Tag Archives: A-10 Thunderbolt II

The 305th Air Mobility Wing: USAF Enabler of Global Reach

We have taken part in an aerial refueling mission aboard a KC-10 Extender with the 305th AMW. Here is how it went.

It’s early and the darkness feels more like night than day. Flight crew gathers at the 305th Air Mobility Wings (AMW) base operations, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JBMDL), NJ. Paperwork in order and mission plan briefed, we leave base ops for the aircraft. The sun cracks the horizon as we arrive at the KC-10 Extender for pre-flight. The aircraft crew chief and maintenance team are well into preparing the mission aircraft. It is clear they were at work long before our arrival. Despite the hour, the ramp is alive and aircraft are already in the circuit. JBMDL never really sleeps. Time passes quickly, and with pre-flight complete the two KC-10s on this mission taxi together to launch.

With multiple missions in store the early morning will stretch into afternoon, afternoon into night and come full circle to dawn. The interior of the 305th AMW KC-10 becomes my world. Cockpit, seating area, cargo hold and refueling station. “Can Do” is more than a motto for the 305th AMW.

Two days and three missions later “Can Do” becomes “Job Done.” Flights of 6 to near 10 hours will cover distant States, Florida, Louisiana and Missouri. The Air-to-Air Refueling (AAR) missions will support a diversity of platforms; fighters, attack, transports, bombers and include both U.S. Air Force (USAF) and U.S. Navy (USN) assets.

The 305th AMW deploys airlift and refueling capability from America’s Eastern gateway in support of USAF and Department of Defense global objectives. Utilizing the KC-10 Extender they are the enabler of the Global Reach of the USAF.

The KC-10 Extender offers long range, boom, hose/drogue capability and extensive fuel capacity (356,000 lbs – almost twice that of the KC-135 Stratotanker). Given these capabilities, the KC-10 is typically utilized when moving aviation assets across continent or from one continent to the other. In many cases, the KC-10 “tows” a group of aircraft while packing the required flight personnel and ground equipment across the ocean/continent on deployments.

Tankers don’t have the sizzle of fighters or bombers. They are one of the more mundane aircraft types in the inventory. However, when it comes to global reach or deploying an effective Strike or Offensive Counter Air/Defensive Counter Air (OCA/DCA) force – tankers are critical. Indispensable.

Carefully planned and choreographed missions require frequent AAR as part of the routine. Yet there are those situations where Close Air Support (CAS) or OCA/DCA missions conspire to create “danger low fuel conditions.” In moments like those there is no sweeter sight to a pilot than pulling up under the tanker and looking through the viewing window into the face of the air refueler. No words can describe that feeling – on either side of the boom.

The entire AAR paradigm is an interesting one. Mobile fuel, deployed on location to best facilitate the mission of the receiver. This makes the Tanker community the ultimate service organization. Bottom line – Tankers will go to any end to ensure their “customer” can complete their mission. Counterpart to the 305th AMW where 32 of 59 USAF KC-10s are based, is the 60th AMW of Travis AFB on the West Coast. No less vital in their role are the near 400 KC-135s in the USAF inventory.

Life aboard and around a KC-10 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ.

Beyond AAR, the 305th’s mission includes delivery of cargo and personnel to combatant commanders abroad, VIP transport, cargo transport, dignified transfer. However, make no mistake – AAR is the primary role and the 305th AMW strives for excellence in enabling the rapid, global mobility of the USAF.

Excellence is people driven, and starts with teamwork. Flight crews typically gather for briefing 90 minutes prior to the flight, and move quickly to the KC-10 Extender for pre-flight. The aircraft Crew Chief and maintenance team is already on site ensuring all systems are go – and stay that way until the door is closed and the stairs are pulled. They are the last to leave the aircraft before launch and the first to greet the aircraft on arrival. The 305th Maintenance Group works 24/7 to ensure aircraft are mission ready.

While unique to me, the “mission saturation” I experience is the norm for the 305th AMW and reveals their pulse. The missions include crew from a variety of units including the 2nd Aerial Refueling Squadron (ARS), 32nd ARS and 305 Operations Support Squadron (OSS).

After take-off we unite with the lead KC-10 and fly in a loose trailing formation. Flying in any kind of formation adds complexity and interest. First stop, on location off the coast of Virginia to refuel F-22 Raptors from the 1st FW (Joint-Base Langley-Eustis) and F/A-18 Super Hornets (NAS Oceana). The aircraft have been mixing it up in a Red Air/Blue Air exercise. With fuel delivered we head south within reach of Miami.

F-22 from the 1 FW JBLE sliding up for fuel from a 305th AMW KC-10 (JBMDL) during a Red Air / Blue Air exercise off the coast of VA.

F-22 from the 1 FW / 27th FS JBLE sliding up for fuel from a 305th AMW KC-10 (JBMDL) during a Red Air / Blue Air exercise off the coast of VA.

C-17 Globemaster IIIs from the 437th AW of Charleston, SC join up for some boom time.

C-17 from the 437th AW Joint Base Charleston drops away from 305th AMW (JBMDL) KC-10 Extender.

On the return north the two KC-10s work “Extender to Extender” skills. The constant skills training and requirements ensure crews remain proficient in all aspects of their role.

Clean and graceful in the skies, KC-10 Extender from the 305th AMW drops away after taking fuel from another Extender. The 305th AMW of JBMDL regularly trains on both sides of the boom.

Pulling up to the pump… From one KC-10 Extender to another, the 305th AMW of JBMDL regularly training on both sides of the boom.

Day two we depart JBMDL in another KC-10 two ship. One KC-10 meets with A-10 Thunderbolt IIs of the 122nd FW “Blacksnakes” of the Indiana ANG. Our aircraft goes south to meet with a “BUFF” or more formally, B-52H Stratofortress from the 96th BS out of Barksdale AFB.

B-52H “Old Soldier II” of the 96th BS (2nd BW Barksdale AFB) during refueling operation from 305th AMW KC-10 Extender – JBMDL.

Then we are back to JBMDL for a brief break on the ground, and into another KC-10 for a night mission refueling 3 B-2 Spirits somewhere over Missouri. Two of the three bombers in the USAF Global Strike Command in one day. Two of the three frontline stealth aircraft in the USAF inventory in two days. This is life in the 305th.

A-10Cs “Blacksnakes” the 122 FW, Indiana Air National Guard taking fuel from a 305th AMW KC-10 Extender over the midwest.

In the now familiar confines of the KC-10 it starts to sink in. The 305th AMW, the USAF is TEAM. Roles may be “flashy” – or not. Doesn’t matter. Everybody has a purpose and contributes to achieve the greater mission. It may be training, it could be combat. Doesn’t matter, it is all very real. People and Mission.

Units like the 305th AMW go about this day in and day out. It never stops. Whether fueling aircraft or delivering cargo the satisfaction comes from enabling the mission. Missions span the sphere of humanitarian, training, combat operations, operational support, VIP transit and beyond.
The boom operators like SMSGT C. Wise, MSgt J. Stockwell, or TSgt A. Sochia reveal the impact on their lives. Mesmerizing AAR operations, day or night, watching fighters or aircraft as surreal as B-2s slide up for fuel – that’s not it. One of the operators recalls an AAR mission over the Middle East. They remained on station to fuel an aircraft that was involved in CAS, supporting troops involved in a firefight. Sometime later the boom operator learned that a neighbor from their hometown had been on the ground in that firefight. That’s it. Teamwork that transcends the service branch. Making a tangible impact when the chips are down. Another operator reflected on the times their KC-10 was utilized for a dignified transfer – bringing fallen service members home. No words can describe the impact, or meaningfulness of such missions.

Yes, the platforms, the experiences, the sights are incredible. However, clichés aside, it IS about the people. Enabling, respecting, serving. This is the heart of the Air Force, Air Mobility Command, and the 305th AMW. Their pulse is strong.

The Aviationist expresses gratitude to the 305th AMW, the 2nd ARS, 32nd ARS, 305th OSS, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs Team Shaun Eagan, SrA Lauren Russell, A1C Zachary Martyn, the exceptional team of in-flight refuelers and flight crews. All professionals through and through in the finest sense.

Salva

Two A-10 Thunderbolt II Jets Crash Near Nellis AFB, Nevada; Both Pilots Eject Safely.

The Two Aircraft of the 57th Wing Were On Routine Training Mission.

Early reports and a release from Nellis AFB say two Fairchild Republic A-10C Thunderbolt II attack aircraft, referred to as the “Warthog”, have crashed northwest of Las Vegas in the Nevada Test and Training Range.

Both pilots of the single-seat ground attack aircraft ejected safely and were transported to the Mike O’Callaghan Military Medical Center at Nellis for evaluation.

The accident occurred at approximately 8:00 PM local time in Nevada on Wed. Sept. 6. Sunset in the region was reported as 6:58 PM. Weather in the region was reported as cloudy with light winds. No cause of the crash has been released.

The two A-10s belonged to the 57th Wing (57 WG) of the United States Air Force Warfare Center at Nellis. The unit provides realistic tactical air combat training for all units visiting Nellis including those participating in routine training and the Red Flag combat simulation exercises.

“During A CSAR Mission We Integrated With Puma Helicopters and Su-25 Attack Planes”: A-10 Pilots Recount Their Warthog Experiences

A-10 Thunderbolt II Pilots Speak About The Warthog They Fly Over Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, and Eastern Europe.

Dubbed Warthog, Hog or just Hawg, the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the “airplane built around the GAU-8 Avenger 30-mm hydraulically driven seven-barrel Gatling-type cannon” to fight the Soviet tanks in the European battlefields during the Cold War, is considered one of the most durable and lethal combat plane in the CAS (Close Air Support) mission.

We have discussed the current capabilities of the Warthog with two 74th Fighter Squadron “Flying Tigers” pilots from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia: Lt. Col. Bryan T. France, Former Commander, and “Pinna” an Italian Air Force exchange pilot. Indeed, thanks to the Military Personnel Exchange Program, the U.S. Air Force has the opportunity to swap service members with an allied nation military: for this reason, whilst “Pinna”, from an AMX A-11A Ghibli experience with the 132° Gruppo (Squadron), flies with the 74th FS, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Joe “Slap” Goldsworthy, an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot with more than 2,700 flight hours of experience, is assigned to the 132° Gruppo and flies the Ghibli (even in combat).

Here below you can find an excerpt of the interviews both pilots gave to The Aviationist during the preparation of “BRRTTTT….deployments, war chronicles and stories of the last A-10 Warthogs” an ebook that we have just released (for details and how to buy at a very special price click here).

Italian exchange pilot Roberto Manzo, 74th Fighter Squadron training assistant, prepares to taxi to the runway, Aug. 25, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Manzo is working to master flying the A-10C Thunderbolt II in hopes of returning to Italy as an instructor pilot for the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Janiqua P. Robinson)

Lt. Col. Bryan T. France, Former Commander, 74th Fighter Squadron

Can you provide some details about the 74th FS?

The 74th Fighter Squadron is a combat-coded A-10C unit ready to support our operations with the best Close Air Support, Forward Air Control (Airborne), and Combat Search and Rescue on the planet.

Where have you been deployed with the A-10? Can you recall the most interesting missions you took part with the Hog?

I’ve had experiences around the world including Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, and Eastern Europe. One of my most memorable experiences was landing A-10s on austere runways previously used by the Soviet Union 25 years ago. It took a true team effort including high-level coordination with our European allies. We were able to demonstrate a great capability that is unique to the Hog as a fighter aircraft.

Even though the aircraft has undertaken several upgrade programs since it was introduced in the 1970s, and the A-10C is much different from the “original” A-10A, the airframe has not changed too much in the last 40 years. Does this affect you has a pilot and commander of a Warthog squadron?

If I were to sit down to design a heavy attack platform, it would look just like the A-10. Our airframe was built to extend loiter times over the battlefield, deliver a substantial amount of ordnance, and survive significant battle damage. It does these things exceptionally well and, with the advent of the C-model precision guidance upgrades, integrates as well as any aircraft with data and sensor management.

What’s the typical payload to carry out the above-mentioned missions?

We have a large variety of weaponeering options available to us. The starting point is, of course, the mighty GAU-8 Avenger Gatling-type cannon. It’s a highly-accurate point-and-shoot weapon that grants our pilots superior firepower and flexibility in a close-combat ground fight. Additionally, we carry many other capable munitions including GPS-guided, laser-guided, and unguided bombs. Based on the flexibility this gives us, our payloads vary greatly from mission to mission.

30 mm gun aside, what’s the most flexible weapon you have on the A-10?

Second to the gun, I think the Maverick provides the most flexibility in weaponeering. We can employ it from medium or low altitudes against a large variety of target types. It’s a difficult weapon to master, but indispensable in a CAS fight.

Italian exchange pilot Roberto Manzo, 74th Fighter Squadron training assistant, poses for a photo before flying, Aug. 25, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Manzo was raised in Rome, Italy and developed a desire to become a pilot after seeing jets fly for the first time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Janiqua P. Robinson)

Italian Air Force exchange pilot “Pinna”

Tell us something about you. Who is “Pinna” and what about his experience?

I was born and raised in Ostia, near Rome.

I started my adventure in the Italian Air Force Academy, in 2003, with the Drago V course. Upon graduation, I attended the pilot courses with the Euro NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT), at Sheppard, Texas, TX, between 2007 and 2008, flying the Cessna T-37B Tweet and Northrop T-38C Talon. Back in Italy, I was assigned to the A-11B AMX “Ghibli” and attended the first LIFT (Lead in Fighter Training) course with the 61º Stormo (Wing) at Lecce-Galatina airbase, in 2009, flying the MB-339CD and then the OCU (Operational Conversion Unit) course, with the 32º Stormo, at Amendola, on the AMX and AMX-T, between 2010 and 2011.

Once I arrived to my unit, the 51º Stormo, based at Istrana in northeastern Italy, I was assigned to the glorious 132º Gruppo (Squadron) FBR (Fighter Bomber Reconnaissance) “C. E. Buscaglia,” flying the “Ghibli” until my recent departure for the United States.

In addition to my personal and professional growth, during my time with the 132º I also earned my callsign, “Pinna” (Italian for “Fin”), which I’ve carried for several years now.

How did you get the opportunity to become an exchange pilot with the U.S. Air Force A-10?

The possibility of flying the legendary A-10 emerged in 2009 as a consequence of a bilateral agreement between the Italian and the U.S. Air Force. Several factors contribute in selecting the pilot destined to the Hog, including the flight experience, the achieved qualifications and currencies and, of course, the fluency with the English language (as no specific training is foreseen to improve with it before leaving for the U.S.). Although I already had a significant experience in the Close Air Support role with the AMX, I started to focus even more on this kind of mission once I learned that I would be assigned to the A-10. “Ponch”, my ItAF predecessor as an exchange pilot on the A-10 was extremely helpful during my transition from the AMX to the Warthog: he managed my induction in the American “system,” that is no easy task considered that there is very little time before things start to get serious.

Do you like the Warthog? If so, why?

The A-10C is an amazing aircraft: reliable, durable and lethal. It is a one of a kind combat plane: every single part of the Warthog is designed for Close Air Support. It is simple to handle and “forgiving”; its flight envelope makes it extremely maneuverable at low speeds and able to turn in tight spaces: this means it can circle over restricted areas and provide better support to the troops on the ground. Obviously, it’s not too fast but speed is not a mandatory feature when your main need is to remain “on station” as long as possible.

Everything in the airplane is duplicated, so as to make it as durable as possible: there are two tails, two hydraulic systems, two engines which are positioned on the outer side of the fuselage so as to minimize the risk of fire in case one of the two turbofan engines is hit. What’s more, the pilot sits in a titanium aircraft armor, referred to as a “bathtub,” which protects the cockpit from rounds fired from below.

Whilst externally the aircraft is almost identical, the avionics of the current A-10C has virtually nothing to do with the old “Hawg” that became particularly famous as the “Tank-buster” during the first Gulf War 25 years. The aircraft features an advanced data link system, HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) commands, three radios, a latest generation Targeting Pod, and also a sophisticated HMCS (Helmet Mounted Cueing System), that alongside the rest of the aircraft’s sensors, allows the pilot to effectively employ the weapon in a matter of seconds.

What are the main differences between the A-10 and the AMX? What part of your experience with the 132° Gruppo in Italy has been important with the Thunderbolt?

The A-10C and the AMX are much different aircraft. Both share a certain ease in handling, and it is no secret that the pilots of both aircraft would appreciate a bit more thrust from the engine. Furthermore, the Warthog is more maneuverable at low speeds while the AMX, with its aerodynamic design, is faster than the A-10. There are some differences in terms of missions flown by the two aircraft, though: throughout the years, an AMX pilot learns to fly several different mission profiles, spanning from reconnaissance to light attack, from CSAR (Combat SAR) to Close Air Support; the U.S. Air Force squadrons equipped with the A-10C, focus in these last two missions. My time with the 132° Gruppo, especially the tour in Afghanistan as a member of the Task Group Black Cats, has been extremely important in developing those skills required to keep up with colleagues who excel in CAS and CSAR execution. 

Two Italian Air Force A-11 Ghiblis arrive to receive fuel from a KC-10 Extender during a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Aug. 7, 2017. Italy plays a key role supporting Coalition’s military operations through air capabilities based in Kuwait: one KC-767 aerial refueling aircraft, one unmanned Predator surveillance aircrafts, four AMX aircrafts for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations and an intergraded multi-sensory exploitation cell. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)

Any particular experience you’ve lived with the “Flying Tigers” you want to share with The Aviationist’s readers?

At the beginning of 2016 I’ve also had the chance to take part in a deployment to Europe as part of the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. It was impressive to see in what conditions the A-10C was able to operate: in Estonia, every morning, a dedicated team had to defrost the aircraft; then we taxied between pile-ups of snow surrounding the taxiways! In Bulgaria we had the opportunity to conduct air-to-air training with the MiG-29 and to fly at low altitude through the mountains before reaching the firing range; I was also fortune to participate in a CSAR training where we have managed to integrate Puma helicopters and Su-25 attack planes… something you don’t see every day!

In Germany, I had the pleasure of flying a CAS mission during which I was assigned an Italian JTAC: I still remember his surprise hearing an Italian voice coming from an American A-10.

I think the most complicated exercises are those in which we simulate the “contact” between friendly troops and the enemy on the ground: learning how to safely use the weapons in such [TIC – Troops In Contact] situations is as complex as vital, and requires extremely accurate planning on the ground and fine execution in flight…

You can read the rest of the interviews (and much more) in “BRRTTTT….deployments, war chronicles and stories of the last A-10 Warthogs” (for details and how to buy at a very special price click here).

The cover of our recently released ebook (141 pages, 31 Articles,129 Pics and 6 Aircraft profiles) where you can find the rest of the interviews. Click here for more details! A paperback version will be available soon.

Salva

When Highway Landings Go Wrong: A-10 Demolishes Road Sign During Exercise In Estonia

Beware of road signs when you landi your combat aircraft on a public road!

On Aug. 10, one of the ten A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft assigned to the 104th Fighter Squadron, Maryland Air National Guard, performing landing and take off training from an extension of Jägala-Käravete Highway, a portion of the longer road known as Piibe Highway, in Northern Estonia, hit and damaged a road sign at roughly 3.15 PM local time.

Although the Warthog, carrying a dummy AGM-85 Maverick missile and a Litening ATP (Advanced Targeting Pod) did not suffer significant damage (the Thunderbolt II is an extremely sturdy plane, able to survive much more than a few scrapes) and was able to take off again later on, the highway remained closed until the following morning.

The incident is under investigation; based on the photographs it seems that the aircraft (AF 79-0108) may have approached the extension a bit too low and hit (with the right hand wing) the road sign along with a plastic barrier that marks the beginning of the highway section used as runway.

You can find several interesting shots here.

Top composite image made by editing shots by Mihkel Maripuu/Postimees.ee and Ardi Hallismaa/mil.ee

 

U.S. A-10 Thunderbolt II Jets Practice Take Off And Landing On Highway in Estonia

Warthogs of the Maryland Air National Guard practiced landing on and taking off from Jägala-Käravete Highway in Northern Estonia.

On Aug. 10, ten A-10 attack aircraft belonging to the 175th Wing of the Maryland Air National Guard performed landing and take off from an extension of Jägala-Käravete Highway, a portion of the longer road known as Piibe Highway, in Northern Estonia.

The Warthogs arrived from Ämari Air Base, where they deployed on Aug. 4 in order to support Operation Atlantic Resolve until Aug. 18

This is not the first time the USAF A-10s practiced highway operations from a public road in Estonia: in August 2016, Warthogs belonging to the 303rd Fighter Squadron, 442nd Fighter Wing, from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, performed highway operations from the very same extension during their deployment to Estonia.

One of the A-10s lands on a public road in Estonia.

The ability to perform landings from highways is unique to the A-10 that can exploit its wide tyres and high-mounted engines (therefore less prone to FOD – Foreign Object Damage).

Part of the standard training during the Cold War, highway operations training from dispersed places, has resumed in eastern Europe as a consequence of the renewed tensions with Russia.

The MD ANG Warthogs sported some impressive kill markings.

The weaponry dropped by this MD ANG A-10 during its tour of duty in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

All images credit: Ardi Hallismaa/mil.ee