‘Combat Sentry’ Tests USAF Command and Control Aircraft, Airmen

Air Force command and control aircraft now have a combat evaluation program, with the kickoff of the first-ever Combat Sentry on July 13 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.

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. For almost two weeks, the E-3s will fly in environments where optionally manned QF-16s, subscale BQM-167 drones, and E-9A monitoring aircraft will test the battle management and command and control capability with simulated cruise missiles, live fire operations, and maritime operations, according to a Tyndall release.

The event will go through test points “regarding equipment performance and hone current tactics, techniques, and procedures,” exercise director Maj. Sean Fazande said in a release. “This will produce key metrics that will help Air Force leaders to make long-term decisions about AWACS employment and the BMC2 enterprise.”

E-3s previously participated in the Combat Archer and Combat Hammer evaluations, but this is the first event in which they are the main focus.

The evaluation is hosted by the 53rd Wing’s Weapons Systems Evaluation program, which hosts Combat Hammer, a live-fire bomb dropping evaluation, and Combat Archer, in which fighter squadrons live-fire missiles in preparation for deployments and other initiatives. The wing’s newly established 81st Air Control Squadron planned the event, with aircraft and Airmen from the 96th Test Wing, and the 325th and 33rd Fighter Wings assisting.

This first event runs until July 24. While the exercise will focus on evaluating the aircraft’s performance in a contested environment, it is also spin-up training for a deployment.

Future events will likely include Navy E-2C Hawkeye and Royal Australian Air Force E-7 Wedgetail aircraft in joint evaluations, according to the release.