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Combat Art Articles

Gulf War Heritage: Reservist scores first enemy aircraft takedown in A-10

  • Published

Gulf War Heritage graphic

Artist: 2nd Lt. Kat Justen
Medium: Digital
Date: 2021

Captain Robert “Chopper Popper” Swain, 926th Tactical Fighter Group, made Air Force Reserve history during the Gulf War as the first A-10A Thunderbolt II combat pilot to down an enemy aircraft. On Feb. 6, 1991, after firing Maverick missiles at Iraqi tanks in central Kuwait, he noticed two black objects flying across the desert landscape. After a fellow pilot marked their location with smoke rounds, Swain flew in and tried to lock onto the Iraqi Bo-105c helicopter with his missiles, but the aircraft was too small and close to the ground to be targeted. He decided to use the A-10’s nose-mounted 30 mm cannon, the GAU-8/A Avenger, to shoot more than 300 rounds into the distant aircraft. According to Swain, it was as if the helicopter was hit with a bomb. Swain retired in 2011 as commander of the 439th Airlift Wing with 3,500 flying hours and 51 combat missions over Southwest Asia. Currently, the U.S. Air Force Reserve maintains and operates the A-10 at the following units: 442nd Fighter Wing, 476th Fighter Group, 926th Group and the 924th Fighter Group. *Gen. Charles Horner quote courtesy of Air Force Magazine.