We Avgeeks all know how simply awesome the A-10 Warthog is. Here are some things you might not know about the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II.
- The development of the Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne attack helicopter actually helped to expose the need for a dedicated ground attack aircraft for the Air Force. That first and still only dedicated designed and built for purpose ground attack aircraft became the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II.
- The design of the A-10 was developed during the time that the Cessna A-37 Dragonfly was replacing Douglas A-1 Skyraiders as the Air Force’s Forward Air Control (FAC) platform. The Warthog, while obviously a much more capable close air support (CAS) aircraft than the Super Tweet, owes at least some of its design influences to the tiny but capable A-37.
- Republic Aircraft of Farmingdale, Long Island, New York, built the two YA-10 prototypes at their factory. The first flight of the YA-10 took place on May 10th 1972 at Republic’s airfield on Long Island. However, production of every one of the 715 A-10s built took place at Fairchild’s factory in outside Baltimore in Hagerstown in Maryland.
- The A-10’s General Electric GAU-8/A Avenger 30 millimeter rotary cannon is mounted in the fuselage of the Hog in such a way that the barrel firing is aligned with the centerline of the aircraft. This ensures that when the weapon is fired it does not cause the aircraft to yaw. This is also why the nose gear of the aircraft is offset to the starboard (right) side.
- When the GAU-8/A is removed from the Warthog for maintenance or replacement, the tail of the aircraft must be supported or it will come to rest on the ground when the jet’s nose tilts up.
- The PGU-14/B shells fired by the GAU-8 are only slightly radioactive, no more than most other stones or dirt, but the sub-caliber high-density penetrator inside is extremely dense- adding to the kinetic energy expended when one of the projectiles hits, and usually shreds, its target.
- The General Electric TF-34-GE-100 high-bypass turbofan engines that power the A-10 have only been used on one other operational military aircraft- the Lockheed S-3 Viking carrier-based sub-hunter.
- Those engines are mounted where they are on the airframe for two very good reasons- to protect them from debris raised from the ground during taxi, takeoff, and landing, and to place them above the horizontal tail surfaces, thereby better shielding them from infrared (IR) seeking weapons fired from the ground.
- Although the A-10 is a close air support (CAS) star, it is not as fast as you might think. With a loaded never exceed speed (VNE) of 450 knots (518 miles per hour) at altitude the Warthog is not going to produce any sonic booms. A cleanly-configured A-10 can reach 381 knots (439 miles per hour) at sea level. Several World War II-era warbirds are just about capable of keeping up.
- The roughly 370 A-10Cs still operational today were originally A-10As built by Fairchild-Republic, maintained by Grumman after 1987, upgraded by Lockheed-Martin, and as A-10Cs have been re-winged by Boeing.
- The pilot of the A-10 sits in cockpit protected by titanium armor. Often referred to as a “bathtub”, the armor adds another 1,200 pounds to the empty wright of the Hog (about 6% of her empty weight), but her pilots will tell you that armor around them is worth every ounce when they bore in low on a heavily defended target.
- There are roughly 100 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs in storage at the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at any given time.
- The Warthog was originally built for a service life of 6,000 hours when they entered service with Tactical Air Command (TAC) 355th Tactical Training Wing in 1976. While that may seem like a lot, it really isn’t when you keep a capable airframe like the Hog around for 41 years. Even the newest A-10s delivered since production shut down in 1984 have more than doubled that original expected service life.
- A-10s have been updated, upgraded, refitted, reskinned, refurbished, regenerated, and rebuilt so many times that the latest round of upgrades is referred to as Suite 8. Original parts are getting hard to find. The Hog’s wings in particular have been the object of several strengthening programs. Most of them have been replaced completely.
- One cannot blame Hog pilots for feeling like they’re flying a hotter and sleeker fighter than their tough slow jets. After all, they’re controlling their hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) configured A-10Cs using F-16 Viper stick handles and F-15 Eagle throttles.
- The Warthog’s ailerons are another distinctive feature. They are just under half as long as the wing itself- providing superior control during maneuvers at any speed. The ailerons can also function as airbrakes, or decelerons, because they can be split-deployed both above and below the wing surface.
- A-10s were designed from the get-go to rough it. They are capable of operating from “austere” facilities and require almost no specialized equipment to arm or maintain them. Parts availability is always a challenge when operating away from a major base. Several Warthog parts are built to be installed on either side of the aircraft- including the engines.
- The main landing gear of the A-10 do not retract fully into their fairings. This is actually a potential advantage. If a Hog is forced to belly-land the exposed wheels mean the aircraft does not shred itself to pieces as it grinds down to a stop. The landing gear are also set up to free-fall into place if hydraulic pressure is lost.
- Warthogs engaged in combat search and rescue (CSAR) missions escorting Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopters use the same call sign that the Douglas A-1 Skyraiders used when they flew similar missions 50 or more years ago- Sandy.
- There are many who would rather the Warthog just go away and be replaced by some other more expensive and less-durable dedicated CAS aircraft. Some of these same people believe that an aircraft like an armed turboprop trainer or a recycled Vietnam-era FAC plane can do the Hog’s job. You be the judge.
Enjoy this Battle Stations episode all about the A-10.
This Air National Guard video shows the Hog tearing it up during an exercise.