Deployment supports ground troop increase against Taliban
We’ve all see them up there in the sky, usually here and gone in a matter of seconds, but awe-inspiring for that brief moment. The A-10 Thunderbolt II can be often be spotted flying over some part of the Lake of the Ozarks region for training flights from their home base at Whiteman Air Force Base in Johnson County.
More commonly known as Warthogs, this type of jet has been providing close air support of ground troops since entering U.S. military service in 1976. Now “Hogs” from the 442nd Fighter Wing, a USAF reserve unit based at Whiteman, have taken the capabilities that mid-Missouri residents sometimes see displayed in training to the combat zone of Afghanistan.
U.S. Air Forces Central Command recently “realigned” this asset to Kandahar Airfield (KAF) to “support increased airpower requirements of Afghan National Defense and Security Forces and U.S. forces tasked to carry out the South Asia Policy under Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and the Resolute Support Mission,” according to a January 23, 2018 news release from AFCENT Public Affairs.
The move is part of a new strategy in these missions for increased close air support and counter terrorism operations, the release stated.
“As we’ve applied increased pressure on the Taliban and their revenue sources with precision airpower, we’ve gained considerable momentum in our effort to force them to reconcile or face defeat,” said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces Central Command commander. “As U.S. Advisors move closer to the front lines in support of our Afghan partners, this additional airpower will give them the decisive advantage necessary to advance with confidence.”
The 303rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Whiteman arrived in Afghanistan January 19, according to the release, flying their first mission within 24 hours of landing at Kandahar. The units had previously been scheduled to replace the A-10s at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey which are supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.
In addition to the A-10s, other types of aircraft have been deployed to Kandahar from other locations, including drones and helicopters, in support of the mission there.
The Air Force began moving more assets to the Afghan theater last year as part of President Donald Trump’s stated intent of boosting ground forces in the Middle East.
According to a January 2018 Military.com article by Oriana Pawlyk, “A-10s return to Afghanistan as Air Campaign Heats Up,” CentCom reported more than 30 strikes had been conducted against Taliban narcotics labs since November, resulting in more than $20 million lost to the extremist organization.
The article also quoted Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, as stating in November 2017 that the U.S. had dropped more munitions on Afghanistan in the past year than any year since 2012.
In anticipation of the KAF build up, airmen from other civil engineering squadrons built more than a dozen structures to accommodate the arrival of these assets. Supplies and support equipment in support of the mission were transported to the KAF by mobility airmen.