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Pilots, attack controllers to sharpen war skills in Nevada towns

by Senior Airman Travis Edwards
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

5/9/2007 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNEWS)  -- Airmen will invade two Nevada towns and attack targets on the ground May 23 and 24 as pilots and joint terminal attack controllers get realistic training for the war on terrorism.

Pilots and JTACs from Nellis Air Force Base will practice skills needed in both Iraq and Afghanistan during training over the towns of Caliente and Panaca without dropping a bomb.

The two southern Nevada towns have a combined population of about 1,500 residents, and the training is urban close air support, which calls for aircraft to support ground operations by attacking targets in close proximity to friendly troops.

"Most training is conducted in rural locations with targets out in the open on the Nevada Test and Training Range, but in the current combat situation in both Iraq and Afghanistan, our troops on the ground need support in both urban and rural environments, said Maj. David Epperson, a 16th Weapons School instructor. "The two towns provide just that."

The training involves about 50 members from the 16th Weapons Squadron, 8th WPS and the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron. With the exercise, the pilots and JTACs will get the most realistic training without ever dropping a bomb.

This training is some of the best training they can get in situations that pilots may face, Major Eppereson said. It also prepares JTACs for real-world deployments.

JTACs are officers and enlisted Airmen who provide final clearance for aircraft to drop their weapons during close-air support operations.

"There are six JTACs on the ground finding targets, they will then send the information to the jets who will in turn, mock-bomb the target," said Master Sgt. Phillip Freeman, a combat controller and JTAC instructor assigned to Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

All the munitions used in the training will be simulated.

All aircraft conducting the training will be 4,000 feet above ground level and traveling about 400 to 500 mph.

"We look forward to meeting people in the towns," said Master Sgt. Eric Nielsen, a special operations JTAC instructor. "We will stop for lunch or dinner and would be happy to talk to people about urban close air support training, or anything else about the Air Force."

Another urban close air support training exercise is scheduled for October. 

(Courtesy of Air Combat Command News Service)

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