The A-10 Warthog Might Become a Movie Star in 2013

There is a chance that in 2013 an A-10 Warthog aircraft with the official name of A-10 Thunderbolt II will become a star in an upcoming movie about Marcus Luttrell. According to the official Luttrell’s Facebook fan site page the work on the movie will start in January 2012. And the movie is expected to be released in 2013. Marcus Luttrell was the last survivor of the four-man Navy SEAL Team 10 during the Operation Redwing (a.k.a. Operation Red Wings). There is also a chance that the A-10’s role in the future movie will be significantly diminished. The reason for that possibility is very simple. There was very little publicity associated with the final stage of the Operation Redwing (a.k.a. Operation Redwing II).

The operation Redwing took place in Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan. The Special Forces team was on a mission to kill or capture Ahmad Shah, a Taliban commander of the insurgent group known as the “Mountain Tigers”. The operation Redwing didn’t go as planned from the very beginning. SEALs were discovered by local goat herders, who informed the Taliban commander. Soon after that three out of the four Navy SEALs were killed in firefight, and it took more than one attempt to find and rescue the last survivor – Marcus Luttrell. The first failed attempt is well-known, partially because it resulted in the death of eight more Navy SEALs and eight Night Stalkers (160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment) after the MH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down. The second rescue attempt was successful, but it never made a big splash in news headlines. That is why the vital role played by the A-10 aircraft and its pilot Major Keith Wolak is less known then events on the ground and the first rescue attempt.

It was the night of July 2, 2005, when in Kunar Province of Afghanistan seventeen aircrafts were gathered within sixteen square miles area surrounded by mountains for the purpose of search and rescue of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell. The weather was bad, and skies were cloudy. Under these conditions of poor visibility and crowded airspace then Captain Keith Wolak, the A-10 Warthog pilot, started to coordinate nighttime rescue efforts. After the first failed rescue attempt, the main priority was to protect the rescue helicopters from enemy fire. The A-10’s 30 mm Gatling gun silenced several enemy fighting positions and made the area safe for the helicopters.

Because of poor visibility the rescue helicopter’s crew couldn’t see a suitable place to land. The HH-60 rescue helicopter had enough fuel for only five minutes of flying time, when clouds parted for ten seconds. Keith Wolak didn’t waste this opportunity. He used the A-10’s Litening targeting pod to put infrared lighting to mark a landing zone. The rescue crew immediately took this chance. The helicopter landed, and the Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell was evacuated to safety.

Since the upcoming movie is based on Marcus Luttrell’s book it wouldn’t be focused on the incredible technology applied to his rescue. For this reason let’s take a closer look at Litening targeting pod installed on the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft. The Litening’s primary function is precise infrared and electro-optical targeting. It is also equipped with a laser rangefinder and a laser designator for use with precision-guided bombs.

This is how Captain Matt McGarry, a 335th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron weapons officer, described the difference made by the Litening targeting pod from a pilot’s standpoint, “With my eyes, I can see a vehicle. With binoculars, I can tell if it is a car or a truck. With Litening, I can tell if the vehicle has been driven recently and how many people are standing next to it.” A high-resolution infrared image of the vehicle displayed by an infrared sensor would show to a pilot the higher temperature of the car’s engine, if it was recently used. The same way Litening would show the presence of people inside a building or behind a fence.

The use of Litening targeting pod by the A-10 pilot Keith Wolak during the nighttime rescue mission was described above. Since that, even if the A-10 wouldn’t be featured in the upcoming movie, it doesn’t really matter. You already know how it happened. There are some contradicting accounts and several conflicting books about the ground stage of the Operation Redwing, including the name of the operation, but they are not related to the final rescue and the A-10’s involvement. It means you know the real story.


1. Major Keith Wolak: DFC Series from 2. A-10 pilot awarded Distinguished Flying Cross. The official web-site of US Air Force. 3. A-10 Pods Help Track Bad Guys, Protect Friendly Forces by Master Sgt. Andrew Gates 455th Expeditionary Operations Group Public Affairs. The official web-site of US Air Force. 4. Wikipedia. Operation Red Wings 5. Operation Red Wings: what really happened? by Ed Darak. Marine Corps Gazette. January 2011. 6. Wikipedia. LITENING targeting pod 7. Marcus Luttrell’s OFFICIAL & AUTHORIZED Fan Site on Facebook. Wall Post from August 5, 2011.

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