Can’t Leave Home

US Air Force F-16 fighter pilots at Kunsan AB, South Korea, made history this month, firing AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles for the first time as part of a new weapons systems evaluation program in South Korea. Hamstrung by two realities—fiscal and physical—the 80th Fighter Squadron officials decided they needed to provide critical live-fire testing for F-16 pilots assigned to South Korea. Normally, fighter units rotate through a weapon system evaluation program at Tyndall AFB, Fla., or other stateside location to get live-fire practice, but tight budgets and theater demands prevent 80th FS airmen from shuttling back to the states. Without WSEP experience, says Lt. Col. Dan Tippett, 80th FS operations boss, “the first time a pilot fires a live missile would be in combat.”