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Most aircraft arrive at AMARG in an airworthy condition, either having been flown there under their own power or dismantled onboard a transport aircraft. However, occassionally unairworthy aircraft arrive for storage that have been used as instructional airframes, or as display exhibits museums, or aircraft that have been severely damaged due to an accident or enemy action during armed conflict.

One such example was Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II 81-0987, which was flown into AMARC on September 18, 2003 onboard a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy from Almed Al-Jaber Air Base, Kuwait. It was dismatled on pallets but damage that could be seen to the rear of its fuselage made it instantly recognizable as one of the most famous A-10 Thunderbolts to have ever been in service. During Operation Iraqi Freedom 81-0987, piloted by Capt. Kim Campbell, hit news headlines around the World when it was severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire after flying a support mission. Due to the toughness of the aircraft and the skills of Capt. Campbell both managed to make it back to base and successfully land without further incident.

Due to the potential cost of repairing the extensive damage, the aircraft was withdrawn from service and sent to AMARC for reclamational use. Luckily, due to Capt. Campbell's and 81-0987's achievement the aircraft was saved from scrapping and departed AMARG on the April 26, 2004 for display at Seymour Johnson AFB, NC.

Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II 81-0987
© Phil Kovaric.
Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II 81-0987
© Phil Kovaric.

The 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs and AF News write-ups of this event can be read below.

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.

Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II 81-0987
Airframe damage.
Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II 81-0987
Airframe damage.
Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II 81-0987
Airframe damage.
Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II 81-0987
Airframe damage.

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 colonel’s 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.

{joomplucat:105 limit=4}

"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.

A-10 Pilot Wows Smithsonian Crowd

by Senior Master Sgt. Rick Burnham
Air Force News
March 30, 2004

WASHINGTON -- The Iraqi republican guard may have had luck on their side that miserable Baghdad day, but they did not know who was flying the A-10 Thunderbolt II they had just hit with a rocket.

It was April 7, 2003, and an elite unit of Iraqis had U.S. forces pinned down along the Tigris River, firing rocket-propelled grenades into their position, not far from the North Baghdad Bridge. The word from the forward-air controller on the ground with the U.S. forces indicated assistance was needed immediately.

Capt. Kim Campbell of the 75th Fighter Squadron, speaking to a large crowd at the Smithsonian Institution's Air and Space Museum on March 24, said she knew there would be considerable risk involved in the mission. But she said that it is the nature of the beast for an A-10 attack pilot.

"These guys on the ground needed our help," said the captain. "That's our job -- to bring fire down on the enemy when our Army and Marine brothers request our assistance."

The day's mission had not been ideal by any means. Once she and her flight leader were airborne, with instructions to target Iraqi vehicles and tanks in the city, they had trouble finding the tanker for gas, because of inclement weather conditions in the area. Before leaving Kuwait, the weather prompted Captain Campbell's flight leader, who was also her squadron commander, to ask if she had her lucky rabbit's foot.

"I did not know how much luck I would later need," she told the Smithsonian crowd.

As soon as the call for close-air support came through, Captain Campbell said she knew the two planes would be over the target area within minutes. The pilots kept their planes above the weather as long as possible before descending in time to identify both the friendly and enemy locations. Then they unleashed their fury, beginning with the flight lead applying his 30 mm cannon on the enemy, and ending with both pilots making several passes, firing both cannon and explosive rockets.

Captain Campbell was leaving the target following her last rocket pass when she felt and heard a large explosion at the back of the aircraft. There was no question in her mind, she said, that the plane had been hit by enemy fire.

"The jet rolled fairly violently to the left and pointed at the city below, and the jet was not responding to any of my control inputs," she said. "I had several caution lights, but the ones that stood out in my mind the most were the hydraulic lights. I checked the hydraulic gauges and both read zero."

With both hydraulic lines gone, the only option was to put the jet into "manual inversion," a system of cranks and cables that allows the pilot to fly the aircraft under mechanical control. The captain said she saw it as her last chance to avoid a parachute ride down into the city.

It was a huge relief, she said, when the jet started to climb out and away from Baghdad. But that relief was short-lived. She still had to maneuver the plane back to Kuwait, much of the way through hostile territory.

"I knew that if I had to eject, my chances of survival and rescue would be much better if I could get out of the city," she said. "As we started maneuvering south to get out of Baghdad, we noticed that anti-aircraft artillery was coming at us from several locations."

With little control to keep the jet moving in the manual inversion configuration, Captain Campbell said she could only hope for the best.

"I was hoping that the theory of big sky, little bullet would work out in my favor," she told the crowd. "Amazingly, we made it out of Baghdad with no further battle damage."

The design of the A-10 restricts how much the pilot can see of the rear portion of the jet, so Captain Campbell was limited to her flight lead's description of the damage to her aircraft. His words were not encouraging.

"He did an initial battle-damage check and told me that I had hundreds of small holes in the fuselage and tail section on the right side, as well as a football-sized hole in the right horizontal stabilizer," she said. "I wasn't really sure what to expect, but I knew that that didn't sound great."

Soon thereafter, the captain began the long process of going through several emergency checklists. She said she had a decision to make -- stay with the jet and try to land, or get to friendly territory and eject. Pilots do not train very often in manual inversion -- only once during initial training to find out how the jet will respond, she said. In fact, one of the items on the checklist is to "attempt manual inversion landings only under ideal conditions," she said. Still, Captain Campbell said she was confident she was going to get the jet back safely on the ground.

"I felt that I had a lot of things going my way that day," she said. "The jet was flying extremely well, the winds at our home base were down the runway, and I had a very experienced flight lead on my wing, providing me with mutual support."

At the same time, the captain also said that A-10 manual-inversion landings had been attempted three times during Operation Desert Storm, and not all had been successful. One pilot had been killed when his jet crashed, and one survived after touching down only to find out that his jet had no brakes.

"The trip back to Kuwait was probably one of the longest hours of my life," she said. "I didn't know exactly what was going to happen when I slowed the aircraft down in an attempt to land."

After she completed the emergency-gear extension, the gear came down with three green-light indicators, telling Captain Campbell that the gears were down and locked. Now it was just a matter of flying the aircraft through the continual haze of dust storms associated with Kuwait. The pilots contacted the tower and the supervisor of flying to say they were on the way in.

As Captain Campbell started on final approach, the aircraft was flying extremely well, she said. But, as the A-10 crossed the landing threshold, the aircraft started a quick roll to the left. The captain quickly counteracted that with flight controls, and the A-10 touched down.

"When all three wheels hit the ground, it was an amazing feeling of relief, but I still had to get the jet stopped," she said. "So I accomplished the procedure for emergency braking, and once again, that jet worked as advertised."

Looking back on the ordeal, Captain Campbell said she has nothing but kind words for those responsible for building the A-10, and for those responsible for maintaining it.

"I am incredibly thankful to those who designed and built the A-10 as well as the maintainers who did their part to make sure that that jet could fly under any circumstances, even after extensive battle damage," she said.

Captain Campbell told the Smithsonian crowd that experts believe a surface-to-air missile hit near the right rear stabilizer, a missile fired without the aid of any type of navigation system -- it was a lucky shot.

But that luck pales in comparison to the good fortune of Captain Campbell's A-10. Thanks to her, the plane has since found a nice resting place amongst the heroes of days gone by -- in the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. -- instead of becoming a burning heap of metal in Iraq.