Gulf War 2 Battle Damaged A-10


Pilot brings battle-damaged A-10 home safely

By Staff Sgt. Jason Haag
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM (ACCNS) -- An A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot deployed with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing safely landed her "Warthog" at her forward operating base after it sustained significant damage from enemy fire during a close air support mission over Baghdad April 7.

Capt. Kim Campbell, deployed from the 75th Fighter Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., and her flight leader had just finished supporting ground troops and were on their way out of the area when her aircraft was hit with enemy fire.

"We were very aware that it was a high-threat environment -- we're over Baghdad," she said. "At the same time, those are the risks you are going to take to help the guys on the ground, that's our job, that's what we do. Our guys were taking fire and you want to do everything you can to help them out.

"We did our job with the guys there on the ground and as we were on our way out is when I felt the jet get hit. It was pretty obvious -- it was loud," Captain Campbell said.

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After sustaining the hit, she said the aircraft immediately became uncontrollable and she noticed several caution warnings -- all over a very hostile territory.

"I lost all hydraulics instantaneously, so I completely lost control of the jet. It rolled left and pointed toward the ground, which was an uncomfortable feeling over Baghdad," she said. "The entire caution panel lit up and the jet wasn't responding to any of my control inputs."

Captain Campbell tried several different procedures to get the aircraft under control, none of which worked, she said. At that point, she decided to put the plane into manual reversion, which meant she was flying the aircraft without hydraulics. After that, the aircraft immediately began responding.

"The jet started climbing away from the ground, which was a good feeling because there is no way I wanted to eject over Baghdad," she said.

Because the aircraft sustained hits to the rear of the aircraft, including the horizontal stabilizer, tail section and engine cowling, Captain Kim said she could not see the damage. Her flight leader, Lt. Col. Richard Turner, positioned his aircraft where he could view the damage.

"The jet was flying pretty good and the damage had not affected the flight control surfaces or the (landing) gear," Colonel Turner said. "If (Kim) could keep it flying, we would get out of Baghdad and might be able to make it (back to base).

Once they assessed the situation, the two worked closely together to determine the best course of action. Captain Campbell said the colonelís calm demeanor and attention to detail were instrumental in her being able get the airplane home.

"I could not have asked for a better flight lead," she said. "He was very directive when he needed to be, because all I could concentrate on was flying the jet. Then, once we were out of the Baghdad area, (he) just went through all the checklists, all the possibilities, all the things I needed to take into account."

Captain Campbell said she and Colonel Turner discussed all her options, which ultimately came down to two: fly the aircraft to a safe area and eject or attempt to land the disabled plane.

"I can either try to land a jet that is broken, or I can eject...which I really didn't have any interest in doing, but I knew it was something that I had to consider," she said. "But the jet worked as advertised and that is a tribute to our maintainers and the guys who work on the jet. It's nice when things work as advertised."

Colonel Turner said that even though he could advise her, only one person could make the decision about whether to eject or attempt to land the aircraft.

"She had a big decision to make," he said. "Before anyone else could throw their two-cents worth into the mix, I made sure that she knew that the decision to land or eject was hers and hers alone."

To Captain Campbell, the decision was clear.

"The jet was performing exceptionally well," she said. "I had no doubt in my mind I was going to land that airplane."

After getting the aircraft on the ground, the final task was getting it stopped and keeping it on the runway, she said. "When you lose all the hydraulics, you don't have speed brakes, you don't have brakes and you don't have steering," she said.

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"One of the really cool things that when I did touch down, I heard several comments on the radio -- and I don't know who it was -- but I heard things like, 'Awesome job, great landing,' things like that," she said.

"I guess we all think we are invincible and it won't happen to us," she said. "I hadn't been shot at -- at all -- in all of my other missions. This was the first. Thank God for the Warthog, because it took some damage but it got me home." (Courtesy of AFPN)

Capt. Kim Campbell, an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot deployed with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, surveys the battle damage to her airplane. Her A-10 was hit over Baghdad during a close air support mission April 7. The A-10 can survive direct hits from armor-piercing and high explosive projectiles up to 23mm. Manual systems back up their redundant hydraulic flight-control systems. This permits pilots, like Captain Campbell, to fly and land when hydraulic power is lost.