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An A-10 Thunderbolt II taxis to the flightline in preparation for takeoff from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, April 25, 2013. Air Force photo by SrA. Chris Willis.

A senior Air Force officer noted that the basic elements of an air component commander providing close air support to a ground forces commander, through the “translator” of a controller, have not changed since he started flying A-10s in 1987. “But really everything else has changed,” he added. In a Feb. 24 background briefing on the elements of close air support, which has become controversial with the Air Force’s attempt to phase out the A-10s, the senior officer and three younger pilots with experience in different aircraft emphasized the changes that the improved technology in aircraft, precision weapons, tightly followed rules of engagement, and intensive training since 9/11 have made to CAS. “It’s really platform agnostic,” said a veteran F-16 pilot and weapons school instructor. An F-15E pilot noted that pilots of his age know “nothing but this war and close air support. We know what it is, how important it is.” The third pilot said that due to the nature of the post-9/11 wars, “close air support IS the mission, for every platform, for the F-16, F-15, B-1, A-10. It’s the primary mission we train for.” When preparing for a combat deployment, he said, “You train for the mission set you expect to fly. In the last 14 years, that’s been close air support.”