For those of you who don’t know what the A-10 is, it is the only United States Air Force production aircraft designed solely for close air support, including attacking tanks, armored vehicles, and other ground targets. In short the A-10 Thunderbolt is a an up close and personal angel from above that has bailed a lot of troops out of hairy situations over the years.
The A-10’s reputation for toughness and getting down and dirty with the enemy has acquired it the moniker the “A-10 Warthog” which it is almost universally referred to as.
While F-16’s, F-15’s and the new F-22 Raptor are the Porsche’s, Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s of the sky, the A-10 is a bad ass, hardcore, suped up dump truck made for the zombie apocalypse.
Let me explain the previous sentence. The planes I mentioned were built as the premiere flying machines that could be used for war. The A-10 started as a GUN and had built a plane around it. The gun I’m referring to is the 30 mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon that is its primary armament and the heaviest-ever automatic cannon mounted on an aircraft. A cannon that fires depleted uranium armor piercing shells.
Any infantryman will tell you that when it hits the fan what they want to see most in the sky is the cross silhouette of the A-10 rolling toward them. It’s also the last thing that the enemy wants to see because the A-10 will stick around and punch it out with the enemy. It seems to almost hover over a battle field. Due to its design the A-10 has superior maneuverability at low speeds and altitude because of its large wing area, high wing aspect ratio, and large ailerons. It also requires less room to take off and land and as such can be placed on private or makeshift airfields closer to the front lines for quicker response times.
The fact that it CAN go slower is a benefit when trying to root out smaller targets or individuals. A skill its fast flying brethren cannot claim.
But when you are slow moving and delivering pain on the enemy you make yourself a target. This is were the Warthog got its name and deservedly so. Recent advances in combat has not diminished the A-10 in the least.
An Iraqi new agency reported on the A-10’s efforts in rooting out ISIS in Mosul:
“The aircraft sparked panic in the ranks of ISIS after bombing its elements and flying in spaces close to the ground. Elements of the terrorist organization targeted the aircraft with 4 Strela missiles, but that did not cause it any damage, prompting the remaining elements of the organization to leave the bodies of their dead and carry the wounded to escape”
They were LITERALLY running scared.
From Aviation Week and Space Technology concerning the A-10 during the Gulf War:
The A-10 is exceptionally tough, being able to survive direct hits from armor-piercing and high-explosive projectiles up to 23 mm. It has double-redundant hydraulic flight systems, and a mechanical system as a back up if hydraulics are lost. Flight without hydraulic power uses the manual reversion control system; pitch and yaw control engages automatically, roll control is pilot-selected. In manual reversion mode, the A-10 is sufficiently controllable under favorable conditions to return to base, though control forces are greater than normal. The aircraft is designed to fly with one engine, one tail, one elevator, and half of one wing missing.
Just in case you missed the highlighted section…it is DESIGNED to fly with HALF the plane blown off.
The Warthog has also withstood the test of time as one hasn’t been manufactured in over 30 years, the last being produced in 1984.
The A-10 Warthog is all these things and more, yet why is the Air Force Top Brass chomping at the bit to scrap her?
The same reason tons of bad decisions are made…MONEY.
The Pentagon believes it can save $4.2 billion in operation and maintenance costs over five years by retiring all 283 of the Air Force’s A-10s.
But that $4.2 Billion is misleading because it’s not going back to the taxpayers. If anything it will go to the antithesis of what the A-10 is, namely high altitude strategic bombing planes.
While there is a need for high altitude bombers, the state of warfare as we face it now is not against other countries with built up armies an infrastructures. We wage war against radical islamofacist guerillas who blend in and out of the population. Such enemies cannot be attacked effectively with bombing. Plus there is a psychological advantage to the roar of the Avenger cannon being shot than a bomb no one ever hears.
Just take a look:
This is why the A-10 needs to stay in service. It’s durability, effectiveness and the crippling pyschological damage it can inflict is unique unto itself.
Once again the top brass is wrong. Just like they were wrong at the beginning of Vietnam when they didn’t think fighter planes needed guns anymore. Yeah, the F-4 was only armed with missles because the top brass was so smitten with new radar technology, they didn’t think guns were necessary.
I fear that if the A-10 is allowed to be mothballed, years from now we will look on with similar shock that we do now with the Vietnam era F-4 (before they eventually added external gun pods).
The A-10 does have its share of supporters though. Senator John McCain, now Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, has voiced his support as does NH Sen. Kelly Ayotte whose husband flew the A-10 over Iraq.
That is not to say that only politicians are seeking to save the A-10 as a facebook community, Save the A-10, has started up with nearly 25,000 likes.
Get involved…save a legend that still has more ass to kick.