Out of all of the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft in the U.S. Air Force’s fleet, an A-10 Warthog with the serial number 81-994 may be among the most unique for one simple reason: it’s the only aircraft we know of to sport kill markings for taking out a cow downrange.

Assigned to the Red Devils of the 107th Fighter Squadron, 127th Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, the A-10 in question has been spotted in official Air Force photos sporting a yellow kill marking for a cow alongside those for ordnance released.

The cow kill marking goes back at least to 2017 when the 107th A-10’s red-and-green commemorative WWII paint job was rolled out to honor the 100th anniversary of the Red Devils. In 2018, the cow-killing A-10 even made an appearance at a commemorative flight over the beaches of Normandy on the 74th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

An A-10 with the 107th Fighter Squadron flies with World War II devil scheme in commemoration of the Selfridge Air National Guard Base centennial celebration on Oct. 11, 2017. The cow victory marking is clearly visible on the aircraft’s fuselage. (Air Force photo/Spc. John Brandenburg)

Rumors have abounded about the cow kill marking since it was first spotted in Air Force photos. According to an account in The Aviation Geek Club, ground troops had moved in on an enemy village at an “undisclosed location” following an A-10 close air support sortie only to find a cow “blown to pieces by 30mm freedom hotdogs,” i.e. the A-10’s iconic 30mm GAU-8/A seven-barrel Gatling gun

So, what’s the story behind this unique kill marking? According to Penelope Carroll, spokeswoman for the 127th Wing, the A-10 “inadvertently” killed a cow during aerial operations during the 107th’s deployment to Iraq. 

While minimal information regarding the particular mission was available, Carroll referred additional questions to U.S. Central Command, she was able to clarify that the kill occurred thanks to ordnance rather than the A-10’s tried-and-true BRRRT machine.

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Some 350 airmen and a dozen A-10s from Selfridge ANGB deployed overseas to Iraq and Syria in April 2015 as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State group’s caliphate there, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Speaking with regard to the deployment at the time, Michigan Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters lauded the effectiveness of the A-10s’ close air support capabilities. That said, blowing up cows was probably not what they had in mind.

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