Monday, October 18, 2010

188th Fighter Wing nets third-place finish at Hawgsmoke 2010

An A-10C Thunderbolt II "Warthog" from the Arkansas Air National Guard's 188th Fighter Wing fires its AN/GAU-8 30mm Avenger seven-barrel Gatling gun at a target on the ground during the 2010 Hawgsmoke competition in Boise, Idaho, Oct. 14. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. John Orrell) Hi-res

by Tech. Sgt. John Orrell
National Guard Bureau

10/18/2010 - BOISE, Idaho -- The 188th Fighter Wing is proving to be a quick study.

In just its third year as an A-10C Thunderbolt II unit, the 188th took third in the biennial Hawgsmoke competition, an A-10 bombing, missile and tactical gunnery competition that brings the U.S. Air Force's top A-10 pilots from around the world together, as they attempt to become the best of the best.

"We're very proud of how well the 188th performed at Hawgsmoke against some of the best A-10 pilots and units in the world," said Air Force Col. Tom Anderson, the wing commander. "Since converting to the A-10 from the F-16 just three years ago, the 188th has made vast strides in this new aircraft. This is just another example of how far we've come in such a short time."

The 188th transitioned from the F-16 to the A-10 beginning in April 2007. The 188th returned from its first combat deployment in the A-10 in May 2010.

The Idaho Air National Guard's 190th Fighter Squadron became the first team to win back-to-back championships at Hawgsmoke 2010, an international A-10 bombing, missile and tactical gunnery competition held here Oct. 13-15.

"It's a fantastic night for us," said Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan Odneal, the 190th FS commander and the team leader. "Especially for me being the commander and the rest of the flight being traditional Guardsmen, which is what we stand for in the Air National Guard ... to have those guys come out and perform the way they did ... I'm just ecstatic."

Hosted by the 190th FS, which belongs to the 124th Fighter Wing at Gowen Air National Guard Base, Hawgsmoke is a display of world's premier close air support fighter, the A-10C Thunderbolt II, affectionately known as the "Warthog."

With 18 Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and active duty Air Force squadrons from U.S. bases around the world in attendance, parking over 40 A-10s on the tarmac, the competition showcased the skills of the "best of the best," Odneal said.

Teams were comprised of four A-10s attempting to complete events within set parameters with a goal of "the lowest score wins," said, Lt. Col. Dave Trimble, 124th deputy operations group commander, who also served as narrator during the competition.

"[Each pilot] has to complete two 45-degree high altitude dive bombs, two 30-degree dive bombs and then two 10-degree low end or high drag bombs on the same target," he said. "Then that is followed by three passes of low angle or long range strafe."

The 45-degree high altitude dive bomb is a delivery method in which the pilot dives at the ground at a 45-degree angle, he said. Then they start the bomb delivery from 18-20,000 feet above the ground level and release the bomb.

Along with hitting the target, the pilots have to stay 4,500 feet above ground level for it to be a successful run, said Trimble.

"It's a very good tactical delivery in combat, because you are coming out of the high altitude, making you hard to see and hear and the next thing you know the weapon hits the target," he said.

That run is followed two 30-degree dive bombs, where the parameters started at 9,000 feet and stayed 1,000 feet above ground level.

The 10-degree low end or high drag bomb run is a little different from the previous two, said Trimble.

"It is a weapons delivery that simulates delivering a high drag munitions such as the Mark 82 [unguided, low-drag general-purpose bomb] you are down low underneath the weather, staying out of the flak," he said. "You drop a high drag munitions and a big 'ballute' [a bomb parachute invented by a commercial vendor and used with the Mark 82] comes out, slows the weapon down so that you can get out of harm's way before it implodes."

After the bombing run portion, the pilots then completed three low-angle strafe runs on a target.

If they got their 30 shots on the target, they were done with that run. If not, they had to make another run at the target, but from a farther distance, increasing the spread of the shots and making it harder to hit the target, said Trimble.

"The points are tallied up at the end of each mission," he said. "They look at the scores, parameters ... take all of that into account and compile a score."

The Air National Guard had two of the top three teams, and the top two pilots came from the Idaho team.

Maj. Scott Downey of the 190th FS was named the top pilot of Hawgsmoke. Capt. Ryan Brown, also of the 190th, was named the second best pilot at Hawgsmoke, a distinction he also earned back in 2008 at Salina, Kan.

The second-place team was the 354th FS, an active duty unit from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.


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