Hawgsmoke 2016

Hawgsmoke 2016     

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hawgsmoke 2016

 Hawgsmoke 2016 took place June 1 through June 4. Hawgsmoke occurs biennially as a premiere worldwide competition of A-10 pilots and their supports crews. The 4 day event includes A-10 bombing, missile, and tactical gunnery competitions. The tradition is for winners of the previous competition to host the next Hawgsmoke. The winners in 2014 were the 47th Fighter Squadron, “Termites” which are the hosts at this years event in Tucson, AZ. This was the 8th competition and third straight year it’s been held at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Each Hawgsmoke competition opens with the remembrance ceremony for fallen comrades. The names of every A-10 pilot that’s died, whether it’s from combat losses, training accidents or old age are read aloud. The last A-10 shot down in combat was in 2003, but each year more names are added to the list. In 2016, four more names were called in a roll call. After the last name is read a missing man formation flies overhead. Four A-10s fly over the ceremony, but one pulls away from the group leaving a hole in the middle of the formation.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, participants down a shot of whiskey and smash the shot glasses in honor and remembrance of their fallen comrades.  The competition’s four primary trophies are named for former pilots.

Hawgsmoke held its first competition in 2000 at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in Alpena Michigan. The 172nd Fighter Squadron from Battle Creek MI hosted the event. Col. Cliff Latta from the 172nd FS is credited with Hawgsmoke’s initiation. Hawgsmoke’s heritage can be traced back to the now discontinued “Gunsmoke” competition. Gunsmoke which was last held 1995 was the USAF’s air-to-ground gunnery and bombing competition which included F-15s, B-1s, B-52s and F-111s, F-16s was held at Nellis AFB. Since the year 2000 Hawgsmoke has been held every other year except for 2004 when bad weather lead to its cancellation which is now known as “Hawgwash.”

This year the event featured 13 teams flying 48 A-10s from across the Air Force. They met at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, June 2-4 to take part in this year’s Hawgsmoke training and competition.

The 47th Fighter Squadron out of Davis-Monthan (which won in 2014) were defending their crown this year. The event brought together Active Duty, Air National Guard and Reserve members from Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Indiana, Maryland, and from Osan Air Base, South Korea.

Hawgsmoke competition takes place over two days. It includes team and individual scoring of strafing, high-altitude dive-bombing, 30-degree dive-bombing, low-angle high-delivery, Maverick missile precision, and team tactics.


Lt. Col. Brett Waring, the man overseeing the competition and an A-10 pilot himself said that the focus this year was on precision engagement and the ability for a four-ship of A-10s to mass fire in a short amount of time. The competition also focused on conventional weapons delivery to see which team was the most accurate. “That’s going to be your high-altitude dive bombs, low-altitude delivery, long-range and low-angle strafe,” Waring said. “That’s pretty common for Hawgsmoke because it’s the bread and butter of your A-10 tactical events.”

“One of the formations was led by a Desert Storm veteran, and some of the formations had some lieutenants in it,” Waring said. “To see all of that come together and execute together was very, very impressive.”

“The A-10s are actively engaged in operations around the world right now, and this is really an opportunity for the best A-10 pilots in the Air Force to get together and share those best practices,” he said.

Part of the competition this year involved seeing how many of the 60 targets the A-10 teams could hit in 10 minutes. Some targets were precise coordinates while some were just areas where vehicles were. It was up to the teams to pick their own strategies. They each chose their weapons and their tactics.

Hawgsmoke isn’t just about the competition. It’s also about camaraderie.

“While we pay a lot of homage to the warhorse we fly, the critical piece of that is the A-10 pilots and the focus and the dedication they bring to the mission. They’re going to go out and they’re going to do it with the most advanced weapons we have and the simplest tactics forged over 40 years.”

The A-10 has been actively flying with the Air Force since 1975. For most of the airman, the Warthog is older than they are!

The Warthog might be near the end of its service life. Air Force leadership have continually made attempts to retire the aircraft, saying its close-air support role can be performed by newer aircraft like the F-35 Lightning II.

However, Waring said that discussions about the lifespan of the A-10 won’t have an effect on the Hawgsmoke pilots. They will continue to do their best until the Air Force orders them to stop flying.

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The 47th Fighter Squadron has retained their crown as the winners of this year’s Hawgsmoke competition. It was the second consecutive win for the squadron. Capt. David “Gnome” Knighton, was named overall “Top Gun” . This is the first time since the competition started that the flight lead of the winning team is also the best overall pilot in the competition!

Previous competition winners are as follows:

Let’s hope we are privileged to see the A-10 compete again in 2018! A special thank you to the men and women of the Public Affairs Office for their assistance.

Articles and Pictures By Ed Rivera

Hawgsmoke Gunnery and Aerial shots
Hawgsmoke Hot ramp Shots



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