Monday, December 5, 2011
USAF Weapons School chooses 190th Fighter Squadron as A-10C advanced tactics test-bed
Lt. Col. Gary A. Daniel
124th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
(Published as cover story in the December 2011 PDF issue of "The Beacon" — official newsletter of the 124th Fighter Wing)
BOISE, ID. The universally recognized masters of A-10 combat flying visited Gowen Field in November and integrated with numerous 124th Fighter Wing units throughout their two-week stay. After dozens of combat training sorties, mutual respect and common dedication to excellence in the A-10 community abounded as the most noted postdeployment sentiment from 190th Fighter Squadron and 66th Weapons School (Nellis AFB) leaders.
Nine instructor pilots and four upgrade students from the prestigious USAF Fighter Weapons School at Nellis AFB journeyed to Boise for two weeks of flying in Southern Idaho military flying ranges. The 66th Weapons School Squadron also brought over 60 maintenance specialists to ready six of the squadron's A-10C aircraft that joined the Warthogs of the 190th for low to medium threat flying while operating with Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC) of the 124th Air Support Operations Squadron.
"They are the Top-Gun program of the Air Force," said Lt. Col. Ryan Odneal, commander of the 190th.
"It's good doing business with the Weapons School, because we know we're doing business the right way, it's nice to validate our tactics and procedures, good to have another set of eyeballs (on squadron training sorties)," Odneal said.
According to 66th Weapons Squadron (A-10) Director of Operations, Major Colin Donnelly, the combination of a fully combat capable 190FS and the airspace in Southern Idaho dedicated to military flying, the combat flying assets at nearby Mountain Home AFB, and the Army Aviation just across Gowen Field allowed for "Interaction with multiple combat platforms and assets to achieve timely ordinance in supporting the ground commander."
The Purpose of 66th WPS traveling to A-10 units and mixing their training with that of operational squadrons like the 190th is directly from lessons learned by operational combatant commanders in the current CENTCOM fight. They have clarified the A-10C mission as Close Air Support, Combat Search and Rescue, and Forward Air Control—Airborne.
"We've realigned our syllabus and this is the first time executing this new draft syllabus (of combat mission flying)," said Major Donnelly. "This is our first forward air control deployment. We chose Boise. We like the challenges of going to a new location. The ranges here provide us new challenges with unfamiliar targets, new combat scenarios; it is awesome for our instructor pilots and student upgrade pilots," he said.
As part of that upgrade process the Weapons School students proved their leadership mettle in realistic training sorties alongside 190th aviators of all experience levels.
"Our WPS students are learning the skill of taking on-scene command of the "stack" of combat aircraft to meet the ground commander's objectives," Donnelly said.
The 190th Fighter Squadron has been flying the A-10 "Charlie" variant for the past 30 months. In October the Air Combat Command Inspector General recognized them as the best A-10 unit seen to date and awarded them the of highest possible overall grade of outstanding. Major Donnelly assessed the 190th participation as "a class act."
"It's nice to be validated by who you consider to be the best of the best in the A-10 business," said Lt. Col. Odneal.
124th Intel Flight shouldered a considerable additional workload providing weapons, threat response, and tactics research and training according to Major Steve McHargue, 124 IFTU Chief of Intelligence.
"66WPS is a Class Act," he said, "Their crews participated in some world-class training of our 124 IFTU (Intelligence Formal Training Unit) students."
The 66WPS may be bringing students back through Idaho to train with the 124th Fighter Wing every six months according to 190FS Director of Operations Lt. Col. Shannon Smith.
"This was a win-win. We accomplished the kind of training that we usually need to travel for right here at our 'home drome.' It doesn't get better than that," Lt. Col. Smith said.
"We've got a history of sending successful students to graduate from the Weapons School program.'
'What's key is: to stay relevant in your (aircraft) community, you need to engage the other squadrons — everyone recognizes the weapons school in being the leaders in weapons and tactics. They also have a goal to maintain in constant contact with the CAF (Combat Air Forces) to make sure their graduates are what the flying squadrons want.'
'Another huge benefit was our participating in weapons school style preparation briefs and debriefs that we don't get to see all the time. Short of getting a new weapons officer out of the experience — we experienced a class act" Smith said.
And the 66WPS experienced some combat flying training that even an elite Weapons School instructor like Major Donnelly found worth noting as "the 266th Range Squadron and the flying ranges in Southern Idaho offer us 'smoky SAMS,' good target sets realistic targets and interaction with the Rotary Wing aircraft that operate here."
The U.S. Air Force Weapons School provides the world's most advanced training in weapons and tactics employment, and every six months, produces a new class of graduates who are expert instructors on weapons, weapons systems and air and space integration. Upon completing the course, graduates return to their home stations, taking the latest tactics, techniques and procedures for air-to-air and air-to-ground combat to their respective units.
The Weapons School traces its roots to the Aircraft Gunnery School established in 1949 at Las Vegas Air Force Base, which became Nellis Air Force Base in 1950. This organization brought together a cadre of World War II combat veterans dedicated to teaching the next generation of pilots. The Gunnery School converted to combat crew training to meet the needs of the Korean War. Today's Weapons School encompasses 17 squadrons, teaching 22 combat specialties at eight locations.
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