Tag Archives: A-10

Here’s how an Integrated U.S. Force Secures a Critical Airfield in Contested Space

Awesome images of A-10s, C-17s and C-130s involved in JFEX exercise.

The battle went unnoticed by most.

On Saturday, Jun. 18 a joint aerial friendly force faced a very capable and determined adversary.  The adversary fielded a world class air force combined with advanced radar and surface to air missile sites that create an Anti-Access/Area-Denial zone (A2/AD).

Within that zone, lay the target –  a critical airfield.  Operational plans called for a combined force of 39 C-17As and C-130H&Js to land equipment and drop paratroops from the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division onto the airfield and secure it.

Air Mobility Command C-17A of the 436th AW/512 AW, Dover, DE kicks up the dust as it lands at Keno Airfield on the NTTR during Joint Forcible Entry Exercise (June 2016).

Air Mobility Command C-17A of the 436th AW/512 AW, Dover, DE kicks up the dust as it lands at Keno Airfield on the NTTR during Joint Forcible Entry Exercise (June 2016).

This is the Joint Forcible Entry Exercise, or JFEX.

JFEX takes place twice a year as one of the final assignments for those participating in the U.S. Air Force Weapons School (USAFWS).  The Weapons School represents the highest level of training offered by the USAF.  Those selected to participate are typically instructors on their platforms (aircraft/systems), and have demonstrated leadership excellence. Weapons School graduates are among the finest leaders and advanced integration warfighters on the planet.

Air Mobility Command C-17A of the 436th AW/512 AW, Dover, DE kicks up the dust as it lands at Keno Airfield. on the NTTR. Overhead, F-15s, F-16s, B-52s and more keep the skies and ground clear of threats during Joint Forcible Entry Exercise (June 2016).

Air Mobility Command C-17A of the 436th AW/512 AW, Dover, DE kicks up the dust as it lands at Keno Airfield. on the NTTR. Overhead, F-15s, F-16s, B-52s and more keep the skies and ground clear of threats during Joint Forcible Entry Exercise (June 2016).

The Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) provides the ideal venue for the exercise.  The restricted NTTR features advanced radar systems, surface to air missile sites (SAM), scores of ground targets as well as the unimproved Keno airfield.  These systems are configured to create the most challenging and realistic A2/AD threat.

Air Mobility Command C-17A of the 437 AW/315 AW, Charleston, SC "cleans" the runway during take off from Keno Airfield on the NTTR during Joint Forcible Entry Exercise (June 2016).

Air Mobility Command C-17A of the 437 AW/315 AW, Charleston, SC “cleans” the runway during take off from Keno Airfield on the NTTR during Joint Forcible Entry Exercise (June 2016).

In addition to the transports, the joint Blue force utilized 33 aircraft of 9 platforms (F-16CM, F-15C, F-15E, EA-18G, B-52, A-10, E-3, RC-135J, E8, MQ-9).  Advanced command and control capabilities were complemented by Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC) on the ground in the vicinity of the airfield.

A-10C of the 66 WPS, Nellis AFB turns away from Keno Airfield on the NTTR during JFEX. The A-10C offered close air support in the immediate victinity of the airfield during the Joint Forcible Entry Exercise (June 2016).

A-10C of the 66 WPS, Nellis AFB turns away from Keno Airfield on the NTTR during JFEX. The A-10C offered close air support in the immediate victinity of the airfield during the Joint Forcible Entry Exercise (June 2016).

The Red Force included 10 aircraft (8 F-16s and 2 A-4s) complemented by a ground force that included U.S. Army High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).  The adversary ground threat combine and coordinate with Red air flying F-16s out of Nellis AFB.  Together, they form a dynamic and unpredictable adversary that must be forcibly neutralized.

Ground launched rocket streaks in front of C-17A's incoming for airdrop on Keno field in the NTTR during JFEX (June 2016).

Ground launched rocket streaks in front of C-17A’s incoming for airdrop on Keno field in the NTTR during JFEX (June 2016).

Col. Michael Drowley, Commandant of the USAFWS, notes that “…weapons school graduates are challenged to solve very difficult problems, given the smaller force size, integration is the key to success.”   JFEX demands the advanced platform and service integration that is anticipated in future warfare.

Air Mobility Command C-130J-30 of Little Rock AFB, AR overflies Keno Airfield on the NTTR during JFEX (June 2016).  The "J's" ramp is open as it prepares to drop U.S. Army paratroppers from the 82nd Airborne Division.

Air Mobility Command C-130J-30 of Little Rock AFB, AR overflies Keno Airfield on the NTTR during JFEX (June 2016). The “J’s” ramp is open as it prepares to drop U.S. Army paratroppers from the 82nd Airborne Division.

With primary air and ground threats neutralized, the massive force of C-17As and C-130H and Js appeared over the field on cue.  Some of the transport aircraft had flown direct to the central Nevada location from distances as far as Fort Bragg, NC.  Throughout the operation, A-10s remained low and close to the airfield neutralizing any dynamic threats.  F-16CMs, F-15Cs and B-52s circled high overhead responding to ongoing SAM and air threats.  The exercise involved nearly 600 participants and went smoothly, though high surface winds led to an abort of the paratrooper jump.

F-15C of the 433 WPS launches flares while providing Defensive Counter Air over Keno airfield on the NTTR during JFEX (June 2016).

F-15C of the 433 WPS launches flares while providing Defensive Counter Air over Keno airfield on the NTTR during JFEX (June 2016).

Effective training challenges are those that are more difficult than real world scenarios.  Judging by this JFEX, the 2016-A class of Weapons Officers are ready for any challenge an adversary brings.

A-10C from Nellis, AFB provides Close Air Support at Keno airfield on the NTTR during JFEC (Dec 2015)

A-10C from Nellis, AFB provides Close Air Support at Keno airfield on the NTTR during JFEC (Dec 2015)

Heartfelt thanks for the support provided by the USAF ACC 99 ABW PAO, specifically SrA Joshua Kleinholz, and Susan Garcia, U.S. Weapons School. Photo contributions by photographer Eric Bowen, JFEX Dec 2015.

Top image: Erik Bowen

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Four A-10 tankbusters have landed on a highway (in Estonia): it’s the first time since 1984!

A-10 Thunderbolt II practiced Cold War-style landing on a highway during Ex. Saber Strike 2016.

For the first time in 32 years, four A-10 Warthogs, belonging to the 127th Wing, Michigan National Guard, performed highway landing practice: it occurred in Estonia, as part of Saber Strike 16 exercise, on Jun. 20.

Saber Strike is a long-standing U.S. Army Europe-led cooperative training exercise designed to improve joint interoperability through a range of missions that prepare the 14 participating nations to support multinational contingency operations.

A-10 land Estonia 2

After WWII and through the Cold War some countries developed the concept of highway strips to get rid off one of the basic drawbacks of combat plane – runway dependency – in case of nuclear war. Airstrips and their coordinates were not secret, neither in the West nor in Soviet Russia. Obviously they would be destroyed in the beginning of any conflict.

Designed in the 1920s and 30s, the German Autobahn had sections that could be used as runways by tactical jets as well as military cargo planes: for instance, the A-29 between Ahlhorn and Groβenkneten is one example of highway where, during the Cold War, NATO planners built a road to accommodate NATO aircraft if a war with the Soviets broke out.

In that period, even Warsaw Pact countries had several highway strips: Poland had as many as 21 DOLs, Drogowy Odcinek Lotniskowy, which is a Polish name for highway strips: improvised runways made of hightway section with wider ends to provide parking spaces for the planes.

One of these is still located near Stettin (Szczecin) on the Voyvodeship Road 142 near the S3 State Road on the German-planned highway towards Kaliningrad. This highway was built in the 1930s by Adolf Hitler and was a part of the Reichsautobahn network which emerged before the WWII; the remaining ones are mostly out of use.

Highway landings were part of the standard training conducted mainly in Central, Eastern and Northern Europe during the Cold War. With the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, highway take-offs and landings became less frequent.

However, with the renewed Russian threat, training for operations from dispersed places, including public roads, has gradually resumed and involves Finnish and Swedish planes and after more than 30 years, even the U.S. A-10 tankbusters, frequent visitors of Russia’s backyard lately.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

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U.S. Air Force A-10 and F-15 Theater Security Package activities in Europe in one infographic

An interesting infographic provides some detail about the two TSPs in Europe.

12 A-10s belonging to the first Air Force Theater Security Package and 12 F-15s of the first ANG  TSP (theater security package) are currently deployed in eastern Europe in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

Both TSPs will operate from bases across the Old Continent for about 6 months to augment U.S. Air Force in Europe support to Operation Atlantic Resolve, and reassure regional allies.

The following infographic provides some additional detail about the activities conducted by the TSPs so far (actually, until May 11).

TSP Infographic

 

“A-10 will always be better than F-35 in Close Air Support. In all the other missions the JSF wins” F-35 pilot says

…and (quite obviously) the F-22 will always be better in Air-to-Air combat. But, in all the other missions the F-35 wins.

It’s wrong to compare the F-35 with any other asset that was designed to perform a specific mission: this is, in simple words, what a U.S. F-35 pilot said in an interview he gave to the Danish website focusing on military topics Krigeren.

Interviewed at Luke Air Force Base, by Christian Sundsdal, Maj. John Wilson, an F-35 pilot with an F-16 background clearly explained something that is quite obvious to everyone: an A-10 Thunderbolt II will always be better in CAS than the F-35 because it was designed to perform that kind of mission. Similarly, an F-22 will always be better than the JSF in air-to-air combat, because it was designed for that role. However, the F-35 is better in all the other missions.

For sure, aircraft designed for a specific role are going to be more effective in that one than other multi-role platforms. The problem in this case is that the F-35 is going to replace these assets, even though many believe this is not cost-effective, and could even cost some human lives as far as CAS missions, with Troops in Contact is concerned.

Furthermore, according to Wilson, once all the limitations are removed and it can carry weapons, the F-35 will be as capable as the F-16 in the CAS role.

According to Wilson, the majority of CAS missions that have been flown in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere, were flown by Predators, F-15E Strike Eagles, F-16s and F-18s.

“The A-10s make up a very small percentage [and the fact that] every JTAC or guy on the ground that has been saved, has been saved by an A-10, that’s just not true” Wilson says.

“If the guys on the ground are concerned about that…I’d say they shouldn’t be. They should only be concerned that the pilots of whatever aircraft it is, is properly trained and doing his job, dropping the right bomb, on the right target, at the right time.”

Wilson admits the aircraft is expensive, but he says that maintaining several different types in service is even more costly.

Here’s the interview.

Interview with F-35 Pilot from Krigeren.dk on Vimeo.

 

U.S. A-10 reportedly shot at by ISIS militants with Strela MANPADS in Iraq

U.S. A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft face the threat of Man Portable Air Defense Systems in Iraq.

According to a report by Iraqi News, American A-10 were shot at with four Strela missiles during the recent air strikes carried out by the Warthogs (as the Thunderbolts are referred to by the pilot community) on ISIS positions near Mosul, in Iraq.

Based on reports by unnamed sources who witnessed the attack, the A-10s killed and wounded several terrorists but were also targeted by the ISIS militants who allegedly attempted to shoot down the U.S. planes fling at low altitude using 9K32 Strela-2 (NATO reporting name SA-7 Grail) man-portable, shoulder-fired, low-altitude, IR (infra-red) guided, surface-to-air missile systems.

Even though the Warthogs were not hit by the surface-to-air missiles, the episode seems to confirm that, flying at medium and low altitude and loitering over the battlefield, the A-10s deployed to Kuwait face the threat of MANPADS known to be in possession of Islamic State forces.

Still, the “Hog” is a tough plane, that has already shown its special ability to bring the pilot back to the homebase in spite of heavy damages by ground fire.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force