Military Aviation

The unknown story of an A-10 Sandy mission flown during OEF to cover an ejected Mirage 2000D aircrew

“I flew over the town real low to kind of tell them that ‘we are here and stay away’. I then started to talk to the crews about injuries. At that point, the CSAR crews checked in,” Capt. Mike ‘Papa’ Roach, A-10 pilot

How four A-10 Warthogs deterred any threat from getting close to an ejected French Mirage 2000D aircrew.

On May 24, 2011 four A-10 Thunderbolts from 74th Fighter Squadron (FS), deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) as 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (EFS), were flying in western Afghanistan when they received news that a Armée del’Air (French Air Force) Dassault Mirage 2000D, based at Kandahar airport under Operation Héraclès, with two aircrew members aboard had crashed in their area. The wingman of the Mirage 2000D found that the crew had ejected at 200ft Above Ground Level (AGL) suffering only minor injuries.

The four Warthogs (as the A-10s are nicknamed by its aircrews), acting separately as two-ship formation (four jets total), were tracking a vehicle that had been unloading suspect subjects, when the leader of each section, in the persons of Capt. Michael ‘Vago’ Hilkbert and Mike ‘Papa’ Roach decided to go over the location of the downed Mirage and try to help out.

As Papa explained in Neil Dunridge’s book A-10 Thunderbolt II: 21st Century Warthog, “It wasn’t a big deal over the radio. It wasn’t busy with chatter at all. My wingman, Capt. Charles ‘On Star’ Stretch, is a more qualified ‘Sandy’ operator than I, so I gave him the lead.”

They arrived on scene 15 minutes after the call and they were joined by Vago and his wingman, 2Lt. Zachary Hughes, bringing the total of Sandy aircraft in the overhead at four. The A-10s were joined also by the wingman of the crashed Mirage 2000D and a RAF MQ-9 Reaper from 39 Squadron.

This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. A-10C Thunderbolt II 23d W, 74th FS Flying Tigers, FT/80-144. Moody AFB, GA – 2011

The French wingman gave Papa the grid lines and after he inserted them into the computer he headed to the ejected aircrew direction who was located just five miles away from him. Once he saw them, Papa began to talk to the aircrew trying to understand if they were okay or it they were under any kind of threat. He was really concerned about that since there were two towns nearby the crash site. In fact when Papa passed a town to the west of them, there were about 20 people looking over a wall in their direction, curious because they had just seen a plane crash. He recalls “I flew over the town real low to kind of tell them that ‘we are here and stay away’. I then started to talk to the crews about injuries. At that point, the CSAR crews checked in.” Thanks Papa low pass on the town the people stay away from the wreckage since his Warthog delivered to them the message that they really shouldn’t come too close.

Vago recalled that he arrived on scene ten minutes before the CSAR helicopters and he saw the CH-47 Chinook recovering the French aircrew while the HH-60G made sure everyone had been picked up.

According Papa they didn’t do anything out of the ordinary “It wasn’t high threat. The guys weren’t injured, but had there been a threat we would have been sanitizing the area and making sure nothing lived. I’m sure we definitely deterred it.”

However, even if it wasn’t a confusing picture and there were no gun fights, the four A-10s in the overhead prevented the most determined of the insurgent from trying to get to the French aircrew.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force and Teddy Techer

Artwork courtesy of

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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