The USAF Weapons School Integration Phase – WSINT



Twice a year, the very prestigious Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base comes to an end with the large-scale capstone phase known as the Weapons School Integration phase. WSINT was held from November 20th through December 13th, 2017. On the last day of this phase, I was able to witness and photograph the nearly 100 aircraft that took to the skies for the final mission of this grueling 6-month course.
From the Nellis AFB website:

“Training during WSINT follows lines of operations designed to support U.S. Air Force doctrinal missions. Currently, those lines of operations and mission sets include:

Operation MOJAVE SHIELD – Defensive counterair – Integrate air and missile defense to deter and defeat an adversary

Operation INSTANT THUNDER – Offensive counterair – Gain freedom of maneuver throughout a joint operations area.

Operation CROSSBOW – Offensive counterair/dynamic targeting – Neutralize an adversary’s surface-to-surface missiles, weapons of mass destruction, and power projection capabilities.

Operation LUMBERJACK – Counterland – Conduct theater interdiction, strike coordination and reconnaissance, and close air support to break an adversary’s will/capacity for resistance.

Operation COYOTE FREEDOM – Air Mobility Support/irregular warfare/special operations – Seize key facilities in the joint operations area and set stage for decisive operations.”

The mission I was able to witness the launch for, was Operation Mojave Shield. Each one of these mission sets is planned and carried out several times during WISNT, with each iteration getting more difficult for the students each time.

I was also afforded the opportunity to be educated myself on some of the more in-depth training curriculum offers the students over the course of half a year.

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Colonel Steven Behmer, United States Air Force Weapons School Commandant, was kind enough to take the time out of his incredibly busy schedule to answer some questions regarding this very intense training regimen. “Mojave Shield 400 is one of approximately 38 missions or “vuls” (short for “vulnerability period”) that comprise our Weapons School Integration (WSINT) phase. WSINT is the capstone syllabus phase for the 6-month U.S. Air Force Weapons School course. All of our students have been learning, evolving, and building up to what they will experience in the last month of the school.” said Col. Behmer.
I asked how this training event differed from a Red Flag exercise, which is also conducted at Nellis AFB several times a year. Col. Behmer said “WSINT is open to U.S. military forces, which means the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps integrate with us for the vuls. Having the capabilities of not only other services’ airframes but also their ground forces and special operations teams allows everyone to learn from each other and innovate tactics and procedures across the board.” However, he added, “We refer to WSINT vuls as syllabus events rather than “exercises.” In our WSINT vuls, the students are provided the type of mission, but have to work together to develop the plan they will execute. In planning, they must decide which platforms would best accomplish the mission, integrating the capabilities of each one.”


I asked if having 3 different stealth platforms, (the B-2, F-22, and F-35) provided any extra edge for the students than previous classes now that all three are being used in the course. He added “We started integrating the F-35A into WSINT in 2016. While the stealth aircraft have the benefit of low observability to avoid detection, the students are platform agnostic. They demonstrate their expertise in building the best aircraft package to accomplish the mission.” I closed with asking what makes a Weapons School graduate and the patch they earn more special than other training that pilots experience. Col. Behmer replied, “The Weapons School is the world’s premier PhD-level weapons and tactics employment training, producing tactical experts and leaders to control and exploit air, space, and cyber on behalf of the joint force. To be selected as a Weapons School student, candidates must be the best instructors in their specific platforms and are usually in the top 1%-2% of their peers.” He informed me that in all, 105 students graduated from class 17B in a wide array of platforms and specialties.

I’d like to thank Col. Behmer for taking the time to answer all my questions and for educating me of how vital this training is to our nation’s combat readiness.
I’d also like to extend a special thanks to Master Sergeant Sanjay Allen for taking the time to put this all together so that we could provide a detailed look in to what makes America’s warfighters second to none.
For more info on the US Air Force Weapons School at Nellis AFB, please visit:



The current Weapons School patch design, adopted in 2016, reflects the expansion of the school, with 28 aircraft and weapons systems encircling a red “bomb on target” over a black and yellow bullseye background. Image from the Nellis AFB web site.

Steve Lewis

Steve is a Southern California based photographer living in the Los Angeles area.

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