Saturday, September 15, 2012

A-10s involvement in NATO exercise readies nations for deployments

by Senior Airman Natasha Stannard
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

NAMEST AIR BASE, Czech Republic -- Maintainers from the 81st Aircraft Maintenance Unit inspect an A-10 Thunderbolt II that just returned from providing close air support to a forward air control training mission Sept. 12, during Ramstein Rover 2012 here. A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from the 81st Fighter Squadron are participating in the NATO exercise to provide close air support to partnering nations and practice forward air control missions with allies in international security assistance force realistic scenarios. Participating in exercises like RARO 12 ensures effective employment of airpower in support of alliance or coalition forces while mitigating risks to civilians in contingency operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Natasha Stannard) Hi-res

9/13/2012 - NAMEST AIR BASE, Czech Republic -- The 81st Fighter Squadron is providing close air support to partnering NATO nations' forward air controllers during Ramstein Rover 2012 here.

The primary objective of RARO 12 is to provide collective theater-realistic forward air control (FAC) training through close air support (CAS), which supplies the air-to-land integration needed to successfully support combatant commanders in contingency operations around the world. This event was organized by NATO's Headquarters Allied Air Command in an effort to prepare the 16 participating nations for deployments to Afghanistan within the next year.

The exercise is also the last exercise the 81st FS is participating in before its scheduled inactivation early next year. However, this will not be the last time A-10 Thunderbolt II pilots provide CAS to NATO member nations.

"Even though we're on course to close the squadron, that doesn't mean the mission stops," said Lt. Col. Clinton Eichelberger, 81st FS commander. "I don't see (the U.S. Air Force) working or operating in another contingency by ourselves; we are definitely going to work together with allies or coalition partners. We will have not just aircraft from other nations, but ground forces from other nations to include forward air controllers and joint terminal attack controllers who need to be able to call in ground support. It's imperative we train with them so we're all on the same page -- working off the common standards and terminology."

Providing FACs the ability to enhance their practices via the A-10s CAS abilities was seen as an important opportunity by NATO's Headquarters Allied Air Command.

"From our standpoint, since the A-10s are the primary CAS platform in Afghanistan and this exercise is meant to train JTACs and FACs for Afghanistan, we're extremely excited to have them participate," said Lt. Col. Steven Behmer, NATO's Headquarters Allied Air Command chief of RARO 12 exercise plans. "Once it was announced that the A-10s would be supporting, the number of nations that were sending JTACs and FACs increased just to have the opportunity to work with the best CAS platform in the U.S. Air Force."

CAS is the A-10s primary mission and they have the skill set and systems needed to provide ground forces the air support they need to complete their mission, he added.

"A-10s are and will forever be the best aircraft for us," said 1st Lt. Peter Kuechler, German air force forward air controller. "They have the systems we need, they have the weapons we need and the pilots are the best pilots for close air support. It's always good to work with the A-10s ... they provide a lot of interaction."

The A-10s can also loiter target areas longer than most other aircraft while carrying ordinates to include bombs and ammunition.

"The A-10s brought a lot of ordinates -- approximately 75 percent of the A-10s sorties have had live ordinates and there is a requirement for our JTACs to have controls including live ordinates," Behmer said. "By having the A-10s here, we're able to get more than 50 JTACs all of their required live controls for the entire year in one, two-week exercise."

Training here also gives all involved the opportunity to learn from one another by establishing goals and identifying common procedures, tactics and techniques.

"Our goals are to go out and perform to the standard we have set as a squadron and the standards the United States Air Force has set so that we are effective and enhance the forward air controllers training," Eichelberger said. Enhancing means we're there providing the most theater realistic support we can while identifying breakdowns that we can pass as information to the joint terminal attack and forward air controllers. This way, we can both improve and figure out how to make the next mission better."

Source (including 6 photos)

Please note: Some more pictures will be uploaded soon.

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