Americans and Czechs conduct 'close air support' training

Autor: Nuala Casey and Oldrich Holecek

The joint training exercise, Avenger CAS, of the Czech Air Force and American National Guard being held in the Czech Republic from 10th - 30th July greatly enhances the proficiency and coordination of forward air controllers, air crew and flight controllers, as well as increasing the efficiency of aerial refuelling during missions.

"We are able to guide several aircraft in up to 10 assaults on ground targets in one hour," explained Pavel P., a flight coordinator from the 22nd Helicopter Base in Sedlec, Namest nad Oslavou. "During a complex mission, when artillery is also engaged, the number of attacks drop to two in an hour," continued Pavel P.

Both Czech and American forward air controllers alternate in directing the Czech L-159 ALCA and the American A-10 Thunderbolt to ground targets. American personnel and equipment are supplied by the 122nd Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The exercise also includes in-flight refuelling from the American KC-135 Stratotanker to the L-159, the A-10 aircraft and the Czech SAAB 39 Gripen supersonics.

"We can carry out eight to nine missions a week, and during our two-week engagement here (in Central Europe) we will be able to refuel up to 50 aircraft over Czechia, Slovakia and Hungary," said Lieutenant Colonel John Williams, Commander of KC-135, and the coordinator of American participation in the exercise. One Stratotanker flight can last up to three hours.

Although the destruction of ground targets is simulated, the exercise serves to refresh joint coordination of Czech and American flight controllers, pilots and ground fire observers.

"Several of our Gripen fighters also took part in the ‘live’ air-refuelling exercise as we need to train the other half of our pilots in these skills before the end of this year," said Major Tomas Merta, a coordinator for aerial tanking from the 21st Tactical Air Force Base in Caslav. The pilot training will be concluded by the end of the international exercise, Ample Strike 2016, which will begin next month in the Czech Republic.

By Nuala Casey and Oldrich Holecek

July 26, 2016