|A-10 Pilots Hone Combat Skills in Alaska|
A-10 Pilots Hone Combat Skills in Alaska
By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Knapp, Northern Edge Joint Information Bureau.
Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska -- (AFPN) April 30, 002 -- As the war on terrorism continues, the need for real-world combat training intensifies. Northern Edge 2002 is giving members of an A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter squadron here the chance to refine their skills.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot from the 355th Fighter Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, does a final instrument check before departing on a training mission during Northern Edge 2002.
Photo by Staff Sgt. Adrian Cadiz
The 355th Fighter Squadron is flying about 400 sorties -- 100 percent of its flight operations -- focusing completely on the joint exercise, said Capt. Steve A. Benton, 355th FS project officer.
"Participating in Northern Edge gives us the ability to integrate with a large package of aircraft, more than 80 at once, as opposed to training with only two or four ships," said Benton. "Also, all the other airplanes we are flying with are focused on one mission, to make sure we get to the target."
Northern Edge allows participants to work together and make the scenario as close to "war" as possible. The 355th FS is scheduled to participate in nine large force exercises.
"Now, rather than just going out and doing normal CT (continuation training or day-to-day training), there are actual red air guys (simulated enemy forces) out there trying to engage us," said Capt. John F. Gonzales, 355th FS assistant weapons officer.
A large part of the training exercise centers on the joint-service aspect.
"Working with other services allows us to actually see our sister service capabilities, and fly with them in action as opposed to just studying them," said Benton. "Here, we actually get to go out and see things like where a (Navy) EA-6B (Prowler) is going to hold in formation, and how he is going to provide his jamming."
Part of the mission of the A-10 squadron is to mobilize and deploy aircraft worldwide on short notice to conduct day and night forward air control. During wartime, air support is combined into an air tasking order.
"Seeing how that process works kind of opens your eyes to what it would be like if you had to actually go to war," said Gonzales. "The players spend a lot of time preparing this exercise to make sure that the red and blue teams are dedicated to fulfilling their missions."
Combining the forces of different services helps to maintain the "super power" status of the United States, according to exercise officials. To make a large group of people and equipment come together as one takes a lot of practice. Northern Edge is designed to improve the readiness of military forces for such contingencies.