GILA BEND, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - In what seems like the middle of the desert, A-10 pilots fly across the sky dropping bombs and firing their gun. It is more than just training, it is Hawgsmoke 2016.
Hawgsmoke is a biennial competition for A-10 fighter squadrons to compete against each other in a variety of ways using missiles, bombs, and the plane's gun.
The winner of each Hawgsmoke gets to hold the next competition. This is the third straight year it has been hosted at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, the 47th Fighter Squadron is the reigning champion.
At the range for the public to see, A-10 pilots drop bombs and fire their guns.
"This is a BDU 33," said Major Kyle Lanto pointing to a blue-colored dummy bomb. Lanto teaches pilots at DM. "It is a 25 to 30 pound practice bomb. The ballistics are pretty much the same as what you'd be doing with the 500 pound bomb."
Pilots fly over an MRAP vehicle positioned in the desert and drop the practice bomb from high and medium altitudes. A puff of white smoke indicates where it hit.
A-10 pilots also got close to the ground during their strafing runs firing the planes famous gun.
The gun on the A-10 is built to tear through tanks on the ground. It has some of the largest bullets you will see on an aircraft. Lanto says pilots in this competition are very precise.
"You're shooting at a target that, from that range, about a mile, is about the size of your pinky nail," he said.
In this part of the competition, Lanto says the winning pilot will probably shoot 100 percent of their rounds through 16x16 ft target. They will shoot about 200 rounds in each pass.
Every time a pilot passes over firing the gun, it makes a very loud, very distinctive sound.
At the end of the competition, the lowest score wins and that squadron hosts the next Hawgsmoke. However, Lanto says Hawgsmoke is also about comparing notes between pilots to improve.
"See how we're doing business, and see how we can do it better. That is kind of the goal of Hawgsmoke along with the camaraderie of competing with your buddies you grew up training with," he said.