Q. The majority of what the public knows about the war in Iraq comes from the eastern part of the country… the drive up through the river valleys into Baghdad. Much of what happened in the western desert seems more ‘black.’ Even the location of your forward base seems to be classified to this day. Please tell us a little about the type of missions you typically flew out in the Wild West.
A. I’m not sure the location of our base will ever be declassified.
We initially planned for TST (time sensitive targeting) missions. Using JSTARS and other aircraft for targeting, our primary responsibility was the identified ‘SCUD zones’ that Hussein had used during the first Gulf War to launch SCUD missiles at Israel. Our basic mission was to prevent launches from those zones this time around. In this war, however, all of the ballistic missiles went south instead. So that’s the mission we stepped out the door with. As the war progressed, our mission rolled into traditional A-10 missions like CAS (close air support) and CSAR (combat search and rescue) more often. The other type of mission was on-call attack, road reconnaissance, and that type of sortie, especially along the Syrian border helping to prevent Iraqi leadership from leaving the country. We were involved in operations that helped catch at least one of the ‘deck of cards,’ for instance. The western war was unique. It was more focused on special operations, including working with foreign special operations.
Q. Describe a typical mission for us. Duration? Size of packages? Loadout? Other aircraft?
A. We broke our squadron down into ‘day guys’ and ‘night guys.’ You didn’t want to move people around between the two because it would play havoc with sleep cycles. A typical night mission would start at around 3 to 6 PM in the afternoon, when the crew would go into the briefing and check the weather, which was often bad. Crews would learn the target set for the mission, but mostly it was based around 30-40 points in the region that we knew were sources of past activity. We’d take off, hit the tanker, and begin our TST tasking. We often found and killed stuff at those points, mostly related support equipment. So that’s at least how it started in the beginning of the war. As the war went on, during some battles like Hadithah Dam, for instance, we saw more CAS tasking. In that case, ground forces were preventing the dam from being blown up by the Iraqis, and our missions in support of that operation were more traditional close air support.
Flights were almost always a two-ship; occasionally four-ships. We didn’t have much SEAD (suppression of enemy air defenses) support out in the west. As for other aircraft in the area, there was everything… B-52s, F-16s, F-14s, and F-15Es… you name it.
|Thanks to Ken Middleton of Aircraft Resource Center
for the permission to use of these images.
Copyright 2003, Ken Middleton
Q. Did you perform many AFAC missions?
A. Well, for A-10 guys that’s always sort of a fallback. Even if we’re not FAC trained, it’s something we all can do, and we’re a better FAC than any other kind of airframe. Did I personally perform FAC missions? No.
But with the pod, we could direct guys on to the target, and we did with F-14s, F-15s, and even other A-10s at times. With the A-10, the pod isn’t the technological limitation.
Q. The LITENING II pod integration on the A-10 means you’re still using the one small display screen in the cockpit as the display. In the A-10, the pod doesn’t project anything onto the HUD (heads up display), for instance. How is the crew workload, in a non-glass cockpit, to use the pod effectively?
A. As far as workload, it’s quite a bit higher. You have to realize, though, that the pod is just a tool…it’s not an end-all, be-all. Even with it, you can’t just wander around blindly out there, and you can’t just stare at the screen all the time.
Q. Speaking of saving lives, can you talk about how the pod can be used for both CAS and CSAR?
A. I guess the biggest thing it brings to CSAR is if there is an enemy out there looking for the guys on the ground, the pod would give me the ability to see them easier. The pod brings higher situational awareness to your cockpit and, by extension, your flight.
As for CAS, the same statement applies. Every aircraft doing CAS, whether it’s an A-10, F-16, or whatever, is supporting the ground commanders. A-10 guys understand that wars are won by the 18-year-old on the ground with a rifle, and they loved having us overhead. We actually would get called specifically….they would say, “Are you A-10s with the LITENING pod?”
Q. The pod is only mounted on the three or nine pylons. That cuts your ability to carry Maverick missiles by 50%… is that a concern for aircrews?
A. It all depends on how else you load the aircraft. That’s the incredible thing about the A-10; you have a lot of options. What we sometimes did was carry the pod on nine and three Mavericks on three using a LAU-88 (multiple missile rack).