A-10 Thunderbolt II
Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II (nicknamed Warthog) is an American single-seat aircraft. It is a one of the best ground-attack aircraft on the world. The A-10 was designed for a USAF requirement to provide close air support for ground forces by attacking tanks, armored vehicles, and all other ground targets.
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 is powered by two General Electric TF34-GE-100A turbofans (9,065 lbf (40.32 kN) each). Maximum speed of A-10 is 518 mph (833 km/h). It is exceptionally tough. Its strong airframe can survive direct hits from armor-piercing and high-explosive projectiles up to 23 mm. The aircraft has triple redundancy in its flight systems, with mechanical systems to back up double-redundant hydraulic systems. This permits pilots to fly and land when hydraulic power or part of a wing is lost.
Its primary built-in weapon is the 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling-type cannon. One of the most powerful aircraft cannons ever flown, it fires large depleted uranium armor-piercing shells. In the original design, the pilot could switch between two rates of fire – 2,100 or 4,200 rounds per minute; this was changed to a fixed rate of 3,900 rounds per minute. The gun is precise; it can place 80% of its shots within a 40-foot (12.4 m) diameter circle from 4,000 feet (1,220 m) while in flight.
The first unit to receive the A-10 was the 355th Tactical Training Wing, based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, in March 1976. A-10s were initially an unwelcome addition to many in the AF. Most pilots switching to the A-10 did not want to because fighter pilots traditionally favored speed and appearance.
During the 1991 Gulf War, the slow, ugly but nimble A-10 proved itself a devastating weapon against the tanks of Iraq’s Republican Guard. Second only to the F-16 in the numbers of aircraft deployed to Saudi Arabia, the ‘Warthog’ ranged the deserts of Kuwait and Iraq, using its devastating GAU-8 gun and pinpoint-accurate Maverick missiles to smash tanks, artillery pieces, military vehicles, radar sites and missile launchers.
They even downed two helicopters, scoring the only gun-kills of the air war. Some idea of the A-10’s worth can lie gained from the performance of just two pilots. Captain Eric Solomonson and Lieutenant John Marks of the USAF’s 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing accounted for 23 Iraqi tanks in a single day. Altogether, Warthog pilots destroyed more than 4500 tanks, vehicles and artillery pieces in the course of the war. There were those who had claimed the A-10 was too slow for the modern battlefield, but the war against Saddam showed that, although other jets fly higher and faster, nothing could match the Warthog for destroying tanks on the ground.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II is scheduled to be in service with the United State Air Force until 2028 and possibly later.