An up-close look at the 20th FW mission

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- An Airman crawls in through the hatch of a vehicle and ducks into the darkness below. It is a confined space filled with buttons and knobs, switches and panels, each of them marked by a series of unknown symbols and strange lettering, and it smells like the inside of a military surplus store.

Airmen assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing were treated to a rare sight recently when they were given an up-close look at a Russian-built SA-8 Gecko “Land Roll” Launcher, a surface-to-air missile system built during the 60s and 70s.

The visit was intended to give Team Shaw a first-hand look at the other side of the 20th FW’s suppression of enemy air defenses mission: the systems that the Wild Weasel pilots train to destroy.

“It’s an opportunity for everyone on base to come out here and see (an SA-8) and show them that this is what we’re here to do, to fight against systems like this,” said 1st Lt. Spencer Peot, 79th Fighter Squadron F-16CM Fighting Falcon pilot.

Subject matter experts from the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Missile Space Intelligence Center and the 46th Test Squadron assigned to Eglin AFB, Florida, were available to discuss the system and answer any questions.

“It shows how everybody, people that work in the medical clinic or the dining facility, are here to support the mission of the pilots that are out flying the airplanes to do their mission,” said Frank Pugliese, 46th TS test engineer.

The intent was to have informational events like this at least once a year, depending on funding and availability of the systems, said Pugliese.

During the four hour event, approximately 150-200 Airmen from various career fields across Shaw were able to learn about one small aspect of the SEAD mission and how this type of system plays a part in today’s battlefield.