Warplanes: Down and Deadly

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April 4, 2007: An investigation has been completed on the loss of a U.S. Air Force F-16 north of Baghdad last November 27th. The F-16C, piloted by Major Troy Gilbert, flew into the ground as it came in low to use its 20mm cannon. Major Gilbert, and another F-16, had been flying recon, using their targeting pods to seek out enemy activity. They eventually got involved in a rescue effort. An army helicopter had crash landed in the area, and the soldiers were in danger of being overrun by a bunch of bad guys who rolled up in trucks and opened up with machine-guns, rifles and RPGs. The F-16s came down low, to shoot up the enemy gunmen and trucks, until friendly ground troops could arrive. It was touch and go, and on his second strafing pass, Major Gilberts F-16 clipped something on the ground, and was completely destroyed, killing the pilot instantly.

The accident board found that the pilot was not at fault, and had taken an acceptable risk to come in that low to use its 20mm cannon. Because of safety concerns, pilots are not allowed to perform that kind of maneuver during peacetime training. Major Troy Gilbert was awarded Distinguished Flying Cross (with Valor).

The A-10 was designed for low level strafing, using a 30mm cannon, but F-16s, with a new, and more powerful, gun sight, have proved to be very effective at strafing. However, F-16s moves faster than the A-10, and is more difficult to control on the deck. That's a necessary trade-off, because the F-16 is a multi-mission aircraft, while the A-10 just does ground support.

 


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