The A-10s First Ever Successful Air-To-Air Hit Was Against An Iraqi Helicopter
We all know that A-10 Thunderbolt II is a very successful CAS (Close Air Support) aircraft. The Warthog is the all-time favorite aircraft of the ground troops. Its low altitude and low airspeed capabilities give a highly successful rate of achieving targets. Another very interesting fact about the A-10 is its high survivability. No matter the odds, how hard it has taken damage, it always returns home. What if I told you the A-10 was pretty good at hitting air-to-air targets too?
Back in the First Gulf War days, one A-10 pilot wrote the history with the first-ever A-10 air-to-air kill. During First Gulf War, Captain Bob Swain was flying anti-armor missions in central Kuwait. After taking out 2 Iraqi tanks with Maverick missiles, he saw 2 potential enemy targets a few miles away from him.
Swain told the LA Times in an interview back in 1991 that,
“I noticed two black dots running across the desert that looked really different than anything I had seen before, They weren’t putting up any dust and they were moving fast and quickly over the desert.”
When the targets were confirmed by the OV-10 Bronco observation plane, Swain went for the kill. After Seeing that targets are splitting one towards the north (back toward Iraq) and one towards the south, Swain decided to go after the one moving South. However, he couldn’t lock the target with his AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles because the target was flying at a very low altitude. Then he switched to A-10’s most popular gun the mighty 30mm GAU-8 Avenger cannon also known as the BRRRT.
Even if his shots were on target, the enemy helicopter didn’t go down and he had to do another pass to make sure that target was taken down completely.
“On the final pass, I shot about 300 bullets at him. That’s a pretty good burst. On the first pass, maybe 75 rounds. The second pass, I put enough bullets down, it looked like I hit with a bomb.”
It was the very first air-to-air kill in A-10’s operation history and Swain’s A-10 is popular as the “Chopper Popper” in Air Force and is now displayed on grounds of USAF Academy in Colorado Springs.