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Warthog Flyboys Fuck-Up Bigtime

a10sharknose.jpgFrom today's Guardian comes this story - British military officials took part in a US military inquiry into the 2003 friendly fire killing of Lance Corporal Matty Hull, which cleared the two reservist pilots involved, and the pilots are back on active duty, it was revealed last night.

Nothing unusual there you say. Oh yeah? Read the full transcript of the cockpit video before telling me this was an accident or "just one of those things". This is unbelievable.

The cockpit video of the friendly fire disaster in which Lance Corporal of Horse Matty Hull was killed in Iraq reveals a catalogue of serious errors by two American pilots. The pilots of the A10 "tankbusters", a lieutenant colonel and a major, were reservists who had never been in action before.
The video was from the cockpit of the lead pilot, with the call sign Popov36. His wingman's call sign was Popov35. They were being guided to their targets by a forward air controller from the US Marine Corps, using the call sign Manila Hotel. Two other air controllers, using call signs Manila34 and Lightning34, who were embedded with British ground units, can be heard later.

The pilots of the slow, low-flying aircraft were at the end of a two-hour mission to attack artillery from Saddam Hussein's Sixth Armoured Division, about 25 miles north of Basra. The British group, consisting of Scimitar and Spartan armoured vehicles, was moving north towards enemy positions. The group was patrolling up the west side of Route Spear, which ran along the Shatt al-Arab waterway, an area US pilots were ordered not to attack.

The transcript reveals the following errors by the pilots that contributed to the incident.

1 The US pilots fail to ask where British forces are, even though they know friendly forces are identified by orange panels.

Popov36 tells his ground controllers: "Hey, I got a four ship. Looks like we got orange panels on them, though. Do we have any friendlies up in this area?"

Manila Hotel replies: "I understand that was north 800 metres".

Popov35 responds: "Confirm, north 800 metres. Confirm there are no friendlies this far north on the ground."

2 The problem is compounded because the pilots fail to give precise grid references of the positions of the vehicles they were looking at or the direction in which they were moving. Not knowing where the potential targets are, Manila Hotel tells them the area is "well clear of friendlies".

Popov35: "I see the multiple riveted vehicles. Some look like flatbed trucks. Can't quite make out the type. Look like they may be ZIL157s (Russian made trucks used by Iraqi army)."

Manila Hotel: "Roger. That matches our intel up there."

3 Crucially, the pilots convince themselves that the orange canvas markers on the British vehicles are Iraqi rocket launchers, even though they are unsure what kind of vehicles they are looking at.

Popov35: "I don't have a visual."

Popov36: "Right underneath you. Right now, there's a canal that runs north-south. There's a small village and there are vehicles that are spaced evenly there."

Popov36: "They look like they have orange panels on, though."

Still uncertain, the pilots discuss how these can apparently be enemy vehicles. Then the lead pilot appears to persuade himself they are Iraqi targets, adding: "OK, they got orange rockets on them"

Popov35: "Orange rockets?"

Popov36: "Yeah, I think so."

The transcript shows that Popov 35 is still not completely sure, as Popov36 asked Manila Hotel for artillery to fire markers around the proposed target. He says: "Fire your [artillery] up that 800 metres north, and see how we do.".

Popov35 is concerned about the time the time the operation is taking but Popov36 tells him: "I think killing these damn rocket launchers, it would be great."

4 The fourth error comes when the lead pilot then decides to attack without waiting for the artillery marker: "Popov36 is rolling in", he says.

Popov36: "Popov36 is rolling in."

Popov35: "I'm coming off west. You roll in. It looks like they are exactly what we're taking about."

Popov36: "We got visual. OK. I want to get that first one before he gets into town."

Popov35: "Get him - get him."

The lead A-10 then turns into a vertical dive to hit the British convoy. Lance Corporal of Horse Matty Hull is killed and four others injured as two Scimitar armoured vehicles are destroyed. Two Iraqi civilians who were waving white flags also died.

Popov35: "Good hits ..."

Popov36: "Gotcha."

He then sees injured British soldiers on the ground. "It looks like he is hauling ass. Ha ha. Is that what you think they are?" he continues.

5 Again without clearance from the ground controllers, Popov36 then attacks the British convoy for a second time. "OK, I'm in again from the south."

After the sound of gunfire, the transcript of the cockpit video shows that Lightning 34 - a forward air controller embedded on the ground with the Household Cavalry - breaks in over the radio and informs the pilots that there are British forces in that area.

"Popov. Be advised that in the 3122 and 3222 group box you have friendly armour in the area. Yellow, small armoured tanks. Just be advised."

Popov35: "Ahh shit."

Popov35: " Got a - got a smoke." This is the red flare let off by the British convoy to identify themselves as coalition forces.

Lightning 34: "... abort your mission. You got a, looks like we might have a blue on blue situation."

Popov35: "Fuck. God bless it...Fuck. Fuck. Fuck".

Popov36: "God dammit".

Seconds later, Popov35 says: "Gotta go home, dude".

Popov36: "Yeah. I know. We're fucked".

The pilots are then told that one soldier was killed and another wounded.

Popov35: "I'm going to be sick".

Popov36: "Ah, fuck"...

Popov35: "We're in jail, dude".

Popov36: "Aaaahhhh".

The pilots are ordered to abort their mission. Popov36 observes: "I know that thing with the orange panels is going to screw us. They look like orange rockets on top."

Fucking cowboys. And yep, they were fully exonerated and are still flying. An "accident"? A fucking "accident"? Dereliction of duty at the very least, wouldn't you say?

"A10 Thunderbolts are known as Tankbusters for what they can do or Warthogs for their good looks.
The Thunderbolt is a purpose designed ground attack aircraft. Heading up it's powerful combat system is a 30 mm GAU-8/A seven-barrel Gatling which has devastating power even against a main battle tank. This weapon fires at an incredible 3,900 rounds per minute. You can see it in the nose of A10 in the picture at the top. In addition to the built-in 30mm of the A10, Thunderbolts can carry 16,000 lb of external ordnance on 8 hardpoints. Examples of used ordnance include Mavericks, mk82 & mk84s, cluster type ordance and rockets etc. The aircraft can also carry a couple of sidewinders for self defence against air targets, but under combat conditions air superiority fighters should be keeping the opposing air force off the back of the A10.

The aircraft is by no means fast. Top speed is only about 420 mph, a similar figure to the old WW2 P47 Thunderbolt which is the aircraft the A10 is named after. Propelling the combat plane are two General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofans mounted high and at the rear. The position of these engines allows for greater protection from ground fire. The Thunderbolt also has dual control lines, ie the normal hydraulic system and a cable system as backup. A10 Thunderbolts are designed to take hits and still come back home.
They are also used in an observation role. Aircraft designation for these is OA10 (meaning observation, attack)."

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