Airmen Practice Rescuing Downed Pilots in Pacific Thunder 16
Airmen Practice Rescuing
Downed Pilots in Pacific Thunder 16-2
By Senior Airman Victor J. Caputo,
51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs / Published July 22, 2016.
Osan Air Base, South Korea — (AFNS)
— July 22, 2016 — A-10 Thunderbolt IIs make low passes over mountaintops,
providing cover fire for two HH-60 Pave Hawks carrying Air Force rescue teams as
they all coordinate to find downed pilots behind enemy lines. A distress call is
heard on the radio over the roar of rotor blades as a Pave Hawk begins to
descend, blasting dust and debris in all directions.
An HH-60 Pave Hawk descends for a landing during a combat search and rescue training mission
Just as the helicopter is about to touch down, a young man in a flight suit
jumps out of nearby bushes and waits for a signal to board. An aerial gunner
gives a thumbs-up and the man quickly climbs on board before the helicopter
flees the scene, only a few minutes after first flying into the valley.
This scenario was one of the many missions flown during
exercise Pacific Thunder 16-2, a two-week training event that combines U.S. and
South Korean forces to enhance interoperability for combat search and rescue
missions across the Korean Peninsula.
To accurately train for CSAR operations, this exercise made
scenarios as realistic as possible and placed pilots to “rescue” on the ground.
First Lt. Sky Lesh operates
an emergency radio while waiting for an Air Force rescue team
During one mission, 1st Lt. Sky Lesh, a 25th Fighter Squadron
pilot, was dropped off in a remote area while the rescue team, comprised of
HH-60s from the 33rd Rescue Squadron and A-10s from the 25th FS, was tasked to
find and extract him. The only communication equipment Lesh had was a combat
survivor evader locator, which provides secure two-way, over-the-horizon data
“I got to play the ‘objective’ today: an F-15 Eagle (pilot)
that had to eject,” Lesh said.
CSAR teams do far more than pick up survivors in helicopters.
The mission to find Lesh involved about 30 assets, ranging from the survival,
evasion, resistance and escape personnel on the ground to the intelligence,
surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft thousands of feet in the air.
Airman Weston Meyer marshals an A-10 Thunderbolt II before a combat search and rescue exercise flight
“It’s the entire rescue package’s job to locate and
authenticate the survivor, and then we go and fight our way in and out in order
to effectively pick up a downed fighter pilot who is behind enemy lines,” said
Master Sgt. Vincent, a 33rd RQS evaluator special mission aviator. “CSAR is one
of the most complicated and dynamic tasks we can be called to do in the Air
Force. We’re not trying to take out one or two targets; we’re going to an
unknown area with an unknown amount of enemy threats to pick up a survivor.”
These exercises give rescue personnel the chance to train in
a different type of environment and utilize a range of assets.
“The training and integration (we) get here is some of the
best CSAR training in the world,” said Capt. Alexander Sira, a 33rd RQS
An A-10 Thunderbolt II
lifts off from Osan Air Base, South Korea en route
to a combat search and rescue scenario
CSAR is one way the U.S. government fulfills its promise that
if the worst happens during a mission, every effort will be made to find and
bring personnel home. The trust in this promise is crucial in allowing military
operators to execute dangerous missions, Sira said.
For Lesh, this exercise gave a new sense of appreciation for
the effort and coordination necessary for a successful save. The rescue party
circled overhead and located Lesh near a river before they swiftly extracted him.
“It was phenomenal seeing the A-10s crest over the ridge and
the (HH-60s) rounding the bend at 50 feet,” he said. “They had no idea where I
was today, but were able to work together to find me and get me out.”
A-10 CSAR HH-60 Osan
AB PACAF Pacific