Military News

Friday, July 24, 2015

US, Poland strengthen interoperability through combat control

by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

7/24/2015 - SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany  -- U.S. Air Force combat controllers from the 321st Special Tactics Squadron continued their four-day austere landing training with 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10C Thunderbolt II pilots at Nowe Miasto, Poland, July 22, 2015.

The austere landing training not only qualified the pilots to land on unimproved surfaces simulating possible deployment conditions but also allowed members of the Polish Special Forces to learn from the 321st STS's combat controllers.

"Combat controllers are specially trained U.S. Special Operations Forces whose training includes becoming a fully qualified Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controller," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan Hayde, 354th EFS commander. "Their skill set allows them to jump into austere locations and measure the ground density to make sure it can handle the weight of certain aircraft."

These particular capabilities, including marking runways and controlling both aircraft landings and takeoffs, brought out the Polish Special Forces to observe and practice them as well, Hayde said.

"As Poland looks to create their version of a combat controller, integrating them with the 321st STS provides some hands-on experience as they're doing real-world austere landings in the middle of Poland with our special tactics teams and the A-10s," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Ryan Allen, 354th EFS chief of weapons and tactics, and an A-10 pilot participating in the training.

The combat controllers, along with the Polish forces, inspected the rugged surface of the runway to ensure it was safe for the A-10s to land. They then set up brightly colored markers along the way as visual references for the pilots as the runway was devoid of such markings.

"Without them, we wouldn't be able to perform these landings and get that currency and that training out of it," Allen said. "It opens up not just airfields we have assigned to us but also allows us to go into fields such as old rundown airfields, dirt strips or grass fields as well."

As the A-10s landed, the Polish Special Forces took their turn at marshalling the aircraft to the proper location on the runway after learning the hand signals from the combat controllers.

"I think it's definitely a force multiplier to make sure we've got NATO partners who are training with us and can also relate to any future operations we have where we might need combat controllers from a different nation as well," Allen said.

Many of the combat controllers also serve as qualified joint terminal air controllers, which allows them to identify targets, relay its coordinates to the supporting aircraft and make decisions on how to proceed.

"We're helping the Polish out with close air support controls to make sure they're maintaining their currency, and they're helping us out, too," Allen said. "They're vital to this entire operation so we can end up getting control in to those austere fields and make sure the airfield is in fact safe for us to land our aircraft."

The austere landing training at Nowe Miasto not only increased the combined capabilities of the A-10 pilots and combat controllers but also supported the continuing European Theater Security Package's mission of reassuring NATO allies and partner nations of the U.S. commitment to the continent's security and stability.

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