Exercise Iron Thunder – Warthogs to operate from Palau

At the end of October 2022, formation of A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack aircraft was deployed to Andersen Air Force Base at Guam, Pacific Ocean. The aircraft, assigned to the 23rd Wing from Moody, Georgia, arrived to the area as a part of the ´Operation Iron Thunder´ exercise, held by the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) command of the USAF.

The ´Operation Iron Thunder´ is a series of joint tactical exercises, organized periodically by the PACAF. The goal of current edition is to conduct agile combat employment operations in hostile environment, including electronic warfare and jammed communication. It should be also assumed that increasing tensions between the US administration and local powers, such as China and North Korea, influenced the scope of this year´s exercise.

On 23rd October 2022, as a part of the ´Operation Iron Thunder´, the deployment of the A-10C Thunderbolt II jets arrived to Guam. Although it was not the first time when the Andersen air base hosted the Warthogs, they usually were the aircraft assigned to the 25th Fighter Squadron. Nicknamed ´Assam Draggins´, the 25th FS is a sole regular A-10 unit based in the Pacific area – at Osan Air Force Base in South Korea.

A-10C Thunderbolt IIs sit at the Palau International Airport (USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Courtney Sebastianelli)

This time, the Warthogs came from the contiguous United States and were assigned to the 23rd Wing from Moody air base in Georgia. The deployment force includes various ground personnel and was supported by HC-130J Combat King II combat search and rescue aircraft and C-130J Hercules airlifters.

In addition, a pair of the A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft was forward deployed to Palau, an island country in the western Pacific, as a part of Dynamic Force Employment operation. Flying from Palau, the 23rd Wing is exercising enhanced air power readiness by detachment operating from a geographically separated and contested environment.

The A-10 crews and ground personnel operate from a tent village arranged at Roman Tmetuchl International Airport. In addition, the detachment at Palau works closely with local organizations, such as Palau International Fire Department. At the beginning of November, members of the Palau fire department attended a dedicated training to familiarize with the A-10C Thunderbolt II ground-attack aircraft.

A-10C Thunderbolt II Familiarization training in Palau (USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Courtney Sebastianelli)

Cover photo: Dynamic Force Employment in Palau – A group of USAF pilots hold the American flag and the Republic of Palau flag next to A-10C Thunderbolt IIs at the Palau International Airport, Republic of Palau, Nov. 3, 2022 (USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Courtney Sebastianelli). All photos © U.S. Department of Defence (DoD). DoD information materials were used, in compliance with Public Domain licence. The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.