The A-10 Thunderbolt, aka, the “Warthog,” is beloved by all those combat troops who have benefited from its agility and its fierce firepower when they found themselves in serious battlefield situations. Its distinctive shape and sound in the skies above, along with the growl of its Gau-8 Gatling gun brings fear and trembling to the enemy and cheers of jubilation from the troops being supported on the ground.
The A-10 is known for its toughness. It is often called a flying tank, not only for its fierceness in support of the troops on the ground, but because of its armor and the triple redundancy of all of its essential systems.
It has been known to survive and to fly even with a great deal of damage.
I’ve written about these abilities before and, in every case, I am always amazed by the toughness and durability of this close air support platform. But I have been equally amazed by the courage, the tenacity, and the dedication of those who fly this not-so-pretty plane.
This story is about yet another of those pilots.
Captain Kim Campbell goes by the call sign “Killer Chick.” During the Invasion of Iraq in 2003, she was attached to the 75th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. On April 7, 2003, only three weeks into the invasion and only the third day of the nine-day Battle for Baghdad, she was flying her A-10 from a base in Kuwait on a mission to take out some Iraqi tanks that were in the way. While on the way there, her mission was diverted to give close air support to the 3rd Infantry Division troops who were trying to take the North Baghdad Bridge.
They had found themselves in a fierce battle with a large element of the Iraqi Rebel Guard.
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Campbell had to find her targets quickly and get to business to help the troops on the ground. She identified enemy positions and went into action coming in hard and fast.
The sky was filled with the BRRRRP of her Gatling gun on several passes. She also unleashed her 2.75-inch high explosive rockets. She quickly became a target for heavy fire from the Iraqis as well.
She was hit in the tail of her A-10 by a rocket.
The damage was severe. The shrapnel took out both of the hydraulic systems that controlled the planes flying abilities. It began to go down, she had to think fast.
Here is where the A-10s triple redundancy and Captain Campbell’s flying skills came to play. She quickly switched the plane over to manual controls, which is essentially flying by wire. She had to manually pull on cables to regain control of the badly wounded fighter plane.
Campbell regained control. At that point she was confronted with two options; to eject from the badly damaged A-10, or to fly it back to Kuwait and then try to land it under manual control. She chose the latter option. This had been attempted on only two other occasions; one ended in a deadly crash and the other left the pilot badly injured.
Captain Campbell not only flew her badly damaged A-10 back home to Kuwait, but landed it flawlessly.
Lt. Col. Mike Millen, the Chief of the 355th Fighter Wing Commander’s Group said of her piloting, “I was impressed. Kim landed that jet with no hydraulics better than I land the A-10 every day with all systems operational.”
For her actions that day, both in support of the troops of the 3rd Infantry Division battling at the North Baghdad Bridge and for her heroism in flying her wounded A-10 back to Kuwait, Captain Kim Campbell received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
The Veterans Site sends its respect and its deepest thanks to Captain Kim Campbell. She is an example of the superb quality and courage of our best combat pilots. On that April day in 2003 she proved that both she and her A-10 Warthog were a force to be reckoned with.
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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.