Warthogs from Arizona take to the Suffolk skies for joint exercise
- Credit: Archant
An unusual visitor to skies above west Suffolk was stationed at RAF Lakenheath over last week to help strengthen ties between the US Air Force and their NATO partners.
The distinctive A-10C Thunderbolts, nicknamed Warthogs, and airmen from the 355th Fighter Wing, travelled to the base all the way from Arizona.
Visiting Senior Master Sergeant Nathan Kerr said: “Working with our NATO allies helps strengthen the bonds between us, and demonstrates the US’s commitment to them.”
The pilots and maintenance crewsfrom the 355th took part in unique training opportunities, and shared their training and knowledge with Liberty Airmen during their five-day visit.
Major Ben Rudolphi, the Arizona detachment’s commander, explained that the pilots trained on several different missions after arriving on March 13.
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The twin-engined planes were involved altitude tactical navigation, dissimilar air combat manoeuvring, helicopter escort, basic surface attack and a joint training mission with British counterparts.
Master Sgt Kerr said one of the big challenges was adapting to the British weather. He said: “We’ve gotten to see firsthand what conditions and limitations other maintainers work through on a daily basis, and that has given us the experience to be able to do likewise.”
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Major Rudolphi added: “The 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron pilots have spent most of their lifetime in the Barry Goldwater Ranges, (Arizona), with good weather conditions.
“Coming to Europe has tested their close-air-support abilities while working in unfamiliar airspace with foreign controllers and less-than-ideal weather. Overall, they will be more confident and capable pilots.”
Before their visit to RAF Lakenheath the A-10s were training out of Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, with both US and German Air Forces.
“It’s been a lot of work, but also a lot of fun,” Master Sgt Kerr said. “We have to integrate all of our allies’ rules and regulations into our daily routines, and make the mission happen.
“There have been lots of learning opportunities, and we look forward to even more challenges as we continue on with our mission.”