by Senior Airman Betty R. Chevalier
355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
10/2/2015 - FORT IRWIN, Calif. -- Four
A-10C Thunderbolt II pilots from the 357th Fighter Squadron conduct
austere landing training at the National Training Center range at Fort
Irwin, California, Sept. 22, while participating in Green Flag-West
The training involved the landing of A-10s on the unimproved surface of Bicycle Lake Army Airfield's dry lake bed.
The 22nd Special Tactics Squadron from Joint Base Lewis-McChord,
Washington supported the training by performing air traffic control,
surveying the area and testing the density of the ground to ensure the
aircraft could land safely.
"The purpose of conducting austere landing training is to practice and
demonstrate the capability to launch and recover aircraft on a surface
that is not designed or maintained to bear the loads and weights of a
heavily armed aircraft," said Maj. Mark Malan, 357th Fighter Squadron
A-10 pilot. "This capability can be vital to combat and contingency
operations at locations and environments where U.S. and coalition forces
have a very limited footprint."
"This task demonstrated that we maintain a unique capability to operate
and integrate in a forward-deployed austere location and that this
increases our ability to coordinate and work in close proximity to the
U.S. Army and their coalition counterparts," Malan said. "The ability to
operate out of an austere location allows us to extend the range and
reach of our combat capability, access additional target sets and
provide extended long-range support to other assets involved in
"The A-10 was specifically designed with a more robust landing gear
system to handle the stress of take-offs and landings on an unimproved
surface and high-mounted wings above the fuselage to prevent damage from
foreign objects and debris that may be laying on the runway and taxi
surfaces," Malan said.
At the end of the training, the aircraft had successfully landed and
took- off from the dirt runway with the guidance of the CCT, ultimately
qualifying three pilots in austere landing.
Although the rare training was not part of Green Flag-West, the 357th FS
took advantage of resources already in the area and coordinated the
operations with Fort Irwin and the 22nd STS.
"A-10 pilots do not normally conduct this type of training," Malan said.
"I've only done it twice in the 17 years I've been flying the A-10 and I
know most A-10 pilots have never done it. We try to take advantage of
every opportunity to get additional pilots qualified and increase the
experience of those pilots that are already qualified."
In the U.S. Air Force aircraft inventory, there are many aircraft with
the capability to land on austere runways, including the C-17
Globemaster III, C-130 Hercules and rotary aircraft. The A-10 is the
only fighter-type aircraft with this ability.