Atlantic Strike VII – Show Of Force – Day 3

The workhorse of the Air Force has gotten a fresh start in Afghanistan and Iraq. The once-discarded A-10 Thunderbolt II is proving its worthiness once again as a powerful asset to the JTAC (Joint Terminal Attack Controllers) community. Offering eyes and lethal strike capability, the A-10 is a key player at Atlantic Strike VII.

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Of the 32 aircraft participating in Atlantic Strike VII, 6 of them hail from the 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. A welcome addition to the first time participants, the upgraded C model A-10s will bring the CAS (Close Air Support) exercise to a new level, helping bring the latest technology to the troops on the battlefield.

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“The C model A-10 is equipped with the LITENING II targeting pod and video datalink capability,” said Maj. James Krischke, the assistant director of operations at the 354th FS. “Along with the new tactical awareness display the C model provides precision munitions capability not available in previous A-10 models.”

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I had a chance to visit with the men and women of the 355th Fighter Wing on deployment at MacDill AFB as they supported Atlantic Strike VII. They were extremely gracious in allowing me unprecedented access to the ramp and
opportunities to observe the launch and recovery cycles as the planes flew to the Avon Park Air Ground Training Complex, where I was the past two days.

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With temperatures in the 90s, these maintainers worked tirelessly to prepare their jets in support of the Army platoon and Coalition Forces on the ground.

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With a launch of two jets every hour, air support for the JTACs was guaranteed over Avon Park. As the jets over there began to run low on fuel, two new planes were sent to relieve them. And so the cycle continued throughout the exercise.

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In addition to the high the operational tempo, the crews and maintainers from Davis-Monthan are dealing with their first operational deployment with the new C model prior to the unit’s upcoming Operation Enduring Freedom deployment. No sooner then the first launch cycle I was observing, the #2 engine of one of the jets wasn’t starting. And just as quickly as the problem was identified, the maintainers grabbed their wrenches and had the engine’s cowling off.

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These men and women were at the top of their game, and with just moments to spare, the pilot was ready to go once again and the jet on its way for its final checks at the EOR.

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The EOR, or End-of-Runway, is where aircraft receive their final inspections immediately prior to take-off.

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With final checks complete, the LITENING II targeting pod, GPS-guided weapons, laser-guided bombs, are activated for use and the jet is ready to begin its mission.

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Clearance from MacDill Tower, the mighty A-10 Thunderbolt II with it’s 18,000 pounds of thrust from the two General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofans propels itself down the runway and leaps to the skies to be the tip of the sword for the JTACs on the ground.

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After its mission is accomplished and another A-10 has assumed the CAS role, it returns back to MacDill and to be recovered by hard working maintainers, who will make sure she is ready to launch at a moment’s notice and offer protection to the US and Coalition troops on the ground.

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A special thanks to Maj. Raymond Brennan, Jimbo, Dale, Capt Nathan Broshear, Staff Sgt Stephen Otero, the men and women of the 355th Fighter Wing, and all the Air Force, Army, Marine, Canadian, Danish troops participating in Atlantic Strike VII for allowing me to a rare opportunity to observe the hard work and difficulties that the tactical air control party community faces.

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