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REAL THAW 13 sets aim for interoperability
MONTE REAL, Portugal – U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Steve Vaughn, 81st Aircraft Maintenance Unit jet engine mechanic from Chattanooga, Tenn., walks on the wing of an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft during a pre-flight inspection in Monte Real, Portugal, Feb. 14, 2013. The 81st is participating in REAL THAW, a Portuguese military exercise that seeks to provide a realistic operating environment that accurately reflects current theaters of operation, provide adequate training to multinational participants while coordinating joint operations assets on land, air and sea, and improve interoperability between allied forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon/Released)
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REAL THAW 13 sets aim for interoperability

Posted 2/16/2013   Updated 2/16/2013 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

2/16/2013 - MONTE REAL, Portugal -- Aircraft and military professionals from the U.S., Portugal, Netherlands, the U.K. and NATO are continuing to develop their ability to work together during REAL THAW 13, Feb. 11-22.

REAL THAW is the Portuguese military's premiere annual exercise that integrates the Portuguese Army, Navy and Air Force for joint operations and scenarios. The exercise also includes forces from partner nations.

The 81st Fighter Squadron, out of Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, is one of the U.S. representatives in Portugal. Their airframe, the A-10 Thunderbolt II, is the only close air support aircraft participating this year, and the Portuguese military is taking full advantage of its capabilities.

"The A-10 is a special asset that we don't have the everyday opportunity to work with," said Portuguese air force Lt. Col. Carlos Lourenco, the director of REAL THAW.

The Portuguese air force flies the F-16 Fighting Falcon as their primary fighter aircraft, but do not have a close air support aircraft like the A-10. Having the ability to conduct operations like search and rescue with the 81st is beneficial for training.

This is especially important for the helicopter squadrons, and working together increases both parties' understanding of operating in a joint environment, said Lourenco.

"Our opportunity to be here and train on a wide variety of missions is invaluable for us. We haven't been able to do this in months, " said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Clint Eichelberger, 81st commander.

The exercise helps keep pilots from the 81st combat-ready, because of the different skill sets that they can train on here. Some of the scenarios they've supported so far are combat search and rescue, close air support and convoy escort. The upcoming week will also integrate the Portuguese navy, and the 81st will provide maritime air support, said the colonel.

"We are very rarely going to go anywhere that we'll deploy and not have to work with other forces. We're always going to integrate, whether they be air forces, ground forces, or maritime," said Eichelberger. "The last place that you want to figure out how to work together is on the battlefield. That's why coming to these exercises are so important."

Although the 81st is inactivating later this year, it gives both the U.S. and Portuguese forces a chance to learn in a joint environment and draw on each others' strengths to provide a solid response if contingencies arise.

"Everyone has different experience levels, so we all can learn from each other," said Lourenco of the training. "The A-10 brings new approaches and lessons we can apply to our own experience."

2/22/2013 2:14:47 AM ET
Adz38 The United States is the only country that flies the A-10. I'm glad you got to see it as it is definitely a great aircraft
Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon, Spangdahlem AB Germany
2/19/2013 9:19:50 AM ET
I live about 30 mins drive south of Monte Real in Portugal. Just found this site as I was googling Do the Portuguese Airforce have A10 Thunderbolts.....About 5 minutes ago I heard the distinct sound of an A10 ran out to my garden nearly fell in the pool and there she was an A10 flying low and quite fast. Such a beautiful sight Shame I didnt get to hear her cannon brrrrrrrrrHope to see more and keep up the good work guys
Adz38, Portugal
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