Monday, December 29, 2008

Two more 75th EFS A-10Cs arrives at Spang for wing inspections and repairs

By Joachim Jacob

Updated 30 December 2008

Today, two more A-10Cs, originally deployed with the 75th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron for Operation Enduring Freedom to the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram AB, Afghanistan, arrived at Spangdahlem AB, Germany, for wing inspections and repairs due to partial A-10 groundings.

A-10C 79-0172 arrived at Runway 23 as Trend 91 14:30 local time, followed by 80-0178 as Trend 93 14:31 local time. First known public photo proofs are shared with me by German aviation photographer Dalibor Ankovic / Photaviaworks. Special thanks for your great support, Dalibor!

According to the Dutch Scramble Message Board and the German FlugzeugForum, originally a flight of three A-10Cs was announced as Trend 91-93 with 79-0172, 80-0178 and "80-0228" (in fact probably 80-0226 and also from the 74th FS). But the flight of the third jet was cancelled at NAS Sigonella, Cicily.

Including the two latest arrivals, relocated to Spangdahlem AB for wing inspections and repairs are the following ten A-10Cs:

78-0674 (74th Fighter Squadron, marked 74 FS), arrival 5 December 2008 (after diverting to Ramstein AB)
78-0679 (75th Fighter Squadron), arrival 1 December 2008 (after diverting to Ramstein AB)
78-0697 (74th Fighter Squadron), arrival 2 December 2008 (after diverting to Ramstein AB)
79-0138 (75th Fighter Squadron), arrival 1 December 2008 (after diverting to Ramstein AB)
79-0172 (74th Fighter Squadron), arrival 29 December 2008
79-0186 (75th Fighter Squadron), arrival 2 December 2008 (after diverting to Ramstein AB)
79-0192 (74th Fighter Squadron), arrival 2 December 2008 (after diverting to Ramstein AB)
80-0140 (74th Fighter Squadron), arrival 8 November 2008
80-0149 (75th Fighter Squadron), arrival 8 November 2008
80-0178 (74th Fighter Squadron), arrival 29 December 2008

A-10C 79-0172 from the 74th Fighter Squadron arrives. (Photo by Dalibor Ankovic / Photaviaworks)

A-10C 79-0172 from the 74th Fighter Squadron arrives. (Photo by Dalibor Ankovic / Photaviaworks)

A-10C 80-0178 from the 74th Fighter Squadron arrives. (Photo by Dalibor Ankovic / Photaviaworks)

A-10C 80-0178 from the 74th Fighter Squadron arrives. (Photo by Dalibor Ankovic / Photaviaworks)

For relocations to Spang see also:
Spangdahlem helps get deployed aircraft back into the air, and into the fight
Diverted 81st FS A-10s relocated from Ramstein to Spang
USAF released first photos of diverted 75th EFS A-10s at Ramstein
Two diverted 75th EFS A-10s left Ramstein for Spang
Intel: Enroute to Spang, Bagram A-10s diverted to Ramstein
Intel: Two more 75th EFS A-10s enroute to Spang?
Two combat-deployed 75th EFS A-10s relocate from Bagram to Spang

Ten years ago: 355th EFS returned home from OSW after participating in Operation Desert Fox

By Joachim Jacob

Today, the Alaskan Fairbanks Daily News-Miner published the following archived news article:

Looking Back in Fairbanks — Dec. 29

Published Monday, December 29, 2008


Dec. 29, 1998 — As he guided his A-10 Thunderbolt II into the open hangar, Lt. Col. Bill Travnick raised his hands, each clenched into triumphant fist.

A few minutes later, he climbed down the collapsible ladder stored inside the A-10 behind a door that had written on it in black marker: "Wild Bill in Queen B Kickin' Ass."

Travnick explained his enthusiasm after his wife and four children arrived, spilling out of the back of a box truck to hug and kiss him.

"We're just glad to be home," said Travnick, commander of the 355th Fighter Squadron based at Eielson Air Force Base. The unit was deployed during the recent four-day air assault in Iraq.


Background info: From October to December 1998, elements of the 355th Fighter Squadron, 354th Fighter Wing (PACAF), Eielson AFB, Alaska, were deployed to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Group at Ahmed Al Jaber AB, Kuwait, in support of Operation Southern Watch. A PDF file Eielson AFB A-10 History, edited by Eielson AFB, Office of History, states the following:

Oct- Dec 98: The 355 FS deployed to support Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. The Warthogs saw their second tour of combat duty over Iraq while participating in the 16-19 Dec 98 Operation DESERT FOX strike missions. In 2.5 months, the 355th FS flew 597 combat and combat support sorties leading up to, then conducting, National Command Authority directed strikes on Iraqi military facilities and suspected weapons of mass destruction storage areas. They achieved 100 percent target-hit rate.

Another PDF file History of the 354th Fighter Wing and Eielson AFB states:

October - December 1998 - The wing deployed both of its flying squadrons to Al Jaber AB, Kuwait to support Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. During the deployment, the 355 FS participated in Operation DESERT FOX, becoming the first Alaska-based unit to engage enemy targets since World War II.

Related info:
Operation Desert Fox
Operation DESERT FOX: Effectiveness With Unintended Effects
Operation Desert Fox
Bombing of Iraq (December 1998)

I will check the web and my archives for further background info.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Barksdale A-10 unit deploys to Colorado

A-10 unit supported operations during frigid flying conditions.

Shreveport Times

By Tech. Sgt. Andre Menard • Special to The Times • December 28, 2008 2:00 am

Barksdale Air Force Base's 47th Fighter Squadron deployed to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado this month to conduct close air support training with the A-10 Thunderbolts and the 13th Air Support Operational Squadron.

A trio of Barksdale A-10s and 30 personnel supported the Special Ops personnel out of Fort Carson, Colo., in forward air control, updating their currencies while preparing for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Several of the upgraded personnel qualified to serve as ground joint terminal attack controllers, or JTACs, said Lt. Col. James Marks, the squadron's assistant director of operations.

These airmen will forward deploy with Army units and liaison between the Air Force and ground forces needing close air support.

The JTACs from the 13th ASOS took full advantage of the ground support training with the A-10s.

"Usually, we have to pack up all of our gear and go in search of support to maintain our currencies," said Tech. Sgt. John Campbell, a 13th ASOS controller. "So we wanted to give them a show, and perhaps, a reason to come back again."

With the help of Range Control, the JTACs were able to put together urban villages complete with personnel acting as opposition forces who fired off missiles and popped simulated bombs.

Although the JTACs wanted to emphasize old school tactics, using grid referencing points, they also practiced with ROVER, a remotely operated video enhanced receiver, which is an enhancement on the LITENING-AT targeting pods the 917th pioneered use of to transmit real-time video to people on the ground during close-air-support missions.

Marks, a veteran forward air controller and A-10 pilot, was impressed with the enthusiasm of the young troops.

"They had really great scenarios, incorporating ground burst simulators and simulated MANPAD missile launches," he said. "They did a great job of attempting realistic training, incorporating situations that guys are going through right now in Afghanistan."

To Campbell, the training hit close to home.

"I wrote these scenarios while deployed to Afghanistan, with hopes that we could put a great training exercise like this to work," he said. "Even with record-breaking low temperatures in Colorado, the jets were able to complete all but one sortie, which was due to high winds."

Marks scored the deployment as a success.

"The maintainers did an outstanding job with the cold weather, keeping the jets fixed and able to support the training that we deployed for," he said.

"It was a chance to exercise the complete air to ground network of controlling air power, running the whole tactical coordination system from stem to stern and allowing the JTACs to accomplish not only their training, but the training their personnel may be getting also."


See also: JTACs trained with Barksdale A-10s for OEF and OIF

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Airman saves lives in Afghanistan

by Capt. Laura Ropelis
Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs

12/24/2008 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS) -- An Air Force Special Operations Command Airman saved lives in Afghanistan April 6 during a lengthy battle by calling in airstrikes to protect his team.

Staff Sgt. Zachary Rhyner, a special tactics combat controller assigned to the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., was deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom as the primary joint terminal attack controller while attached to special forces team Operational Detachment Alpha 3336, 3rd Special Forces Group.

Then a senior airman, Sergeant Rhyner was part of a 130-man combined assault force whose mission was to enter Shok Valley and capture a high-value target who was funding the insurgency. Sergeant Rhyner is credited with saving his10-man team from being overrun twice in a 6.5-hour battle.

Capt. Stewart Parker, the detachment commander at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, was the command and control link to the JTACs on the ground as they went into Shok Valley.

"This was the first time U.S. special operations forces entered the territory," Captain Parker said. "These were extraordinary conditions and the situation was dynamic."

Shok Valley is located below 60-foot cliffs. The mission objective was at the top of the mountains surrounding the valley.

"Initial infiltration began that day with snow on the ground, jagged rocks, a fast-moving river and a cliff," Sergeant Rhyner said. "There was a 5-foot wall you had to pull yourself up. The ridgeline trail was out of control."

The expectation was to encounter fire from about 70 insurgents. One Air Force JTAC-qualified combat controller was attached to each team to call in airstrikes, if needed.

"We were caught off guard as 200 enemy fighters approached," said Staff Sgt. Rob Gutierrez, a combat controller with the second team in the fight. "Within 10 minutes, we were ambushed with heavy fire from 50 meters. The teams were split by a river 100 to 200 meters apart, north to south."

Sergeant Rhyner was in charge of coordinating the air assets.

"I have never seen a situation this bad," said Captain Parker, who was monitoring the situation back at the base. "The intel said the enemy was 40 feet away from Zach and his team at one point. It was dangerous."

Within the first 15 minutes of fire, Sergeant Rhyner was wounded along with three team members.

"I was pulling security when I got shot in the leg," he said. "The rounds hit my left thigh and went through my leg and hit another guy in the foot."

Sergeant Rhyner said he immediately felt pain and adrenalin.

"There was nowhere to go. I grabbed the wounded guys, but we were trapped by the enemy," he said. "I was calling in airstrikes and firing, while moving the wounded down (the cliff)."

Sergeant Gutierrez said he could see insurgent fire coming from the buildings on the hilltops above them and was trying to get across the river to meet up with Sergeant Rhyner.

"Zach and I were in constant radio contact," he said. "I could hear the ammunition, sniper fire and rocket-propelled grenades with multiple blasts. We tried to push to the north to collocate with Zach's team, but every time we pushed up river, it put us in an open line of fire."

"My team ran across the freezing river. The water came off the mountains, and we were 100 to 200 feet beneath the enemy, like fish in a barrel," Sergeant Gutierrez said.

As the enemy surrounded them, Sergeant Rhyner, who was being treated for his injuries by Capt. Kyle Walton, the special forces team leader, directed multiple rockets and gun runs from AH-64 Apache helicopters against enemy positions.

"Zach was coordinating tremendous amounts of fire on both villages simultaneously," Sergeant Gutierrez said. "Zach was in charge of the airstrikes, since he was closest to the fight and could see even what the F-15 (Eagle) pilots could not."

Forty-five minutes to an hour had gone by since the fight began.

"We were pinned down and I could see the enemy all over the hills running around," Sergeant Gutierrez said. There were no stable targets. I kept the Apaches and the Hellfire missiles pressed to the north."

Accurate sniper, machine gun and RPG fire poured down on the assault force in a complex ambush initiated simultaneously from all directions as Alpha Team 3336 ascended the near-vertical terrain. He called in more than 50 close airstrikes and strafing runs.

Three hours into the fight, Sergeant Gutierrez reached Sergeant Rhyner's position.

"Sergeant Gutierrez and I met on the cliff during the battle briefly. We shared a laugh, but it was a busy, bleak situation," Sergeant Rhyner said.

Sergeant Rhyner had been calling in airstrikes for three hours while he was injured; however, he still felt responsible for the others who had been hurt. With disregard for his own life, he tried to get the injured to safety, still in the open line of fire.

"I left injured personnel in a house and I had to get over there," he said. "I was frustrated being wounded. I tried to get the bombs there fast and talk to the pilots who didn't see what I saw on the ground."

Five or six hours into the fight, as it was getting dark, intelligence informed the JTACs that enemy reinforcements were 10 kilometers away carrying enemy rockets and missiles.

"We continued to fight our way up the hill and the (helicopters) came," Sergeant Gutierrez said. "Zach was talking to the helos and gave the coordinates to lay the bombs on the village, while I kept the A-10 (Thunderbolt IIs) and the Apaches out of the way."

Sergeant Rhyner called in a total of 4,570 rounds of cannon fire, nine Hellfire missiles, 162 rockets, 12 500-pound bombs and one 2,000-pound bomb, constantly engaging the enemy with his M-4 rifle to deter their advance.

"Zach acted fast and shut down the fighting," Sergeant Gutierrez said. "The wounded were taken out on medevac."

Back at command and control, Captain Parker heard that the helicopters were on the ground with the wounded but he could not move the helicopters due to the terrain and weather conditions.

"Radio transmissions would block the signal due to terrain and vertical cliffs," he said. "Helicopters were vulnerable and there was pressure to do everything we could to get the teams out quickly."

Fog then started rolling into the valley.

"At 8,000 feet, the helicopter couldn't fly (due to altitude) and the situation called for 'aggressive patience,'" Captain Parker said. "More than 50 percent of the U.S. forces were wounded, and it was pretty grave."

Toward the end of the fighting, 40 insurgents were killed and 100 wounded.

Sergeant Rhyner was directly credited with the entire team's survival due to his skill and poise under intense fire.

"Sergeant Rhyner is out of training less than a year and is in one of the most difficult situations," Captain Parker said. "It is an absolute testament to his character and the training these guys take. It tells me we are doing something right."

"If it wasn't for Zach, I wouldn't be here," Sergeant Gutierrez said.

Sergeant Rhyner received the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs Grateful Nation Award Dec. 8 in Washington, D.C., and is awaiting the presentation of a Purple Heart for the injuries he suffered during the battle.


Note: It looks to me that the involved A-10s were from the 81st FS, 52nd FW (USAFE), Spangdahlem AB, Germany, during their OEF deployment to Bagram AB, Afghanistan, as part of the AEF 1/2 (Cycle 7) rotation (January - April 2008).

Associated picture:

Staff Sgt. Zachary Rhyner receives the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs Grateful Nation Award from Navy Adm. Michael C. Mullen during the Grateful Nation Award Ceremony on December 8, 2008, in Washington, D.C. Sergeant Rhyner is a special tactics combat controller assigned to the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Pope AFB, North Carolina, and Admiral Mullen is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Courtesy photo via USAF)

JTACs trained with Barksdale A-10s for OEF and OIF

According to three photos, titled "JTACs train with A-10s" and released on 917th Wing's public website, in mid December 2008 some A-10s from the 47th Fighter Squadron, 917th Wing (AFRC), Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, were deployed to Peterson AFB, Colorado, to train with Joint Terminal Attack Controllers. The JTACs received training for deployment in support of OEF/OIF.

Staff Sgt. Darren Kuhlmann, 717th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons loader participates in operations supporting the 13th Air Support Operations Squadron while deployed to Peterson AFB, Colorado, in mid December 2008. The JTACs received training for deployment in support of OEF/OIF. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Andre Menard) Hi-res

Note: The 717th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron is part of the 917th Maintenance Group, 917th Wing, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana.

Joint Terminal Attack Controllers act as opposing forces while they simulate a ground missile attack against their co-workers with Barksdale A-10s while deployed to Peterson AFB, Colorado, in mid December 2008. The JTACs received training for deployment in support of OEF/OIF. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Andre Menard) Hi-res

Joint Terminal Attack Controllers perform scenarios with Barksdale A-10s, while deployed to Peterson AFB, Colorado, in mid December 2008. The JTACs received training for deployment in support of OEF/OIF. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Andre Menard) Hi-res

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Cracks still idle some A-10s

Problem has delayed training at D-M; about a third of affected jets unrepaired

By Carol Ann Alaimo
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 12.23.2008

The largest fleet of warplanes at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base remains partially grounded, nearly three months after wing cracks banned them from Tucson's skies.

In a process taking longer than expected, about a third of D-M's affected A-10 attack jets still aren't fit to fly, and some may not be airborne until the middle of next year.

Dozens of student pilots are behind schedule in their training as a result, and even seasoned aviators are feeling the pinch.

"We're still not flying at normal levels," said Staff Sgt. Jacob Richmond, a base spokesman.

"In some fashion or another, all of D-M's A-10 pilots have felt the effects over the last few months."

D-M is the main Air Force training base for A-10 pilots and has 82 of the warplanes, the world's largest fleet. Of those, 52 eventually were grounded with microscopic wing cracks first discovered in early October, and 35 have since been repaired.
The other 17 local jets still are out of commission, and officials can only "guesstimate" when they'll all be back in service.

"We hope to have all remaining aircraft repaired and returned to service by early to mid-2009," Richmond said.

The delay is due to the complexity of the fixes, he said. Engineers have been tailoring repair plans for each aircraft because there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution.

The problem has affected A-10s Air Force-wide, but because the jet is so central to D-M's daily operations, the impact of the groundings is keenly felt at the Tucson base.

About 20 student pilots who were supposed to graduate by year's end weren't able to because they couldn't get enough flight hours, Richmond said. Another class of 15 new student pilots was supposed to report to D-M in January but was told not to come until the situation is sorted out.

Student training has suffered because preference had to be given to veteran D-M fliers.

Depending on experience, each A-10 pilot must log between five and nine flights per month to maintain proficiency on the aircraft. That became a struggle when there weren't enough planes to go around.

The A-10, nicknamed the Warthog, has been a workhorse in Iraq and Afghanistan, renowned for its effectiveness in providing close air support to U.S. ground troops. When the wing-crack problem was discovered, the Air Force gave priority to fixing A-10s deployed to war zones.

Introduced in 1975, the jets have surpassed their normal lifespan and have been refurbished to keep them in service for another decade or more.

The Air Force last year ordered more than 200 sets of new A-10 wings from the Boeing Co. of St. Louis. Delivery is scheduled to start in 2011.

The new wings will be installed on A-10s with thin-skin wings. All the recently grounded A-10s have thin-skin wings installed during original manufacture, the service has said.


Note: Up to the moment, this news story already got 40 azstarnet reader comments!

Associated pictures:

Click to enlarge

Senior Airman Bennie Gatlin removes a part on an A-10 in order to repair microscopic wing cracks. Many of the attack jets at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base have been repaired, but even so, other airplanes remain grounded, which has slowed pilot training. (Photo by Greg Bryan / Arizona Daily Star)

Click to enlarge

Senior Airman Bennie Gatlin, left, and Airman Adam Fisher work amid a collection of A-10 parts removed in the process of fixing wings with microscopic cracks. It could be mid-2009 before the Davis-Monthan fleet of A-10s is fully operational. (Photo by Greg Bryan / Arizona Daily Star)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

107th Fighter Squadron 'Red Devils' now one step closer to converting from F-16C/Ds to the A-10C

By Joachim Jacob

As directed by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure commission, the 107th Fighter Squadron 'Red Devils', 127th Wing (Michigan Air National Guard), still prepare its conversion from F-16C/D Block 30 (small mouth) Fighting Falcons to the A-10C Thunderbolt II.

In a news article about the latest 127th Operations Group command change ceremony, which was held at Selfridge ANGB on November 2, 2008, 127th Wing Public Affairs stated:

The leadership changes come as the unit prepares for a conversion to A-10 aircraft in the next few months, which was mandated by Base Realignment and Closure law of 2005. A-10 aircraft will begin to arrive at Selfridge in the coming weeks, with personnel training away at Air Force technical schools and other A-10 locations throughout the United States. The 127th Wing plans to have the ramps at Selfridge filled with A-10s by early next summer, flying its training locally at that time. Source

According to other sources and some personal contacts, Selfridge is sending its Vipers to the 163rd Fighter Squadron 'Blacksnakes', 122nd Fighter Wing (Indiana Air National Guard) at Fort Wayne IAP, which will retire its F-16C/D block 25. The 107th Fighter Squadron will get A-10Cs from the 172nd Fighter Squadron, 110th Fighter Wing (Michigan ANG), at Battle Creek ANGB, along with many of their pilots.

A-10Cs from the 172nd Fighter Squadron are lined-up at Battle Creek ANGB on October 5, 2008. From left to right: 80-0262, 80-0269, 81-0996 and 80-0258 (Ladder door art inscription: PEACE THROUGH SUPERIOR FIREPOWER). (U.S. Air Force photo) Hi-res

On December 16, 2008, the 'Red Devils' flew their last F-16 sortie:

Last Michigan Air Guard F-16 Flight

by 127th Wing Public Affairs

12/17/2008 - Dec. 17, 2008 -- SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. - Michigan Air National Guard's 107th Fighter Squadron flew its last F-16 sortie yesterday afternoon as the unit prepares to transition to the A-10 aircraft and mission.

The fighter jets will leave the base at the end of December, flown by Indiana Air National Guardsmen to their new home at Ft. Wayne Air National Guard Base. Now, 24 A-10 aircraft will be assigned to the base.

Major Brian Davis, a pilot with the 107th Fighter Squadron, explains their new mission.

"The F-16 is a multipurpose aircraft. It can do many things. The A-10 is designed primarily for Close-Air Support. It was created to work and support the Soldiers and Marines on the ground. If that is the mission that needs to be done - and it is - then that's the mission we want to do."

The 127th Wing and its predecessor units in the Michigan Air National Guard have been flying "F" designated aircraft since 1950 when local Guardsmen began flying the F-84 Republic Thunderjet. Since then, the wing has flown the F-86, RF-84, F-89, F-100, RF-101, F-106, F-4 and F-16 aircraft.

The Michigan Air National Guard F-16s have flown in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Northern Watch, Operation Noble Eagle, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, being the first U.S. F-16 unit stationed inside Iraq in 2004 - instrumental to the Marine ground forces in the Fallujah battles that year.

Capt. David Wright, an intelligence officer with the unit, describes, "In 2004, our unit was assigned to Kirkuk, Iraq. It was unprecedented to bring F-16s into that austere environment. But we went in there and on the very first day, we had planes in the air. All the training, all the money spent to make sure that we were ready, all the work preparing - it all paid off. It was one of the most important things I have ever done in my life."

The 107th FS also deployed a second time in support of OIF in 2007, performing a significant role in the battle of An Najaf in January of that year.

This transition is the last of the changes brought to the 127th Wing from the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure commission. Earlier in the year the wing converted its airlift mission of C-130s to the KC-135 Stratotanker refueling mission. The wing also stepped away from the Air Soverieignty Alert mission in October, preparing for the drawdown of the F-16s.

The 107th Fighter Squadron first took possession of an F-16 aircraft in late 1989. The squadron was certified mission-ready with the aircraft in early 1990. Prior to the upcoming transition mandated by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure commission, Selfridge had 15 F-16 aircraft assigned. Source

F-16 Pilot Lt. Col. William Hargrove prepares to launch F-16C Block 30B 85-1490 in an alert jet as TSgt. Harold Hayes, aircraft armament systems specialist, goes over the procedures checklist. The alert mission at the 127th Wing, Selfridge ANGB was officially passed off to the 180th Fighter Wing, Toledo, Ohio, on October 2, 2008. Note the mission markings just bellow the canopy. (U.S. Air Force photo) Hi-res

Related info:
Alert Mission comes to an end at Selfridge (3 October 2008)
Michigan Air Guard takes new wings, new mission (12 April 2008)

Friday, December 19, 2008

A-10 crews keep up the fight during the holidays

Today, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs released a photo essay A-10 crews keep up the fight during the holidays with seven pictures. Only the four best shots:

An A-10C Thunderbolt II from the 75th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron takes off from Bagram AB, Afghanistan, on December 2, 2008. Even after more than 30 years of service, the A-10 remains the king of close-air support, protecting coalition forces in sticky situations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse) Hi-res

A-10C 80-0144 from the 74th Fighter Squadron, piloted by Capt. Eric Fleming, prepares for takeoff at Bagram AB, Afghanistan, on December 2, 2008. Visible in the background at left is A-10C 80-0272, also from the 74th Fighter Squadron and additionally deployed from Moody AFB due to A-10 groundings. Parked between revetments are F-15E Strike Eagles from the 391st EFS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse) Hi-res

A-10 crewchief Airman 1st Class Michael Ward climbs the crew ladder to assist pilot Capt. Eric Fleming at Bagram AB, Afghanistan, on December 2, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse) Hi-res

Capt. Eric Fleming, Assistant Wing Weapons and Tactics and A-10 pilot, performs a preflight walk-around at Bagram AB, Afghanistan, on December 2, 2008. These preflight checks help to minimize the number of in-flight emergencies by catching small problems before they become big problems. GBU-38 JDAMs on stations 4 and 8, Mk 82 LDGPs on stations 5 and 7, AN-AAQ-28 LITENING AT pod on station 10. Not visible is the SUU-25 Flare Dispenser on station 3 (see picture two above). (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse) Hi-res

Note: 80-0144 is one more identified replacement, additionally deployed from Moody AFB due to A-10 groundings.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Spangdahlem helps get deployed aircraft back into the air, and into the fight

by Staff Sgt. Logan Tuttle
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

12/16/2008 - SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- The 52nd Fighter Wing is playing a unique role in getting aircraft back into the fight downrange by helping perform repairs on A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft sent from a deployed location, originally from Moody Air Force Base, Ga.

Spangdahlem was able to provide not only a location close to the aircraft but, also working knowledge of the A-10 Thunderbolt II after 28 years of employing it actively.

The A-10's requiring repair were Thin Wing A-10's manufactured in the late 1970's and early 1980's. During the inspections, cracks were found in some critical areas of the wings.

"If they were allowed to continue to grow, it could possibly have caused major problems down the road for the A-10," said Master Sgt. David Hilton, Production Superintendant, 81st Aircraft Maintenance Unit, who acted as the 52nd Maintenance Group Liaison for this project.

A seven-person depot team was sent from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, to help repair the jets and Sergeant Hilton said the depot team and Spangdahlem's maintainers had an outstanding relationship with each other.

Spangdahlem first recovered the aircraft, and conducted post flight inspections. The Spangdahlem maintainers then dismantled the jets so the depot team could gain access to areas that needed to be inspected and worked on. Maintainers also assisted the depot team with repairs and rebuilt the jets when they were done, as well as accomplished overdue operational checks and scheduled maintenance.

When all the repairs and inspections are complete, Spangdahlem will send the aircraft back to their deployed locations.

"Parts were a problem in the beginning," said Sergeant Hilton. "This area of the jet isn't usually torn apart. The success was after they sent us the parts. Everyone jumped in and made it happen in quick fashion."

A wing doesn't typically get tasked to set up and man a depot facility for another major command, in addition to maintaining their own flying schedule Sergeant Hilton added.

"Fear the hog, al-Qaida does," Sergeant Hilton said.


Stand-alone A-10 shots from Afghanistan

The following two stand-alone USAF photos were released on DefenseLINK, DoD's public main website. Both pictures are still not released on public USAF websites.

A-10C 79-0172 from the 74th Fighter Squadron conducts a combat patrol over Afghanistan on December 11, 2008. The aircraft is assigned to the 75th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron out of Bagram AB, Afghanistan. (DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon, U.S. Air Force) Note: EXIF data shows December 12. Hi-res

A-10C 80-0178 from the 74th Fighter Squadron flies over Afghanistan on November 12, 2008. The aircraft is assigned to the 75th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron out of Bagram AB, Afghanistan. (DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon, U.S. Air Force) Hi-res

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Official AFRC Hawgsmoke 2008 video released

Just found on 442nd Fighter Wing's public website.

Click to play

Produced by: AFRC/PAZ Video Production, 450 Danville Street, Robins AFB, GA 31098
Release date: 081210
Running time 04:15

442nd Operations Group flying high after 'outstanding' inspection

by Staff Sgt. Kent Kagarise
442nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

12/15/2008 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- The 442nd Operations Group scored an "outstanding" rating on their standardization and evaluation inspection conducted Aug. 25 to 27 by a formal inspection team from Headquarters 9th Air Force.

The Standardization and Evaluation Program is a tool designed to maintain and monitor pilot qualifications in the A-10 and validates squadron training programs every four years.

A large part of the Ninth Air Force Formal Stan/Eval Visit consisted of individual pilot flight evaluations, during which evaluators ensured 303rd Fighter Squadron pilots were qualified in the A-10 and all its missions. In addition, the evaluators reviewed the unit's standardization and evaluation program, to include all documentation pertaining to each pilot's prior performance and qualifications in the weapons system.

The Ninth Air Force team administered 23 flight evaluations and eight simulator evaluations. Half of the 303rd Fighter Squadron pilots and all of the unit's own evaluators were inspected. Half the inspection grade was based on how well pilots performed, while the other half was based on how well the current program was executed and documented by the 442nd Operations Group.

"Our pilots and Standardization and Evaluation Program are at the highest level. I've never heard of anyone doing this well," said Lt. Col. Michael Leonas, chief of the Standardization and Evaluation Program here.

Colonel Leonas noted that the Stan/Eval Program is executed on behalf of Col. John Hoff, 442nd Operations Group Commander, and Lt. Col. Mark Ernewein, 303rd Fighter Squadron commander, and pointed out much of the credit goes to the maintenance group, pilots, and especially Capt. Adam Ratican, 303rd FS pilot who spent many pain-staking hours checking publications and documents.

"One of the many aspects of the Stan/Eval program is to achieve a full confirmation in all aspects of flying," Colonel Leonas said. "The last couple of years the program has been tailored toward sorties in Afghanistan and now it's up to a higher threat for the up-coming Operational Readiness Inspection tasking."

"The wing should be very proud of this accomplishment," said Lt. Col. Kim Thein, Deputy Chief of 9th Air Force Stan/Eval and Team Chief for the Formal Visit. He went on to say, "These grades say a lot about the unit. I personally have never seen a flying organization score this high, although my team claims they saw one a couple of years any rate, this easily puts them in the top two."

The pride of the Wing is best expressed by Col. Mark Clemons 442nd FW Commander, "to have been Chief of Stan/Eval and now a wing commander, I've never seen an inspection as great as this one - bar none! It's a tribute to the men and women of the 442nd FW to perform with such high professionalism and attain such a result."

The score "OUTSTANDING" which is written in bold lettering on the front of the Ninth AF Stan/Eval inspection report is defined as: "Performance and procedures in effect were error free and far exceeded all requirements. Program serves as a model others should emulate." Source

Launching an A-10

Yesterday, 442nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs released a photo essay Launching an A-10 with seven pictures.

Maj. Les Bradfield, an A-10 pilot, climbs into the cockpit of A-10 79-0122 from the 303rd Fighter Squadron prior to taking off on a training flight from Whiteman AFB, Missouri, on December 6, 2008. Ladder door art inscription is: Never forget the Vet!! (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tom Talbert) Hi-res

Senior Airman Andrea Sumner pulls the wheel-chocks away from A-10 79-0122 prior to the plane's launch on a training flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tom Talbert) Hi-res

Friday, December 12, 2008

A-10 'Warthog' inspired customize motorcycle designer

By Joachim Jacob

The ultimate 2008 Xmas gift for "Hog Drivers" should be the brand-new Warthog ZX-10 from Icon Motosports in Portland, Oregon, United States. Eyecatchers of this killer bike are the six-barrel "Minigun" mounted to the front (in contrast to the eight-barrel Gatling gun on the real A-10), and a huge shark mouth (still wearing by 23rd Fighter Group A-10Cs at Moody AFB, Georgia, after their relocation from Pope AFB, North Carolina, due to BRAC 2005 changes). And the whole thing is decaled with ammunition and empty cartridges. In fact, it's a customized version of the Kawasaki ZX10.


Icon's product statement:

In the 70's, the United States Air Force developed the A-10 (a.k.a. "Warthog") as a means of supporting ground troops with massive firepower... Mission Accomplished! Flash forward 35 years and now its Icon's turn to support the ground troops with our version of "Superior Firepower".

Built over a period of 8 weeks in AREA 13 of the ICON compound, The Warthog ZX-10 epitomizes the Icon mentality of performance based product. Obviously the first thing that grabs one's attention is the 800 watt MTX audio system. It'll spit "Symphony of Destruction" in the twisties or blast lil Wayne at the local bike night. But audio by itself isn't enough. So we added an 8" LCD screen to view Full Metal Jacket, Iron Eagle, or Top Gun and the ability to broadcast a view of the victims left in the wake via an integrated rear view camera. And, yes, the A/V system will run off the 10's own charging system.

The motor, much like the stereo, was designed to thump. Dyno'd at 188 RWHP, it'll stomp just about any 'show' bike on the circuit today. The graphics, based on the Icon Domain II Warthog helmet, were painstakingly applied by Icon's own in-house staff.

And like the aircraft that has defended our country's interests for 3+ decades, this tribute machine is yet another Ugly Beast that "Hog Drivers" throughout the world will regard as "One wicked machine"!


Promotion video:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Twenty years ago: A-10 crashed in Remscheid, Germany

By Joachim Jacob

Updated December 10, 2008

On December 8, 1988, an A-10 Thunderbolt II crashed onto a residential area in the city of Remscheid, Germany. The aircraft hit a house and smashed onto nearby company grounds. Besides the pilot six people were killed. 50 people were seriously injured. According to press reports, the plane was engaged in a low-altitude flight exercise.

The killed pilot was Capt. Michael P. Foster (34) of Seal Beach, California.

The aircraft was c/n A10-0652 (serial number 81-0957). It belonged to the 92nd Tactical Fighter Squadron 'Skulls' (also known as 'Avengers'), 81st Tactical Fighter Wing 'Blue Dragons', RAF Bentwaters, United Kingdom (Tailcode WR). But at the time of the accident it was stationed at Fliegerhorst Nörvenich, Germany. One day after the crash The New York Times reported:

Published: December 9, 1988

LEAD: A United States Air Force warplane plowed into a residential area of a West German city today, demolishing apartment buildings and leaving at least 4 people dead and 40 injured.

A United States Air Force warplane plowed into a residential area of a West German city today, demolishing apartment buildings and leaving at least 4 people dead and 40 injured.

The crash, in the city of Remscheid, was certain to increase West German unhappiness with the training of NATO pilots and troops on German territory.

The West German Defense Minister, Rupert Scholz, reportedly cut short a visit to Washington and was heading back to handle the Government's response to the accident.

Air Force spokesmen had no immediate information on the cause of the crash. They said only that the plane, an A-10A close-support jet, had been on a routine training mission out of the West German air base at Norvenich, 40 miles west of Remscheid.

The two-engine, single-pilot craft's specialty is attacking tanks. It is made by Fairchild Republic of Farmingdale, L.I. Toll Is Expected to Rise

West German spokesmen said the plane had taken off with 17 others to practice low flying over another area and began to spew flames about a mile and a half from Remscheid, an industrial city of 125,000 about 25 miles east of Dusseldorf.

The police said the pilot was among those killed, and they said they expected to to find more bodies as they searched through the smoldering rubble of a dozen apartment buildings. They said the search was hampered by continuing fires and explosions of 30-mm cannon rounds, which continued to detonate for hours after the crash.

The United States Air Force suspended all tactical training flights until next Tuesday. West Germany announced that it was suspending all low-level training flights until the end of the year and called on its allies to do likewise. Debate Is Sure to Intensify

Training flights by American and other allied air forces over West Germany have become an increasingly sensitive issue in recent years. Objections have been raised to the noise of low-level training flights, which are a fixture of Allied training over West Germany, and to the frequent crashes. Some 20 American F-16 fighter planes alone have crashed over the past seven years.

Public discontent was galvanized Aug. 28, when a plane piloted by a member of the Italian Air Force precision flying team plunged into a crowd of spectators at the American air base at Ramstein, killing 70 people, most of them Germans. The disaster touched off a heated debate over the limitations on German control over Allied activities in West German territory.

The Remscheid disaster was certain to revive the controversy, especially given its juxtaposition with Mikhail S. Gorbachev's speech at the United Nations on Wednesday pledging a large reduction of Soviet forces in Europe.


See also: Remscheid plane crash

The Deseret News reported:


Published: Friday, Dec. 9, 1988 12:00 a.m. MST

The West German air force chief said Friday the pilot of a U.S. Thunderbolt anti-tank plane that crashed into a city north of the capital Thursday may have become disoriented as he climbed his jet out of fog.

The pilot and four residents of Remscheid, a city 40 miles north of Bonn, died when the A-10 jet crashed into a row of 20 houses. One more body was recovered Friday, raising the death toll to five. One person was still missing. Police corrected an earlier report that two more bodies had been found Friday.

The pilot of the twin-engine jet, Capt. Michael P. Foster, 34, of the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing, was found dead Thursday in his ejector seat, authorities said.

About 50 people were injured when the plane, known as a Thunderbolt, crashed into the city of 121,000, triggering fires that raged for hours, a police spokesman said. Nine people were still hospitalized, three with serious burns.

The West German air force chief-of-staff, Lt. Gen. Horst Jungkurth, said at a news conference that pilot error may have caused the accident because, he said, the Thunderbolt was the safest U.S. Air Force plane in service and chances of a technical fault were very small.

"The plane was climbing when it began to crash," Jungkurth said. "That is the usual procedure when encountering fog. The pilot in climbing might have lost his orientation. But that is just speculation."

He said he could not confirm statements by witnesses that the plane was on fire as it descended into Remscheid before it crashed.

The crash prompted new demands for a ban on low-level NATO training flights or their curtailment, but Jungkurth said the A-10 had been flying at a height of over 3,000 feet.

Remscheid Mayor Willi Hartkopf said he supported the growing campaign against low level training flights, which the government has said are necessary for defense.

"We have been fighting in vain against these training flights for three to four years," Hartkopf said. "Low-flying planes thunder over the city again and again."

Hans-Jochen Vogel, the chairman of the opposition Social Democrats, demanded Friday the banning of low-level training flights "without any qualification."

Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Winfried Dunkel said at the same news conference that U.S. Ambassador Richard Burt had assured Defense Minister Rupert Scholz the U.S. Air Force would accept the ministry's request to halt all low-level flights for the rest of the year.

Dunkel said Belgium and Holland also had agreed to halt their flights and he expected Britain, France and Canada to agree too. He said the training flights would resume Jan. 2.

He added Scholz already had ordered a reduction in West German flights.

Scholz was criticized by the Social Democrats for not banning the U.S. air show at Ramstein Air Base in August in which three Italian stunt planes crashed, killing 70 people.

A public prosecutor in the city of Wuppertal, near Remscheid, announced Friday he will investigate the crash to see whether the United States could be charged with responsibility for the death.



Published: Sunday, Dec. 11, 1988 12:00 a.m. MST

About 15,000 people marched with torches Saturday to protest low-altitude military training flights just two days after a U.S. Air Force jet crashed in Remscheid, killing six people.

Five bodies, including the American pilot whose parachute was found stuck in a tree, were dug out of the ruins by Friday. A fire brigade official said a sixth person had died but rescuers could not find him. He was a construction worker who had been repairing one of the buildings the Thunderbolt anti-tank jet plowed through in the crash Thursday.The worker was probably consumed by the fire, which burned out three multistory apartment buildings, the official said.

The worker's two colleagues, who also had been working from scaffolding around the building demolished by the crash, were among the dead accounted for.

The search with dogs for victims possibly buried in the rubble continued Saturday but rescue officials said there was little likelihood more than six people had died.

Some 50 people were injured, nine seriously.

The torchlight parade late Saturday afternoon by about 15,000 people was organized by left-wing and church groups under the slogan: "Ramstein, Remscheid, who protects us against our protecters? Stop this madness."

The jet crash in the city 40 miles north of Bonn followed the Aug. 28 Ramstein U.S. Air Base disaster in which three Italian stunt planes collided, killing 70 people.

The Remscheid tragedy triggered new calls from West German opposition leaders for an end to military training flights over residential areas in the country. The West German Luftwaffe, the U.S. Air Force and other allies agreed to suspend them until Jan. 2.

The West German Air force chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Horst Jungkurth, speculated Friday that pilot error might have caused the crash of the A-10 anti-tank fighter.

The pilot, Capt. Michael P. Foster, 34, may have lost his orientation in climbing to get out of fog, crashing into a working-class district on a slope in Remscheid, Jungkurth said, noting that the A-10 Thunderbolt has an excellent safety record.

The A-10, assigned to the 81st tactical fighter wing at the Royal Air Force base at Bentwaters, England, was deployed to Norvenich near Remscheid. Foster took off with another Thunderbolt, climbing to 2,000-3,000 feet in clear weather, but they flew into clouds and lost each other, U.S. Air Force officials said.

The A-10, which had been heading for a low-altitude exercise, carried 1,000 rounds of training ammunition. It is a ground attack plane designed to attack enemy tanks at low altitude.

About 90 people lost their homes in the crash and were staying with relatives or given shelter in schools by the Red Cross.



Published: Tuesday, Dec. 13, 1988 12:00 a.m. MST

The United States, Britain and Canada have agreed to join West Germany in suspending all low-level jet fighter training over West Germany for the next three weeks, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.

The suspension follows last week's fiery crash of a U.S. warplane in the German city of Remscheid, in which five people were killed and dozens injured."The suspension will remain in effect until Jan. 2, 1989, at which point fighter training will resume," the Pentagon said in releasing a joint communique from the four NATO allies.

The suspension, "through the holiday season, (was agreed to) out of respect for the victims and the families of the victims of the Remscheid accident, and for Capt. Michael Foster, USAF, and his family," the statement added.

Foster, 34, of Seal Beach, Calif., was the pilot of the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack jet that crashed in Remscheid, destroying two dozen homes. The accident occurred on Dec. 8 and immediately generated new demands in West Germany for curbs on NATO flights.


The St. Petersburg Times wrote:

Air Force jet crashes, kills 4 in Germany

St. Petersburg Times
Dec 9, 1988

REMSCHEID, West Germany - A U.S. Air Force jet struck an apartment building and exploded in flames Thursday, killing the pilot and at least three other people, injuring more than a dozen and setting homes ablaze.

"This looks like a war," Johannes Rau, governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state, said after touring the area about 15 miles east of Duesseldorf in central West Germany.

The A-10 Thunderbolt II jet, designed to support ground forces and combat tanks, was carrying 1,000 rounds of 30mm training ammunition when it crashed, said Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Ed Neunherz.

Witnesses said the plane flew low over a school and hit the top floor of an apartment building about 1:30 p.m. (7:30 a.m. EDT).

Volker Acksteiner, leader of the rescue teams, said late Thursday: "There were four bodies. And we suppose that more dead and injured are lying in the rubble."

Ammunition carried on the plane continued to explode periodically, hampering rescue efforts, he said.

"It's a horrible mess in there," Acksteiner said. "The rescue was made difficult because ammunition kept exploding. It was highly dangerous."

The Air Force suspended all tactical training flights in Europe until Tuesday, and West German authorities asked their allies to halt low-level training missions until Christmas. Opposition political parties demanded a ban on low-level flights and sharp cuts in air exercises.

City councilman Guenther Krug also said at a news conference that four people were killed. He said the victims were the American pilot, two construction workers and a letter carrier.

The Air Force identified the pilot as Capt. Michael P. Foster, 34, but did not give his hometown.

Krug said 15 people were injured, including 11 hospitalized in serious condition.

He said three buildings were destroyed, 17 others were damaged and six houses caught fire.

State prosecutor Joerg Bachmann, who is investigating the crash for West German authorities, said witnesses saw one of the plane's two engines on fire shortly before impact.

The Air Force said the plane was assigned to the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing at the Royal Air Force base in Bentwaters, England. It was temporarily assigned to the West German air force base at Norvenich for training.

Another A-10 crashed Thursday near the heart of the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation at Tracy, Ariz. The pilot, who was alone in the plane on a training mission, ejected safely.

Credit: Associated Press


Covering the 20th anniversary of the Remscheid disaster, a lot of German news media published related articles. Let me post some samples.

Welt Online wrote:

Vor 20 Jahren

Remscheid und die Folgen des Kampfjet-Absturzes

Von Frank Christiansen, 8. Dezember 2008, 09:58 Uhr

Vor 20 Jahren stürzte ein US-Kampfjet auf ein Wohngebiet in Remscheid. Die Folgen sind bis heute zu spüren. Gerüchte von auffällig vielen Krebsfällen machten die Runde. Wissenschaftler konnten jedoch keine der Erkrankungen dem Absturz zuordnen. Der bürokratische Kampf ist dagegen jedoch wesentlich realer.

Es herrscht dichter Nebel und beschauliche Adventsstimmung in Remscheid. Die Bürger in der kleinsten Großstadt Nordrhein-Westfalens bereiten sich am 8. Dezember 1988 auf das Weihnachtsfest vor, als jäh ein Inferno über die Stadt hereinbricht. Vom Militär-Flughafen Nörvenich bei Köln war kurz zuvor ein US- Kampfjet vom Typ A-10 Thunderbolt gestartet, im Pilotenjargon "Warzenschwein" genannt. Im Tiefflug rast der Jet über die Landschaft, als er im Bergischen Land in schlechtes Wetter gerät und der Pilot die Orientierung verliert.

"Mein Dackel Blasius spielte verrückt und wollte unbedingt raus. Ich war gerade 50 Meter weit weg, da gab es einen Knall", erzählt Erika Opitz (74). Wo eben noch das Mehrfamilienhaus mit ihrer Wohnung stand, rauchen Trümmer. "Das Haus gab es nicht mehr." Um sie herum brennen Büsche, der Helm des Kampfpiloten segelt vor ihr in eine Baumkrone. Die herrliche Wohnlage am Hang mit unverbaubarem Blick über die rheinische Ebene wird den Anwohnern zum Verhängnis.

Der Kampfjet rast um 13.28 Uhr in eine Häuserzeile in der Stockder Straße und zerschellt. Haus Nr. 128 ist zerstört, viele weitere Häuser sind schwer beschädigt. Sieben Menschen sterben, darunter auch der Pilot, mehr als 50 Menschen werden verletzt. Schwer bewaffnete US-Soldaten sperren das Gebiet ab und sammeln winzige Trümmer ein. Für Familie Opitz beginnt ein zweieinhalbjähriger bürokratischer Kampf um Entschädigung. Bald darauf klagen Anwohner über Hauterkrankungen, Gerüchte von auffällig vielen Krebsfällen machen die Runde.

Viele Überlebende sind weggezogen

20 Jahre später ist von dem Absturz in Remscheid nichts mehr zu sehen: Die Häuserzeile ist wieder geschlossen. Ständige Tiefflüge wie damals zu Zeiten des Ost-West-Konflikts gibt es nicht mehr. Viele Überlebende sind weggezogen, andere wollen sich nicht mehr äußern: "Das wühlt einen immer wieder auf." Auf einem Friedhof einige Kilometer entfernt erinnert eine Gedenkplatte an die Opfer.

Mit den Folgen des Absturzes hatte Wolfgang Putz, Leiter des Remscheider Umweltamtes, noch viele Jahre zu tun. "Das war ein riesiger Feuerball. Da sind wie bei jedem unkontrollierten Brand auch Schadstoffe entstanden." Bodenproben werden genommen. Dabei werden erhöhte PCB-Werte festgestellt, die aber, wie sich später herausstellt, vermutlich von einem Transformator-Brand noch aus dem Zweiten Weltkrieg stammen. Auch Dioxine werden gefunden, aber nicht in beunruhigenden Konzentrationen.

Eine Anwohnerin berichtete von einem US-Soldaten, der ihr zugeraunt habe, dass hier nie wieder Kinder spielen dürften. Aber, gibt Putz zu bedenken, was soll ein Wachsoldat schon gewusst haben, schließlich seien die US-Truppen selbst ohne Schutzanzüge durch die Trümmer gestapft.

Als bekannt wird, dass die A-10-Kampfjets auf dem Balkan mit Uran-Munition schießen, werden 2002 erneut Bodenproben in Remscheid genommen, doch es findet sich keine auffällige Radioaktivität. Die US-Luftstreitkräfte beteuern mehrfach, dass nur Übungsmunition an Bord des Unglücksjets gewesen sei. Weder die Krebs- noch die Hauterkrankungen können Wissenschaftler dem Absturz zuordnen. Zuletzt gerät der Treibstoff JP-8 des Jets ins Visier. Immerhin galt Treibstoff JP-4 als stark krebserregend.

Einige der Anwohner glauben nicht an eine tickende Zeitbombe für ihre Gesundheit: "Da haben einige versucht, Geld zu bekommen, die gar nicht unmittelbar hier gewohnt haben." Das will Amtsleiter Putz nicht unterstellen: "Ich kann verstehen, wenn Erkrankungen mit dem spektakulären Absturz in Verbindung gebracht werden. Aber wir haben keinen Zusammenhang feststellen können."


Only four of the eleven associated pictures:

A fire truck at the crash site (Photo by dpa)

Aerial view of the crash site (Photo by dpa)

The pilot's helmet in a treetop. (Photo by dpa)

Memorial stone at the Ehrenhain Reinshagen. Inscription: ZUR ERINNERUNG AN DIE OPFER DES FLUGZEUGABSTURZES AM 08.12.1988 (Photo by dpa)

FOCUS Online wrote:

8. Dezember 1988

"Wie im Krieg"

Um 13.25 Uhr setzte der US-Pilot Michael Foster seinen letzten Funkspruch ab. Eine Minute später stürzte sein Kampfjet in ein Remscheider Wohngebiet. Ein Augenzeuge erinnert sich.

Von FOCUS-Online-Redakteur Harry Luck

Es war ein nebliger Adventstag in der bergischen Stadt. Der 17-jährige Marc Eisenkölbl saß mit seiner Mutter im Esszimmer in der Wohnung in der Stockder Straße. "Ich hörte ein aufheulendes Triebwerksgeräusch, dann sah ich einen Feuerblitz von rechts nach links durchs Wohnzimmer zischen, das war die Tragfläche", sagt Eisenkölbl zu FOCUS Online. Eine riesige Druckwelle schleuderte ihn quer durch das Zimmer auf den Flur, dann ein ohrenbetäubender Knall – und dann gespenstische Ruhe. "Es ist kurios: In dem Moment läutete das Telefon. Es funktionierte noch." Der 17-Jährige lief nach unten auf die Straße und sah ein Horrorszenario, das er auch 20 Jahre danach noch genau vor Augen hat: Der Torso einer Leiche lag auf dem Pflaster und bewegte sich noch aufgrund von Muskelkontraktionen. Ein schreiender Postbote lief wie eine brennende Fackel über die Straße, tote Bauarbeiter lagen unter einem zusammengebrochenen Gerüst, der Helm des Piloten baumelte in einem Baum. "Es waren die größten Flammen, die ich je in meinem Leben gesehen habe. Das Feuer war so gewaltig, dass es die gesamte Frischluft ansaugte und einen ungeheuerlichen Sturm verursachte", erinnert sich der heute 37-jährige Unternehmensberater an das gespenstische Erlebnis. "Und um mich herum explodierten überall die Übungsgeschosse des Kampflugzeugs. Ein Rentner machte sich Sorgen um seinen Mercedes in der Garage."

"Da ist viel vertuscht worden"

"Das sieht aus wie im Krieg", sagte Ministerpräsident Johannes Rau, als er sich vor Ort ein Bild machte. Um 15.10 Uhr trafen die ersten Nato-Vertreter am Unglücksort ein und sperrten das Gebiet weiträumig ab. "Hier können nie wieder Kinder spielen", soll ein US-Soldat zu einer Anwohnerin gesagt haben, bevor ihm ein Vorgesetzter das Wort verbot. Zwar hieß es offiziell, die Übungsmunition sei ungefährlich. Doch Eisenkölbl berichtet von einem erschreckenden Erlebnis: "Als ich wenige Tage später das Remscheider Röntgen-Museum besucht habe und mich einem Cäsium-Messgerät näherte, ist der Zeiger voll ausgeschlagen."

Später wurde von einer erhöhten Zahl von Leukämie-Fällen im Umkreis der Absturzstelle berichtet, ein Kind starb. Ein Zusammenhang mit dem Unglück wird offiziell jedoch bestritten. "Da ist viel vertuscht worden", vermutet heute Eisenkölbl. Der Leiter des Umweltamtes, Wolfgang Putz, der schon damals in ähnlicher Funktion tätig war, weist dies jedoch zurück. Die Häufung der Krebserkrankungen sei nicht signifikant, nachweislich sei auch keine uranhaltige Munition an Bord gewesen, sagt er zu FOCUS Online.

Marc Eisenkölbl überlebte die Katastrophe mit einer Rauchgasvergiftung, seine Katze konnte er aus der Wohnung retten. Für die psychischen Leiden habe er "einige Hundert Mark" Entschädigung bekommen. Insgesamt starben sieben Menschen, rund 50 wurden verletzt. Eine Welle der Hilfsbereitschaft wurde in Gang gesetzt: Wenige Tage später kam der FC Bayern zu einem Benefizspiel und verlor wohltätig mit 0:3 gegen den heimischen Amateurclub. Der US-Untersuchungsbericht nannte ein halbes Jahr später in der Schadensbilanz: "20 Autos vollständig zerstört, sieben beschädigt, elf Häuser sind ausgebrannt, zusammengebrochen oder zerstört, vier weitere Häuser beschädigt, aber bewohnbar."

Rottenführer machte Karriere

Die Unglücksursache war lange unklar. Zunächst hieß es, der 34-jährige Pilot sei vom Kurs abgekommen. Doch später stellte sich heraus, dass grobe Fehlanweisungen des Rottenführers bei der Mission "Übungsflug im Feindeinsatz" der Grund für den Absturz waren: Statt des ursprünglich besprochenen Instrumentenflugs hatte der Rottenführer Marke Gibson, dem Foster aufs Wort gehorchte, einen Sichtflug angeordnet, sich dabei aber an die Koordinaten des Instrumentenflugs gehalten. Dabei geriet die A10-Thunderbolt II in eine zu tiefe Zone, Gibson befahl mehrere riskante Flugbewegungen. Bei einer flog Foster die Kurve nicht mit, sondern geradeaus. Mit 518 Stundenkilometern und 15 Grad Schräglage schlug die Maschine auf.

Der damalige Rottenführer Gibson ist heute in leitender Funktion im Air-Force-Hauptquartier in Washington tätig. In Deutschland forderte das Unglück jedoch ein politisches Opfer: Verteidigungsstaatssekretär Peter Kurt Würzbach trat elf Tage später zurück, nachdem er eigenmächtig gegen den Willen von Minister Rupert Scholz ein Tiefflugverbot angeordnet hatte. Scholz hielt die Maßnahme für unsinnig, schließlich sei die Maschine aus 1000 Metern Höhe abgestürzt.

An der Unglücksstelle erinnert heute nichts mehr an die Katastrophe. Ein Gedenkstein steht einige Kilometer entfernt auf einem Friedhof. Dort wird am Montag ein Kranz im Gedenken an die Opfer niedergelegt. Die Fahnen werden auf Halbmast gehisst.


Spiegel Online wrote:

Feuerball im Wohngebiet

Bilder wie im Krieg: Ein US-Kampfjet stürzte am 8. Dezember 1988 auf die Innenstadt von Remscheid - sieben Menschen starben, 50 wurden schwer verletzt. Bis heute sind der Absturz und seine Folgen nicht restlos aufgeklärt.

Von Armin Himmelrath

"Warzenschwein" ("Warthog") nennen die amerikanischen Piloten die Fairchild A-10 "Thunderbolt", weil sie mit ihren hoch am Rumpf angebrachten Triebwerken so gedrungen, hässlich und gefährlich wirken wie das Phacochoerus africanus. 18 dieser fliegenden Kampfmaschinen stehen am Mittag des 8. Dezember 1988, einem Donnerstag, auf dem Militärflughafen Nörvenich bei Köln bereit, um zu einer Tiefflugübung nach Hessen abzuheben.

Jeweils zu zweit steigen sie in die Luft - zuletzt Michael Foster und sein Rottenführer. Der hat trotz des an diesem Tag weit verbreiteten Nebels entschieden, dass die "Warthogs" nach Sichtflugregeln fliegen, anstelle des zuvor eigentlich beantragten Instrumentenflugs. Es ist eine katastrophale Entscheidung. Pilot Foster kann im schmutzigen Grau plötzlich nichts mehr erkennen, verliert die Orientierung und stürzt ab.

Seine A-10 rammt ein Wohnhaus und zerschellt dann beim Aufprall auf einem Firmengelände. Sein Rottenführer, der es schafft, mit einem schnellen Steigflug wieder aus der Nebelsuppe aufzutauchen, meldet über Funk: "I lost my wing man" ("Ich habe meinen Flügelmann verloren"). Michael Foster versucht noch in letzter Sekunde, sich mit dem Schleudersitz zu retten - vergeblich. Er stirbt, und mit ihm zunächst fünf Bewohner und Besucher der Stockder Straße; ein weiteres Opfer erliegt später seinen Brandverletzungen.

"Plötzlich stand alles in Flammen"

Um 13.26 Uhr geht bei der Remscheider Berufsfeuerwehr der erste Notruf ein. Danach kommen die Meldungen bald im Sekundentakt, die Anrufer klingen panisch. Als die Retter im Stadtteil Hasten ankommen, bietet sich ihnen ein Bild der absoluten Zerstörung, wie Augenzeugen immer wieder berichten: zertrümmerte Häuser, aufgerissene Fassaden, ausgebrannte Autowracks, überall Metallteile und Steine und immer wieder Brände und Explosionen, die vermutlich von der Munition des Kampfjets herrühren.

"Plötzlich stand alles in Flammen", beschreibt die damalige Anwohnerin Erika Opitz die Szenerie des Grauens. Sie macht an diesem Tag gerade mit ihrem Dackel Blasius einen Spaziergang und überlebt nur deshalb - das Haus mit der Nummer 128, in dem sie wohnt, wird bei dem Absturz völlig zerstört. Eine Bewohnerin und drei Handwerker, die gerade hier arbeiten, sterben in den Trümmern.

Feuerwehrmann Ulrich Schnell erinnert sich heute noch vor allem an den Geruch von verbranntem Treibstoff. Er gehörte 1988 zu den ersten Rettern am Einsatzort, stieß unter anderem auf die kopflose Leiche des Piloten, "wie nach einem Bombenangriff" habe es in der Stockder Straße ausgesehen, erinnert sich der Retter.

Hatte die U.S. Air Force etwas zu verheimlichen?

Nordrhein-Westfalens damaliger Ministerpräsident Johannes Rau eilt nach Remscheid, und wer an jenem Abend die "Tagesschau" sah, wird wohl niemals den traurigen, leeren Blick des SPD-Politikers vergessen, als er sagte: "Schrecklich! Schrecklich! Das ist wie im Krieg!"

Feuerwehr und Polizei, Rettungsdienste und Technisches Hilfswerk, Suchhundestaffeln und Personal der US-Armee - insgesamt rund tausend Hilfskräfte waren nach dem Unglück im Einsatz. Doch weil die US-Militärs die Absturzstelle zum Sperrgebiet erklärten und bewaffnete Wachen aufstellten, gab es Klagen über Behinderungen beim Rettungseinsatz. "Amerikanische Spezialtrupps", berichtet die "Tagesschau", hätten "den Rettern den Zugang zur Unglücksstelle erschwert". Viel später ist dies einer der Gründe, dass sich etliche Anwohner fragen, ob die US Air Force wohl etwas zu verheimlichen hatte.

Zunächst jedoch erleben die Betroffenen eine Welle der Hilfsbereitschaft. Fußball-Rekordmeister Bayern München kommt ein paar Tage später zu einem Benefizspiel nach Remscheid, der Erlös von 150.000 D-Mark wird an die Kinder der Todesopfer verteilt. Die rund hundert durch das Unglück obdachlos gewordenen Remscheider erleben viel persönliche Unterstützung - auch bei ihrem Anliegen, die Tiefflüge in Deutschland zu stoppen.

"Hier können nie wieder Kinder spielen"

Verteidigungsminister Rupert Scholz (CDU) lässt nach dem Unglück in der Adventszeit erst einmal alle Tiefflüge der Luftwaffe bis Weihnachten absagen - obwohl deutsche Soldaten an dem Absturz gar nicht beteiligt waren. Als dann im Januar 1989 über dem ostfriesischen Örtchen Wiesmor zwei "Alpha Jets" der Luftwaffe mit einem britischen "Tornado" zusammenstoßen und bei dem Absturz die beiden "Tornado"-Piloten ums Leben kommen, fühlen sich auch viele Remscheider in ihrer Kritik an der militärischen Flugpraxis bestätigt.

Sie errichten ein provisorisches Mahnmal an der Stockder Straße - und tragen beängstigende Zahlen zusammen: 67.000 Übungsflugstunden habe es 1988 über Deutschland gegeben, 20 Militärjets seien dabei abgestürzt, 87 Menschen dadurch gestorben. In kürzester Zeit kommen Zehntausende Unterschriften unter ihren Appell, die "Remscheider Mahnung", zusammen.

Als die Trümmer längst beseitigt und die beschädigten Gebäude an der Stockder Straße schon wieder renoviert sind, tauchen neue Spekulationen um den Absturz auf. Plötzlich scheinen sich die Krebsfälle in der Umgebung zu häufen, Anwohner beklagen Hautreizungen, und eine Augenzeugin berichtet Fernsehreportern von einer beunruhigenden Begegnung mit einem amerikanischen Soldaten am Tag nach dem Absturz: "Hier können nie mehr Kinder spielen", habe der Soldat ihr gesagt, erzählt Christa Schwandrau-Schulte.

Unkontrollierte Schadstoffe

Doch als sie nachfragt, was das bedeuten soll, sei ein Vorgesetzter dazugekommen und habe das Gespräch beendet. Zwar erklären US-Militärs, die abgestürzte A-10 habe nur Übungsmunition an Bord gehabt. Doch einzelne Augenzeugen berichteten später SPIEGEL TV auch von anderer Munition, die von Soldaten eigens eingesammelt worden sei - sie vermuten, dass er möglicherweise hochgiftiges abgereichertes Uran enthalten habe.

Der gleiche Stoff könnte zusätzlich auch in Trimmgewichten in den Tragflächen der Unglücksmaschine verbaut worden sein. Und auch der Treibstoff für Militärjets, im Fachjargon JP-8 genannt, gilt als hochgradig gesundheitsgefährdend. Experten vermuten, dass größere Mengen JP-8 beim Absturz fein zerstäubt wurden und von den Helfern und Betroffenen vor Ort eingeatmet wurden.

Nicht zuletzt der Druck der Anwohner sorgt dafür, dass die Absturzstelle von der Stadt schließlich genauer untersucht wird. In Bodenproben wird PCB gefunden, auch geringe Mengen Dioxin und andere Giftstoffe tauchen auf, doch der endgültige Beweis, dass die Stoffe bei dem Absturz ausgetreten sind, wird trotz mehrerer Untersuchungen nie erbracht.

Wie bei jedem unkontrollierten Brand, sagt das Remscheider Umweltamt, seien auch hier "unkontrolliert Schadstoffe entstanden", die PCB- und Dioxin-Belastung könne aber auch noch von einem Transformatorbrand im Zweiten Weltkrieg herrühren. Eine Untersuchung des NRW-Umweltministeriums bestätigte den Zusammenhang zwischen Absturz und Giftstoffen ebenfalls nicht - doch für manche der betroffenen Anwohner ist das kein Trost. Sie kämpfen bis heute darum, dass der Absturz als Ursache für ihre Leiden anerkannt wird.


Photo stream by Rheinische Post with 23 pictures

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Stockder Straße in Remscheid (Courtesy Stadt Remscheid)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Bagram Airmen use "Dragon" to feed the "Hog"

Today, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs released a photo essay Bagram Airmen use "Dragon" to ready Hawg fire. See also: Feeding the Thunderbolt II. Only four of the ten associated pictures:

Staff Sgt. James Jerrell inspects 30mm round as they are processed through a GFU-7 "Dragon" at Bagram AB, Afghanistan, on December 2, 2008. He also makes sure that they are re-inserted into their linked tube carriers correctly with no gaps. Sergeant Jerrell is deployed from Moody AFB, Georgia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse) Hi-res

Airmen of the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron Ammo Flight process and inspect 30mm rounds in a GFU-7 "Dragon". The process also ensures that the right number of rounds go into each canister with no gaps in the chain of linked tube carriers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse) Hi-res

Airmen of the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron Ammo Flight position an empty container to receive processed rounds from a GFU-7 "Dragon". The team works together to get the job done effectively and ready the 30mm rounds to be uploaded into an A-10 Thunderbolt II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse) Hi-res

Airman 1st Class Jeb Snow (right) feeds linked tube carriers into a GFU-7 "Dragon" while Staff Sgt. Erik Thomas repacks the processed carriers, containing 30mm rounds. The two, part of the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron Ammo Flight, ensure that the rounds are packed correctly for easy uploading into the A-10 Thunderbolt II. Both are deployed from Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse) Hi-res

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Guard's A-10s make way for small jets

Battle Creek Enquirer

Trace Christenson, The Enquirer, December 7, 2008

Black fabric was pulled off the new mission of the Battle Creek Air National Guard Base.

During a ceremony Saturday inside a base hanger, officials unveiled Battle Creek decals on a newly assigned C-21, a twin jet aircraft used for cargo and passengers. The plane is the military version of the Lear business jet.

It replaces the A-10 Thunderbolt, a fighter jet based in Battle Creek since 1991.

The fighters are moving to Selfridge Air National Guard Base near Detroit, as part of a military reorganization. Seven C-21 airplanes will be based in Battle Creek no later than Oct. 1 and the 11 remaining A-10s still on the base will be moved by June.

The speakers' podium was flanked on one side by an A-10 — bigger, duller, and more ominous than the gleaming chrome and white small passenger jet.

"This marks the end of the A-10 mission here," Col. Rodger Seidel, commander of the 110th Fighter Wing, told military members at the base. "Now it is time to move to the next mission."

He said the A-10s have been sent from Battle Creek to eight different war zones around the world and flown more than 5,000 hours, almost half in combat.

"You should take great pride in all you have accomplished," Maj. Gen. Thomas G. Cutler, adjutant general of the Michigan National Guard, told the group. "Transition in life can be bittersweet and its sad to see the end of a era but that will be offset by the new challenge."

Assigning the planes to Battle Creek is a bridge until the C-27 or Joint Cargo Aircraft, which are expected to be built and placed in the Air Force inventory beginning in 2010, are assigned to Battle Creek, officials said.

Until then, "this aircraft is critical to keep a flying mission here," Cutler said.

U.S. Rep.-elect Mark Schauer, D-Bedford Township, praised the base for their accomplishments and encouraged them on the transition.

Schauer said after the ceremony that he remains confident about the future of the Battle Creek Air Guard Base.

"This is a dangerous world and we need aircraft serving different missions," he said. "This plane will help service the military effort in a different way but an important way."

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U.S. Rep.-elect Mark Schauer of Battle Creek unveils the Battle Creek logo on a new C-21 aircraft at the Air National Guard base on December 7, 2008. (Photo by Trace Christenson / The Enquirer)

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Maj. Gen. Thomas Cutler, Michigan National Guard adjutant general, and U.S. Rep.-elect Mark Schauer of Battle Creek look over the C-21 after ceremonies. An A-10 is in the background. (Photo by Trace Christenson / The Enquirer)


Wing cracks take out half of A-10 fleet

Air Force Times

By Bruce Rolfsen - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Dec 7, 2008 9:58:02 EST

It will likely take six months before the entire A-10 Thunderbolt fleet is back in the sky, Air Force officials said.

As of early December, 168 attack jets — nearly half the service’s 356 Warthogs — remain grounded because of wing cracks. Those planes should be repaired by June, said Maj. David Ruth, A-10 weapons system team chief at Air Combat Command headquarters, Langley Air Force Base, Va.

The grounding began Oct. 3 after inspectors at Ogden Air Logistics Center in Utah, where A-10s are sent for major overhauls and upgrades, raised concerns about wing cracks.

Inspectors found breaks in both wings near the center panels of the landing gear trunnions. The cracks were inside a portion of the wing where base-level maintainers rarely check.

Those concerns resulted in the Oct. 3 grounding order for 129 jets and a mandate to inspect other A-10s. Additional inspections and concerns about planes not covered by the Oct. 3 order pushed the total higher, reaching 191 jets in mid-November. Repairs and completed checks reduced the number of grounded jets to 168.

While inspection teams open wings and patch cracks, A-10 pilots have seen their flying hours fall.

The bottom line for the Air Force is A-10 pilots keeping their basic qualifications up to date, said Lt. Col. David Trucksa, ACC's A-10 subject matter expert.

To ensure pilots are getting at least minimum flying hours and to balance the A-10 shortage among squadrons, about 40 pilots have traveled to fly out of other A-10 bases, Trucksa said. Also, 15 jets were temporarily shifted among units.

Meanwhile, training is on hold for student pilots slated to attend the A-10 class set to start in January at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Trucksa said. Students will not get orders to report to the school until instructors are certain there will be enough planes.

In mid-November, a training team from Ogden traveled to Moody Air Force Base, Ga., home of the largest Thunderbolt unit on the East Coast, to teach maintainers from across the service how to look for the cracks and repair them, Ruth said.

Because the minute cracks cannot be visually spotted, the inspection includes running an electrical current through metal parts to determine crack locations. Air Force officials estimate inspections and repairs will take about seven to 10 days per A-10 plane.


Egyptians tour A-10s and F-15E Strike Eagles at Bagram

Today, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs released a photo essay Egyptians tour fighters, learn about American Air Power. Included are the following A-10 shots:

Capt. Chris Petek , A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot, shows two Egyptian medical personnel the cockpit of an A-10C at Bagram AB, Afghanistan, on November 29, 2008. The Egyptian commander, Commander Mohamad, was impressed with capabilities of the American fighter jets. Captain Petek is deployed from the 75th Fighter Squadron, Moody AFB, Georgia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse) Hi-res

Capt. Chris Petek describes the size of a 30mm round compared to famous GAU-8/A "Avenger" 30mm cannon of the A-10 at Bagram AB, Afghanistan, on November 29, 2008. The cannon can fire up to 4,200 PGU-13 30mm high-explosive incendiary rounds per minute, and is the backbone of the fighter's armament. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse) Hi-res

Egyptian Army medical personnel look at the bombs of an A-10C at Bagram AB, Afghanistan, on November 29, 2008. Visible on station 4 is a GBU-38 JDAM. The Egyptians learned about the Air Force's close-air support mission for ground forces in Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse) Hi-res

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Diverted 81st FS A-10s relocated from Ramstein to Spang

By Joachim Jacob

The following three offical USAF photos were released on Ramstein AB's public website:

A-10 82-0649 from the 81st Fighter Squadron prepare to return from Ramstein AB, Germany, to Spangdahlem AB, Germany, on December 1, 2008. Visible in the background are five more A-10s. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caleb Pierce) Hi-res

A-10 82-0649 from the 81st Fighter Squadron prepare to return from Ramstein AB, Germany, to Spangdahlem AB, Germany, on December 1, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caleb Pierce) Hi-res

Capt. David Marshall, 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem AB, Germany, prepares A-10 82-0649 for return from Ramstein AB, Germany, to Spangdahlem AB, Germany, on December 1, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caleb Pierce) Hi-res

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A-10 81-0962 from the 81th Fighter Sqadron arrives at Spangdahlem AB, Germany (Photo by Mike Becker)

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A-10 81-0962 from the 81th Fighter Squadron arrives at Spangdahlem AB, Germany (Photo by Harald Strobl)

Special thanks to German photographers Mike Bekker and Harald Strobl for their permissions to post these rare shots on my blog!