Snowbird Range Ops
By Airman 1st Class Shane Karp, 177th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 07, 2014
GILA BEND AIR FORCE AUXILIARY BASE, Ariz -- Using an array of technological equipment that most only experience in video games, a tactical air control party (TACP) airman calculates grid coordinates for a circling fighter aircraft. Only seconds later, a 500-pound bomb hits a target from miles away with the accuracy and precision that rivals even the best surgeons.
Members from the New Jersey Air National Guard's 227th Air Support Operations Squadron (ASOS), 177th Fighter Wing, took to the 1.9 million acre Barry Goldwater Air Force Bombing Range in Gila Bend, Ariz. during Operation Snowbird on Feb. 25.
The Barry Goldwater Bombing Range, considered one of the largest ranges in the country, gives the TACP airmen the opportunity to train in scenarios that they could encounter while deployed.
One vital piece of equipment the TACP airmen utilize to ensure accuracy is a laser marker system. The system uses laser energy to help guide bombs to a target from up to 20 kilometers away.
"The bombs can do some pretty amazing stuff," said Tech. Sgt. Wayne White, a TACP airman with the 227th ASOS. "The pilots will be far out there and just toss the bomb in the air and it will pick up the laser energy and find its way right in."
The TACP equipment saw heavy use at the range, as various U.S. Air Force and Air National aircraft entered the range airspace for training.
Airmen from the 227th ASOS have been able to train with a variety of units and aircraft including A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and F-16C Fighting Falcons.
"The great thing about out here is that you could be scheduled to have four units come to the range, and by the end of the day you've had 10 units," said Maj. Scott Michalowski, an air liaison officer with the 227th ASOS. "It's actually very realistic in the sense that you don't know what you're getting until they show up."
Along with their work on the ground, the ASOS members were also able to familiarize themselves with what the mission looks like from the sky by participating in familiarization flights.
"As a joint terminal attack controller, we only get one perspective 90 percent of the time, and that perspective is on the flat level ground," said 2nd Lt. Keith A. Giamberardino, an air liaison officer with the 227th ASOS. "Having an understanding of what it is that a pilot sees, versus what we actually see, is crucial in order to effectively get bombs where you want them to be."
The practical employment of equipment in the mountains of Arizona, as well as the experiences in the sky above the simulated battlefield made for a well-rounded training experience for the TACP squadron.