Skip to comments.NATO called - Shaw responded
Posted on 02/11/2012 6:52:26 PM PST by Jet Jaguar
Jets from the 20th Fighter Wing provided a key role in taking a down corrupt regime during Operation Unified Protector.
Their actions in OUP led to the capture of Moammar Gadhafi, the Libyan dictator for 42 years, by the Libyan revolutionaries on Oct. 20, 2011. The 20th FW first sent support at the beginning of April to support NATO forces in protecting the Libyan civilians from the dictatorship.
"Around the middle of March, when things were starting to heat up in Libya, we were starting to pay attention," said Col. Charlie Moore, 20th FW commander. "It became apparent that we were probably going to go as we were on the Global Response Force at the time."
The GRF statement tells how fast a unit has to generate and send out a certain number of airplanes and a certain amount of people to anywhere in the world to accomplish their primary mission sets.
Due to other taskings, European based units were unable to support the deployment, Moore explained.
"Spanghahlem Air Base, Germany had orders to go to Balad Air Base, Iraq," Moore added. "What would have been required was for them to be relieved from those orders and us to go to Balad instead. The option of them keeping their orders and us going to Aviano just made more sense."
Finally, the word came down when the Secretary of Defense signed the deployment orders March 31, Moore said. The tasking was passed on to the 77th Fighter Squadron, "Gamblers," since they were the ones on the GRF.
From the time the word came down to the first personnel deploying out was less than 48 hours.
"This can happen at any time," Moore explained. "We practice this during our operation readiness inspections. It's not just the ability to get people there, but to get them there in a certain timeline. We did it even faster than we were required."
"We beat our GRF deployment timeline by 50 percent," said Lt. Col. Johnny Vargas, 77th FS commander. "This was truly a testament to our 20th Logistics Readiness Squadron that made it happen."
The 77th FS was en route to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. for an integration exercise when they got the call, Vargas said.
"The main body landed in Vegas, deplaned, hung out in base operations, got back on the plane and got home all on the same day," Vargas explained.
The fight began for the 77th FS once they received the order.
On the way back to Shaw from Vegas, the team organized themselves into their shops by rows on the plane and started developing the game plan for how we were going to take it to the enemy, Vargas described.
"When we arrived at Shaw I told them to take the weekend to spend time with their families since we were about to deploy," he added.
However, the Gamblers were motivated.
"I came in that weekend to take care of some paperwork and every single person was here in the (mission planning) vault," Vargas boasted. "The weapons officer had put together a mission planning cell and they came down with a way to take down the Libyan air defense systems."
The plans the 77th FS developed in the initial hours before their deployment were sent to the Spanghahlem guys because Spanghahlem hadn't had much time to develop their plan yet as they were the first responders, Vargas continued. "They used integration between our plans and theirs to start the fight."
After the Gamblers deployed, they officially took over the air tasking orders from Spanghahlem April 8 with 166 Airmen, six jets and six tons of operations cargo joining up with NATO as the first Air Combat Command squadron in the area of responsibility.
Fire rained down from the sky as the F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 20th Fighter Wing demolished the Libyan air defense systems, protecting NATOs air power and empowering the revolutionaries to topple a corrupt regime.
The primary mission of the 20th FW is to be a counter-air wing through the suppression and destruction of enemy air defenses.
"When something like this kicks off, you want the best," said Col. Charlie Moore, 20th Fighter Wing commander. "Of course, I'm biased, but we do this better than anyone else. They asked for the best and that's what they got."
Two squadrons from the 20th FW answered the call - the 77th Fighter Squadron and the 55th Fighter Squadron.
The 77th FS arrived at Aviano Air Base, Italy, April 8, 2011 and flew the NATO mission until Sept 10, 2011, when the 55th took the lead.
"When Odyssey Dawn ended there was a huge void in the effort to take down the Libyan integrated air defenses," said Lt. Col. Johnny Vargas, 77th FS commander. "There was no plan. But, the 77th pilots stepped and developed a systematic approach to take them down."
Large portions of Libyan air defense systems were cut off, but there was still a viable threat, he added. When we got there, we destroyed them.
"By the time the 55th FS got there, they were pretty much on their heels," said Lt. Col. Michael Schnabel, 55th FS commander. "The only concern we had was tactical surface-to-air missiles that had been unlocated, a couple of guys in vehicles who had the radars to take shots. But, we had the capability with our sensors to spot them if they ever turned their radars on."
The 20th FW never directly engaged Libyan ground forces, their rules of engagement were to seek out and destroy the Libyan IADS.
Sometimes they'd track forces to see who they were, Schnabel remarked. But, we never engaged because we were only providing air defense. Instead, we'd provide the targeting information for other NATO aircraft to engage such non-air defense targets.
"We were sent a couple of times to seek out potential low-flying helicopters that might be a threat to support the embargo, but generally we were taking out anti-aircraft artillery and SAM [surface to air] sites," Vargas added.
"We prevented them from wanting to do anything in the air," Schnabel commented. "We kept them from even thinking about messing with us. We'd go out and find things, bombing their radar sites, triple-A, and missile storage areas, and things like that, which would basically prevent them from organizing any kind of air defense and try to strike back at NATO aircraft."
Missions generally lasted between 8 to 11 hours a day providing 24-hour suppression of enemy air defense coverage and sending out several aircraft per day.
Vargas usually flew during the day, showing up 4 a.m., spending an hour and a half on the ground preparing and then flying two and a half hours to Libya. During the missions, he would leave the country's airspace to refuel, only to return to continue hunting for air defense assets. The process was repeated 3-5 times per mission throughout the day.
The vulnerability periods when they were in the country providing SEAD coverage for NATO was generally an hour a piece, Schnabel said.
"The first time you cross the fence into bad guy land is an experience," Vargas said. "You're there for a specific thing: protect the good guys and destroy the bad guys."
When they took off they coordinated with the combined air operations center to get preapproved target areas in case we didn't have anything to go after, Vargas said. Little intelligence from the Air Operations Center was given on what was out there and what the threats were.
"We had to find a way to track that," Vargas explained. "We developed targeting books on every known SAM site in the Libyan inventory. We tracked what we had and hadn't hit so the next sortie could find what to go after next. There was an incredible amount of target study that went into this."
At times it was difficult to identify targets, Schnabel added. They were finding them on their own from a variety of intel sources and seeing them from the aircraft.
"We'd go to great lengths to ensure that what we were dropping on were valid targets,' Schnabel described. "We would get different views and make sure that we all agreed. We had to make sure it was something we could drop on."
The 77th FS developed targeting cells, which normally doesn't happen at the squadron level, Vargas said. Normally it happens at the AOC but the 77th guys would go through and find threats and have them destroyed.
"We took a lot of things that normally happened at a higher echelon and took care of it in house," he added. "We rewrote the dynamic kill chain. Layers of excess were cut. We got the info from the people we needed to and gave it to those it needed to go to; us in the cockpit with the bomb. The targets were destroyed in minutes instead of days."
Generally there wasn't any real threat to NATO forces because of the pressure the 20th FW was putting on the Libyan forces, Schnabel explained.
"Our mission and capabilities really dissuade the enemy from shooting at coalition forces because they know they are going to eat a bullet if they fire," he said.
However, one time there was a pretty big threat, Vargas commented. A highly capable and lethal threat had gone missing.
The 77th FS had to go on a search to find it and destroy it, Vargas said. One month into the hunt, they finally found it and destroyed it.
"We were right," Vargas exclaimed. "The threat was real and we destroyed him. If we hadn't found him, there was a high possibility that he could have taken down a NATO jet and it would have been a game changer in the war."
Both the 77th and 55th FS played key roles in key victories in the war.
The 77th helped facilitate the fall of Tripoli August 20 by being in the skies when the city was taken by anti-Gaddafi forces.
They didn't engage direct threats due to the established rules of engagement, but took out the radars that could threaten their coalition partners.
"Being overhead and seeing the chaos as the city was over ran was incredible to see," Vargas described. "I was watching and helping make that happen by allowing NATO to do what they needed to do."
The 55th played a key role in a raid to remove a pro-Gaddfhi safe haven deep in Libya's interior.
The mission on the city of Sebha was led by Capt. Beau Diers, 55th FS F-16 pilot. He led a large coalition strike that targeted the city's SAM sites and got them out quickly and safely. They took out the enemy's air defenses so NATO could perform follow-on strikes.
"We railed on them so well, that after that raid, the anti-Gaddfhi force became emboldened and took over the town within 24 hours of our attack," Schnabel said. "The follow-on strikes weren't even needed."
"The success of the 20th FW in Operation Unified Protector was superb," Moore said. "The number of SAM sites, radars, missiles and triple-A pieces they targeted and destroyed was phenomenal. There's no telling how many lives we saved by being so good at what we do."
This is part two of a four-part series on the 20th Fighter Wing's role in Operation Unified Protector.
A jet can't take off of the runway and still expect to take down the bad guys and come back safe without Airmen loading munitions, pumping fuel and tightening every bolt.
"We made OUP happen," said Staff Sgt. Mitchell Merchant, 55th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief. "We provided combat capability to the NATO commander and a safe seat for our pilots to go out."
"There wasn't much risk to us, thanks to our maintenance people being so good at what they do," said Lt. Col. Michael Schnabel, 55th Fighter Squadron commander. "With a single engine aircraft and being thousands of miles away from home base, the fact that they kept us in tact was incredible."
"Maintenance tore it up," agreed Lt. Col. Johnny Vargas, 77th FS commander.
The 20th FW maintainers were well prepared for the task at hand for OUP.
"We basically did the same thing there we do here," said Senior Airman Jeremy Hadzick, 55th AMU crew chief. "We generated real world combat sorties, only at a different pace."
The crew chiefs kept people working around the clock to make sure the 20th FW F-16s were able to take to the sky.
We worked 12 hour days, six days a week for each person to maintain the 24 hour coverage, Merchant said.
"There was always a jet landing, a jet in the air and a jet getting ready to take off," added Hadzick.
As soon as the 20th FW arrived, they hit the ground running.
The work was constant and at times hectic, said Senior Airman Audrey Sanchez, 77th AMU crew chief.
The air tasking orders changed daily, so the crew chiefs were constantly adjusting their schedule.
"At times we had to rush to get things fixed," continued Tech. Sgt. William Geiser, 77th AMU crew chief. "Trying to schedule phase flow when we were starting OUP with only six jets and four were always in the air was rough."
Phase flow is when the maintainers completely tear down the jet to check out the inside to see if there is anything not properly working.
"It took some careful planning and schedule changes to make things work with the ATOs," Merchant said. "At Shaw we have a printed schedule we stick to, there we didn't have that."
The crew chiefs worked hard and fast to turn the jets over; at times, in as fast as an hour because there were none to spare.
"We would be ready on the spot," explained Staff Sgt. Brian Barnes, 77th AMU crew chief. "People would stand in position with everything ready as soon one landed, ready with the fuel and ready with the ammo."
Every single one of the 20th FW maintainers played a vital role in keeping the jets in the air.
We were pretty short on our technical experts, so a lot people had to step up and cover those positions, Barnes explained. Airmen had to fill in and perform jobs they had never done before, which can be pretty stressful.
"But, we did what we had to do," he added. "We generated jets. They went out full and came back empty and safe."
The success of the crew chiefs all came down to team work.
"Every single one of us was critical," Sanchez described. "None of us did one thing special, but it took every one of us to focus on that one main goal. It was the best team work I've ever seen. It was a huge thing we did."
This is part three of a four-part series on the 20th Fighter Wing's role in Operation Unified Protector.
I guess it is not classified any more.
Good and accurate read.
In a jet that had to air refuel 4 or 19 times, probably at night, and has as much room as a 1830s coffin.
Oh, but they get 'low residue' flight meals.
God bless the men that fly and fight.
I wouldn't do it, but I salute the men that do.
And once upon a time, in a land, far away, cooked for the arrogant barsids.
Well, we gotta eat. I salute you for taking care of us while you were in. A hot meal beats an MRE any day of the week. Kudos to the folks from Spang and Lankenheath who augmented the food service crew at Aviano. They worked up some wonderful meals.
I had nightmares after some Major explained trans-atlantic fighter ferry flights with nighttime air refueling.
I appreciate the salute. But, it is unwarranted. I just fix the Vipers, or, direct the fixing now.
When are they going to Syria?
The Airmen, NCO’s and Officers from Hill AFB are doing the same at this time!
The Airmen, NCO’s and Officers from Hill AFB are doing the same at this time!
I have question of any veteran past/present or someone with knowledge of military terminology: I have a video game, one of the “Medal of Honor’’ series. It’s a group of Navy SEALS doing what they do best. Anyway my question is: after they’ve called in an air strike and the target is eliminated the call sign/transmission given is “Delta Hotel’’. What does “Delta Hotel’’ stand for? Thanks for any help.
I am unfamiliar with it. Sorry.