Air International 2006-10
T.Ripley - Close Air Support in 21st Century /Military/
Fairchild's A-10 Thunderbolt II was specifically designed for close air support and has proved its worth in combat. One hundred and twenty-five of these aircraft are being upgraded and among the additions will be a situational awareness datalink to aid the identification of friendly forces. This A-10A of the 172nd Fighter Squadron of the Michigan ANG is pictured dropping general purpose bombs and is also carrying a Sidewinder air-to-air missile and Maverick air-to-ground missile
British ground troops in Afghanistan can call upon RAF Harrier GR.7s based at Kandahar to provide close air support in response to Taliban attacks. To improve ground-to-air communication, the Harriers were recently modified to receive satellite telephone calls from ground troops in the absence of the required radios. This Harrier is pictured carrying two Enhanced Paveway bombs over some of the country's beautiful, but challenging, terrain.
RAF Harriers in Afghanistan are providing vital close air support to British troops fighting the Taliban Pictured is a 3 (F) Squadron aircraft, this unit deployed to Afghanistan before transitioning to the Eurofighter Typhoon earlier this year. With its new aircraft the unit will still perform the ground attack role as the RAF is equipping its latest fighter with air-to-ground weapons.
A US Army forward air controller co-ordinates air cover in Afghanistan, with an AH-64 Apache behind him. In recent years, these individuals have been given the capability to transmit target data in the form of GPS co-ordinates to CAS aircraft overhead.
Once known for its carpet bombing, the B-52 is now capable of dropping precision weapons, such as the JDAMs carried on the pylons of this aircraft. As a result, it is now called upon to provide CAS. Due to its strategic pedigree, it also has the advantage of being able to loiter for hours and can carry a heavy payload of ordnance.
A new concept called close-in-fire support is being adopted by Army Air Corps Apache AH.1 aircrews, in which the helicopters fly behind the infantry and attack targets over the heads of the friendly forces. Not only FACs can call in airstrikes, as under the new system other ground troops, initially from the British Army's 16 Air Assault Brigade and Royal Marines' 3 Commando Brigade, are receiving a basic level of training to enable them to direct air strikes.