AVIATION: Robert “Muck” Brown, A-10 Pilot, Instructor and Defender

March 21, 2014 at 1:53 am Leave a comment

In Memoriam

Lt. Col. Robert "Muck" Brown.

Lt. Col. Robert “Muck” Brown.

We were saddened to learn Thursday (March 20) that retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Robert “Muck” Brown has died after a long bout with cancer.

Brown, 56, was an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot with 3,100 hours in the 1970s-era tank buster known affectionately as the Warthog, for its homely – some would say ugly – appearance as well as its sturdy, resilient airframe and fearsome armament. That combination made it ideal for delivering close air support to troops on the ground.

Brown flew NATO peacekeeping missions in A-10s over Bosnia and combat missions over Iraq in support of Operation Southern Watch in the late 1990s, according to a local North Carolina newspaper, The Mountaineer.

Brown also served as an A-10 instructor. He retired in 2001 but returned to the Air Force for three years after 9/11 – including three months in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He told 4GWAR that he got the nickname “Muck” as a young lieutenant after falling face-first into the mud.

On March 18 he passed away after a three-year struggle with cancer. Funeral services and burial were held Monday, March 24 in Waynesville, N.C.

Your 4GWAR editor met Lieutenant Colonel Brown last November when he emerged as a passionate — but gentlemanly — defender of the Warthog when the Air Force began hinting that it might retire the whole fleet as a cost-savings measure.

At a close air support conference sponsored by two Washington watchdog groups, the Straus Military Reform Project and the Project On Government Oversight, Brown rose to defend the A-10, challenging Air Force claims that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — a Fifth Generation fighter/bomber — could easily replace the A-10 in the ground support mission.

Two Idaho Air National Guard A-10 Thunderbolt II (better known as Warthogs)  wait to refuel. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)

Two Idaho Air National Guard A-10 Thunderbolt II (better known as Warthogs) wait to refuel.
Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)

Later, in a lengthy phone interview as he drove back home to North Carolina, Brown told 4GWAR that the A-10 was better suited for the close air support mission because it could fly low and slow – even in bad weather – and take off and land on short, forward area runways. He and other A-10 supporters insisted the Warthog wasn’t a one trick pony and that it was useful for intelligence gathering and surveillance as well as combat search and rescue. The digitized Warthog C model, Brown told us, with a number of technology upgrades, including color multi-function displays and state of the art targeting pods is “more relevant now than it was before 9/11.” “The airplane continues, decade after decade, to prove it’s extremely survivable,” he added.

But in February, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that in order to save money in these fiscally restrained times — and protect top priority Air Force projects in the 2015 defense budget, like the F-35, a new aerial refueling tanker and a planned long range strike bomber, the A-10 fleet would be retired. The Air Force can save $3.5 billion over five years by retiring the 300-plus A-10 fleet rather than upgrade it, Hagel said.

Hagel, an infantry sergeant in Vietnam who knew first-hand the importance of close air support,  said it was a tough decision to eliminate the beloved A-10. But he noted it was a “40-year-old single-purpose airplane originally designed to kill enemy tanks on a Cold War battlefield.” The A-10 “cannot survive or operate effectively where there are more advanced aircraft or air defenses,” Hagel added.

Several members of Congress — including Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican and wife of a retired A-10 pilot — have voiced concern or outright opposition to the planned A-10 retirement. So it could be months before we know the fate of the twin-engine A-10.

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Entry filed under: Aircraft, Counter Insurgency, National Security and Defense, News Developments, Skills and Training, Technology, Unconventional Warfare, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , , , .

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (March 16-March 22) FRIDAY FOTO (March 21, 2014)

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