinker and Fairchild Air Force Base.
“Due to the global pandemic and the restrictions imposed by many units, these aircraft and crews are often supported from home stations, as was our case,” Masel said. “It’s really impressive to see our ability to adapt and overcome these challenges in real time.”
Team Fairchild Airmen are rising above all the hurdles that come with a global pandemic and are taking the appropriate actions to maintain and safeguard the nation’s global presence during this time of chaos.