Military News

Monday, October 05, 2015

357th FS, 22nd STS team up for austere landings

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 15-10.

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 contingency operations."
"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.

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