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Combat Sentry brings weapon system evaluations to command and control aircraft

The Air Force launched its inaugural command and control evaluation known as Combat Sentry at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida Monday.

The exercise involves two E-3 Sentry AWACS from the 963rd Airborne Air Control Squadron, the Air Force said. The event also employs QF-16 aerial target aircraft, E-9A monitoring aircraft and BQM-167 subscale drones to examine the E-3s during live fire operations and maritime operations, among other environments.

“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,” exercise director Maj. Sean Fazande said in an Air Force news release. “This will produce key metrics that will help Air Force leaders to make long-term decisions about AWACS employment and the BMC2 enterprise.”

Although the 53rd Wing’s weapons system evaluation program has examined fighter and bomber weapons systems during exercises like Combat Hammer and Combat Archer, the exercise marks a milestone as the first event for command and control systems.

The 81st Air Control Squadron is hosting the exercise, which is slated to wrap up July 24.

“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 of the 81st Air Control Squadron, in the news release.

“This exercise is the culmination of about a year and half’s worth of work by the Airmen of the 81st,” Wyatt said. “During this WSEP the Airmen of the 81st will [be] 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.”

Down the line, the Air Force said the exercise may involve the Navy E-2C Hawkeye and the Australian E-7A Wedgetail.

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