“This is a true testament to the combat survivability of the A-10,” Maj. Gary “Wolfman” Wolf (retired), former A-10 pilot
During the opening stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the then 110th Fighter Wing (FW) was flying A-10A Thunderbolt II aircraft in direct support of Coalition ground forces. Affectionately known as “Warthog,” the A-10 has a well-deserved reputation for toughness – a reputation enhanced by the 110th’s experience while serving with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing.
As reported by Tech. Sgt. Alec Lloyd , 217th Air Operations Group, in the article A-10A 80-0258, History of Excellence, on Apr. 8, 2003 tail number 80-0258, piloted by then-Maj. Gary “Wolfman” Wolf, took off from Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base in Kuwait to support Coalition troops as they approached Baghdad. As the aircraft provided low-altitude overhead reconnaissance for a coalition convoy commander, it was struck in the right engine by an enemy surface-to-air missile (SAM).
“Although the initial impact was substantial, the aircraft never departed controlled flight. This is a true testament to the combat survivability of the A-10.” said Major Wolf (retired), “I was fortunate to be flying the mighty Warthog on that fateful day.”
Major Wolf managed to keep control of his aircraft, deployed countermeasures and turned towards friendly territory. Despite the extensive damage, he kept the crippled aircraft aloft for 45 minutes until he reached the safety of Tallil Air Base in southern Iraq, 120 miles away. After successfully landing his Warthog, pilots, ground crew and even media photographers marveled at the extent of the damage the craft had absorbed while remaining airworthy.
The story might have ended there, but in 2011 Colonel Ronald Wilson, at the time 110th’s Vice Commander [by then the unit had been redesignated as 110th Airlift Wing before being redesignated again as 110th Attack Wing in 2014] mentioned that the damaged engine had been flown back to Battle Creek Air National Guard Base. After some investigation the parts of the cowling were found at the base scrap yard and thus the second phase of the process began – the restoration and reassembly of the cowling for display.
“The cowling was destined for the scrap pile,” said Colonel Wilson, “we had been out of the A-10 business for some time. When I approached our maintenance folks to see if there was any possibility to save this historical piece of our heritage, they jumped right in.”
This was an unusual task. The team from the 110th Maintenance Squadron was used to removing and replacing damaged components, but restoring and not repairing battle damage was something new.
Tech. Sgt. David Harris from the 110th Airlift Wing Maintenance Squadron was one of many to have these very thoughts, “The first thought from everyone in the shop was where do we start?” he said. “It was like a jigsaw puzzle. The structural repair shop got together and devised plan of attack to manufacture parts and panels to reconstruct damage the missile had caused.”
Tech. Sgt. Robert Robinson, Tech. Sgt. Steven Roman, Staff Sgt. Brian Nelson and Senior Airman Douglas Powers stepped up to the challenge and developed a detailed restoration plan.
After more than 150 man-hours of work, the cowling was restored to its “original” damaged condition. It was now ready to be shipped and prepared to be displayed.
Colonel Wilson and Major Wolf thanked the service members who put in a great deal of work to ensure that not only the A-10 is remembered as a superior war fighter but the wing itself is too.
“This is a testament to all the great men and women of the 110th Fighter Wing who went to war in 2003, who through machine and sweat and perseverance prevailed and made a difference in the world as the 110th Fighter Wing made a mark in history forever.” Said Colonel Wilson.
“I will always think of the A-10 when I remember Battle Creek. We did some amazing things around the world in the Warthog.” Said Major Wolf (retired). “I hope you can find a good home for the cowling – well deserved after all the hard work performed by your maintenance folks. I will always cherish 258 for bringing me home… -Wolfman (callsign).”
Today the A-10 cowling is on display at the National Guard Museum in Washington, DC.
Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo / U.S. Air Force and Master Sgt. Sonia Pawloski / U.S. Air National Guard
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com