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

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).


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.


Image credit: U.S. Air Force


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.