Hogs over Baghdad

Hogs over Baghdad: The Daily Report got a firsthand look at the A-10Cs of the Maryland Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Squadron, back from its first deployment to Iraq with the upgraded Warthogs late last year, during a March 27 visit to Warfield ANGB, Md., and got some keen insights on the deployment from the perspective of the aircraft’s operators and maintainers. The Air Guard pilots already had flown the unit’s pre-upgrade A-10As in Afghanistan, but flying sorties over Iraq with the C model was a different experience that demanded the precision and weaponry of which the upgraded aircraft are now capable, they said. The “new” Hogs “were spring-loaded for precision engagement,” said Lt. Col. Tim Smith, the squadron’s commander. With the cockpit enhancements, ground troops were able to feed quality targeting coordinates up to the A-10 pilots for strikes with the 500-pound GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition, a new capability for the close air support platforms. The squadron’s first strike with a JDAM was on September 19, 2007, north of Baghdad. Smith said that a good majority of the unit’s sorties involved working with coalition forces to track down improvised explosive devices or weapons caches—often in urban terrain—in addition to tracking high-value targets and destroying the caches. For these roles, the aircraft’s LITENING targeting pod was essential. The weapons loads used in the Iraq deployment were fairly standard: a mix of JDAMS, GBU-12 laser guided bombs, the AGM-65F Maverick missile for moving targets, and 30 mm shells from the aircraft’s powerful gun. “Nine times out of 10, we follow the air tasking order from the CAOC, so we load what we are told,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Campbell, the 175th Maintenance Squadron commander, in explaining how the weapons are chosen for a mission. For example, for one mission in Iraq, the air operations center specifically called for Mavericks, he said.