Friday, August 7, 2009

Arizona Training A Gas For 188th

By Jeff Arnold
Southwest Times Record
August 7, 2009, 9:14 AM CDT

TUCSON — Getting a fill-up more than 13,000 feet above the Earth might sound odd to most but not for pilots in the 188th Fighter Wing.

In preparation for a 2010 deployment to Kandahar Air Force Base in Afghanistan, about 300 members of the 188th are wrapping up two weeks of training at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona and will return to Fort Smith this weekend.

On Wednesday, two KC-135 Stratotankers carried a collection of area business and civic leaders, educators, members of the governor's staff and elected officials to Davis-Monthan to observe the 188th in action, and returned the group to Fort Smith Thursday afternoon.

Just south of Davis-Monthan, the KC-135s descended from their cruising altitude of 36,000 to about 13,5000 above the Arizona desert and each was joined by two A-10s, with one waiting on the wing while the other was refueled by a KC-135.

Through a headset in the cockpit of the KC-135, an unidentified A-10 pilot could be heard announcing his approach and contact with the tanker.

"Contact … give me 500 pounds pilot (of fuel) if you would," the pilot said, as he coupled his aircraft with the tanker at between 240 and 265 mph.

Members of the 188th guest party were able to take turns viewing the refueling operation by lying on seats next to the boom operator who refueled the A-10s.

After landing at Davis-Monthan, members of the 188th command staff briefed the guest party on the exercise in the desert, dubbed Operation Snowbird.

Operation Snowbird is a standing support infrastructure at Davis-Monthan that provides typically ideal weather and ample ranges for Air National Guard units from around the country; for the 188th that means elevations and weather that will simulate conditions the Fort Smith unit will face in Afghanistan, said Col. Tom Anderson, 188th Fighter Wing commander.

For many members of the 188th, who were part of the unit when it made the transition from the F-16 aircraft to the A-10 aircraft, it was their first opportunity to participate in live-fire exercises.

Lt. Col. Ray "Rainman" Hunter, 184th Fighter Squad commander, said the 188th brought 13 aircraft to Davis-Monthan, along with 335 personnel who supported 437 sorties, totaling 437 hours of flight training.

The number of sorties and flight hours equals the sorties and hours flown in an average month, Hunter said.

As the 2010 deployment approaches, training will ramp up with another two-week training exercise scheduled for October at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas, which will more closely simulate combat conditions.

Col. Jeff "Kid" Hickman, 188th Operations Group commander, said the unit will operate as if it's in Afghanistan during the exercise at Nellis.

Following the briefing, the visitors from Fort Smith were taken to a flight to view an A-10 loaded in preparation for a training exercise that night or the next morning.

As the actual temperature approached 110 degrees on Wednesday, Lt. Col. Parker Pennings, 188th A-10 pilot, said the temperature on the flight line approached 140 degrees at times during the two-week deployment.

While crews on the flight line worked in the staggering heat on a concrete flight line, the 188th Ammunition Section worked in isolation preparing ammunition used during the two-week exercise.

"Everybody needs us but no one really wants us around," Tech. Sgt. Billy Youcum, 188th Ammunition Section.

The ammunition section receives 500- and 2000-pound "cores" that they equip with guidance systems to provide either laser-guided bombs or bombs guided by global-positioning systems, in addition to readying air-to-ground tactical missiles and any other armaments for the A-10s.

The whirlwind tour by the Fort Smith group wrapped up Thursday morning with a tour of the "Boneyard" at Davis-Monthan, a collection of more than 4,000 retired aircraft, some kept intact for future use and some used for spare parts, before a return flight home.

Jerry Neel, owner of Jerry Neel's Bar-B-Q, said the trip was certainly "informative and enlightening."

One of the most amazing things was something Neel said visitors didn't see during the trip: the personnel who weren't out front and center for everyone to see, but just as necessary to operation of the 18 A-10s at the 188th.

Hickman said it takes about 1,000 people to support the operation of the 188th's 18 aircraft.

What they did see helps put in perspective what's expected of the members of the 188th when they deploy to perform their missions, Neel said.

Associated pictures:

Capt. Drew Nash lines an A-10 Thunderbolt II for refueling from a KC-135 Stratotanker on Wednesday over Arizona near Davis-Monthan AFB. Operating the boom from the Stratotanker is Tech Sgt. Adam Ward, who is stationed at Tinker AFB. (Photo by Kaia Larsen / Southwest Times Record)

Capt. Drew Nash lines the A-10 Thunderbolt II for refueling from a KC-135 Stratotanker Wednesday over Arizona near Davis-Monthan AFB. (Photo by Kaia Larsen / Southwest Times Record)

Capt. Drew Nash flies the A-10 Thunderbolt II on the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker after refueling in mid-air Wednesday over Arizona near Davis-Monthan AFB. (Photo by Kaia Larsen / Southwest Times Record)


See also:

A-10s from Arkansas will train at D-M

By Carol Ann Alaimo
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 07.27.2009

A squadron of A-10 attack jets from Arkansas will swoop into Tucson early this week.

Warplanes from the Air National Guard's 188th Fighter Wing of Fort Smith, Ark., will be in town this week and the first week of August to train for war in the desert.

The eight visiting jets are here as part of Operation Snowbird, a program based at Davis-Monthan Air Force base that hosts U.S. and allied pilots to prepare for upcoming deployments.

The A-10s will fly about 20 missions a day. Most will be during daylight hours, but there will be some night flights, said 1st Lt. Mary Pekas, a D-M spokeswoman.

D-M already flies dozens of its own A-10s as the nation's largest training base for the aircraft.

So even with several more in town, the impact on residents should be minimal, Pekas said.


The 188th gets into the Warthog groove

By Amy Schlesing
Arkansas Democrat Gazette
Posted today at 5:10 a.m.

TUCSON, Ariz. — Tech. Sgt. Adam Ward lay on his belly and watched the two A-10 Warthogs flying 1,000 feet below his KC-135 aerial refueling tanker, circling three miles above the rusty desert floor.

Ward fiddled with a bank of switches, levers and handles more extensive than two hands can seemingly manage. He talked into his headset to the pilots in the cockpit of his own plane and to the fighters below, coordinating the refueling linkup.

As Ward manipulated a handle, the refueling boom extended with a clunk that could be heard over the plane’s four roaring jet engines.

Maj. Patric Coggin and Capt. Andy Vaughan of the Arkansas Air [...]

(Full story only available to subscribers)


No comments:

Post a Comment