Q. Do LITENING-equipped A-10s still carry dumb bombs?
A. Oh yeah, there’s still plenty of reasons to carry them. To me, a lot of the mantra of PGMs (precision-guided munitions) is overdone. A well-trained A-10 pilot with Mk82 dumb bombs can hit any target, and the gun is the most precision-guided weapon on the aircraft. Basically, if I can see the target, I can put a dumb bomb on it. With an LGB (laser-guided bomb), if it goes dumb, to a certain extent who knows where it’s going to go.
But we did use LGBs effectively. To give you an example, at Hadithah Dam, we came in once as things were winding down, and the folks on the ground wanted us to clean up a number of targets left. We used an LGB and hit a target on the first drop.
Q. Was the LITENING pod used on the majority of missions, day and night?
A. In our unit, everybody had a pod, whether they were ‘day’ or ‘night’ guys.
Q. Without having an air-to-ground radar, and with a mission that is primarily focused on mobile targets, how do you decide where to aim the pod? Is it visual cueing, cueing from offboard sources like Predator/ground forces, etc?
A. You can do it a couple of ways. You can use it to look at a specific point that you know in advance, which is what we often did as we were examining previously-known sites. Other times, you may not have a specific location, but know generally that you’re supposed to be looking on a certain road, river, or wadi. In that case, you can use that reference point to start, and slew the pod along the length of it looking for targets. Flying at night, crews could possibly see something out of their peripheral vision, and quickly slew the pod onto it to take a look at it.
Your eyeball is still your best tool, and even with this pod, using it is still like looking through a soda straw.
The biggest problem with any new piece of equipment is that you are more likely to become either task-saturated or become channelized into what is happening with the pod. So your situational awareness is going to be much lower if you’re not careful. If you’re channelized on nothing but the TV screen, you’re more likely to hit another aircraft, or the ground, by becoming spatially disoriented.
Two short weapon system mpeg videos are available here
at the 103rd Fighter Wing, Connecticut Air National Guard web site.
Q. You read stories from Desert Storm of A-10 pilots using IR Mavericks (imaging infra-red) as sort of a ‘poor-man’s pod,’ using the IR seeker to spot targets at night. What’s the advantage of the LITENING II instead of this method?
A. Using the IR Maverick with the LITENING pod, there’s dozens of ways to skin a cat. You could first find a target with the pod, put your eyeball on it, then put your Maverick on it, and fire. You can also spot it with the pod, get the pod coordinates of it, come off target, and then come back in and use your Mavericks that way. It’s flexible.
Q. With the arrival of LITENING II, will the USAF/ANG consider purchasing the laser-guided Maverick missile?
A. I don’t know; that’s several pay grades above me. We don’t have any. I haven’t spent any time reading about it, just like I haven’t been reading about JDAMs. As for Mavericks, I think all A-10 guys love IR Mavericks. Using them, there’s a lot of advantages to flying at night. Personally, I wouldn’t want a laser Maverick… there’s enough new versions of the Maverick now that work fine for us.
Q. What aspect of having the pod on your aircraft do you like the most?
A. Without getting into specifics, I like the detail on targets that I have with it.
Thanks and a note to readers…
A sincere thank you to the personnel of the 103rd FW for their time and effort in conducting this interview, as well as to Dice-Man of the A-10 site The Warthog Pen, for putting me in touch with the 103rd. This interview was conducted over the phone, and relayed to the 103rd FW in draft form for their requested review before publication. Some information was removed or edited from that draft for the purposes of operational security.
Download a pdf of this article here (171 kb).