The U.S. Air Force Weapons School trains tactical experts and leaders to control and exploit air, space and cyber on behalf of the joint force. Every six months, the Weapons School graduates approximately 150 Weapons Officers and enlisted tacticians who are system experts, Weapons Instructors, Advanced Instructors, and leaders of Airmen.
Weapons Officers and Advanced Instructors serve as advisors to military leaders at all levels, both those in uniform or in civilian government positions. Weapons School Graduates are the instructors of the Air Force's instructors and the service's institutional reservoir of tactical and operational knowledge. Taking the mantra, "humble, approachable and credible" as their creed, they form a band of trusted advisors and problem-solvers that lead the Department of the Air Force and enables it to integrate its combat power seamlessly alongside those of other military services.
In addition, the Weapons School provides academic and advisory support to numerous units, enhancing air combat training for thousands of Airmen from the Air Force, Department of Defense and U.S. allied services each year.
The Weapons School cadre also author tactical doctrine and conduct tactics validation. Actively collecting tactical knowledge and lessons learned from deployed units, evaluating solutions in exercises, and formally preparing them for application across the force, the Weapons School provides a controlled learning environment and knowledge trust for best practices in land, air, space and cyber combat techniques.
Members of the Weapons School cadre have served as advisors to the other U.S. and allied military services around the world. The school also authors the Weapons Review, the Air Force's premier professional tactics publication.
The Weapons School consists of 21 Weapons Squadrons (WPS) and eight Advanced Instructor Courses (AIC) at nine locations across the country. Thirteen squadrons are based at Nellis Air Force Base, including the 6th WPS (F-35A), 8th WPS (EC-130H/RC-135/E-8C/E-3C/CRC/Weapons Director), 16th WPS (F-16), 17th WPS (F-15E), 19th WPS (Intelligence), 26th WPS (MQ-9/Sensor Operator), 32nd WPS (Cyber), 34th WPS (HH-60G/HC130J/Special Missions Aviator), 57th WPSS (Operational Support), 66th WPS (A-10/JTAC), 315th WPS (ICBM), 328th WPS (Space), and 433rd WPS (F-22). The eight geographically separated units include the 14th WPS at Hurlburt Field, Florida, (AC-130/MC-130/U-28/CV-22/Tactical Systems Operator/Special Missions Aviator); 29th WPS at Little Rock AFB, Arkansas, (C-130J/Loadmaster), which also has the 29th WPS Detachment at Rosecrans ANGB; 57th WPS at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, (C-17/Loadmaster); 77th WPS at Dyess AFB, Texas (B-1); 325th WPS at Whiteman AFB, Missouri, (B-2); 340th WPS at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, (B-52); and the 509th WPS at Fairchild AFB, Washington (KC-135/Boom Operator).
The USAF Weapons School teaches graduate-level instructor courses that provide the world's most advanced training in weapons and tactics employment. During the course, students receive an average of 400 hours of graduate-level academics and participate in demanding combat training missions.
The goal of the course is to train students to be tactical experts in their combat specialty while also learning the art of battle-space dominance and integration of joint assets. This ability creates such a complete overmatch in combat power in any domain of conflict that adversaries have no choice but to submit or capitulate. Using an integrated approach means that Weapons School graduates are extensively familiar with their respective mission design series, but also trained in how all Department of the Air Force and DOD assets can be employed in concert to achieve synergistic effects.
The culmination of the course is the Weapons School Integration phase in which all assets combine in challenging scenarios simulating current and future threat arenas. Students demonstrate their ability to lead and instruct while effectively integrating multiple weapons systems across the land, air, space and cyber domains.
Upon graduation, the new Weapons Officers and Advanced Instructors return to the field to serve as unit weapons and tactics officers, leading combat missions and providing our Service's senior leaders and decision makers tactical, operational and strategic impact support.
The Weapons School traces its roots to the Aircraft Gunnery School established in 1949 at Las Vegas Air Force Base, which later became Nellis AFB in 1950. This organization brought together a cadre of World War II combat veterans dedicated to teaching the next generation of pilots. The Gunnery School converted to combat crew training to meet the needs of the Korean War. In January 1954, the school assumed the mission of training fighter instructors and took on the title, "USAF Fighter Weapons School." Students at Nellis trained in F-51, F-80, F-84, F-86 and all versions of the F-100 aircraft during this era. By 1960, the F-100 and the F-105 were left as the two primary aircraft flown at the School.
In 1965, the Fighter Weapons School added the F-4 to its stable of thoroughbreds. As the roles of fighter aircraft expanded during the Vietnam War, the vision and mission of Fighter Weapons School was essential to the application of airpower. Many of the air-to-ground and air-to-air innovations of this time can be attributed to the curriculum at Weapons School.
Assigned aircraft continued to change in concert with Air Force inventories and technological advancements. The Weapons School deactivated the F-100 and F-105 courses and added the F-111 and A-7D. The Aggressors, flying the T-38 and F-5, were established as part of the School in the early 1970s to improve air-to-air skills by providing accurate threat replication for dissimilar air combat training. The A-7D tenure in the school was a brief three years, as the squadron transitioned from A-7s to F-5 Aggressors in 1975. Continued modernization saw the addition of the A-10 and the F-15A into Weapons School operations in 1977.
The 1980s ushered in a time of significant change for the Weapons School. In 1981, the school underwent a complete reorganization as the squadrons became divisions. The Aggressor squadrons transferred to the 57th Fighter Weapons Wing. The F-111 Division became a geographically separated detachment of the Nellis-based Weapons School. The newly formed F-16 Division graduated its first students in 1982. In 1984, the Weapons School expanded its courses beyond the traditional fighter aircrew, adding a course to train weapons controllers in the F-15 Division. A passing of the torch to the current Weapons School occurred when the last F-4 class graduated in 1985, ending 20 years of F-4 weapons officer training. The Air Weapons Controller Division, later known as the Command and Control Operations, CCO, Division, activated as a separate unit in 1987. The school gained a Fighter Intelligence Officers Course in 1988, which became the graduate patch-awarding Intelligence Division in 1990. The F-15E Division became part of the school in 1991.
With the stand-up of Air Combat Command in 1992, the school embarked on a dramatic shift from its 43-year focus exclusively on fighter aviation, dropping the "fighter" from its title and becoming the "United States Air Force Weapons School." The change was much more than symbolic with the activation of the B-52 and B-1 Divisions that year. Rescue helicopters joined the school with the HH-60 Division in 1995 while the F-111 retired.
That year also saw the addition of RC-135 and EC-130 courses to the CCO Division. To increase the graduate-level understanding of space and air integration for operators, the school added the Space Division in 1996. With a growing need for weapons officers skilled at integrating all aspects of land, air, space and cyber superiority, the Weapons School has continued to expand.
The year 2000, saw the addition of the E-8 to the CCO Division as well as Special Operations Forces (SOF) instituting courses for the MH-53 and AC-130. Stealth technology joined the school in 2002 with the addition of the F-117 and B-2 Divisions. SOF added an MC-130 course that year as well.
In 2003, all of the Weapons School divisions were re-designated as squadrons and the Intelligence Sensor Weapons Instructor Course was added to provide graduate-level training in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance integration.
In 2006, the MH-53 and F-117 Weapons Instructor Courses deactivated and the merger with the Mobility Weapons School added the C-130, KC-135 and C-17 Weapons Instructor Courses. In 2008, the Weapons School added the F-22 and the MQ-1/9 Weapons Instructor Courses. In 2009, the school added the ICBM Weapons Instructor Course under the 328th Weapons Squadron. In 2012, ICBM was moved under the 315th Weapons Squadron and the Cyber Warfare Weapons Instructor Course was added to complement the Space course under the 328th Weapons Squadron. Also in 2012, the Joint Terminal Attack Controller Advanced Instructor Course began, which officially became a Weapons Instructor Course in 2015. Changes in 2017 included an HC-130J Weapons Instructor Course in the 34th Weapons Squadron and the reactivation of the 6th Weapons Squadron, which houses the F-35A Weapons Instructor Course. In 2018 the 32nd WPS was established and the Cyber Warfare Weapons Instructor Course was aligned under it. In December of 2020 the Advanced Weapons Director Course officially became a Weapons Instructor Course under the 8th Weapons Squadron while the 433rd Weapons Squadron deactivated the F-15C in June 2021. In 2022 32WPS launched its Cyber Effects Operations Advanced Instructor Course.
Today's Weapons School encompasses 21 squadrons, teaching 31 Weapons Instructor Courses, eight Advanced Enlisted Courses and 39 combat specialties at nine locations.
The 68-year tradition of excellence associated with the USAF Weapons School continues as today's graduates help transform and inspire our nation's combat power.
Applying to Weapons School
Active Duty Air Force, Active Duty Space Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve officers and enlisted may apply for admission to the School. To be considered for acceptance, students must be fully qualified instructors and submit a nomination package consisting of an applicant data sheet and a one-page nomination letter from the nominee's Wing Commander, or equivalent. Students are chosen by a central selection board twice a year. For the most updated information on applying to School, please visit the ACC/A3TW Weapons and Tactics page