US airmen have successfully flown the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles during Operation Combat Hammer to evaluate their performance.
The exercise, which is conducted as part of the Weapon System Evaluation Program (WSEP), witnessed participation of airmen with Air National Guard units from Texas, New York, Iowa, Ohio, California, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and North Dakota.
WSEP has two parts, including Combat Hammer that evaluates all airforce air-to-ground weapons, while Combat Archer evaluates all air-to-air weapons.
US Air Force 132nd Wing WSEP Project Officer 1st lieutenant Josh said: “WSEP is an opportunity for the Air National Guard to provide our warfighters with ‘as real as it gets’ combat training outside of the combat zone.”
Combat Hammer is said to be the first operational air-to-ground weapons evaluation for the Air National Guard.
The exercise, led by 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron (FWS), marks the first time an MQ-9 Reaper flew across multiple states back to its home unit instead of being shipped back, the US Department of Defense stated.
The 174th Attack Wing’s MQ-9 flew over 1,200 miles from Duke Field, Florida, US.
86th FWS WSEP operations assistant director major Marcus said: “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 go into making this happen, and it couldn’t be done without a whole team effort.”
Earlier this month, 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group conducted a maritime WSEP in the Gulf of Mexico and Choctawhatchee Bay.