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Gus Kohntopp
Gus Kohntopp participates in combat survival training near Idaho City, Idaho with the Idaho Air National Guard on August 6, 2006.
Nickname Skeeter
Born September 10, 1963(1963-09-10) (age 56) [1]
Place of birth Buhl, Idaho
Allegiance Idaho Air National Guard
Years of service 1985 – present
Rank Colonel
Unit 124th Wing
Battles/wars Iraq War
*2003 invasion of Iraq
Awards Bronze Star

Gus Kohntopp (born September 10, 1963)[1] is an A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter pilot with the Idaho Air National Guard of the United States. He currently holds the rank of colonel and is also a commercial pilot with Southwest Airlines. He spent 14 years on active duty with the United States Air Force during which he flew the F-117 Nighthawk "stealth fighter." Kohntopp flew combat missions with the 190th Fighter Squadron during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

On February 6, 2007, Kohntopp was identified by the British tabloid The Sun as "POPOV36" (sometimes spelled in other sources as "POPOFF36"), the callsign for one of two A-10 aircraft involved in the March 28, 2003 friendly fire incident involving two United States Air Force Air National Guard 190th Fighter Squadron attack aircraft and vehicles from the United Kingdom's D Squadron, The Blues and Royals of the Household Cavalry, in which British soldier Matty Hull was killed. The incident, and subsequent British inquest verdict of unlawful killing, were widely reported by the media, especially in the United Kingdom.

Early lifeEdit

Kohntopp was born in Buhl, Idaho (U.S.), the eldest of the four sons of Dean and Carolyn Kohntopp. Living on a farm, he was involved as a boy in raising cattle, working bean fields, and digging irrigation ditches. During his childhood and adolescence Kohntopp hunted and fished frequently, and was involved with 4-H and Scouting. At age 14, he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America.[2]

On one occasion in high school around 1980, Kohntopp was riding motorcycles with friends in the Owyhee Mountains in southwest Idaho when they stopped to take a break. At that moment, two F-111s from Mountain Home Air Force Base flew by below them, only 100 feet (30 m) above the ground. Kohntopp later said of that moment, "That was when I knew I wanted to fly." Shortly thereafter, he had the opportunity to ride in a cropdusting helicopter during efforts to fight a severe infestation of "crop-destroying" grasshoppers that infested his family farm.[2]

Kohntopp entered the University of Idaho in 1981. While at the university he was active in the FarmHouse fraternity. During this time he traveled with his grandmother to visit distant relatives in Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Hungary. Of that trip, Kohntopp said, "What amazed us most was what we take for granted in the United States was mostly a luxury for these people. After that experience I knew I wanted to help protect our country's freedoms. The best way I felt to do this was to join the military." He applied for and was accepted into the university's Air Force Reserve Officers' Training Corps program. Kohntopp graduated in 1985 with a degree in computer science engineering.[2]

Flying careerEdit

A10Thunderbolt2 990422-F-7910D-517

U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II

Kohntopp attended pilot training at Columbus Air Force Base and graduated in the top 5% of his class. He chose the A-10 Thunderbolt II (A-10) as the aircraft that he wished to fly. First, Kohntopp attended fighter "lead-in" training at Holloman Air Force Base and then transferred to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to train in the A-10. His first assignment after graduating from the training was Suwon Air Base near Suwon, South Korea where he spent 13 months.[3]

After Suwon, Kohntopp was transferred to Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in South Carolina for two years. At Myrtle Beach, he met his wife Saunie. Believing that the U.S. Air Force was about to deactivate its A-10 fleet, Kohntopp applied for and was accepted as a F-117 Nighthawk pilot, operating out of Tonopah Test Range, Nevada. During his time at Tonopah, he deployed twice to Saudi Arabia. His F-117 unit then moved to Holloman Air Force Base, although Kohntopp and his family continued to maintain a home in Las Vegas. He served as an instructor pilot for the F-117 and AT-38 for the next five years at Holloman.[4]

After Holloman, Kohntopp served in a staff position at United States Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. In 1999, soon after the birth of his second child, Kohntopp decided to leave active duty and return to Idaho where he obtained a position as an A-10 pilot with the 190th Fighter Squadron of the Idaho Air National Guard.[4]

Kohntopp was hired as a first officer with Southwest Airlines, a position that he held for six years before being promoted to captain in early 2006. During this time, the 190th Fighter Squadron with Kohntopp was deployed to Southwest Asia for four and one half months in support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Kohntopp flew 27 combat missions in support of United States and United Kingdom military forces involved in the operation. Kohntopp called the deployment, "the epitome of my career" and he was awarded the Bronze Star for his performance during the operation.[3] In late 2006 or early 2007, Kohntopp was promoted to Colonel.[5]

Friendly fire incidentEdit

FV107 CVR(T) Scimitar

British FV107 Scimitar armoured reconnaissance vehicle of the type in which Matty Hull was killed.

Friendly Fire Iraq.ogv
Video of the 28 March 2003 'friendly fire' incident — 40MB

Problems playing this file?
Audio of the 28 March 2003 'friendly fire' incident — 5.8 MB

Problems playing this file?

On March 28, 2003 two 190th A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, flown by a major and a Lieutenant Colonel, flew a mission to destroy artillery and rocket launchers from Iraq's 6th Armor Division, dug in 25 miles (40 km) north of Basra. During the mission, the two A-10 aircraft mistakenly attacked a patrol of four armored vehicles from D Squadron of the British Blues and Royals of the Household Cavalry that were supporting the 16 Air Assault Brigade in Operation Telic. As a result of the strafing runs made by the 190th A-10 aircraft, British Lance-Corporal of Horse Matty Hull was killed and five of his colleagues were injured, four seriously.[6][7] The cause of injury to the victims was multiple shrapnel wounds and burns. At least two FV107 Scimitar armored vehicles were destroyed and an FV103 Spartan was damaged during the incident. The British newspaper, The Sun, on February 6, 2007 identified one of the two A-10 pilots involved, the "Lieutenant Colonel" who used "POPOV36" as his callsign during the incident, as Gus Kohntopp.[8][9]

The aftermath of the attack caused controversy, especially in the United Kingdom (UK), as some, including Hull's family, complained of a lack of cooperation into the British inquest of the incident by the United States government and the UK's Ministry of Defense (MoD). The United States and UK MoD denied for a period of time that a video existed of the incident and then later admitted that a video existed but couldn't be released because it was classified. On February 6, 2007 The Sun tabloid newspaper obtained a copy of the cockpit video from the A-10 aircraft, which they released to the public on their website.[10]

A UK investigation found that "procedures were not followed" by the two pilots. The UK board singled out "POPOV36" for criticism, stating, "POPOV36 showed a single-minded pursuit of the UK vehicles. There is no indication he was sensitive to POPOV35’s (the other A-10 involved) workload or the difficulties posed by addressing two possible targets at the same time."[11] The Sun further stated that because his name was now public, Kohntopp could now be individually requested to appear before the British inquest, set to resume on March 12, 2007, into Matty Hull's death.[12] As of February 9, 2007 Kohntopp was reported to be "in hiding."[13]

On March 16, 2007, the Oxfordshire assistant deputy coroner Andrew Walker ruled that the killing of Matty Hull was, "unlawful and the result of a criminal attack" i.e. the official verdict was one of unlawful killing.

Neither Kohntopp nor any other representative from the U.S. government appeared before or provided testimony to the inquest in spite of requests from the British coroner to do so.[14][15]


  1. 1.0 1.1
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Mundt, From Stealth to Southwest, 12, and
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mundt, From Stealth to Southwest, 12-13.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Mundt, From Stealth to Southwest, 13.
  5. Dunn, Matty
  6. Moore, Charles. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved May 4, 2010. 
  7. Payne, Stewart (31 January 2007). "Soldier tells how he tried to rescue colleague". The Daily Telegraph. London. 
  8. "The Sun Online – The Best for News, Sport and Showbiz – The Sun". The Sun. London.,2007060452,00.html. [dead link]
  9. "Friendly fire pilot 'experienced'". BBC News. February 8, 2007. Retrieved May 4, 2010. 
  10. "Joy at direct hit turns to horror – The Sun –HomePage–News". The Sun. London.,2-2007060133,00.html. [dead link]
  11. British Army, Board of Inquiry Report, p. 5-2.
  12.,2-2007060133,00.html and
  13. Smith, Emily, "It wasn't my fault," The Sun, February 9, 2007, [1].
  14. "'Friendly fire' killing unlawful". BBC News. 2007-03-16. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
  15. Pete Bell (2007-03-16). "Verdict: Matty's death 'criminal'". The Sun. London.,2-2007120545,00.html. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 


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