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by: Peter Steendam
For Flightgear Online, Peter Steendam reports on the Hawgsmoke event.

hawgsmoke06_0.gif (24943 bytes)Hawgsmoke is an event that celebrates the A-10 Close Air Support aircraft, along with the pilots, maintainers, and all the folks that make up the A-10 Warthog community.

Hawgsmoke is a biennial worldwide A-10 bombing, missile, and tactical gunnery competition that follow the heritage of the now discontinued "Gunsmoke" event. Gunsmoke was the USAF's air-to-ground gunnery and bombing competition with lots of different airplanes held at Nellis AFB (NV). The last Gunsmoke event was held in 1995.

The first Hawgsmoke was in 2000 at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Centre in Michigan. The 172nd FS from Battle Creek hosted it; Col. Cliff Latta of the 172nd FS is credited with initiating Hawgsmoke.

Four-ship teams from A-10 units around the world fly and compete for the honor of being the "best of the best" in ground attack and target destruction. The first edition at Alpena was won by the team of the 118th FS CT ANG and therefore became hosts for the next Hawgsmoke. It was held in 2002 at Wheeler Sack AAF in Fort Drum, which lies in the state New York. There the 47th FS from Barksdale AFB (LA) won finally, after being second in Alpena. They proudly hosted the 2004 Hawgsmoke at Alexandria IAP, better known as former England AFB. The only problem there was the bad weather with almost continues thunderstorms. They started up the competition, but after only 2 teams completed their bomb and strafing runs, thunder and lightning made it impossible to continue. The exercise is now in the books as "Hawgwash 2004" with no overall winners. Only one award was given. The Clown-award for the worst arrival by a team. The honor fell to the 357th FS from Davis Monthan. Maybe that is why the 2006 edition was held in Arizona.

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Left:The Hawgsmoke ALSE room. Centre: An HGU-55 with an MBU-20/P oxygen mask
and embroidered visor cover. Right: ALSE personnel checking the flightgear.

Smoking the Hog
This time in sunny weather on Davis Monthan AFB near Tucson, with more than 140 A-10's on the platforms and 17 teams competing, Hawgsmoke 2006 was ready to being. Close by on the AMARC storage a large number of retired Warthogs could be found, bringing the entire number of A-10’s in the area to a record. The teams from 81st FS Spangdahlem Germany, 25th FS Osan Korea, 66th WPS and 422nd TES Nellis NV and 303rd FS Whiteman MO didn't bring their own aircraft but flew DM coded jets for the occasion and flew in commercially. As in 2004 the only missing team was the 355th FS from Alaska that was deployed at that time.

The event already started when teams arrived over a precise point on the airfield (TOT, time over target) that was closely monitored by a jury. Also the formation flight and the break are followed and judged as well as the prescribed configurations like travel pods on which hard points, attached Mavericks and so on.

After arriving, all the crews got together for a meet and greet. At the end of the afternoon the more serious opening ceremony took place with a traditional drink and smash of the glass in a fireplace after each name is called of an A-10 driver that is no longer among them. It was a sad and long list of around 80 pilots... This was followed by a missing man formation, flying overhead. It was strictly forbidden to shed a tear and the participating teams all had to be cheerful about it...

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Embroidered visor covers with different artwork

Well dressed Hawgdrivers
After arrival of the teams, Flightgear Online’s special reporter visited the Life Support room. While the last Hawgsmoke in 2004 still had a lot of green and grey MBU-12/P’s, most pilots now use MBU-20/P oxygen masks. These are all modified with a normal hose without the extra opening for the bladder connection on Combat Edge versions.

Helmets were, without exception, of the HGU-55/P type, some lightweight Kevlar versions and others with padded edge rolls in front to allow the pilot to wear glasses. Also present on most helmets are the metal brackets to attach the so called "banana mount" for the ANVIS night vision setup. Besides that, a small square of Velcro can be found on several helmets (behind the elephant ear on the left side of the helmet) its use is unknown (perhaps for the strobe light) Several leather visor covers sported embroidered squadron insignias and call signs.

The standard outfit of the A-10 pilots consists of the CWU-27/P Nomex flight suit, the CSU-13/P anti-g suit and the SRU-21/P survival vest. The PCU-15/P torso harness is used to attach the pilot to his parachute in the ACES II ejection seat.

Strafing and bombing
The second day was competition day. Media were taken out on a 3,5 hour bus drive from Davis Monthan to Range 2 on the Barry M. Goldwater Range. From the control tower, a large jury judged the exercise. All the teams had to drop accurately BDU-33 practice bombs and strafe with the 30mm Gatling gun. The jury added individual and team scores.

The teams had to fly a nearly 2-hour flight of 4 A-10’s that took them to the range. There they had to hold in the area and only a few minutes before they had to bomb, the leader was allowed to open an envelope with the coordinates of the enemy positions they had to destroy. From than on it was important to appear at the exact time and at the right coordinates. There were real moving vehicles that made it difficult for the pilots to be precise and hit the right target. Following the bombing was the strafing with the guns. Each aircraft was allowed 4 passes and empty their guns hopefully in the bull’s eye.

Reunion day
The third day was all about reunion with lots of current an ex A-10 drivers in a Golf tournament and a BBQ. There the overall Rankings were announced. The worst overall performance fell into the hands of the 172nd FS from Battle Creek and the winners were the 303rd FS from Whiteman AFB Missouri. This means they will organize the 2008 edition, most likely held either at Whiteman AFB or in Salina (MO).

All images are copyright Peter Steendam and Flightgear Online