US Air Force (USAF) pilots of the F-22 Raptor tactical fighter aircraft have fired live missiles during the Combat Archer training event at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.

More than 200 pilots, maintainers and operations support staff from the USAF’s 1st Fighter Wing participated in the two-week-long exercise as part of the weapons system evaluation programme.

Combat Archer was carried out together with Checkered Flag 18-2 large force exercise. It focuses on training and evaluating the F-22 aircraft and other weapons systems under simulated combat environments, to include firing live missiles against remotely piloted targets.

“Outside of combat missions and operational or developmental test flights, the 1st FW doesn’t train with live missiles.”

In addition, Combat Archer carries out a formal evaluation of the total weapon system, man, machine, and missile, as well as a squadron’s ability to carry out air-to-air missions.

During the event, USAF squadrons loaded the live weapons and shot them at targets, aiming to optimise the live-fire experience throughout the combat airforce.

1st Fighter Wing Combat Archer / Checkered Flag 18-2 project officer captain Robert Pupilis said: “Outside of combat missions and operational or developmental test flights, the 1st FW doesn’t train with live missiles.

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“It’s an opportunity that is not taken for granted, and for some pilots, this exercise is the first time they have ever fired a live missile.”

Pupilis added: “When you hit the button (that fires the missile), it takes only a few moments for the missile to leave the jet and launch in a smoke trail across your nose.”

The F-22 Raptor stealth jet was deployed to shot 20 missiles, which included five AIM-120 medium-range missiles and 15 of the AIM-9 heat seeking missiles.