Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hawgsmoke 2010 photo report by Michael Denney

On October 17, 2010, from Michael Denney, United States, I got the permission to post his article and all of his related pictures also on my blog. Just before, he has already posted this stuff on two different aviation forums as already announced by me. Unfortunately, for some days later the pictures were not available because Today, he got the bandwidth issue resolved, and so his pics are all there now again.

At first, please let me re-post his very interesting article:

I just had the opportunity to spend a couple of days covering Hawgsmoke 2010 at Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho. Hawgsmoke 2010 was hosted by the Idaho Air National Guards 190th Fighter Squadron, who were the winners of the 2008 competition and thus became the hosts of this years. Since the 190th won again this time, the second place winners will host Hawgsmoke 2012. On Wednesday Oct. 13 I spent a good part of the day on the ramp at Gowen taking shots of ramp activity and arriving A-10 teams. It was pretty much heaven for a Warthog fan!! It was a very busy place, with aircraft being serviced, readied for the following days competition, landing, taxiing, parking, running up engines, etc. There was only a very small contingent of media covering the event, and we were allowed to shoot pretty much anything we wanted on the ramp. I talked to a few of the maintainers a bit but they were extremely busy....the Idaho ANG crews were trying to take care of all the visiting planes to get them ready to go the next day.

The next day, Thursday October 14, I traveled to the Saylor Creek Range and spent about 4 hours watching A-10's bomb and strafe. Much has been said about the sound of the GAU-8/A cannon...I have heard it compared to a chainsaw in sound. I can tell you that words cannot really describe it, and video does not really capture the essence of the sound either. It is LOUD and very distinctive. When the aircraft fired from longer ranges, you would hear a popping or crackling sound much like a string of firecrackers...this was the sound of the supersonic rounds passing overhead...then a second or so later you would hear the actual ripping, roaring sound of the gun. Had you been on the receiving end, you wouldn't have heard anything, you would have dead before the sound got there!

There were 18 teams and 40+ A-10's at the competition. The overseas teams did not fly thier own A-10's, thier pilots flew in commercial and used "borrowed" A-10's for the event. Most teams brought 4 planes, a few brought a spare and a few brought less and used one or two borrowed birds.

At the range, the teams first performed a high altitide bomb drop using BDU-33 practice bombs. The A-10's flew the approach at about 17K feet and released at about 7K feet. From the ground, the A-10 is impossible to see at 17000 feet and even when they got down to 7000, you had to be looking in the right spot to get a visual on them. They then made a Maverick pass, no missle was fired, but they had to get a lock with thier Maverick. All aircraft were carrying two CATM-65 missles, one EO and one IR. In one case, I heard the pilot advise the range controller his missle would not activate in TRAIN mode and ask permission to make his pass in ARM, the range controllers denied the request. I am not sure if that was purely a safety issue as the CATM-65 has no actual motor and can't leave the rail, or if it was just protocol for the contest. The planes third pass was a low altitude bombing run with BDU-33 25 lb. practice bombs again. Thier fourth pass was a 30mm gun run at a strafing target. If they missed, they had to make another strafing run from a longer distance. After all the gun runs were complete, the planes had about three minutes to join back up in formation and make a formation pass over the range, and that ended their time.

A few things I found interesting....all the A-10's I saw were C evidenced by the cockpit coaming and/or the presence of Sniper pods, or Litening pods on 2/10. All the planes arrived with the two CATM-65 Mavericks, two TER's, and usually two baggage pods. Some had the AIM-9 rails, some did not. The only difference was the Davis Monthan birds that arrived with ALQ-131 pods on station 11 and one CATM-9 on station 1.

The teams used a "degraded" gunsight reticule and bombing mode for the event. At one point I heard the statement they were bombing in HARS mode. I presume this means they were using the older electronics and not the IFFCC of the C model. Even at that, they were usually very accurate. We were probably 500 to 600 yards from the bomb target, but only 200 yards or so from the strafing pit. We were just slightly to the left of the gun line for the strafing pits, so we were very close...I was very surprised we were able to be that close, but its a testament to the confidence the Air Force has in the accuracy of the weapons system.

I hope you enjoy the pics! They are possible due to the hospitality of the 124th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Officer, Capt. Tony Vincelli, and his staff!

Please note: Michael's 30 associated pics will be uploaded soon. In the meantime please visit Hawgsmoke 2010!!

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