BOISE, Idaho - A scorched and holey door from a Jeep Cherokee and the melted remains of something that once resembled an engine block were all that were left after A-10 pilots from the 190th Fighter Squadron set their sights on these moving targets during a strafe training mission at Saylor Creek Range
The targets were rigged with remote control and were driving as fast as 40 miles an hour while pilots took aim, disabled, and destroyed each vehicle. Strafe training, with moving targets, prepares pilots for their real-world mission of providing close air support for ground troops. 1st Lt. Tom Silkowski, an A-10 Pilot with the 190th Fighter Squadron was one of the lucky pilots that got to fire on the moving targets.
"It's very similar to missions that are going on right now in Afghanistan, "said Silkowski. "They may track a bad guy for weeks and have a tiny window of opportunity to get him, that when this training pays off."
The training required extensive coordination with a visiting group of special operations troops who rigged and remotely operated the vehicles, as well as Mountain Home Air Force Base and range personnel.
The troops controlling the vehicles were on the range during live fire so the pilots and the 190th commander, Lt. Col. Shannon Smith, spent extra time outlining restrictions to protect the people and assets on the range while getting the most out of a rich training experience.
"It's a good mental exercise coming up with restrictions that make sense," said Silkowski.
Strafe exercises demonstrate the fire power, accuracy, and relevance of the A-10 capabilities. The lead pilot will come in and disable the vehicle with the first shots and the wingman will take out the static target.
Silkowski explained that every time, during the training, the lead pilot disabled the vehicle and wingman came in to destroy the target. He said, "It validated the A-10 because we stopped the movers every time."
It has been over two years since the 190th has had the opportunity to train with moving targets. For some, like Silkowski, it was a first. It's a rare opportunity because of the extra coordination and resources required. Each moving target costs around $25,000. In this training mission 10 pilots got a chance to take aim and three vehicles were destroyed.
The training helped more than just the pilots who participated. As in all training missions, they document the sorties and review the mission in detail. They share their experiences and leanings with all of the190th pilots.
"After every sortie we debrief, review the video, and learn more about what worked and what didn't," said Silkowski.