Pilots work to eliminate collateral damage
By Master Sgt. Scott Elliott, Air Force Print News
/ Published April 07, 2003
WASHINGTON -- Pilots who specialize in close-air-support missions do "exhaustive work" to prevent hitting the wrong targets, an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot told reporters April 7.
Lt. Col. Mike Webb, operations officer with the 190th Fighter Squadron of the Idaho Air National Guard, explained the process of target selection to American radio and television reporters via a live satellite feed from his deployed location in Kuwait.
In most cases, Webb said, pilots are guided directly to their targets by ground controllers.
"We work closely with ground forces who call in air strikes," Webb said. "We're targeting specific military targets, and we use exhaustive efforts to ensure that we don't harm any innocent people."
Besides having positive target identification from ground troops, Webb said A-10 pilots take advantage of such high tech systems as targeting pods and AGM-65 Maverick missiles with electro-optical television guidance systems.
Sometimes, though, it is the low-tech approach that works best, he said.
"Just yesterday, I used a pair of binoculars to look at the target to ensure it was an enemy," Webb said.
Also interviewed via satellite, 1st Lt. Chad Martin, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot with the 524th FS from Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., said his aircraft gives him a few more weapons and targeting options.
"We're either given coordinates for our global positioning system-guided munitions prior to take off, or forward air controllers on the ground will talk us onto a target," Martin said. "Sometimes we have to use our eyeballs to find what they're talking about."
Even after getting "eyes on target," the pilots said, they always double-check with the ground troops before releasing their weapons.
"We have good combat identification with our Army (soldiers) and Marines on the ground," Webb said. "We talk to them with radios, and we can see panels so we can be sure who the 'friendlies' are.
"When we engage the enemy, we do everything we can to make sure they are the enemy," he said. "The ground forces really have a lot of confidence in our close-air support."
Webb said his CAS role has evolved since coalition forces entered the Iraqi capital.
"Just yesterday I was doing urban close air support over Baghdad," he said. "We were doing a very serious mission, with very close coordination to ensure minimal collateral damage and ensure positive target identification as we rolled in on tanks in and around the city.
"It's (an) eerie, ominous sight to be flying the A-10 Warthog over downtown Baghdad, but we're there, we're not leaving, and we're going to win this thing."