Selfridge Air Wing Launches First A-10

  • Published
  • By TSgt Dan Heaton
  • 127th Public Affairs
The Warthog has reported for duty. 

The 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base launched its ceremonial first flight in the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft on May 2. The aircraft, more popularly known as the Warthog, was assigned to the base to replace the departing F-16 Fighting Falcon, a multi-purpose fighter that had been based at Selfridge for almost 20 years. The A-10 is used primarily for close air support and has drawn praise from Soldiers and Marines and other U.S. and allied ground forces during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

"The guys on the ground in the battle zone, this is the aircraft they want supporting them," said Lt. Col. Doug Champagne, commanding officer of the 107th Fighter Squadron at Selfridge. "We bring an incredible asset to the fight with the A-10." 

"Some of the most exciting missions you can be involved with in the air take place in an A-10. It's all about supporting those troops on the ground, being a difference maker," he said. 

As part of a short ceremony marking the transition from the F-16 to the A-10, 127th Wing members got their first look at an A-10 bearing the markings of the "Red Devils" of the 107th Fighter Squadron, which is a component of the 127th Wing. The A-10 is the latest in line of aircraft flown by the 107th in a history that stretches back before the dawn of the jet age - and even before the creation of the Air Force as a separate military service.
Champagne said pilots and maintenance personnel have been working long hours at Selfridge and at other air bases around the country preparing for the transition. 

"There's a lot to learn and I really have to tip my hat to the maintenance crews for getting these aircraft received and ready for us. Our personnel have been sent to schools and training sessions in Lousiana, Maryland, Arizona and other places to be ready for this day. It has meant a lot of sacrifice and hard work. I couldn't be more proud of the teamwork and positive attitude they've brought to the job," Champagne said. 

Built specifically with the close air support mission in mind, the A-10 is slower than the F-16, which provides more loitering time around a battle zone, if needed. In addition, said Maj. Sean Campbell, the weaponry of the A-10 is different. Campbell was an F-16 pilot with the 107th and is now flying the A-10. 

"With the A-10, the gun is the primary weapon. It brings incredible firepower to the fight," Campbell said. 

The 30 mm GAU-8/A seven-barrel Gatling gun is perhaps the A-10's most noticeable feature. Protruding from the nose of the aircraft, the gun can fire up to 70 rounds per minute. 

"The precision of the gun is amazing," Campbell said. 

While the A-10 is new to Selfridge and the surrounding Detroit region, it is far from a newcomer to the state. The Michigan Air National Guard's 110th Fighter Wing, which is based in Battle Creek, had been flying the A-10s since 1991. The A-10s were shifted to Selfridge as part of a 2005 Defense Department base and facilities re-alignment plan. Many of the same aircraft that were flown by the 110th - as well as many of the pilots and some ground crew personnel - are now assigned to Selfridge. The 110th flew the A-10s in deployments to Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. 

"We're relying heavily on the expertise and the experience that the pilots from Battle Creek have brought to this side of the state," said Champagne. 

Among those who have joined the 127th from the 110th is Maj. Shawn Holtz. The pilot said the transition has been a challenge in terms of changing work locations and related issues, but that the former 110th pilots were quickly welcomed into the Selfridge family. 

"In terms of personal working relationships and the professionalism around the aircraft, you couldn't ask for much more," Holtz said. 

While the A-10 carries the "A" for attack designation, it is still considered a fighter by the Air Force. The 127th Wing and its predecessor units in the Michigan Air National Guard have been flying "F" designated aircraft - "F" for fighter -- since 1950 when local Guardsmen began flying the F-84 Republic Thunderjet. Since then, the wing has flown the F-86, RF-84, F-89, F-100, RF-101, F-106, F-4 and F-16 aircraft.