|Fighter Squadrons Train with Italians for New CSAR Mission |
Fighter Squadrons Train with Italians for New CSAR Mission
By Tech. Sgt. Ann Bennett, Air Force Print News.
Rimini, Italy -- February 13, 2001 (USAFENS) -- Tasked for the very first time with a full-time combat search and rescue mission, F-16 aircrews with the 510th Fighter Squadron are training with the Italian air force’s 83rd CSAR Squadron from Rimini, Italy, to prepare for this mission.
The 510th FS is one of three U.S. Air Force F-16 squadrons tasked with the additional CSAR responsibility, and will begin this mission when they deploy in June to Turkey in support of Operation Northern Watch. The other two squadrons are the 555th Fighter Squadron and the 18th Fighter Squadron out of Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The jets form Eielson were the first F-16s to support the CSAR mission in Turkey during a deployment last fall.
"It’s a very important and dynamic mission, and we’re ready to step up to it," said Lt. Col. Steve Schrader, 510th FS commander. Despite the additional training workload, he said, "we’re excited about it, but it’s one mission you don’t really want to have to execute."
The commander explained that the tasking grew out of some Aerospace Expeditionary Forces slots that were unfilled because there aren’t enough A-10s, the aircraft primarily used to perform CSAR missions.
The F-16 aircraft was picked essentially because of its multi-role platform, Schrader added. "It has good navigation capabilities with GPS (global positioning system), and good night capabilities with its lantern targeting pod, plus we use night vision goggles," he said.
The 510th FS and the 83rd CSAR Squadron have conducted two training exercises so far - the first one in November and the second one last week.
Eight F-16 pilots and four aircraft, along with 20 Italian aircrew members and pararescuemen and two of their HH-3F helicopters were involved in a four-day exercise, Feb. 5-8, around Rimini, to rescue "survivors."
Flying day and night sorties from here," the F-16 aircrews had to locate and authenticate the survivors, and coordinate their pickup by the 83rd CSAR Squadron. They also had to protect survivors and helicopters from simulated air and ground threats.
Maj. Mark Moore, 510th FS operations officer and exercise coordinator, said this exercise is a step up from the previous exercise.
"With this exercise, we’ve increased the complexity of the scenario to ensure we are working up to a level commensurate with our actual combat tasking down the road. We have a lot more simulated threats on the ground, and a lot more sense of urgency to pick up the survivor so that we’re working within some time constraints that will make the scenario more difficult as well," Moore explained.
"The Italians’ contribution to this training has been tremendous," Schrader said. "We would be in really bad shape in terms of preparing for ONW without them - they are key in helping us spin up.
"Their professional aviators are a great asset to us," Schrader continued. "They know how to get the airspace, and they’re the only ones we can do this training with from home station."
He added that the training builds camaraderie and is good for both sides.
Italian air force Lt. Dario de Liguoro, a helicopter pilot, said it’s very important for them to do these exercises because of the need for interoperability. "We are in NATO and so we all have to fly together. If there’s a real CSAR situation, we might have to fly with either the F-16s or the A-10s, or with another nation."
The helicopter pilot, who helped to set up the first exercise, said since most of the 510th pilots don’t have CSAR experience, there were some problems in the beginning.
"But they are very good and they have studied hard and we have done a good job together," de Liguoro said. "We are very happy about the mission right now because everything is working quite well. Every day we are improving and doing something new."
With this exercise, the scenario called for both American and Italian survivors. On the last day of the exercise, the 31st Fighter Wing survival instructor, Staff Sgt. Rick Sapone, and a pilot candidate assigned to the 510th FS, 1st Lt. Adam Cuquet, played American survivors. For the first three days, however, the survivors were Italians.
Moore said having Italian survivors presented some unique problems with the language. "But that’s a possibility in our NATO environment and contingency operations. It could be a non-American survivor down there, so we have to be able to deal with the language problem. We can ultimately get there, it just takes a little bit longer."
"The language is a big barrier because although English is the NATO language, in Italy English is not very common," de Liguoro said. "For us it was very important to do this kind of training so pilots can get used to not only English, but also the CSAR language."
It was also good for the American pilots too, he said, because they learned that while talking on the radio, they have to speak slowly so everybody can understand.
Italian air force Capt. Vittorio Carminato, a helicopter pilot who is chief of the training branch and project officer for this exercise, said, "we are used to working with the A-10 pilots and this is a little bit different because the aircraft is different and most of the pilots are not specialized on CSAR missions. So it’s a little bit harder for us, and for them as well because they don’t have the experience."
"With every exercise to follow, we want to make the scenario more and more realistic," Vittorio added.
The two units have another exercise planned for May. It will be "a final top-off before we go off to ONW," Moore said. Before then, the 510th FS will deploy to Tyndall AFB, Fla., and Nellis AFB, Nev., for additional CSAR training.
Besides the new CSAR mission, the F-16's other missions include strike and interdiction, close air support and forward air control.
-- USAFENS --