Weapons

Warthog Pilot explains why A-10 Drivers often boresight the AGM-65 Air-to-surface missile on wingman rather than on a ground target

The AGM-65 Maverick

The US Air Force (USAF) accepted the first AGM-65A Maverick in August 1972. A total of 25,750 A and B Mavericks were purchased by the Air Force.

The USAF took delivery of the first AGM-65D in October 1983, with initial operational capability in February 1986. Delivery of operational AGM-65G missiles took place in 1989.

More than 5,000 AGM-65 A/B/D/E/F/G’s were employed during Operation Desert Storm, mainly attacking armored targets.

Mavericks played a large part in the destruction of Iraq’s significant military force. In the Gulf War, A-10s launched 90% of the AGM-65 Maverick missiles.

A-10 Warthog Pilots boresight the AGM-65 on wingman

As former A-10 pilot Lynn Taylor explains on Quora, Warthog drivers often boresight the missile on aircraft.

‘The rumors are true! We often boresight the missile while in the air, usually on a wingman.

‘For the uninitiated, “boresighting” is simply calibrating and aligning the seeker to where it is supposed to be. The Maverick seeker is the camera behind that glass dome on the tip of the missile. When the jet makes tight turns and pulls Gs, that seeker can begin to shift out of alignment, which makes it tougher to track and lock onto a target when it’s time to let the big dog off the leash.

‘So, when you’re first heading out to the target area, you want to make sure that seeker is right where it’s supposed to be like a good little soldier when it’s time to lock and launch.

‘The missile is designed to lock onto targets that are in front of and below the jet, so the pilot can use a more shallow dive when deploying the weapon, instead of pointing their nose directly at the target. Because of this, you want the boresight to have a depression angle of quite a few degrees below the centerline of the aircraft.’

Boresighting difficult to do on the ground

Taylor continues;

‘That makes boresighting difficult to do on the ground. On the ground, you’d be trying to find something to lock onto that is not that far in front of the aircraft, and is also in the right position to calibrate the seeker in the correct position.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. A-10C Thunderbolt II 355th FW, 354th FS Bulldogs, FS/82-684. Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ – 2015

‘So, usually on the ground you’d just check to make sure that the video is working, and that you can slew the seeker and lock onto something. The seeker alignment happens on the drive out.

‘When airborne, with another jet available to lock onto, you can position yourself such that the “target” jet is in the exact right position in the cockpit television monitor. You slew the seeker to the target, lock the missile on it, then tell it “that’s where you’re supposed to be. Wait there until I call you.”

‘While it would be possible to try to boresight on a ground target at that point, that target would still be “moving” relative to your jet, while a wingman is actually “stationary” relative to you. Also note that the missile is not actually armed at this point. All you’ve done is turn on the cockpit TV and the seeker camera. The really exciting bits are still asleep until you wake them up with some different switches.’

Taylor concludes;

‘That’s why we boresight the missile on each other in the air.’

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Photo credit: Jim Haseltine / U.S. Air Force

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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