Since the late 60’s the US Army was in search for a proper close support aircraft as the battles in Vietnam have showed that the existing options in their arsenal are simply not sufficient and not effective as they should be. That led to the development of one of the most feared war birds in history of war – the A-10 Thunderbolt II (aka Warthog).
It is not a very much advertised fact that the main creative force behind the A-10 concept was a famous WW2 ace of the Luftwaffe Hans-Ulrich Rudel, the highest scoring attack aircraft pilot of the Great War and a fervent Nazi. He was flying the entire WW2 in Ju-87 Stuka bombers and FW-190F ground attack aircraft and is credited with the destruction of 516 Soviet tanks. His experience was essential when making a concept of the new close support aircraft and the A-10 resembles on Ju-87 on many levels.
The maiden flight the new A-10 had in May 1972 but it is in the operational usage since the 1977. Since that time it has proven to be the ultimate close support aircraft in the world and it took part in many conflicts across the globe. Its powerful 30mm GAU-8/A Avenger cannon with depleted uranium ammo is a weapon feared by all US Army opponents. Suffice to say that in the 1999 bombing campaign of Serbia the ultimate prize for any air defense unit was the A-10, although they managed to shoot down even the F-117A stealth fighter.
In the later years the A-10 was to be withdrawn from the service and replaced with the F-35 but due to increased cost of the new aircraft and its poor performance the program of prolonging the A-10’s life was adopted and it is to remain in service at least until 2040. Of course, the new A-10C version with upgraded fire control system is to be the backbone of the close aerial support of the US Army units.
Tactical use and armament
The main weapon of the A-10 is its GAU-8/A Avenger gun. It is a weapon that uses depleted uranium rounds and can penetrate any tank. The diving attacks like in Stuka bombers are the main tactical routine of A-10 although it can carry a variety of other weapons on 11 hard points below the fuselage and on the wings.
The cockpit of the A-10 is heavily protected with titanium armor so it is impervious to AA fire from the ground. Anything below 30mm is not likely to penetrate the armor and the pilot is completely protected. This allows the pilots to feel comfortable in supporting roles and they can focus on ground targets instead on their own safety.
The steering commands are double in A-10 and if the hydraulic system is compromised, the mechanic commands will allow it to continue flying even if both engines are dead or a piece of the wing is missing. There are recorded cases of the pilots landing their A-10 even after sustaining the damage that is beyond repair.
All of this together makes the A-10 the most feared NATO aircraft by the members of ground forces across the globe and it is certain that it will remain so for the years to come.
Armament: 1 x 30mm GAU-8/A Avenger, 11 hard points that can carry unguided rockets, guided rockets and bombs, cluster bombs and other load.
Engines: 2 x General Electric TF34-GE-100A
Max. Speed: 706 km/h
Radius: 467 km