What is WESP and the meaning of it. Well WESP stands for Weapons Evaluation System Program. It is an air-to-air training also know as Combat Archer located at Tyndall AFB, Florida. The 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group at Tyndall AFB is the host unit for the exercises. The meaning of Combat Archer (WESP) is to exercise and evaluates the total air-to-air weapon system capability of Air Force combat aircraft. For these pilots who normally fly with training weapons at home, live-firing their weapons first at Combat Archer instead of in combat provides confidence. This exercise trains pilots to experience what they actually would see in combat. During standard training flights, pilots go through all the steps to fire a missile without firing a single missile, so there’s no way to clearly validate whether the shot would have hit the target. Since pilots rarely get the opportunity to engage in actual air-to-air combat this is truly a unique opportunity to teach that extra skill.

The average pilot may get the opportunity to fire one air-to-air missile in 20 years of training. “Some pilots may shoot one or two more, but rarely. Part of the reason this type of training is so hard to come by is that it requires a very large area, free from both ground and air traffic, to conduct the training safely. Combat Archer is uniquely set up to afford us this training and

F-15 Eagles fire AIM-7 Sparrow missiles at a tactical air-launched decoy off the coast of Hawaii on July 16 during the Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2006. The F-15s are from the Hawaii Air National Guard's 199th Fighter Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

 (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

ensure the training is accomplished safely. Not only does Combat Archer give aircrews the confidence from live firing weapons, but it gives Air Force weapons system managers a forum to verify system performance, capabilities and limitations. The program ensures the weapons work the way the manufacturer says they will work. For example, the newest F-15E Strike Eagles – the E-210, which are 1997 and 1998 models – fired live missiles for the first time during this Combat Archer.


Combat Archer tests the weapons systems of every Air Force combat aircraft platform and evaluates aircrews from more than 40 different units each year who fire AIM-7, AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles. The explosives in the missile warheads are removed and replaced with telemetry packages that track the weapons’ flight path. The telemetry provides data to program managers. Aircrews shoot at targets that include MQM-107D “Streaker” subscale drones and unmanned modified F-4 aircraft. The drones, which are downed over the Gulf of Mexico are recovered by the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron’s own navy, a sub-unit of the 53rd WEG at Tyndall, and reused. Although the main mission was to shoot live missiles, the Eagle drivers also tested their warfighting skills against dissimilar aircraft platforms, such as F-16 Fighting Falcons. Combat Archer also provided aircrews, maintainers and support airmen the chance to prepare and deploy as a team before AEF deployments.