Perhaps the best measure of a fighting weapon/machine is how much it’s loved by its friends and hated by its enemies. In that case, the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II belongs near the top of any list of military assets deployed by the United States.
The Thunderbolt name harkens back to World War II and the P-47 Thunderbolt, a rugged fighter that was best-deployed when used against ground targets. The A-10 has two alternate nicknames – Warthog and Cross of Death. The latter tag was bestowed by Iraqi troops during the first Gulf War because of the A-10’s shape and its lethal qualities.
Warthogs have been deployed to fight ISIS and remains an integral part of the U.S. arsenal. Last month the Department of Defense admitted that plans to scrap the A-10 have been … scrapped.
Here are eight reasons why the A-10 is an airplane that strikes fear into the hearts of enemy ground forces.
- Close support. One Presidential candidate claims he’ll “carpet bomb” ISIS. Those in the know understand that precise targeting of lethal firepower is more effective. The A-10 has a top speed of 400 mph but can stay aloft at 150 mph. Its ability to fly low and slow enhances the ability to target enemy positions.
- Durability. The A-10’s twin engines are positioned close to each other and between the rear stabilizers. This allows the Warthog to fly on one engine and helps disguise engine exhaust. The A-10 is also able to absorb ground fire because of …
- Heavy-duty armor. Those who fly the A-10 appreciate that the designers didn’t scrimp on protection. The cockpit and portions of the flight control system sit in the “bathtub” – 1,200 pounds of titanium aircraft armor. It can withstand direct hits from armor-piercing projectiles up 23 mm. That’s rather important when flying low and slow over enemy positions.
- Versatility. Many of the parts on the Warthog are interchangeable. That means it’s easier to maintain, especially at forward positions where the facilities might be crude. Easier and faster maintenance increases the number of combat sorties.
- Runway friendly. The A-10 has short takeoff and landing capabilities so it can operate from airstrips closer to the front lines. That means less time getting to and from “work.”
- Diverse weaponry. The A-10 is a flying buffet of lethal weapons. According to military.com, the Warthog can carry “general purpose bombs, cluster bomb units, laser guided bombs, joint direct attack munitions or JDAM, wind corrected munitions dispenser or WCMD, AGM-65 Maverick and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, rockets and illumination flares.”
- One big gun. In the nose of the A-10 is a GAU-8 Avenger, a seven-barrel, Gatling-type cannon. It’s been said that the Warthog – which wasn’t built to look sleek or pretty – is a plane designed around a gun. The A-10’s main fixed weapon is designed to fire armor-piercing depleted uranium and high explosive incendiary rounds. It’s the main reason surviving Iraqi tankers have recurring nightmares.
- Endurance. The A-10 exemplifies the old saying of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” The A-10’s efficiency and reliability has rebuffed efforts to mothball it. The pilots who fly it love its ruggedness. The ground troops it supports love its ability to unleash hell on the enemy.
We’ll leave the final word to Arizona Republican Martha McSally, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and retired Air Force colonel who flew the A-10: “With A-10s deployed in the Middle East to fight ISIS, in Europe to deter Russian aggression, and along the Korean peninsula, administration officials can no longer deny how invaluable these planes are to our arsenal and military capabilities.”