Four years after their last appearance in the United Kingdom, the fearsome A-10C Thunderbolt II has returned at RAF Lakenheath. Operated as a Theatre Security Package under Operation Atlantic Resolve, the aircraft are deployed at Spangdahlem AB in Germany – but paying a visit to Lakenheath, as David Mackey reports.
On the 12th of February the first of 12 A-10Cs arrived on European soil at Lajes Field in the Azores, Portugal. These aircraft are deployed from the 355th Fighter Wing, David-Monthan AFB, Arizona and belong to the 354th Fighter Squadron.
Operation Atlantic Resolve is an American-led initiative, aiming to reassure NATO Allies and partners of America’s dedication to peace and stability in the region, particularly in respect of the ongoing frosty relationship with Russia following their controversial intervention in Ukraine and Crimea.
The final destination for this deployment of A-10Cs was the 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. Whilst deployed here they are working with NATO allies to enhance interoperability, and help provide understanding of the capability that the A-10C can bring to bear.
The last time that A-10s were on TDY (Temporary Duty) in the United Kingdom was August 2011 and once again they operated out of RAF Lakenheath (see “Hogs at the Heath”). At that time these aircraft were permanently based in Germany as part of the 81st Fighter Squadron, but that permanent basing of A-10Cs in Europe sadly ended in May 2013 when the 81st FS were deactivated. Several of the former 81st Fighter Squadron aircraft were reassigned to the 354th FS, and fittingly some of those aircraft are once again back in Europe and involved in this TDY.
As usual, the FighterControl forums and Facebook group were alive with speculation about a possible deployment, and after a false start on Thursday 12th March, four aircraft arrived just after 0900 on Friday 13th March.
Callsigns for the 4 aircraft were HAWG01 to HAWG04, with HAWG01 departing the formation some 20 miles out from Lakenheath to be ‘intercepted’ by 3 locally based F-15s for an Air 2 Air photo session.
The four aircraft involved (listed in landing order) are:
78-0951/DM (marked “12 AF”)
Whilst operating out of RAF Lakenheath it is believed that the 354th FS will perform CSAR (Combat Search & Rescue) exercises with the 56th Rescue Squadron who fly the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter. This unit are due to deploy on combat operations later this year. The TDY is expected to end on Friday 20th March.