by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
MONTE REAL, Portugal – Maintainers recovers A-10 Thunderbolt II jets from the 81st Fighter Squadron after a mission in Monte Real, Portugal, Feb. 14, 2013. The 81st is participating in REAL THAW, a Portuguese military exercise that seeks to provide a realistic operating environment that accurately reflects current theaters of operation, provide adequate training to multinational participants while coordinating joint operations assets on land, air and sea, and improve interoperability between allied forces. The training is for multinational, joint operations in support of future military operations within the framework of several international cooperating forces, such as NATO and EU. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon) Hi-res
Note: Pictured are A-10Cs 81-0962 (at right) and 81-0981, marked 81 FS as the squadron commander's aircraft. "Stored" on the ground is an external fuel tank. At Monte Real Air Base the six participating "Hogs" are diverted in a forest.
2/16/2013 - MONTE REAL, Portugal -- Aircraft and military professionals from the U.S., Portugal, Netherlands, the U.K. and NATO are continuing to develop their ability to work together during REAL THAW 13, Feb. 11-22.
REAL THAW is the Portuguese military's premiere annual exercise that integrates the Portuguese Army, Navy and Air Force for joint operations and scenarios. The exercise also includes forces from partner nations.
The 81st Fighter Squadron, out of Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, is one of the U.S. representatives in Portugal. Their airframe, the A-10 Thunderbolt II, is the only close air support aircraft participating this year, and the Portuguese military is taking full advantage of its capabilities.
"The A-10 is a special asset that we don't have the everyday opportunity to work with," said Portuguese air force Lt. Col. Carlos Lourenco, the director of REAL THAW.
The Portuguese air force flies the F-16 Fighting Falcon as their primary fighter aircraft, but do not have a close air support aircraft like the A-10. Having the ability to conduct operations like search and rescue with the 81st is beneficial for training.
This is especially important for the helicopter squadrons, and working together increases both parties' understanding of operating in a joint environment, said Lourenco.
"Our opportunity to be here and train on a wide variety of missions is invaluable for us. We haven't been able to do this in months, " said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Clint Eichelberger, 81st commander.
The exercise helps keep pilots from the 81st combat-ready, because of the different skill sets that they can train on here. Some of the scenarios they've supported so far are combat search and rescue, close air support and convoy escort. The upcoming week will also integrate the Portuguese navy, and the 81st will provide maritime air support, said the colonel.
"We are very rarely going to go anywhere that we'll deploy and not have to work with other forces. We're always going to integrate, whether they be air forces, ground forces, or maritime," said Eichelberger. "The last place that you want to figure out how to work together is on the battlefield. That's why coming to these exercises are so important."
Although the 81st is inactivating later this year, it gives both the U.S. and Portuguese forces a chance to learn in a joint environment and draw on each others' strengths to provide a solid response if contingencies arise.
"Everyone has different experience levels, so we all can learn from each other," said Lourenco of the training. "The A-10 brings new approaches and lessons we can apply to our own experience."
MONTE REAL, Portugal – Two A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft from the 81st Fighter Squadron take off from Monte Real, Portugal, Feb. 14, 2013. The A-10's are participating in a simulated scenario with complex, realistic situations that provide training for multinational, joint theater operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon) Hi-res
Note: Pictured from left are A-10Cs 81-0962 and 81-0966, marked 52 OG as the 52nd Operations Group bird.
MONTE REAL, Portugal – U.S. Airmen from the 81st Aircraft Maintenance Unit prepare an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft for take-off in Monte Real, Portugal, Feb. 14, 2013. This is the first time the 81st has participated in REAL THAW, a multinational exercise hosted by the Portuguese military. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon) Hi-res
Note: Pictured is A-10C 81-0966, marked 52 OG as the 52nd Operations Group bird. Crew inscriptions: PLT Col David Lyons, DCC SSgt Ryan Stout, ACC A1C Cody Cook
MONTE REAL, Portugal – U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Steve Vaughn, 81st Aircraft Maintenance Unit jet engine mechanic from Chattanooga, Tenn., walks on the wing of an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft during a pre-flight inspection in Monte Real, Portugal, Feb. 14, 2013. The 81st is participating in REAL THAW, a Portuguese military exercise that seeks to provide a realistic operating environment that accurately reflects current theaters of operation, provide adequate training to multinational participants while coordinating joint operations assets on land, air and sea, and improve interoperability between allied forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon) Hi-res
Note: Pictured is A-10C 82-0654.
Source (including 5 photos)