Flying Tigers ready for the next decade

At Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, the 23rd Fighter Group -part of the 23rd Wing- operates the A-10 Thunderbolt II. Despite several attempts to withdraw America’s number one Close Air Support fighter from service, the A-10 is still being upgraded and readied to protect the troops well into the next decade. In 2019, the program to re-wing the A-10 was completed, which enables the aircraft to fly another 10.000 hours.

The 23rd Fighter Group
The group consists of two A-10 squadrons: the 74th ‘Flying Tigers’ and 75th ‘Tiger Sharks’. These squadrons are complimented by Reservists from the 76th FS ‘Vanguards’. The 76th does not own any aircraft, but its pilots fully intergrade in the 23rd Operation Group. The 23rd FG is USAF’s largest operational A-10 unit and has 49 aircraft in its inventory for the over 80 A-10 pilots at Moody.

To train the A-10 pilots, Moody has a bomb and gun range nearby -the Grand Bay air-to-ground range- and 250.000 square miles of surrounding military airspace. Another important training area is Avon Park Range. With its 106.034 acres it is the largest primary training facility on the East Coast. It has seven Military Operating Areas, seven Air Refueling Tracks, and 13 Military Training Routes for low-level flying.

23rd Fighter Group legacy
The history of the 23rd FG started with the Air Volunteer Group that was established in 1941 when the United States government organized volunteer air units to help the Nationalist government of China to fight Japan. The AVG was organized into the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Persuit Squadron. In 1942 the AVG became the 23rd Fighter Group. It was assigned with three squadrons, the 74th, 75th and 76th. The group took on the nickname of the disbanded AVG-unit, Flying Tigers. The AVG painted a distinctive shark-mouth design on their aircraft. Since 2007, the A-10s wear the famous Flying Tigers’ shark teeth nose art again.

Specialized CAS aircraft: the A-10
In 1966, the Air Force was advised to obtain a simple, inexpensive, specialized CAS aircraft that should have low-speed maneuverability, massive cannon firepower, extreme survivability, and the possibility to stay a long time near the target area. The design of the Republic Fairchild A-10 was selected to become that aircraft. It is designed around a specific weapon: the General Electric GAU-8/A seven-barrel Gatling cannon, which -with its 1.174-round ammunition drum- is as big as a Volkswagen Golf. To ‘feed’ the ammo drum, a special vehicle was built. Because of its shape and function, this cart is called The Dragon.

In 2005, a program started to upgrade the A-10A to the A-10C version. It received a glass cockpit, a video targeting system and a head up display in front of the pilot. From 2011-2019, 173 Warthogs were re-winged because of the many flight hours of the airframes.

Combat proven and ready for the next decade
The A-10C is able to carry a large variety of weapons, like Individual Assault Munitions, Laser Guided Bombs, Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition, General Purpose Bombs, white phosphorus and high explosive rockets and illumination devices to support troops during nighttime operations. With all the training, recent and coming modifications, and new weapons, the Flying Tigers are ready to go and fight in the coming decade.

Our article the Flying Tigers at Moody AFB was published in the
July 2020 issue of Combat Aircraft Monthly