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U-2 Soars High At Weapons School
by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Frederick Brown
June 28, 2023

The U-2 Dragon Lady performed exceptionally while participating as an asset during the capstone event of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School 23-A cycle, May 16 - June 7 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

A U-2 Dragon Lady assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, Beale Air Force Base (AFB), California, takes off for a Weapons School Integration mission on May 30, 2023 at Nellis AFB, Nevada. The U.S. Air Force Weapons School teaches graduate-level instructor courses that provide advanced training in weapons and tactics employment to officers and enlisted specialists of the combat and mobility air forces. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Wyatt Stabler.)
A U-2 Dragon Lady assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, Beale Air Force Base (AFB), California, takes off for a Weapons School Integration mission on May 30, 2023 at Nellis AFB, Nevada. The U.S. Air Force Weapons School teaches graduate-level instructor courses that provide advanced training in weapons and tactics employment to officers and enlisted specialists of the combat and mobility air forces. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Wyatt Stabler.)

The Air Force Weapons School, also known as the Weapons Instructor Course (WIC), trains weapons officers and enlisted technicians who are system experts, weapons instructors, advanced instructors, and leaders with advanced training within their respective specialties.

“The Air Force Weapons School is the Air Force version of Top Gun, except it’s six months instead of six weeks,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Flood, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron director of staff. “Graduates advise at all levels of government, teach our Air Force leaders, and become experts of tactical and operational knowledge, authoring tactical doctrine.”

The school graduates 150 students in each class. To earn the prestigious graduate patch, students need to perform in the capstone event, a Large Force Exercise known as the Weapons School Integration (WSINT) Phase, in which each student provides an asset from their home unit. The collaboration of these assets is used to create scenarios for WSINT simulating current and future threat arenas. Leading a combination of airpower capabilities during WSINT allows students to demonstrate multi-domain command and control through their ability to lead and instruct while integrating multiple weapons systems.

“The Weapons Instructor Course is a graduate level course that tested students not only academically but also physically, mentally, and emotionally resulting in growth as both a pilot and person,” said Maj. Robert, 1st Reconnaissance Squadron U-2 weapons officer and WIC 23-A graduate. “My job now is to prepare U-2 pilots to tactically employ the U-2 anywhere in the world to achieve tactical, operational, and strategic level ISR effects in any peacetime or combat operation.”

Pilots, mission planners, maintainers, life support, intelligence, and contract sensor specialists from the 99th RS were taken to Nellis AFB to provide ISR capabilities for the exercise, resulting in a successful 9 of 9 sorties flown by the U-2. Robert led the 99th RS personnel as they provided time-sensitive, critical Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities during WSINT 23-A with the U-2 Dragon Lady.

“With over 19 different airframes, and over 80 total aircraft involved, the U-2 provided the most dependable Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance capabilities, flying 100% of our sorties,” said Flood. “The U-2 flies so much higher than any other aircraft, it is so difficult to intercept even our air superiority fighter, the F-22 Raptor, couldn’t get a valid shot on the U-2.”

U.S. Air Force 99th Reconnaissance Squadron personnel pose for a group photo in front of a U-2 Dragon Lady, after participating in the Weapons School Integration phase cycle 23-A on May 30, 2023 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. The U.S. Air Force Weapons School teaches graduate-level instructor courses that provide advanced training in weapons and tactics employment to officers and enlisted specialists of the combat and mobility air forces. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Megan Estrada.)
U.S. Air Force 99th Reconnaissance Squadron personnel pose for a group photo in front of a U-2 Dragon Lady, after participating in the Weapons School Integration phase cycle 23-A on May 30, 2023 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. The U.S. Air Force Weapons School teaches graduate-level instructor courses that provide advanced training in weapons and tactics employment to officers and enlisted specialists of the combat and mobility air forces. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Megan Estrada.)

WSINT follows lines of operations designed to support U.S. Air Force doctrinal missions from defensive and offensive counter-air, dynamic targeting, counter-land, counter-sea, surface attack, air mobility support, special operations, strategic attack and space and cyber operations. Graduates are prepared to plan and execute for the hardest challenges the U.S. national defense mission requires.

The U-2 proved to be flexible, versatile, survivable, and reliable while finding and fixing priority targets to support the Combat Air Forces kill chain. The ability to lead it and integrate this asset with multiple weapons systems earned Maj. Robert the title of U.S. Air Force Weapons School graduate.

As a WIC graduate, Robert is now an instructor of instructors, an expert in the U-2 airframe and trained to integrate with the larger Air Force and the Department of Defense as a whole. Robert will train U-2 pilots and lead the charge for any new deployment, exercise, or real-world events.

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