A-10 pilots conduct firing exercises at Cannon Range

(U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Antony Lee, 70th MPAD)


By Cpl. Antony S. Lee

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. - Two A-10 Thunderbolt bombers flew 16,000 feet above the Missouri Air National Guard's Cannon Range before firing their 30 mm guns at ground targets in a planned firing exercise this week.

Cannon Range is an air-to-ground bombing range run by the Missouri Air National Guard. One of the main goals of the range is to help decrease the lag time between forward observers or ground troops requesting air support and the time it takes to deliver the pay loads to the target, a recent problem identified by troops returning from overseas operations.

A variety of aircraft, including Black Hawk helicopters, C-130 Hercules and F-16 Falcons, utilize the range to conduct airdrops and firing operations for training.

"We're here to help train whoever needs it," said Tech. Sgt. Michael Cooper, a vehicle mechanic at the range. "But our main user is the A-10's."

For this particular exercise, Cooper worked in the tower to help facilitate communications with the pilots. All 15 Airmen who work at the range, either full-time or as traditional Guardsmen, must know how to do the different jobs at the range - from fighting fires to designing ranges to working in the tower.

Joint Tactic Air Controllers, or J-TAC's, set up scenarios in advance to communicate to the pilots, who were flying out of Whiteman Air Force Base, about 140 miles away. The coordination process with the J-TAC's and pilots started about two weeks ago.

"Our part of that is giving them an area to do it along with targets and ensure they work within our restrictions for the range," Cooper said.

Tech Sgt. Jerry Proctor, a civil engineer at the range, said the firing exercise at the range provides valuable experience.

"It provides realistic training for the pilots," Proctor said. "They train here, before they deploy, and it works very well. We treat it as a real-life scenario. It's by the book, just like it would happen out in the real world."

Proctor's specific job is to create the targets the pilots fire at.

"I take care of the down range portion of everything," Proctor said. "I design and build the complexes that are being bombed out there."

"We do drops pretty much every day," Proctor said. "We don't treat it as practice."

A big part of the job includes putting out fires created by the firing exercises.

"First thing in the morning, we go through our threat safety checklist," Proctor said. "We make sure all our fire equipment is ready-capable."

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(U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Antony Lee, 70th MPAD)

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