At the just-concluded Combat Hammer exercise at the Utah Test and Training Range, F-22s from JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, became the first operational Raptors to drop GBU-39 small diameter bombs, announced base officials. “The employment of the GBU-39s was very successful,” said Maj. Wade Bridges, an F-22 pilot with Air Force Reserve Command’s 302nd Fighter Squadron. This unit led the Elmendorf contingent of Active Duty and Reserve pilots and maintainers to Hill AFB, Utah, for the Combat Hammer, which ran from Aug. 6 to Aug. 16. “The Utah Test and Training Range is the only location in the United States where the F-22s can employ SDBs at speeds and altitudes unique to the Raptor,” said Bridges. Previously, only F-22 test pilots had employed SDBs, according to Hill’s Aug. 16 release. The Elmendorf F-22s that participated in the Combat Hammer are equipped with the new Increment 3.1 software upgrade that enables them to employ the SDBs, which are 250-pound precision-guided munitions capable of release outside of the range of enemy air defenses. Combat Hammers allow pilots to employ air-to-ground weapons in a realistic tactical environment. (Hill report by TSgt. Dana Rosso)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.