A-10 ‘Warthogs’ find a home at RAF Lakenheath during Spangdahlem resurfacing
June 27, 2007
RAF LAKENHEATH — A new aircraft is sharing the skies with the resident F-15 fighter jets above this country’s largest U.S. military base.
Fourteen A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog” aircraft as well as more than 240 personnel from the 81st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron recently set up shop at Lakenheath because their runway at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany is being resurfaced.
The unit plans to stay at Lakenheath until the end of August and is looking at the temporary move as more of a training opportunity than a burden for the unique twin-engine jet aircraft.
Lt. Col. Keith McBride, the squadron’s commander, anticipates “great training opportunities” by using some of the region’s air-to-ground ranges and conducting operations with U.S. and Royal Air Force aircraft.
“The airspace structure is a lot more suitable for military aircraft training in the U.K. than it is in Germany,” said McBride, of Greenville, Texas.
Next month, the A-10 unit will participate in a large-force deployment exercise with F-15s and British Typhoon fighter jets over Wales. The role of the A-10s is to provide low-altitude cover for both types of jets in the exercise that will pit blue forces against red forces, McBride said.
“It’s always great to go and integrate with other NATO partners because when downrange, that’s who we’re working with. It’s not just the U.S. Air Force,” Capt. Matt Kaercher, an A-10 pilot, said of the RAF aircrews and tactical air controllers.
In addition, the A-10s are taking part in combat search-and-rescue training with HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters from the 56th Rescue Squadron based at Lakenheath.
Since its trademark is close air support, the A-10s also will take advantage of the low-fly areas found in the U.K.
“We can’t fly below 1,000 feet in Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg or the Netherlands,” said McBride, adding that military training areas in the U.K. allow them to fly as low as 300 feet above ground.
As for the added frequency of aircraft takeoffs out of Lakenheath, McBride said that his aircraft are quieter than the resident F-15s.
“I’d be surprised if there are any complaints about the A-10s,” said McBride, adding that his A-10s don’t fly below 2,000 feet over towns.
In May, the 48th Fighter Wing had more than 800 airmen, and many F-15s deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the Air and Space Expeditionary Force 7 and 8 rotations.
“They’ve got some guys deployed and we’re just filling in the void,” McBride said.
While off duty, airmen from the 81st Squadron hope to venture out and catch some of the sights in England.
“Nothing in general, I just want to see as much as possible when my wife visits in July,” said Senior Airman Daniel Lovejoy, an A-10 crew chief, from Orlando, Fla., when asked what he hopes to see.
On the other hand, Kaercher, of Billings, Mont., plans to take a trip to Stonehenge and the cities of Bath and Oxford with one of the base’s bus tours.
“It’s always fun to immerse yourself into the culture,” he said.
A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog” jet aircraft
The A-10 is the first U.S. Air Force aircraft specifically designed for close air support of ground forces. The one-seater, twin-engine jet can use its 30 mm Gatling gun as well as various bombs and missiles to eliminate ground targets, including tanks and other armored vehicles.
Thrust: 9,065 pounds each engine
Length: 53 feet, 4 inches
Height: 14 feet, 8 inches
Wingspan: 57 feet, 6 inches
Speed: 420 mph (Mach 0.56)
Ceiling: 45,000 feet
Range: 800 miles (695 nautical miles)
Source: U.S. Air Force Web site