In the hot Arizona desert south of Tucson lies Davis-Monthan AFB, where aircraft and aircrews representing A-10 units stateside and abroad were present to see who would be the best in the biennial Hawgsmoke competition. Hosted by the previous winners, the 47th Fighter Squadron (FS) known as the Termites, the 2016 Hawgsmoke competition centers around A-10 crew camaraderie and aerial precision in gunnery and payload delivery.
Hawgsmoke is an offshoot of the now discontinued Gunsmoke competition the US Air Force (USAF) began in 1949 at Nellis AFB, Nevada and ran until 1995. In 2005, the A-10 community came together for the first Hawgsmoke competition at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center near Alpena, Michigan. Since then, A-10 units have been coming together every two years to grow their bond as an attack community and to earn bragging rights for their squadron.
This year’s participating units flew in aircraft and aircrews to fill up the roster, with nearly all of the world’s A-10 squadrons in attendance. The units that took part in this year’s competition were:
- AATC Test Squadron of Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona
- 47th FS of Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona
- 74th FS of Moody AFB, Georgia
- 75th FS of Moody AFB, Georgia
- 107th FS of Selfridge ANGB, Michigan
- 104th FS of Westfield ANGB, Maryland
- 303rd FS of Whiteman AFB, Missouri
- 163rd FS of Fort Wayne ANGB, Indiana
- 25ft FS of Osan AB, Republic of Korea
- 76th FS of Moody AFB, Georgia
- 354th FS of Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona
- 357th FS of Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona
- 358th FS of Whiteman AFB, Missouri
Each squadron arrived on June 1st to a warm welcome from the DM personnel and each other. That afternoon, in keeping with Hawgsmoke tradition, the service men and women, friends, and families gathered in front of the parade grounds near a static A-10 to remember fellow Hawg drivers who were lost in and out of the service. Each year the complete list of names is read, sadly with a few new names added from the previous Hawgsmoke. A four-ship of Warthogs perform a missing man at the conclusion of Taps. To end the ceremony, all take part in shooting a small glass of alcohol and breaking the glass in the ceremonial fire pit as a final toast to their lost comrades. With that, the first day of Hawgsmoke is finished asecond the machismo builds in anticipation of the following day’s competition.
At the Barry M. Goldwater Range east of DM, a four-ship of the competing teams is sent in with a payload comprising of MK-76/BDU-33 25-lb. practice bombs, AGM-65 Mavericks, sometimes an LAU-131 rocket launcher with practice rockets, and a belt of 30mm practice rounds. The 30mm practice rounds are designed with an aluminum tip that breaks away in the air after firing, shaping the remaining round like a large, blunt slug to produce a more visible impact for scoring observers. Pilots that came without their own aircraft were able to make use of some of the many A-10s stationed at DM.
The competition consists of a series of bombing runs and strafing passes at various angles and altitudes along with a specialized tactical section. These conventional parts are consistent with each Hawgsmoke competition, while the tactical elements shift each Hawgsmoke, tailored to the desired training pilots are looking for for that particular year. The tactical element is flown in a 10-minutes window where the units must destroy as many targets as they can. This year’s tactical range pitted units against realistic threats templated around a series of targets to better prepare pilots for completing precise missions in hostile situations.
This year’s Hawgsmoke was another success and assuredly plenty of fun for all, but with every contest comes a victor, and for 2016’s Hawgsmoke, the winners were:
45-degree High Altitude Dive Bomb:
1. Capt. David Knighton – 47th FS, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ
2. 1st Lt Christopher Shelley – 76th FS, Moody AFB, GA
3. Maj. John “Atlas” Meyers – 25th FS, Osan AB, Republic of Korea
30-degree Dive Bomb Heading and Altitude Reference System, degraded delivery:
1. Capt. Tyler Shipman – 47th FS, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ
2. Maj. Jeff Sliwoski – ANG/Air Force Reserve Command Test Center, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ
3. Capt. Ryan Yingling – 104th FS, Westfield ANGB, MD
10-degree Low Angle High Drag Pop-up:
1. Capt. Simon Long – 47th FS, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ
2. Lt. Col. Alan McCracken – ANG/Air Force Reserve Command Test Center
3. Capt. David Knighton – 47th FS, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ
Long Range Strafe:
1. Lt. Col. John Marks – 303rd FS, Whiteman AFB, MO
2. Capt. Ben Best – 107th FS, Selfridge ANGB, MI
Low Angle Strafe:
1. Capt. Josh Woodard – 354th FS, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ
2. Capt. Max Sery – 25th FS, Osan AB, Republic of Korea
Top Conventional Team (Maj. Jeff Watterberg Trophy):
47th FS, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ
Top Tactical Team (Capt. Steve Phillis Trophy):
25th FS, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ
Top Overall Pilot (Lt. Col. Robert Brown Trophy):
Capt. David Knighton – 47th FS, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ
Top Overall Team (Col. Al “Mud” Moore Trophy)
47th FS, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ
Since the Termites dominated the competition once again, a special rule comes into play that prohibits a unit from hosting the event twice in a row. The second place top overall team will be hosting the next Hawgsmoke in 2018. In just a couple short years ahead, the A-10 Thunderbolt II units will meet back again, with some new faces and some familiar ones too, to duke it out in a friendly competition to see who will be the next top Hawg.
We at AirshowStuff would like to thank 2nd Lt. Sydney M. Smith for permitting us to observe the exciting event, the 47th FS for their accommodating hosting of the 8th Hawgsmoke competition, and all of the men and women that have kept this tradition alive and well.