The U.S. Air Force has deployed a squadron of A-10s to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam during a routine Dynamic Force Employment Operation. These A-10s are from the 23rd Expeditionary Wing at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia. Dynamic Force Employment is a strategy of introducing unpredictability into the deployment of US forces oversea for any adversary trying to plan an attack. Under this concept, air, ground and naval forces are suddenly surged to areas and then abruptly withdrawn, forcing an adversary wishing to monitor their activities to deploy their own forces only to see them suddenly moved again to another location.  It also allows unit like this A-10 squadron to train in an environment they may not normally get a chance to operate in, as in the case of operating at the Farallon de Medinilla Range as the 36th Wing Public Affairs explains below.

 

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam — The 25th Fighter Squadron (FS), assigned to the 51st Fighter Wing, Osan Air Base, South Korea, are honing their flight skills while at the Farallon de Medinilla Range (FDM Range), Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands while deployed here, Aug. 10- 21.

The 25th FS regularly participates in training events that take place in the Indo-Pacific, such as Cobra Gold and the Rim of the Pacific. Through events like these, the 25th FS is able to strengthen and build relationships with partner nations and improve their capabilities in protecting American interest.

 

The FDM Range itself is a small island about 150 miles from Guam and is 200 acres approximately 3 miles long and half a mile wide. It has been used as a bombing and gunnery range by the Air Force and Navy since the height of the Vietnam War.  The island is uninhabited and cannot be used for ground training operations because of the amount of unexploded ordnance on the island including cluster bomb munitions dating back to the mid-1990s.

For the Air Force, the use of this range gives the A-10s the opportunity to do long-distance navigation over open water which is generally not in the skill set of A-10 pilots who are generally hitting ground targets from ground bases. They will also have the chance to do air search work and perhaps even some anti-ship operations.  While the A-10 remains a formidable ground attack aircraft, don’t get the idea that it will go strafing enemy warships with its famous GAU-8 Avenger cannon.  The A-10 is not a fast aircraft by any means, flying at speeds of less than 420 miles per hour and with some speed limits imposed when it is carrying a full load of weapons it would be very vulnerable to surface to air missiles.  It also has a combat radius of just 300 miles since it was designed to operate close to the front lines in a land war.  That being said, the A-10 does have a significant anti-ship capability in the AGM-65 Maverick missiles it can carry. Several versions of this laser-guided missile are approved for anti-ship use and carry a 300lb warhead with a kinetic energy penetrator that would allow it to deeply penetrate a ship’s innards before exploding.  The hard points on the wings of the A-10 would allow a “Hawg” to carry 6 of these missiles.  With a maximum range of 13 NM, a squadron of A-10s at medium altitude loaded with Maverick missiles would overwhelm the defenses of just about any warship.