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F-16 pilots provide support for troops on the battlefield

by Senior Airman Shaun Emery
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

7/15/2005 - BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- In an instant they are gone, but the 510th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron’s F-16 Fighting Falcons can be found in the Iraqi sky providing air support for servicemembers fighting against insurgents on the ground.

The 510th EFS provides support for ground commanders countrywide. These tasks include close-air support, shows of force reconnaissance and scouring the countryside for insurgents.

But their mission begins on the ground with operations Airmen handling preflight briefings, mission planning, intelligence reports and detailed coordination with the Army. Pilots inspect their aircraft before takeoff, working hand-in-hand with skilled maintainers to ensure each mission goes off without a hitch.

While the “stick and rudder” flying aspect has not changed, some sorties find these pilots using their weapons system in nontraditional ways, such as convoy escort, raid support and infrastructure reconnaissance.

Pilots tackle these missions with the same vigor as the 510th’s bread and butter -- close-air support -- said Maj. John Bosone, 510th EFS assistant director of operations.

“We were well prepared for this mission,” he said. “We train, exercise and tactically integrate with our Army counterparts every day back home.”

“We train to take out fixed targets defended by surface-to-air and air-to-air defenses,” said 1st Lt. Christopher Jones, an F-16 pilot.

Although challenging, engaging fixed targets is not nearly as rewarding as supporting American and coalition forces on the ground, he said.

“During interdiction missions, the nearest friendly forces may be hundreds of miles away,” Major Bosone said. “In (close-air support), our guys may be within hundreds of feet of the enemy.”

Fortunately for troops on the ground, the Air Force has equipped its aircraft with the latest technology for dropping precision-guided munitions, Lieutenant Jones said.

“We have some of the most advanced capabilities at our disposal,” he said. “Our success comes from realistic training, hard work, fantastic equipment, and sometimes, just making a lot of noise.”

“We are involved in major operations here,” Major Bosone said. “But we are just a small part of this important mission.”

“I am proud of the work we have done so far, and I look forward to supporting the operation in the future,” Lieutenant Jones said.

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