In the air, you feel invincible.
Streaking through the air at over 700 kilometres per hour, courtesy of two colossal General Electric turbofan engines. Armed with a 30 millimetre Avenger cannon, six AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missiles and two AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. The Sidewinders are for self-defence. Just in case.
Every contingency is prepared for.
Your aircraft, the A-10, is commonly known as the ‘Warthog’, but you prefer its official, more impressive title; the ‘Thunderbolt’. You like to envisage your combat role as that of Thor’s Hammer, flashing out of the sky and delivering electrifying justice upon those who have angered the Gods. No mercy, no hesitation, no fear – you are a tool of judgement for the Lord to wield as he sees fit.
You do not give your actions a second thought.
Today you’re going tank-busting. You and your wingman spot suspicious activity on the ground, very close to the active operational area of friendly forces. Immediately, with one swoop, you hurtle towards the vehicles and identify some peculiar orange tubes… They could be Scuds, or some other weapon to be utilised against your Coalition brothers in arms. Embedded on the banks of a small canal, they certainly appear military. You make a brief report of your sighting, and tell your aerial sidekick to prepare to engage. In seconds rather than minutes, you and your wingman have eliminated this threat, and continue your patrol.
The radio crackles.
“Popov from Lightning 34. Can you confirm that you engaged the tube and those vehicles?”
Buzzed, you respond in the affirmative, taking care to shield the pride from your voice.
“Roger, Popov. Be advised that you have friendly armour in the group box 3122 to 3222. Orange, small tanks. Just be advised.”
Your blood runs as cold as the air outside your cockpit.
“Hey, Popov three-four, ABORT YOUR MISSION. You got, uh…We…it looks like we might have a blue-on-blue situation.”
Fury, guilt and sickness instantly churn your guts, you want it not to be true as you key the mic.
“Confirm that those are friendlies on that side of the canal.”
At this, command changes tack, and declares that once upon returning to base, all the confusion will be sorted out at your debriefing.
“They did say there were no friendlies!”
Your comrade sounds on the verge of tears, but you have nothing with which to encourage him.
“Yeah, but the orange thing will screw us. Orange panels are the ident friend-or-foe, man. They…they just looked like orange rockets on top.”
From this point until landing, you stay quiet and simply concentrate on not throwing up.
At the debriefing session, you are informed that one British soldier was killed and five more were wounded. A thorough investigation will be launched, but it is highly probable – essentially certain, in fact – that you will be cleared of any wrongdoing. The incident simply will act as a reminder of the inherent fog of war that will occur regardless of modern technology and advanced communications. Blue-on-blue engagements are, unfortunately, inevitable.
This is all meant to be reassuring, but to you it is meaningless. Your wings have been clipped, your hammer cracked.
In the air, you felt invincible.
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…✈
***Loosely based upon the events documented in the video below***