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A-10, B-1B Integrate in INDOPACOM

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Christian Little
  • Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, GUAM -- A-10C Thunderbolt II pilots assigned to Moody Air Force Base’s 74th Fighter Squadron simulated their ability to employ Air Decoy Missile-160 Miniature Air Launched Decoys (MALD) in an integrated strike mission simulation with B1-B Lancers above the Philippine Sea during Operation Iron Thunder, Nov. 9, 2022.

A-10s can employ MALD at stand-off distances to create decoys that neutralize enemy counter-air defenses by cluttering radar detection systems which allows bombers, as well as 4th and 5th generation fighters to employ greater amounts of munitions with increased survivability.

“To remain combat effective for the next conflict, the A-10 community must accelerate change or lose,” said Lt. Col. Matt Shelly, 74th FS commander. “The A-10 is famous for its 30-millimeter gatling gun and ability to carry large weapons loads, but we must move beyond the weapons and mission sets that made the A-10 famous in the low-intensity conflicts of the Middle East and accelerate change in this way to be a force multiplier for combatant commanders.”

The A-10 has 11 weapons stations which allow it to carry numerous MALD while equipped with munitions to fulfill multiple roles at once.

“Once the A-10s have completed a MALD employment mission, those A-10s have the ability to maximize their long loiter times to be available for additional taskings such as air operations in support of maritime surface warfare,” Shelly said. “The A-10 also brings unique flexibility to the combatant commander with its ability to operate in austere locations with minimal support requirements.

Joint force strike packages contain diverse aircraft with many different capabilities that can take advantage of the A-10’s flexibility.

“It is important for us to remember the support capabilities of every asset within a strike package throughout our mission-planning processes,” said Maj. Daniel Winningham, 37th Bomb Squadron B-1B instructor pilot. “Having a combat-proven platform like the A-10 provide support through their MALD decoys increases the probability that our aircraft and weapons successfully strike their targets.”

Before these concepts can be used in combat, aircrews must exercise and simulate combat employment of MALD capabilities within strike packages.

“The training opportunities provided by sorties like this are invaluable,” Winningham said. “The lessons learned through planning and operating together will help us all continue training with a more complete understanding of the roles we each play in a real-world strike scenario.”

This training enables aircrews to practice integrating with other aircraft and crews within a strike package and gain skills needed for potential future conflicts.

“The A-10 community has always prided itself on its ability to execute detailed integration,” said Capt. Coleen Berryhill, 74th FS A-10 pilot. “This mission was a fantastic way to demonstrate how the A-10 is capable of shifting from a close air support team mindset to a strike team. We are building on our old principles to transform into the A-10 community the joint force needs.”

MALD-equipped A-10s reduce the task loading of newer-generation air assets to enable those assets to succeed where they are needed most.

A-10 aircrews and maintainers will eventually transition to other platforms as the Air Force divests the aircraft. Until that time, it is critically important to invest in the Airmen and maximize the survivability and functionality of the A-10.

“Like all aircraft in the United States inventory, the A-10 is getting older every day and will eventually be replaced by newer aircraft,” said Col. Russell Cook, 23rd Wing commander. “Until that day comes, it is our duty to ensure the defense of our nation and allies by training to be lethal anytime, anywhere, against any adversary. By integrating A-10s and B-1s in a realistic training scenario in the Pacific, the Flying Tigers are ensuring that the Air Force is ready to fight tonight – Thunder!”