More than 200 Airmen of the 127th Wing returned home from a combat tour in Afghanistan with their A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft. Deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, Selfridge operators, maintainers, and support staff were responsible for supporting close air support missions, aircraft maintenance, and logistics operations.

Airmen from Michigan’s Hometown Air Force executed sustained operations in support of Operations Freedom’s Sentinel, Inherent Resolve, and Spartan Shield.

Six pilots of the 107th Fighter Squadron taxi their A-10 Thunderbolts down the flight line after returning from a combat deployment on July 26, 2019. More than 200 Airmen Selfridge Air National Guard Base returned from Afghanistan after serving up to six months in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

Being ready for the mission downrange is what we constantly train for,” said Brig. Gen. Rolf Mammen, 127th Wing and Selfridge Air National Guard Base commander. “We are an operational reserve, and this successful deployment is a testament to our combat capability.

A-10 Thunderbolt II

The A-10 Thunderbolt II has excellent maneuverability at low air speeds and altitude, and is a highly accurate and survivable weapons-delivery platform. The aircraft can loiter near battle areas for extended periods of time and operate in low ceiling and visibility conditions. The wide combat radius and short takeoff and landing capability permit operations in and out of locations near front lines. Using night vision goggles, A-10 pilots can conduct their missions during darkness.

The Thunderbolt II can employ a wide variety of conventional munitions, including general purpose bombs, cluster bomb units, laser guided bombs, joint direct attack munitions or JDAM, wind corrected munitions dispenser or WCMD, AGM-65 Maverick and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, rockets, illumination flares, and the GAU-8/A 30mm cannon, capable of firing 3,900 rounds per minute to defeat a wide variety of targets including tanks.

The Thunderbolt II can be serviced and operated from austere bases with limited facilities near battle areas. Many of the aircraft’s parts are interchangeable left and right, including the engines, main landing gear and vertical stabilizers. Avionics equipment includes multi-band communications; Global Positioning System and inertial navigations systems; infrared and electronic countermeasures against air-to-air and air-to-surface threats. And, it has a heads-up display to display flight and weapons delivery information.

127th Wing A-10 Thunderbolt II

The pilots are protected by titanium armor that also protects parts of the flight-control system. The redundant primary structural sections allow the aircraft to enjoy better survivability during close air support than did previous aircraft. The aircraft can survive direct hits from armor-piercing and high explosive projectiles up to 23mm. Their self-sealing fuel cells are protected by internal and external foam. Manual systems back up their redundant hydraulic flight-control systems. This permits pilots to fly and land when hydraulic power is lost.

Images: Terry Atwell

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