72nd TES evaluates mission capabilities

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. - Tech. Sgt. Damen Cipolla, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, inspects the rotary launch assembly as its being lifted into a B-2 as Senior Airman Lowe runs the Controls to lift the assembly into place, Aug. 17. This Inspection is one of the first inspections to fall under Global Strike Command since it has stood up. ( U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Carlin Leslie)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. - Tech. Sgt. Damen Cipolla, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, inspects the rotary launch assembly as its being lifted into a B-2 as Senior Airman Lowe runs the Controls to lift the assembly into place, Aug. 17. This Inspection is one of the first inspections to fall under Global Strike Command since it has stood up. ( U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Carlin Leslie)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. - Tech. Sgt. Damen Cipolla, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, inspects the sides of the rotary launch assembly to ensure a tight fight on the B-2 Spirit Aug. 17, during the first 72nd Test and Evaluation Inspection since Global Strike Command stood up.(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Carlin Leslie)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. - Tech. Sgt. Damen Cipolla, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, inspects the sides of the rotary launch assembly to ensure a tight fight on the B-2 Spirit Aug. 17, during the first 72nd Test and Evaluation Inspection since Global Strike Command stood up.(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Carlin Leslie)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. - Members of a weapons load crew position a weapons load tralier into position Aug. 17 to manuever it under the bomb bay of a B-2 Spirit. The weapons load is part of the 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron's Combat Sledgehammer. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. - Members of a weapons load crew position a weapons load tralier into position Aug. 17 to manuever it under the bomb bay of a B-2 Spirit. The weapons load is part of the 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron's Combat Sledgehammer. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. - Airman 1st Class Gregory Lowe, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, directs Staff Sgt. Juan Molina, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, to adjust a weapons load trailer Aug. 17 to ensure proper position. The weapons load is part of the 72nd Test and Evaluations Squadron's Combat Sledgehammer. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. - Airman 1st Class Gregory Lowe, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, directs Staff Sgt. Juan Molina, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, to adjust a weapons load trailer Aug. 17 to ensure proper position. The weapons load is part of the 72nd Test and Evaluations Squadron's Combat Sledgehammer. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. - Members of the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron back a weapons load trailer into a B-2 dock Aug. 17 in preperation to load mock bombs into a B-2 Spirit bomb bay. The weapons load is par tof the 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron's Combat Sledgehammer. (U.S. Air force photo/Staff Sgt.

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. - Members of the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron back a weapons load trailer into a B-2 dock Aug. 17 in preperation to load mock bombs into a B-2 Spirit bomb bay. The weapons load is par tof the 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron's Combat Sledgehammer. (U.S. Air force photo/Staff Sgt.

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. - Airman 1st Class Siu Yu Leung, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, checks clearance space between a weapons load trailer and a B-2 Spirit Aug. 17 as his weapons load crew loads mock bombs in the bomb bay. The weapons load is part of the 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron's Combat Sledgehamemr evaluation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. - Airman 1st Class Siu Yu Leung, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, checks clearance space between a weapons load trailer and a B-2 Spirit Aug. 17 as his weapons load crew loads mock bombs in the bomb bay. The weapons load is part of the 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron's Combat Sledgehamemr evaluation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. - Staff Sgt. Juan Molina, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, observes a weapons trailer position Aug. 17 as he raises it into the bomb bay of a B-2 Spirit. Mock bombs were loaded on the B-2 as part of the 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron Combat Sledgehammer. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. - Staff Sgt. Juan Molina, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, observes a weapons trailer position Aug. 17 as he raises it into the bomb bay of a B-2 Spirit. Mock bombs were loaded on the B-2 as part of the 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron Combat Sledgehammer. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --

The 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron here took part in Combat Sledgehammer Aug. 17 as part of Air Combat Command's nuclear weapon system evaluation program.

The 72nd TES is a tenant unit stationed at Whiteman. Their chain-of-command runs through the 53rd Test and Evaluation Group at Nellis AFB, Nev. to the 53rd Wing at Eglin AFB, Fla.

Combat Sledgehammer is conducted on bomber and fighter aircraft are capable of carrying thermonuclear bombs and cruise missiles.

"As a nuclear-capable bomber, the B-2 takes part in this program every year," said Maj. William Woodward, 72nd TES director of operations. "The purpose of a B-2 Combat Sledgehammer is to conduct an end-to-end, stockpile-to-target force development evaluation to test the entire operational envelope of the aircraft and gravity weapons."

In other words, crews are evaluated on every aspect from weapons pick-up and delivery to weapons loading and drop on target.

"The 509th BW trains and demonstrates its nuclear capabilities in many ways throughout the year," Major Woodward said. "Combat Sledgehammer offers the one opportunity to put all the pieces together at together at the same time; weapons loading, aircraft generation, command and control, and weapon release."

Combat Sledgehammer involves several organizations coordinating together. The Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration supplies simulated bombs; Sandia National Laboratories determines the release parameters (altitude, airspeed, etc.); U.S. Strategic Command provides emergency action messages to test and control procedures; ACC sets the annual schedule; the 53rd Wing coordinates planning details and provides an after action report; and the 509th BW provides the aircraft, loads the simulated weapon and flies the mission.

"The 72nd works hand-in-hand with the 509th BW during Combat Sledgehammer," Major Woodward said. ""We coordinate with all the outside agencies involved and create an overall plan. The 509th BW fills in the details, selects aircraft and aircrew, loads the weapons, and executes the test."

During Combat Sledgehammer, evaluators look for any part of the process that isn't working in accordance with regulations.

 "We never want to have to use a nuclear weapon against an enemy," Major Woodward said. "But Combat Slegehammer is a chance to prove ourselves and the rest of the world that if the president asks us to deliver a nuclear weapon, we would do it perfectly. 

"That capability, combined with national political will, is what makes the nuclear deterrent work," Major Woodward concluded.