The Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt was designed for close air support of ground troops and . . . that’s it. It’s slow, it’s ugly (they call it the ‘warthog’) and it’s a devastatingly effective way to silence enemy ground forces. To that end the jet’s nose is equipped with General Electric Aircraft Armament Subsystem A/A49E-6: a 30mm Gatling gun mechanism, double-ended linkless ammunition feed, storage assembly and a hydraulic drive system. Shooting some 3,900 rounds of armor shredding depleted uranium a minute, the mini-gun’s characteristic brrraaapppp sound means that someone somewhere is in a heap of trouble. The plane itself is also in peril; the Air Force is looking to cut all their A-10s from the fleet. Meanwhile, this flying gun’s getting it done.

137 Responses to Soon-to-Be-Obscure Object of Desire: A-10 Thunderbolt

  1. Rule #1 of Air Force procurement:If the troops like it,scrap it.

    Rule #2:If it costs billions and does nothing for the force ,buy more.

    • There’s nothing better for close air support that’s currently in operation. A-10s have done remarkable work in Afghanistan.

      • Actually, the A-10 is absolute garbage for everything but strafing. As an overall CAS platform, the F-15E is superior.

        • Except that A-10’s can loiter longer over the battlefield and have a high survivability rate. The F-15 is a great platform, but it’s not better at CAS. I would argue the best asset for CAS would be an AC-130 gunship.

        • Dave, the F-15E can loiter for a comparable time thanks to the conformal fuel tanks, and it usually flies with a pair of external tanks mounted as well. The A-10’s internal fuel capacity is kinda weak, and while it can fly with externals as well, it often doesn’t if it’s not ferrying.

          The lack of speed on the A-10 and AC-130 keep them from being best at CAS in general. It’s a double-edged sword; they can fly slow for accurate shooting, but it takes them awhile to get to the area. They’re great for when you expect to need CAS, but not so great for dealing with emergencies. Also, the AC-130 isn’t as accurate as it’s cracked up to be.

          I wish I could find the numbers, but they used to post the stats for each airframe in OEF. Strafe passes, bombs expended, show-of-force passes, alerts scrambled, etc. Basically, the top three for the Air Force were the F-15E, A-10 and F-16. (The AC-130 and oddballs like the B-1 were there, but none of their stats were very high). Of those, the F-15E was far and away had the “high score,” as it were. The rest didn’t even come close.

          It’s got some pretty important advantages that make it better. It can get there fast, it’s got the fuel to stick around, it can carry a lot of bombs, it has a WSO so it can laze its own targets and is extremely accurate with guided bombs, it can fly as low or high as you want it to, it can strafe, and in general it’s much easier to fix.

          Now, if we were to go up against another nation with a lot of tanks that need plinking, the A-10 would be great. But for COIN? It doesn’t shine the way it did in Desert Storm.

    • Rule #3: If it doesn’t have a pointy nose, it’s not a fighter and is an embarrassment.

      Rule #4: Stealth…. because it does what modern ECM’s can do at 100 times the cost!

    • The Marines will not be allowed to have the A-10’s until they’re worn slap out. We can’t have the Air Force treating the Marines better than the Navy does.

    • The air force attempted to retire the A-10 in the ’90s. The argument at the time was an F-16 in a “Fast FAC” role was a better CAS platform. The USMC then informed the Air Force, “Great, we’ll take the entire fleet off your hands!” There were even plans for an OA-10 tandem seat refit specifically for the USMC.

      At which point the Air Force decided they needed them – which is the only reason they are still AF assets, not USMC.

  2. Even as a civilian from what I have seen on YT I don’t believe there is a US or allied soldier out there who doesn’t love it when the A-10 comes flying in going BURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRT.

    • There is no other sound on this planet like that. If you don’t know what it is, and don’t understand what it means, it doesn’t sound like much. But once you do…

    • As pr0n goes though, this is relatively softcore.

      The hard stuff is gun cam and/or spotter footage.

    • A few years back out on the job site, we saw an A10 flying west, probably 1500 to 2500 feet high (just a guess) and we started waving at it (the pilot). He angled over to the left and made about a five mile loop toward the south, then east and finally north where he lined up on a course that took him directly over our location -and then he waved the wings at us -very cool…flying so low it was easy to recognize what the plane was. Even though we were standing on Texas soil, it was still a bit intimidating to stare down those barrels carried by a leviathan of the sky.

      I’ll be checking with the Army Surplus Store to see if one of these pops up…for the gun, not the plane…that would be ridiculous. I’d like to see this mounted up on a lowboy trailer…once the permits come in of course…maybe see it at the next open carry rally.

      Note to the NSA…that last paragraph was just for laughs…Y’all already know I nor anybody I know has enough funds to buy one.

      • When I was a kid the A10’s from Richard Gabauer AFB would fly over our farm on training missions. I once saw a guy flying so low he had to bank around a mulberry tree. Pretty sure he was in violation of both FAA and AF regs, but – FRICKIN’ AWESOME!

    • All planes do. The energy released from firing this gun just happens to be enough to have an extremely noticeable effect.

      • True. But you have to appreciate a primary weapon that releases so much energy that it could stall the plane…..

      • I think the Warthog is a beautiful plane. Puff the Magic Dragon would literally stall if you didn’t keep the nose down when you pulled the trigger on all those .50s. And the AC-130 will put on a pretty good show too.

    • IIRC, The Air Force wanted to divest itself of A-10s and turn over all A-10 ops over to the Army sometime in the late 80’s/early 90’s and the Army couldn’t or wouldn’t afford to maintain them.

      • The Army was one who first commissioned its build, and even originally offered to maintain and house them, and because it wasn’t a fighter the air force left it alone. For some reason the air force kept it instead of handing it over like the Army originally wanted, and then before it became the golden boy of the gulf war the Air Force wanted to give it back, but by then we had the Apache, so I guess we said no take backs.

        • Yeah, that isn’t even remotely true. The A-X program was started by the Air Force. It was never going to be an Army asset, as it is a fixed-wing combat aircraft.

        • Under the Key West Agreement from the early 1950s the Army is not allowed to have armed fixed wing aircraft. That agreement has continuously been in place to the modern day and limits what assets the Air Force and the Army have in their respective aviation fleets.

          It is for that reason that unless the SecDef or Congress get involved that if/when the AF decides to divest itself of the aircraft they will end up in the Boneyard instead of going to the Army.

      • I was stationed at Nellis ’87-’91.
        The F16 unit was developing a replacement.
        Green camo’ed, 30mm gun pod on the centerline, some sort of helmet slaved camera or sensor mounted between the canopy and the radome. It was awesome looking, did not really know much more about it, just got to watch it taxi by every day.

        Desert Storm broke out. The A-10 was a star*. Program scrapped.

        *Along with the LANTIRN targeting pod equipped F15E’s we worked our asses off to debug in time to get into the action.

  3. I was a crew chief on this plane in the 90’s. If was way over its man hours 20 years ago. Hard to believe it is still flying. It was on honor to work on this beast. I got a stiffy every time I cycled the hydraulics for the gun. I wish they could design another. It makes me get teary eyed thinking about its retiring. I guess that is how the F-4 crew chiefs felt when when it was retired, and they were transferred to A-10 units.

    • “I guess that is how the F-4 crew chiefs felt when when it was retired…”

      Don’t tell any of them what we use F-4s for now.

    • “Hard to believe it is still flying.”

      Besides the age, I’ve heard these can get shot to hell and keep flying as well. Makes you wonder why they don’t just make an updated version, instead of some tiny expensive jet that may or may not work for the tasks needed.

      • When the US was fighting in Bosnia, the A10 that I crewed came back with a surface to air missile strike to the gun bay. The pilot said he did not know. It just missed hitting the nose gear and he landed with no problem. EOD came out to assess the damage for unexploded ordinance. Another plane flew back with a missing engine. It truly is a flying tank.

  4. Must not have a powerful Senator from the state which makes these things.

    If these were made in CT, there would be a requirement to have 10 of them attached to every fire team.

    • They stopped making them in 1982. Parts were difficult to get in the 1990s because it was destined to be scrapped. Then came the first Gulf War. The A10 was built for one thing. Killing tanks. It proved itself in the desert. Every infantry unit fell in love it.

      • this is correct. supposedly Fairchild long ago scrapped all of the production tooling and dies required to make replacement parts, so they’ve been more or less giving the A-10 the junkyard treatment for the better part of 20 years.

    • Hill AFB here in Utah has been getting most the wok for the refurbs, but even the mighty professional politician and vampire Orin Hatch probably can’t save it after 2020. After all, he’ll have to retire, or the world will know his terrible fangy secret.
      Stupid move, retiring the old pig. What AF plane is going to do this job? The F-35? The bad guys will just throw rocks at it until one gets stuck in it’s VTOL fan and it crashes….

      • I think I read in Air Force magazine that USAF procurement is considering the AT-6 Texan II. I sh*t you not. I hate to see the hogs go, but airframes can only tolerate so many hours of flight time before they aren’t airworthy anymore. Considering the ops tempo of the last decade +, it’s a testament to sheer fortitude of these beasts that they are even still flying. What an unforgettable sound that GAU-8 makes though :*(

    • No new A-10s have been made for decades. In point of fact, there is currently no new Air Force jet in production. (JSF doesn’t count as it’s still in prototype form.). Unfortunately the Byzantine DoD procurement process means that the number of aircraft types produced can only get smaller over time. It is difficult if not impossible to get anything through, so the USAF has to husband their resources until the birds literally start falling out of the air. Unfortunately as someone alluded earlier, the A-10 is at that point. All the birds that were frontline when I was a kid are out of flying hours and the Air Force is robbing Peter to pay Paul to keep ’em going. The F-15s are falling apart and slowly being shipped to the boneyard. The B-1s are going. The older F-16s are going. The A-10s number has just come up. With Congress divided and the peacenik-in-chief in the Whitehouse, don’t expect this to get better. The USAF did have a proposal to buy the Marine-Corp version of the JSF to have a frontline CAS bird, but the Marines will be lucky to get it themselves with all the attacks on JSF.

      • Which is why we should license build the Su-25 “Frogfoot/Graz”. That’s one the Russians got right.

        The F-35 is just a bomb truck. It’s the 21st Century equivalent of the A7 Corsair II.

  5. They want to replace the A-10 with F-35.

    LOL

    Car analogy: we are taking away your HMMV and replacing it with a BMW. But don’t worry, we gave the BMW a suspension lift and bigger tires, so it should do just fine in all the same roles.

  6. The article mentions that the Air Force may replace the A10 with the F 35A for close combat support. I don’t see how using a plane that is twice as expensive to fly, and is completely combat unproven in that role will result in any long term savings.

    • Not to mention who is going to want to fly a plane that costs what, maybe 20-30 times the procurement costs into rifle range to duke it out bad guys. I’m sure the pilots would be willing but higher ups would faint.

  7. Idaho Air Natl Guard has a squadron of these flying out of Boise (Gowen Field). whenever a pair fly over our shooting range, activity stops and everyone watches them – with a few YEAH! comments expressed.

    As an ex-Army ground pounder, the Hog is THE jet to have at your back in a close air support role. The USAF generals who are all pointy-nose Mach-snot go-fast guys hate the Hog, but the guys on the sharp end of the ground forces love them. Hey, 30-mm Gatling and bomb load greater than a B-17: what’s not to like.

    Hogs Rule.

    • I wondered where those birds came from. We were fishing on the Owyhee River and two of them were playing tag. That was beyond airshow cool.

    • Considering that the CSAF, Gen Mark A. Welsh III, is an A-10 pilot something tells me he probably has a very intimate knowledge and love for that aircraft that no one else in this discussion is likely to have. I doubt he can really be called a “pointy-nose Mach-snot go-fast guys (who) hate(s) the Hog” either for that matter.

      There are plenty of reasons to be disappointed about the passing of an iconic aircraft like this. How about we concentrate on the good memories and not cast inaccurate and unfair aspersions on someone who probably is even more heart broken for being the one that has to make this difficult decision.

    • Agreed. I loved that plane as a kid, and when i was in the Army, I used to watch them play follow the leader about 60 feet over the trees in Missouri. You could never tell where they were coming from, and then whoosh, whoosh, whoosh – amazing.

      For some kids it was the Apache, for me it was always the warthog.

    • This. Minus the p51. A10s are the coolest bird in the air. I remember being on vacation during the Muskegon air show and two of them came from landside over the beach and split. They were so low and so fast you could see the water split from us on the beach out to 100 feet where they broke. I get chills writing about it.

  8. It seems to me the A-10 finds itself on the chopping block every two or three years, and so far has survived every time. Eventually, I’m sure it will finally be retired, but probably not before an actually good replacement is found, not the “basically adequate” that exists now.

    • I think someone somewhere has decided it can’t do anything a drone can’t do cheaper. But what that someone doesn’t understand is the shear versatility, durability and psychological impact that plane has (on both the troops and the enemy). Hearing those whining turbines and the brrrrrraaaaapppp! is a text-book example of what “changing hearts and minds” really means.

      • The enemy tends to not even hear it they usually just get vaporized, but it is the sound of pure joy to our guys on the ground.

      • I had the privilege to watch the A-10 demo team (yes we have, or at least had, an A-10 demo team) practicing before an air show. Even without guns blazing, it’s impressive what that airframe can do with the right pilot. Maybe I was just taken by the novelty, but it was far more fun to watch than the F-16s from Viper East or the T-birds.

  9. They have been trying to discontinue that plane for as long as I could vote. And it just keeps tickin’ n kickin’.

    • Yup.

      I remember back in the late 80’s, they were thinking they’d discontinue the A-10.

      Then we got into the first Iraq war, and the A-10 proved to be a tank/truck/material killing machine without equal.

      Suddenly the fast-movers’ agenda was derailed, and it was kept around.

  10. Slow maybe, ugly no. Give the beauties to the Army and Marines, 30mm and some ASM are devastating no matter what you’re looking to kill. Nothing lasts this long without being terribly effective.

  11. The a-10 is being phased out….

    That’s good news…. for the bad guys.

    Are they also getting rid of spoons in the mess on soup day?

  12. As an engineer who’s been in the Defense-biz for a couple decades, I can tell you that if you want to blame somebody for the decision to replace A-10s with JSF, blame your Congress-critter. THEY decide how the cash is spent, and it’s a zero-sum game. If the Air-Force wants A and B and B could theoretically do A’s job, then Congress will authorize B, and reject A out of hand. Worse yet, lately Congress has developed a nasty habit of raiding the funds for B a couple years into the procurement cycle. This is why the Army can’t seem to replace the M-4, with all it’s warts and issues with sand and dirt.

  13. In the late 70s and early 80s, there was an A-10 training facility not far from my Uncle’s farm in east Texas. He lives right on the Sabine River, and the A-10s would fly over at least twice a day on training missions.

    I once almost got run over by a FLYING A-10. They’d come just a few feet above tree top level. I was working on the top of a sand and gravel separator. It got clogged at the top, and I was bent over inside clearing the debris, when suddenly I hear an A-10 approaching. I stand up and look toward the noise, and I’m basically looking into the eyes of the pilot. I’m a few dozen feet off the ground, and I jump off backwards into one of the piles of sand behind me, he pulls up hard.

    It seemed he missed me by feet, it had to be farther than that, but when you can FEEL the plane wash over you, it seems really close. He circled to and checked to see if I was OK, then wagged his wings and he was off.

    They’d also run mock strafing runs on our trucks. In the beginning of training we could get away, but at the end, never. They’d come over the trees so fast and low, you’d have just seconds before they were on you, and by the time you could react, it was already over. Again, they’d wave and wagged those wings to let you know how you did.

    It was awesome to watch.

  14. Retired Air Force… the Air Farce is run by Fighter Jocks and there ain’t a LESS likely airplane in the world to be FIGHTER JET than the A-10… don’t believe it? Every Chief of Staff since the first one was a Fighter Jock… the First nine was Curt LeMay…, THE Bomber Jock of bomber jocks… We used to joke about Fighter Jocks versus cruise missiles. Cruise missiles were (are) better… they rarely ground abort, NEVER come back and you don’t have to buy them a leather jacket so they fly straight! (Hey, the Navy Jocks got them first…)

    • As the son of a retired USAF helicopter pilot, I can attest to this fact. Despite being an exemplary officer, my dad got passed over for O6 and RIFed out in ’94 because he wasn’t a part of the Fighter Mafia.

      • @ Ol’Wolf:
        Interesting yet very wrong because the current CSAF started in A-10s, McNabb was Airlift, and Schwartz was Transport/Spec-Ops. Of the 23 CSAFs 11 of them have had backgrounds that did not include or were not exclusively fighters in nature. There is a lot to be said for some of the decisions made by our AF leadership (Active Duty myself) but lets try and keep the hyperbolic vitriol to a minimum because it tends to drown out the real and relevant issues that need to be addressed.

        @ TampaJared
        I am sure that your father was a good officer with an equally good resume. As are any number of officers in each of the military branches. The truth remains though that most of the senior leaders, which for the AF starts at O-6, need to be those who have a background in the most important strategic operational concepts of the force. For the AF that is fixed wing pilots because since 1966 we have been mostly a fixed wing force with very limited rotary wing (research the Johnson-McConnell agreement for more background).

        Your dad was passed over because the AF was shrinking dramatically and there were officers of equal caliber who had more relevant strategic experience. This is not knock to him but rather the reality of promotion in a drastically reduced military. I feel for him. I already know my career will top out at O-5 not because I am not a good officer but because I have a non-rated (not a pilot in non-AF speak) background and therefore lack the operational experience the AF is looking for. I am not bitter about this because there are officers who are just as good as I am who also have that experience and can make the better strategic judgments because of it.

        @Both of you
        Before you try and shred me for being a butt-kisser or boot-licker or whatever try and gain some perspective beyond your personal grievances. Yes our service has issues but so do all the services and every large organization for that matter. Our senior leaders are not cartoon evil sitting in their offices rubbing their hands and plotting to F-over the enlisted and non-pilot community. They are dedicated and care because if they didn’t they would retire and go to industry to make better money and work better hours.

  15. The tell in this article is that they’re planning on replacing the A-10 with F-35’s.

    The F-35 is a white elephant. It is the F-111 of our time. It will be hugely over-budget, behind schedule, too complicated and will do nothing well at all – just like the F-111.

    The USAF knows this right now. But they need to justify the F-35 project, so they’re going to start claiming it is “critical” to have that white elephant to replace weapon systems that actually work – like the A-10.

  16. If anyone wants a good read about the A-10, there’s a book called “Warthog: Flying the A-10 in the Gulf War” by William Smallwood. Excellent personal accounts from pilots that flew the A-10.

  17. I was fascinated by these machines as a kid. IIRC The A-10 came about as NATO studied the cost of killing Russian tanks, and discovered that the Soviets could build tanks faster and cheaper than we could build then-current AGM systems to kill them, so the GAU-8 was devised, and the aircraft was designed around the gun.

    While technically unarmed in the air combat roll, Warthog pilots during cold war NATO exercises would simply ignore this, use their superior turning radius to out-maneuver faster jets and spray them with simulated 30mm cannon fire, and were able to rack up some impressive “kills” this way.

    The only downside to that awesome firepower is the fact that the aircraft can only carry enough ammunition for about 10 seconds worth of fire.

  18. Ah a cav scout’s best friend… why not just give the A-10 and the rest of the air farce back to the army. They made much better decisions when they were the Army Air corps IMO. The A-10 is the finest close support air craft ever built. She’s able to fly low, slow, and in close to ground troops and tear enemy armor and infantry a new a$$hole and then fly back to base shot all to hell. I’ve seen video and pictures of these things flying with hinks of the wing shot off and engines missing.

    • Because a real Air Force is too expensive to be part of a non-Air Force military. Try a career tread-head general making decisions on whether or not we get a new tanker, for example.

      Besides, it doesn’t stop people from making stupid decisions regarding aircraft. The Marines were the driving force behind the Osprey, and why it didn’t get the axe the way the Comanche did.

  19. Reminds me of a saying: “If it ain’t high, fast, deep, or stealthy, the Air Force doesn’t want it.”

  20. man, those things are noisy. I got to see them in action over the range in Germany in ohhhhh 1986? They are flying tanks (and tank busters).

  21. This is one of the best posts I’ve ever read here. I love everything about this plane, and reading the other comments was awesome. Got chills from many of them.

    • Ditto. Keep coming back to read posts from folks who worked on it, crew chiefed it, etc.
      I can still hear them in my minds ear, inside the canyon, playing catch me if you can.

  22. I spent a couple of weeks in Tucson on business. The best part was driving out to Davis Monthan and watching the A-10s. I’d grab something at a drive through and sit on the hood and watch them. A couple used my rental car for practice, it was the third coolest aviation experience of my life.
    Coolest was being on a bus parked next to a runway at Miramar while a couple of F-18’s did full afterburner takeoffs at night.
    Second coolest was being on one side of the lake watching APCs and tanks on maneuvers in the national forest when a Cobra gunship came through the trees behind me and ran a simulated attack run across the lake.
    -Cranky

    • Yup. got to be on a couple of carriers during flight ops. Afterburners are about the most awesome thing to feel.

      • I actually got used to being within marshmallow-cooking distance of the burner cone from a GE-110 (see the thread a while ago about hearing protection.) You want seriously impressive, though? Runway-side for a few B1s taking off at midnight is the place to be.

  23. I don’t think I will ever understand why some people say this plane is ugly.. it’s a freakin beautiful flying piece of art

  24. The Air Force doesn’t want to fly below 10,000 feet and probably never did. For sure, the USAF never did take “close air support” seriously, and the phrase is slowly being purged from the USAF lexicon. So the Air Force doesn’t want or need need attack aircraft.

    The grunts need the support, but the USAF doesn’t like grunts.

    • The Air Force doesn’t like acknowledging that you can’t win wars from 30,000 feet. They started pushing that BS in World War II, and they’ve tried to push it ever since.

      If you want to be really uncharitable, you could say that the Air Force doesn’t like acknowledging that it is a *support* branch over all, but I would never say such a thing.

    • Oh, I see. Today’s “vomit stereotypes I heard somewhere on the Internet” day.

      F-15E with LANTIRN nav pod and Sniper XR beat the A-10 every which way from Sunday, and has nothing to do with bombing well over 10,000 feet.

      • There are several ways the strike eagle is an inferior platform for close support. Importantly, its engines are gone if it’s forced to land anywhere but a formal runway. The gun is useless as anything but a noisemaker. Not that it matters, because it can’t go slow enough to hit a ground target with it anyway.

        • Right, tell me about all the times our F-15s have been forced to land on improvised runways. Or A-10s for that matter. And I guess all that footage of insurgents getting strafed were cobbled together in the studio where NASA faked the moon landings.

      • You can have your F15 but when a Haji with an RPK knocks you outta the sky while the A10 loiters and continues to be a force multiplier you’ll change your tune. I’ve seen, and called in A10s when ground fire kept F15s too high up to be much good in a fight yet the hogs dropped as low as they could takin rounds and strafing.

        • If Haji somehow manages to get a golden BB into an F-15, I’ll eat my hat. Especially if it’s so miraculous, he manages to pull it off with a 7.62×39.

          A DShK? Maybe. But a glorified AK? Get outta here. Helicopters have more cause to be concerned with these guys anyway, not fixed-wing aircraft.

      • I stand by what I said, with one qualification, I meant the 15’s gun is useless against armor. I really should have specified.

        As far as unimproved runways go, how would you know unless you were there? Unless the 15 did it behind enemy lines, it wouldn’t be newsworthy, and an A-10 would likely be landing on the same “runway” it took off from.

        I’ve watched enough HUD video, and the version you see, unless you’re the debriefer, is heavily edited. Not sure on the A-10, but I know the 20mm Vulcan, with less than half the ammunition capacity of the 30mm version on the other airframe, has an adjustable fire rate that’s usually set pretty low.

        Most telling, the Sniper XR is a replacement for the LANTIRN. It’s one or the other. Your level of defensiveness combined with my experience, I’m guessing your dad is a 15 crew chief?

        • knightofbob:

          Hahahaha, yeah, okay. I’m a USAF maintainer, an avionics tech that’s worked on both the F-15E and A-10. Which means that when you tell me “Most telling, the Sniper XR is a replacement for the LANTIRN. It’s one or the other” I know you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. The Sniper XR replaces the LANTIRN TARGETING pod, not the LANTIRN NAV pod. The F-15E has TWO pods, guy: One for terrain-following navigation, and the other for targeting. I should know, I’ve changed and ops checked enough of them.

          So what was YOUR daddy’s job? 😛

    • I have the honour to know a retired USAF pilot (100 counters in F-105s and 75 in F-4s, then Aggressors and Air Liaison Officer) who would firmly dispute that view: his opinion is that air superiority is what a real fighter pilot does on the way to and from bombing the enemy in order to help win the war, and he worked both air and groud (flying support, then riding along with the troops to call in CAS).

      (I’d *highly* recommend his books, “When Thunder Rolled” and “Palace Cobra”: author Ed Rasimus. If I remember right he mentioned he carries a Kimber by choice…)

      He’s not a major fan of the A-10: while it’s very effective as long as your side has air supremacy and has thoroughly smacked the enemy’s air defences down, it’s very vulnerable to even middle-aged threats. It’s short of speed and energy recovery (so it’s less able to evade, and takes longer to recover), and it’s got a horrible signature that makes it harder to decoy threats off it. Air-to-air, as an Aggressor he used to routinely run out of gun camera film dogfighting Warthogs in an AT-38: like Zeros engaged by a well-flown F6F Hellcat, the A-10 is very vulnerable to a fast jet unless the pointy-nosed jockey does something foolish (like slowing down for a horizontal turning fight)

      • All due respect to your friend: I have a lot of reverence for the Aggressor squadrons after seeing them in action. They’re easily the best pilots the AF has to offer.

        The aggressor’s job is also to make things hard for the other pilots. He or she knows exactly what the opponent is trained to do, since he or she has had the same training. In addition to that, the aggressor isn’t supposed to lose. The entire idea is that pilots get to make mistakes, and then live to learn from them.

        That said, I’m sure your friend has equal hours of any given fighter platform from his time as an aggressor on his kill cam. Not that it would really matter, since the A-10 isn’t a fighter, but I bet he had similar experience with new flyers in relatively new F-16s.

  25. They are ugly! But, if you’re under fire and one comes to help they are angels. Got to love them. Again, they are ugly, just like the goony bird (C-47) until it turns into Puff. We all loved Puff in Vietnam.

  26. My guess is that the Air Force thinks they can achieve the same result with remote controlled drones firing missiles from on high.

    While the A-10s are tough, they are not invincible and they must fly within range of ground fire to deliver their support. Drones on the other hand fly at several thousand feet: well beyond the range of ground fire.

    More importantly, the Air Force can probably acquire and operate 20 or more drones for the price of one A-10. Remember that ballistic effectiveness isn’t the only important aspect of a weapons system, so is affordability.

    Finally, drones do not put human pilots in harms way over an actual battlefield.

  27. After a long absence, this is a good article to comment about.

    Yeah the Air Force wants to replace the A10 with the F35. They also have their heads far up their asses if they think the F35 could fulfill the A10s role.

    For a number of reasons, the F35 is a boondoggle. It is a trillion dollar project that resulted in a plane that has trouble flying in lightning (ironic that its named Lightning), is SLOW, cannot dogfight, is heavy, and is disproportionately reliant on immature technologies. A perfect example of a cost death spiral. The Air Force, ironically alluding to the Vietnam war, believes its “advanced technology” will make dogfighting obsolete. Where have we heard this before?

    ECM only carries you so far because most developing nations, you know, the ones well most likely see our next war in, will still have 1950s and 60s AAA technology, such as ZPU 14.5mm and ZSU 23mm towed guns. The A10 isn’t invincible, but it IS specifically designed to receive punches from such AAA because thats what the adversaries the A10 was designed to face were armed with. The F35, being insanely reliant on stealth and technology, has the characteristic of being hideously vulnerable to conventional AAA. Consider the technological leap the Russians have made in terms of AAA as well: The Pantsir SPAAG and S400; the later which is claimed to be a effective counter to modern stealth technology.

    You can have a stealth interceptor and a stealth fighter, but one aircraft cannot do everything. You certainly cannot make a stealth fighter a close support aircraft. Such a unique role is to be filled by a largely slow and heavily armored aircraft, with enough firepower to level a armored battalion, that can take AAA and still limp back to base.

    Wait until we get into our next major war. Well be digging these f–kers out of the boneyard (the ones that haven’t been guillotined yet).

  28. When I used to live near a wing of A-10s, my dog feared two things: thunder and Thunderbolts (the planes, not that weird ass puppet/cartoon show from awhile ago). Practice strafing and bombing runs would send that poor 90lb dog shaking in the quietest, most insulated room in the house.

    I actually only confirmed that it was the GAU-8 after getting access to the BBC’s sound effects library where they had a few recordings of that beast firing. I was waaaay too happy to find those files. Wish I’d nabbed a few copies.

    • That would be a kick ass replacement for the main on a bradley or mount on an old 113 to turn it to a purpose built tank killer.

  29. Bet they don’t scrap the depleted uranium. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, worldwide. The half-life is approximately from now until the Sun goes supernova. Troops can even bring it home in their boots and other gear.

  30. Had one of these swoop right in front of me driving past the Dayton Air Show some years back. I about near wrecked my car. Still worth it.

  31. The A-10 is my favorite CAS platform of all time, rivaled only by the Douglas A/D-1. A half-assed “multi-role” fiasco like the F-35 can’t even begin to compare in that role.

  32. A-10 has always been my favorite plane. And there’s a lot of REALLY cool planes out there, so that really tells you something. Hoping someone is smart enough to pick it up if the AF drops it. Army?

  33. I got outta college in 1982 and went straight to work in corporate america. Had to go thru a multi week training class near Chicago. One of the trainers was an A10 jock. According to him in 1982, the A10 had been put out to pasture in Air National Guard units. He flew them one weekend a month and a couple weeks in the summer. So now the AF wants to put them out to pasture again. You cant make this stuff up.

  34. I am not a vet, so I never got to see an A10 first hand in combat. I did have the good fortune to see a squadron of ’em at a couple of air shows do strafing runs and some high speed flybys. I also got to see one very up close as it was parked in the exhibition area. That 30mm cannon is just incredible to look at. They also had one pulled out of the plane so folks could see what it looked like. I chatted with the military guys showing off their stuff, and they all loved the A10. Sad to hear that they will be retired, but all good things do come to an end.

  35. A-10 is the IL-2 of our time. Even if they kill it, there is a need for something to fill the same role, which will be found out (yet again) as soon as another armed conflict starts, if not earlier.

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