Saturday, March 5, 2011

188th Chief Briefs Crowd On Airstrikes

Col. Tom Anderson, commander of the Arkansas Air National Guard's 188th Fighter Wing left, is greeted by Jim Patridge at the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce First Friday Breakfast at UAFS on Friday, March 4, 2011.

Posted: Saturday, March 5, 2011 9:00 am
By Wanda Freeman, The Times Record

An upgrade to the A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft enabled the 188th Fighter Wing to avoid collateral damage during sorties in Afghanistan last year, Air National Guard Col. Tom Anderson told chamber members Friday.

As the featured speaker at the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce's monthly First Friday breakfast meeting, Anderson used slides and video to help give a vivid account of the wing's nearly three-month deployment to the province of Kandahar in early 2010.

It was the first combat mission for the fighter wing since the 188th received the A-10 "Warthog," a close-air support plane that replaced the high-flying F-16 jets it once used.

Not long after the Warthogs arrived in Fort Smith, their avionics were modified to provide a capability called SADL, or situational awareness data link. Essentially, the onboard computer was rewired to where the bombs are, Anderson told the Times Record.

"So we could drop a GPS-guided bomb," he said.

That new precision enabled pilots to pinpoint a small area on which to drop a bomb without harming civilians or damaging uninvolved structures.

In a video taken from an A-10 during a mission, the pilot was flying over a small village where an unknown number of enemy combatants were shooting from inside one end of a 25-foot-long, L-shaped building.

The video shows how the pilot lined up that tiny section of the building in his cross-hairs before firing. The bomb struck its target perfectly, leaving the rest of the building intact.

Other images show Kandahar as a dust-storm-prone terrain and a "very rudimentary" airbase from which the 188th operated.

Anderson said most injuries at the base are from traffic accidents, and getting transportation was a constant challenge. One picture showed a long line of vehicles running bumper to bumper in both directions on a dirt road at the base entry.

During their 70-plus days in Kandahar - home of the Taliban - members of the 188th performed 850 combat sorties involving 3,000 combat hours and came home with no injuries, Anderson said. Some 3,000 improvised explosive devices were found during that time.

Chamber of Commerce chairman Jim Patridge urged chamber members to continue their support of the 188th and of the Community Council, which meets quarterly and raises funds for 188th functions such as the Air Show scheduled for Oct. 1-2 this year.


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