Saturday, August 8, 2009

188th Fighter Wing Trains in Tucson for A-10 Deployment

Jared Broyles, Reporter
August 7, 2009

TUCSON, AZ - The 188th Fighter Wing is back from a two week training trip to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. A group of 70 local civic leaders and members of the media traveled to Tucson for a tour as the Flying Razorbacks prepare for deployment to Afghanistan in the spring. 5NEWS Jared Broyles and Chief Photographer Chad Sharpe were on the trip and tells the story of what these men and women go through.

My photographer and i had sweet seats in the cockpit on take-off as we taxied down the runway at the 188th Fighter Wing. Destination? Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona.

"We're on board the KC-135 tanker enroute to Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona," I said in mid-flight. "We believe the A-10's are going to need to refuel in just a few minutes so we're going to take you down into the belly of the plane to see that."

The view out the back was breathtaking, the ground thousands of feet below. It was a delicate dance as the A-10 drew close to re-fuel. The boom operator carefully maneuvered the mechanism into place in the skies somewhere above Tombstone. Extreme heat keeps the pilots from being able to fill the Warthogs full of fuel; too much could cause them to lose an engine. Instead, it's important that they be able to top off the tank without having to land.

At times, our guys were flying right alongside our K-C 135. But within hours we were back on the ground at Davis-Monthan, an ideal place to train for a mission to Afghanistan.

"This base here gives us high temperatures a desert like environment with mountains and high pressure altitude," 188th commander, Colonel Tom Anderson explained.

At home, the pilots can only drop dummy bombs at Razorback Range, but at the Barry Goldwater bombing range, they get a feel for the real deal.

"It gives us the opportunity to drop munitions off the airplane that we will be dropping in Afghanistan," Colonel Anderson said.

Out in Arizona the Warthogs were being fitted with live weapons; everything from missiles and bombs to rockets and rounds of ammo.

"This whole weapon is about 500 lbs," Lt. Colonel Parker Pennings pointed out to the civic leaders on the tour.

The planes are parked between thick, concrete walls to absorb an accidental explosion, preventing damage to the other multi-million dollar aircraft.

Here it is by the numbers: 5 crews loaded a dozen planes twice a day. It took 2 hours per plane in 140 degree heat out on the ramp.

The commander declassified video from the cockpit to give us a bird's eye view of a bomb drop. The pilot moved in to drop a gps guided bomb with pinpoint accuracy. Community council member Mike Watts was stunned.

"To see a 500 pound bomb be dropped within 3 feet of where we're aiming is pretty amazing," he told 5NEWS.

The fighter wing did more in ten days than they're typically able to accomplish in a month.

"They're having to learn fast cause it's coming at them quick," Lt. Colonel Parker Pennings said.

The purpose of this trip was to encourage continued support by the community but especially employers. Commander Anderson says their support is crucial to the guard's success.

The 188th will deploy for a second training event in October at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

Sunday night at 10, we'll take you through the entire trip. Don't miss a tour of the infamous "Boneyard" where thousands of de-commissioned aircraft are picked for parts. It's basically the military's multi-million dollar-saving salvage yard.

Source (Video included)


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