This is Gary Wetzel’s second title for Osprey Publishing, a follow-up to his first, Combat Aircraft 98 - A-10 Thunderbolt II Units of Operation Enduring Freedom 2002-2007, published in 2013. Through first-hand accounts, Gary Wetzel brings the combat record of the A-10 Thunderbolt II to life. Gary Wetzel weaves in the development of the A-10A+ and A-10C through the viewpoint of the aircraft crews, units, and the ground forces they supported. In addition to the cover art and 24 color side-views by Jim Laurier, 72 color photos are included providing ample reference to Gary Wetzel’s tale.
The first chapter, “Making The Best Ever Even Better”, dives into the harsh realities of the political process of military procurement. Integrating the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) system should have been a slam dunk but proceeded to get lost in the inter-service rivalry. Gary Wetzel does provide interesting tidbits of the end-run attempts prior to full software development and operational deployment on the A-10C.
Although titled “Charlie In Combat”, the second chapter includes the introduction of the A-10C and the A-10A+ into combat. Gary Wetzel really gets into the nitty gritty here, using interviews to detail out some key missions. The pilot heroism described would make a marvelous movie featuring the A-10. The vivid description of a pair of A-10s with their formation lights on at dusk strafing enemy combatants with DShKs at a low angle attack within 50 meters of a Marine Special Operations Team would play out well on the movie screen
“Kandahar” describes the shift in operations for the A-10 from Bagram to Kandahar and the logistics in moving. Mission activities during the 2010 ‘Surge’ are addressed, complete with first person accounts of the sorties. One of the interesting tales focuses on Capt. Cavazos taking an engine hit that emphasizes just how tough the Warthog is.
The fourth chapter, “CAS Reset”, sees the A-10s returning to Bagram as part of the initiation of the US withdraw from Afghanistan. A big part of this chapter is the adventures of Lt Col Zurkowski and Maj Cisneros of June 28, 2012 in a first person account. Operating on the Afghanistan – Pakistan border, both would earn the DFC with Valor for their heroic actions.
“To the End” winds up with the last missions in theatre as the A-10 saw its final missions in Afghanistan in 2014. Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, in agreement with the USAF, began once again trying to retire the Warthog. The shift in theatre from the A-10C to ANG F-16Cs is described, and although the A-10Cs left Afghanistan, they did not quite come home. Operation “Inherent Resolve” was instigated to conduct combat operations against ISIS. Although the USAF continues to whine about the Warthog, the A-10 has been flown very hard over Iraq and Syria. The USAF continues to play with the financials to justify the A-10 retirement, but that battle is still being fought in Congress as even the GAO doesn’t understand the ‘new math’ the Air Force is choosing to employ. Meanwhile, the Warthog, based in Kuwait, continues to soldier on.
The five Chapters include:
If you own one the previous releases in the Combat Aircraft series, you know what you are getting. If this is your initial entry into this series, you will be pleased. Myself? I’m anxiously awaiting the movie!
My thanks to Osprey Publishing and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.