"Fox 1 away": four F-15s firing live air-to-air missiles. At the same time.

Apr 09 2012 - 1 Comment

I find the below image extremely interesting.

It was taken a couple of years ago (most probably in 2010) and I’ve found it because it was recently selected by the 173d FW as their Facebook page cover picture.

It depicts four F-15 Eagles from the 173rd Fighter Wing, Oregon Air National Guard, live-firing AIM-7 Sparrow medium range air-to-air missiles during a WSEP (Weapons Systems Evaluation Program) at Tyndall AFB, Florida.

Known also as “Combat Archer”, the WESP is an air-to-air exercise hosted by the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group  to improve air-to-air tactics and practice weapons systems employment: fighter pilots rarely get a chance to fire live missiles, WESP exercises are almost always the first and only opportunity to use live air-to-air weapons and validate their shots.

Missiles used in Combat Archer tests don’t carry a warhead, replaced by telemetry packages, and are shot over the Gulf of Mexico at various types of drone targets (including the MQM-107D Streaker and the unmanned QF-4 Phantom aerial targets).

The F-15s in the image below are firing their AIM-7s at the same time, aiming at the same drone: in real combat operations, firing four missiles against the same target would be a nonsense unless the target is so important that you can’t afford to miss it (to such an extent you “waste” two or three missiles against it).

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

The following video, shows some F-15s involved in live firing exercises with AIM-7, AIM-9 shoot at QF-4 drones over the Gulf of Mexico during training sorties out of Tyndall.