Saturday, October 24, 2009

In the news: 188th Fighter Wing in GREEN FLAG - West 10-01

There are two interesting news articles, published by Southwest Times Record during the last couple of days:

War Games Prepare Fighter Wing For Real Combat

By Jeff Arnold
Times Record
Sunday, October 18, 2009 1:16 PM CDT

LAS VEGAS — Local and regional representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration were taken to Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas last week and briefed on the 188th Fighter Wing's participation in Green Flag West.

In Green Flag, Air Force units flying out of Nellis coordinate "combat operations" with the U.S. Army at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., in the Mojave Desert. During the Wednesday flight to Nellis on a KC-135-K Stratotanker from the 185th Air Refueling Wing, the FAA staff observed 188th A-10s get a fill-up from the KC-135-K almost three miles above Death Valley.

On the ground, members of the 188th command staff and 549 Combat Training Squadron station at Nellis, which provides support for the Green Flag exercise, briefed FAA officials on the performance of the 188th pilots and support personnel.

After a trip to the flight line, where 188th pilots were taking off for night missions, the tour resumed Thursday at the 547th Intelligence Squadron Adversary Threat Training Facility at Nellis.

The Threat Training Facility is a collection of primarily Soviet anti-aircraft systems, aircraft and tanks seized, purchased and collected by the U.S. military to determine the threat level those systems pose to U.S. military aircraft and personnel.

The facility is known as "The Petting Zoo," because visitors can handle the equipment and sit inside the aircraft.

The group of FAA representatives was the second cadre of civilians taken by the 188th to air bases out west since August to observe 188th A-10 pilots and support crews train as they prepare for a March deployment to Afghanistan.

About 190 members of the 188th deployed to Nellis for training that began Oct. 9 and is expected to conclude around Oct. 25. The A-10 pilots are scheduled to fly 188 sorties — equal to 360 hours — and drop weapons equal to their annual allotment of weapons for one year during the Green Flag exercise.

Col. Tom Anderson, 188th commander, said the 188th is scheduled to deploy to Kandahar Air Force Base in Afghanistan in March and return in May.

The 188th is expected to provide close-air support for troops on the ground in Afghanistan.


188th Goes For 'Green Flag' In Nevada

By Jeff Arnold
Times Record
Friday, October 16, 2009 10:02 AM CDT

LAS VEGAS — The 188th Fighter Wing continues its preparation for a springtime deployment to Afghanistan over the Nevada and California deserts.

Almost 200 members of the 188th have deployed to Nellis Air Force Base, near Las Vegas, to participate in the "Green Flag" close-air support exercise supported by the 549th Combat Training Squadron at Nellis. In Green Flag, Air Force units flying out of Nellis coordinate "combat operations" with the U.S. Army at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. in the Mojave Desert, as they will during operations in Afghanistan.

It's the second large-scale, live-fire exercise in which the 188th has participated since the unit converted from F-16 fighter jets to A-10 jet, which provides close-air support for ground troops.

Lt. Col. Ken "Heater" Griffin, a 188th A-10 pilot, said the training at Green Flag is the most challenging he's faced for a host of reasons including the unfamiliar airspace, rugged terrain and atmospheric conditions.

Lt. Col. Ray "Rainman" Hunter, 184th Fighter Squad commander, said Operation Snowbird at Davis-Monthan AFB, in which the 188th participated in August, was "baby steps" in comparison to the training at Nellis.

At Snowbird, Hunter said pilots were learning to drop bombs whereas they're learning to coordinate combat operations with ground troops and at the same time mastering updated software for the aircraft in Green Flag.

Col. Jeff "Kid" Hickman, 188th operations group commander, said since the 188th received its first A-10s in April 2007, the unit has upgraded from the A-10A to the A-10C and gone through two software updates for the aircraft.

"In four months these guys will be in Afghanistan," Hickman said.

In addition to mastering coordination with ground troops and the aircraft's software, Hunter said pilots are being provided an unusual opportunity to carry all the weapons on their A-10 that they'll carry during missions in Afghanistan.

The weight of the weapons, the drag they create and the high pressure altitude make getting airborne and above the mountainous terrain surrounding Nellis a labor unlike 188th pilots experience in Fort Smith or experienced during Snowbird.

Hunter said it is another challenge pilots won't be facing for the first time in Afghanistan.

Hickman said he can't think of a better exercise to prepare the 188th for its deployment in March.

Col. Tom Anderson, 188th wing commander, said while their work isn't as sexy, the folks behind the scenes deserve credit for the work they do to make sure the aircraft and pilots' equipment is prepared so they can accomplish their missions.

Tech. Sgt. Lonnie Nicholson, an A-10 crew chief, said the biggest challenge during Green Flag has been making sure the aircraft are ready on time for the pilots' scheduled missions.

Unlike Operation Snowbird when pilots flew abbreviated missions, Nicholson said pilots are flying up to three-hour missions at Green Flag which more closely mirrors what they'll experience in Afghanistan.

Hickman said a typical mission in Afghanistan — based on current conditions — likely will be about four hours, with pilots flying one mission each day.

Members of the 188th deployed for Green Flag are expected to begin returning to Fort Smith on Oct. 26.


Southwest Times Record published the following related A-10 shots and some other stuff:

At 15,000 feet above Death Valley, Calif., fully armed A-10C Warthogs flown by Maj. Martin Dahlem, left and 1st. Lt. BJ Ginger fly beside a KC-135-K tanker while on a training flight from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., on Wednesday. (Photo by Corey S. Krasko / Times Record)

At 15,000 feet above Death Valley, Calif., two fully armed A-10C Warthogs from 188th Fighter Wing fly beside a KC-135 Stratotanker while on a training flight from Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada on Wednesday. About 190 members of the 188th are at Nellis for training in close air support of ground troops. (Photo by Corey S. Krasko / Times Record)

Lt. Col. Sean Masin with the 185th Air Refueling Wing of Sioux City, Iowa, taxis a KC-135-K tanker for take off from the Fort Smith Regional Airport on Wednesday to support the training mission of the 188th Fighter Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. (Photo by Corey S. Krasko / Times Record)

Col. Brad Peterson watches as Col. Tom Anderson takes a close look at a Russian-built Mi-24 attack helicopter captured from the Iraqi army during a tour of the 547th Intelligence Squadon's Adversary Threat Training Facility on Thursday at Nellis Air Force Base. Peterson is the vice commander and Anderson is the commander of the 188th Fighter Wing of the Arkansas Air National Guard. (Photo by Corey S. Krasko / Times Record)

NOTE: This post will be further updated.

Related info:
184th Fighter Squadron A-10Cs participating in GREEN FLAG - West 10-01

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