The U.S. Air Force 81st Air Control Squadron is hosting the first-ever COMBAT Sentry, a command and control evaluation as part of the USAF’s Weapons System Evaluation Program, July 13-24, 2020. The 53rd Wing’s Weapons System Evaluation program, known as “WSEP,” has long evaluated the efficacy of fighter and bomber weapons systems in combat-relevant environments, allowing operational flyers to drop live bombs through COMBAT Hammer and fire live missiles through COMBAT Archer at real targets, such as sub- and full-scale drones. Until this point, Command and Control Systems, however, had no similar evaluation.
“This COMBAT Sentry will conduct a series of evaluations on the E-3 Airborne Early Warning and Control System radar designed to produce BMC2 (Battle Management Command and Control) desired focus points regarding equipment performance and hone current Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures,” said Maj. Sean Fazande, exercise director. “This will produce key metrics that will help Air Force leaders to make long-term decisions about AWACS employment and the BMC2 enterprise.”
“Because of the positive relationship that we have with our mission partner units in 53d Wing, 96th Test Wing, and the 325th and 33d Fighter Wings, as well as our access to ranges and threat-representative targets, the 81st ACS is uniquely situated to host an exercise such as COMBAT Sentry.” said Lt. Col. Steven Wyatt, commander, 81st Air Control Squadron. “This exercise is the culmination of about a year and half’s worth of work by the Airmen of the 81st. During this WSEP the Airmen of the 81st will hosting two E-3G AWACS and control threat-representative targets to evaluate the weapon system’s performance in a contested environment, as well as provide the AWACS crewmembers valuable AEF spin-up training.”
COMBAT Sentry will use QF-16s, E-9s and BQM-167 subscale drones from the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron to evaluate the AWACS in environments, live fire operations, maritime operations and more. The two participating 552 ACW E-3 AWACS are operated by the 963 Airborne Air Control. Squadron (AACS) “Blue Knights” from Tinker Air Force Base, Ok. In future COMBAT Sentry evaluations the 81st ACS has goals to involve the Navy E-2C HAWKEYE and the Australian WEDGETAIL in combined and joint efforts. Combat Sentry, similar to the live-fire Combat Hammer and Combat Archer evaluations at Tyndall, puts two E-3 Sentry AWACS from the 963rd Airborne Air Control Squadron at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., to the test.