New patch reflects Weapons School's expansion, new courses

  • Published
  • By 2nd. Lt. Jennifer Richard
  • Nellis Public Affairs
"Weapons Officers," graduates from the United States Air Force Weapons School, now include Airmen from a variety of weapons systems and 21 different weapons instructor courses--a fact that is reflected in the Weapons School group patch adopted in April 2008.

From the Weapons School's origins in 1949, when it began as the Aircraft Gunnery School, through 1987, the school focused on training fighter pilots; it now trains Airmen in bombers, cargo aircraft, unmanned aerial systems, intelligence, space and more.

The new Weapons School's patch design reflects the expansion of the school, with 22 aircraft and weapons systems encircling a red "bomb on target" over a black and yellow bullseye background.

The 22 aircraft and weapons systems on the new patch include several that were added to the previous Weapons School group patch design, such as the C-17, C-130, KC-135, MQ-1, MQ-9 and F-22.

"The new patch represents the Weapons School as a whole, and it integrates all the platforms that the school flies," said Maj. Keven Coyle. "It signifies more than just a fighter focus alone; there is a fighter focus, a command and control focus, a cyber focus, etc."

The Weapons School, known as the U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons School from 1954-1992, began transitioning from an exclusively fighter pilot program in the 1980s. In 1986, the school activated the Air Weapons Controller Division, later known as the Command and Control Operations Division. The school gained a Fighter Intelligence Officers Course in 1988, which became the graduate patch-awarding Intelligence Division in 1990.

With the stand-up of Air Combat Command in 1992, the school officially recognized its expanded focus by dropping the "fighter" from its title and becoming the "United States Air Force Weapons School."

Also in 1992, the school activated the B-52 and B-1 Divisions. In 1995, rescue helicopters joined the school with the HH-60 Division, and RC-135 RIVET JOINT and EC-130 COMPASS CALL courses joined the CCO Division. To increase the graduate-level understanding of space and air integration for operators, the school added the Space Division in 1996.

The school continued to expand in the 21st century, with the Air Force's growing need for weapons officers skilled at integrating all aspects of air, space and cyber power. In 2000, the school added the E-8 JSTARS to the CCO Division. Special Operations Forces also became part of the Weapons School in 2000, developing courses for the MH-53 and AC-130.

In 2002, stealth joined the school with the addition of the F-117 and B-2 Divisions, and SOF added an MC-130 course. In 2003, all of the Weapons School divisions were re-designated (or initially activated) 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 Course deactivated, and the merger with the Mobility Weapons School added the C-130, KC-135 and C-17 Weapons Instructor Courses. In 2009, the Weapons School will add the F-22 and the MQ-1/MQ-9 Weapons Instructor Courses.

Today's Weapons School encompasses 17 squadrons, teaching 21 combat specialties at eight locations. Only 30% of today's students come from the classic fighter specialties that built the initial reputation of the "patch."

The 60-year tradition of excellence associated with the Air Force Weapons School and its
"patch-wearers" continues as the Weapons School's size and mission continues to grow.

"The Weapons School plays a crucial role in training Air Force leaders--a role so great it cannot easily be summed up in one small patch," said Major Coyle, "If our new group patch really represented what the Weapons School is doing, it would not be able to fit on your arm."

(This article includes content from the United States Air Force Weapons School history.)