The US Air Force (USAF) 356th Fighter Squadron’s (FS) first F-35A Lightning II unit in the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) took part in an air-to-air weapons evaluation.

The evaluation took place at Tyndall Air Force Base (AFB) from 8-23 October, and represents the completion of the Weapon System Evaluation Program (WSEP) East 22.01 test.

According to the USAF, this is the second fifth-generation platform assessed on employment of live-fire air-to-air weapons. It is conducted in support of the objectives of National Defense Strategy (NDS).

The latest event marks a new milestone for the 356th Fighter Squadron as it moves towards becoming the first initial operational capability (IOC) F-35A squadron in Pacific Air Forces.

53rd Weapons Evaluation Group chief enlisted manager chief master sergeant Scott Grabham 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.

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“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, manoeuvring target. This is strategic deterrence in the region that needs it most.”

The exercise saw nine live missiles being fired by first-time shooters. The missiles include the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) along with the AIM-9X Sidewinder.

For the first time, pilots could also shoot the F-35A aircraft’s 25mm cannon against a QF-16-towed aerial target gunnery system.

Grabham added: “All of this realistic training is evaluated by a hand-picked mix of experienced aircrew and maintainers empowered to commend and critique exercise participants.

“We compile missile-fire data from our newest platform (F-35A) with our latest missile variants and software, which helps refine tactical application of the weapons system, uncovers any issues with the platform/missile interface, and eventually feeds Air Force doctrine.”

The next event will see WSEP East 22.02 combine with Checkered Flag 22-1 exercise. This activity is scheduled from 8-19 November at Tyndall AFB.