Florida-based F-22 instructor pilots got to fire live Sidewinder missiles for the first time


Air Force F-22 AIM-9 Sidewinder missile
An AIM-9 Sidewinder missile on an F-22 Raptor at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, December 15, 2020. US Air Force/2nd Lt. Kayla Fitzgerald
  • Five F-22 instructor pilots from the Air Force’s 43rd Fighter Squadron took part in a live-fire exercise with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles in mid-December.

  • It was the squadron’s first live-fire missile launch in five years, and for several of the pilots — whose job is to train new F-22 pilots — it was their first time firing a live AIM-9 missile.

  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Florida – The 43rd Fighter Squadron tested its combat capabilities this week during a live-fire exercise where five F-22 Raptor aircraft launched five AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles out of Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, December 15, 2020.

Team Tyndall worked from beginning to end to ensure the successful flight of the 43rd FS instructor pilots who flew the aircraft and fired the missiles.

The 325th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 325th Maintenance Squadron prepared each jet for the mission while the 325th Logistics Readiness Squadron worked alongside the 325th Fighter Wing munitions and weapons Airman to transport and load the missiles onto the aircraft.

Air Force F-22 AIM-9 Sidewinder missile
US airmen carry an AIM-9 missile to an F-22 Raptor at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, December 15, 2020. US Air Force/2nd Lt. Kayla Fitzgerald

“Ultimately, this was an evaluation of the entire weapons system, to include the 325th Fighter Wing personnel and 325th Fighter Wing aircraft,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Peterson, 43rd FS commander. “This missile shoot was an excellent demonstration and reminder of how we all work together as a team to accomplish the mission.”

This mission was the 43rd FS’s first live-fire missile launch in five years. Each of the five pilots who participated in the exercise are instructors with the 43rd FS, who train new F-22 pilots to project unrivaled combat air power.

For several of them, this was their first time firing a live AIM-9 missile.

“New pilots will often take simulated missile shots,” said Capt. Robert McIntruff, 325th Operations Support Squadron flight commander. “When we discuss missile employment in academics and in our debriefs I can now relay based on personal experience what it’s going to look, sound and feel like when a missile successfully leaves their jet.”

Air Force F-22 AIM-9 Sidewinder missile
US airmen load an AIM-9 Sidewinder on an F-22 Raptor at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, December 15, 2020. US Air Force/2nd Lt. Kayla Fitzgerald

Maj. Michael Hayes, one of the 43rd FS instructor pilots, explained how Tuesday’s events led to the launch of five AIM-9 missiles.

The pilots were first given a flight brief approximately three hours before takeoff which encompassed everything from weather, preflight, the overall flight plan, landing, and the specifics of the target they were given to shoot. Hayes stated that they were only in the air for about an hour and fifteen minutes.

“Once we were cleared to commit, we found the target with our radar, received clearance to fire, armed hot and pressed the pickle button,” said Hayes. “It was awesome seeing the missile fly off the jet and rocket towards the target.”

The pilots were given a BQM-167 Subscale Aerial Target in use by the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group at Tyndall, to which all five AIM-9 missiles were successfully shot.

“This mission showed how the efforts of Airmen from across the 325 Fighter Wing directly contribute to our ability to train and project unrivaled combat air power,” said Peterson. “Whether the support was from the fuels shop, the aviation resource management team, Air Force flight equipment experts, or many others, personnel from across the Wing had a hand in accomplishing this mission.”

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