According to the after action reports, although they may or may not be totally accurate, the missile destroyer Moskva, pride of the Black Sea fleet, was sunk by one brave pilot flying a Su-25. Supposedly he flew in just off the deck, at thirty meters altitude, if you want to grant that height the lofty name “altitude,” and released two Neptune anti-ship missiles, which struck the destroyer amidships, right in the sweet spot. The missiles acted as force multipliers, a fancy, militarized way of saying they caused other munitions to go off, and while the cruiser did not sink immediately, and was able to proceed under its own power for a bit, by the following day, it was done for. Initially, Moscow claimed the Moskva had been sunk by fire that got out of control, which then caused other munitions to go off, causing him, as Russian ships are known, to go to John Paul Jones' locker the next morning. (Little known note: after the American Revolution, John Paul Jones was out of work. We disbanded the Continental Army, and although there was a navy after a sort, it was mostly a coastal defense navy…more like a modern Coast Guard. So where did John Paul Jones go? To Russia, where he served Catherine the Great with the rank of admiral. His success was mixed, in part due to language and other logistical problems, but when a Russian ship goes down, it doesn't become the property of Davy Jones; it goes instead to John Paul Jones' locker.)
Of course, the irony in all of this is that both sides are using Soviet made weapons, and using a Frogfoot, likely built in Georgia, to sink a Russian built cruiser with Russian designed missiles…it's like reverse nepotism. It is also like being hoist on one's own petard, and now that I am here, and see the madness attendant upon this war, the human cost, and the fact that it reminds me, in some ways, of the Catholic-Protestant troubles of Ireland, I am not sorry that the Russians are being thus hoisted, even if the boys themselves who are doing both the dying and the killing are largely, to an outsider, indistinguishable from one another...like in Belfast. So beyond the delicious irony of a Russian destroyer being destroyed by a Russian missile, from a Russian designed and Soviet built plane, the human cost is incalculable in ways that force one to ignore it to function. But function we must, and one thing I hear from every Ukrainian, practically, is “When are you Americans going to send what we need?” Does it seem entitled for them to assume that we should? No, for we have a history of using countries that border our enemies, or lie on the path between us, as bulwarks against those enemies. And we have, by ensuring that we have little islands of America all over the place, sort of taken on the role of preserver of the modern version of the pax Romana. So what do we owe the world, and in smaller measure, Ukraine? Well, in this case, I tell the people that I am working to get the very best attack plane in the world, one that was designed right before the Frogfoot, and likely caused the design of the Frogfoot in reaction, to Ukraine. But the problem is that despite the initial reluctance of the Air Force to operate the A-10, they have become converts, and the A-10 has supporters that other modern planes don't have. So in the alternative, and in the meantime, what about other planes? Truthfully, Su 27's and advanced MiGs are going head to head in the skies above the Donbas right now, and it is the better driver who wins the day and gains air superiority, which is certainly important. But the real war, the war that affects children, old ladies and housecats, is the war on the ground. And the A-10 is absolutely the best option…but there are others. And while we are sitting about trying to free up some of the 700 or so A-10's, we should be looking at other things.
There is the Vietnam era OV-10 Bronco, a twin turboprop attack/observation aircraft, a plane that did yeoman service on air to ground interdiction during Vietnam and continues to be flown by at least one user – the Philippine Air Force – officially, and by the US in various roles. A description of the development of it sounds like it was made with Ukraine in mind:
The military definition of STOL (500 ft of ‘runway' to a 50 ft obstacle) allows takeoff and landing in most of the areas in which limited war might be fought. In addition, the airplane was designed to use roads so that operation would even be possible in jungle areas where clearings are few and far between. As a result the wingspan was to be limited to twenty feet and a heavy trailing arm type landing gear with a tread of 6.5 ft was provided for operation from roads. Float operation was to be feasible ... ...it is quite feasible to design the various components so that it can be disassembled easily and stored in a box that would fit in a 6×6 truck bed together with the equipment needed for re-assembly in the field. It could thus be transported by amphibious shipping and either heli-lifted or driven ashore by a 6×6 truck.
(Wikipedia, quoting the designer)
And what is really amazing – really, really amazing – is that by playing Google Sherlock, I managed to find many – a squadron, at least – of them for sale, with each one going for in between a million and two million dollars. Outfitted with modern munitions, military avionics and perhaps some up armoring, we could have great numbers of OV-10's delivered to Ukraine in weeks, if not sooner. And since merely by looking at the controls, I am reasonably certain I could get completely up to speed on the aircraft in a few days, I wonder…why not? They have hours of loiter time – time over target. They could easily be outfitted with gatling gun pods, any number of different Russian weapons, were the hardpoints adapted a bit…and active duty military aviators could be gotten up to speed on them, as could the mechanics, in days at most. That means instead of getting all manner of congressional subcommittee approval, dealing with end user certificates and all of the legalities attendant upon the transfer of military aircraft, the US could buy these back from whomever we have sold them to, or de-mothball the ones that are likely sitting around the high desert somewhere, and turn them into extremely effective attack aircraft…in days!
Hearing stories of human misery so visceral, seeing lines of refugees at the border crossings and reading about a base camp of 6,000 Russian Marines that was taken back by Ukrainian forces, I wonder…for twenty, or fifty millions of dollars, large numbers for the average bear but no more expensive than some of the finest residences in Manhattan…if we had diverted some of that 800 million that is coming across the pond as slow as cold molasses, how many people might be alive? How much of Mariupol might still exist?
And it's not just the OV-10. Numerous other aircraft, such as the A-37, the Skyraider and even the very strange, V tailed, Gallic Fouga Magister…they can be bought on the open market. There is no question that the twin tailed terror of tanks, the agile and awesome – and alliterative – A-10 is the best thing going for the job. But sometimes while waiting for the ringer, you put in the next best guy. We need to send the message to the Ukrainians: you are not alone.
I promise they wish to hear it. And I hope soon enough to be able to bring televised images that bear the reality out. But imagine your worst nightmare, then have it illustrated by Grunewald…that will suffice in the meanwhile. And while I work to gather the images, please think for a minute on what can be done…yes, the A-10 would be a miracle…but sometimes you have to settle for less…and in this case, less is not that much less: the OV-10. Designed to do the job that needs doing in Ukraine, and we can send them there in shipping containers.
Coming up: A-37s, Skyraiders, Bears…oh my!
The writer is a former military man, now researching and writing about the Ukrainian Conflict. Questions can be sent directly to firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to the discussion.