Facts and Photos About A-10 Warthogs in Photos

A-10 Warthog

Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II, better known to the world simply as Warthog is the only plane built by the USAF for the sole purpose of Close Air Support, and it’s good at it.

The ground forces are in love and awe for the Hog since 1976, the year it entered service. As an heir of A-1 Skyraider, Warthog was designed around the beastly 30 mm GAU-8 Avenger which can obliterate enemy armored vehicles and tanks in seconds, and everything around too if the pilot wishes so.

By providing quick-action support, the Hog is considered to be irreplaceable by many. and instead of a new project countless admirers would rather prefer to upgrade the current A-10 to modern standards.

The debate about F-35 replacing the holder of GAU-8 Avenger is still going on, and the fate of Warthog is quite contentious within the USAF circles. As they say, the wonderful thing about A-10 Warthog is Warthogs are wonderful things.

A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft attached to the 163rd Fighter Squadron, Indiana Air National Guard maneuvers after locating a simulated downed pilot during Red Flag-Alaska 13-3 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Aug. 22, 2013.
A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft attached to the 163rd Fighter Squadron, Indiana Air National Guard maneuvers after locating a simulated downed pilot during Red Flag-Alaska 13-3 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Aug. 22, 2013.

Funny enough, initially A-10 Thunderbolt II was considered as of little combat value by the USAF, since the HQ were prioritizing high speed on high altitudes, just like with F-15 and F-16, while all the dirty work was supposed to be handled by helicopters, forgetting the experiences from Korea, Vietnam, and Laos when propelled aircraft could do things that jets were not so superior at.

This by no means is an indication that multirole strike aircraft do CAS.

It was the Congress that forced the Air Force to create it in the first place, and the Army needed it. It was not only a domestic opinion, as China turned down an offer to buy the A-10 design in the 80’s when the USAF was trying to get rid of it. In the end, its ugliness became beautiful and is now literally a cultural icon.

The facts speak for themselves

A-10 Warthog was ambitious. Since the early ’80s, during the Cold War, NATO was planning to introduce aircraft capable of flying slow on rather low altitudes against the Warsaw Pact tanks stationing in Central and Eastern Europe.

Luckily for humanity, such conflict never erected but in 1991 there was another chance for Warthogs to prove their worth.

Munitions specialists from the 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing, England Air Force Base, La., load 30mm rounds of ammunition into an A-10A Thunderbolt II attack aircraft for its GAU-8/A Avenger cannon prior to a sortie in support of Operation Desert Storm.
Munitions specialists from the 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing, England Air Force Base, La., load 30mm rounds of ammunition into an A-10A Thunderbolt II attack aircraft for its GAU-8/A Avenger cannon prior to a sortie in support of Operation Desert Storm.

During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, A-10 erased from the surface over 1000 tanks, 2000 other military vehicles, and 1200 artillery positions proving their efficiency and shocking even the military planners with their scores.

Only 5 Warthogs were lost, mostly shot down by ZSU-23-4 Shilka, but that’s it! Many more were landing with severe damage boasting around how durable the airframe was.

An A-10 Thunderbolt II takes off from Bagram Air Field Oct. 18. The nose art on the plane signifies that this A-10 is part of the “Flying Tigers” legacy dating back to the World War II era. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse/Released)
An A-10 Thunderbolt II takes off from Bagram Air Field Oct. 18. The nose art on the plane signifies that this A-10 is part of the “Flying Tigers” legacy dating back to the World War II era. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse/Released)

A-10s were also serving in Kosovo in 1999, during the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 (stationing in Bagram Base), during the 2003 invasion of Iraq (where only one A-10 was shot down, out of 60 deployed), in Granada, and most recently against the Islamic State in the Middle East.

The Air Force was trying to get rid of it several times, but it seems no one is going to pull the Warthog from service without a viable replacement on the horizon. As the saying goes “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Its service was not without fail.  Friendly fire is a terrible thing and it does happen. In 1991, one of the planes accidentally fired against two British APCs FV 510 Warrior, killing nine allied soldiers. Another British reconnaissance vehicles Scimitar were under fire in Iraq in 2003.

US Marines went under fire of the hell caused by Gatling gun too, during the battle of An Nasiriyah, whereby a mistake killed at least one Marine, and possibly as many as 17 Marines.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Nelson A. Walker, assigned to the 9th Air Support Operations Squadron, observes an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft May 22, 2014, at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, during a live-fire operation as part of Combined Resolve II.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Nelson A. Walker, assigned to the 9th Air Support Operations Squadron, observes an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft May 22, 2014, at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, during a live-fire operation as part of Combined Resolve II.

The gun

Granted that Warthog was able to carry a substantial amount of armament under its wings, it was still the Gatling gun to be the main weapon – the famous 30 mm hydraulically driven seven-barrel Gatling-style autocannon, simple GAU-8 Avenger.

Basically, the whole airframe was built around it. Capable of firing 4,200 rounds per minute in high the high setting, in theory at least as the ammo drum can hold up to 1,350 rounds of 30 mm ammunition.

The cannon was installed asymmetrical, with the fuselage around it, a bit left from the longitudinal axis and at a 3 ° downward angle, making it easier to aim against ground targets.

General Electric GAU-8/A installed, with access panels open. (U.S. Air Force photo)
General Electric GAU-8/A installed, with access panels open. (U.S. Air Force photo)

This magnificent gun created a lot of legends too. Some say that a long enough firepower was able to stop the plane mid-air, or even forcing it into reverse.

According to the producer data, the GAU-8/A Avenger recoil was about 45 kN, which is more than half the power of both engines running at full. In theory, with one engine out of action, the gun’s recoil power is able to exceed the power of thrust of the remaining engine.

General Electric GAU-8/A side view drawing, showing approximate location of gun when installed. (U.S. Air Force photo)
General Electric GAU-8/A side view drawing, showing approximate location of gun when installed. (U.S. Air Force photo)

However, despite the stunning effectiveness of the Gatling gun, A-10 Warthog’s elemental armament also consists also of AGM-65 Maverick allowing the pilot to precisely engage the target from a further distance than GAU-8/A and avoiding a direct danger of anti-air systems at the same time. The rest are typically cluster bombs and unguided missiles.

During the Persian Gulf War, pilots of A-10 made 8100 combat missions, firing 90% of all AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missiles of all available in that particular war theatre, reaching an extraordinary 95,7% efficiency.

General Electric GAU-8/A displayed next to a Volkswagen Beetle for size comparison. (U.S. Air Force photo)
General Electric GAU-8/A displayed next to a Volkswagen Beetle for size comparison. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Shell

Both the cockpit and vital steering systems are protected by a titanium armor of a total weight of 400kg (~880 lb). The construction allows the Warthog to operate from makeshift airfields built close to the combat zone as it was anything but fragile.

It can sustain direct hits from armor-piercing and high-explosive shells up to caliber 23mm. With a lot of protection over the most important parts, landing with damaged hydraulics or even parts of wings rarely made the injuries fatal.

USAF Pilot Kim Campbell looks at her damaged A-10 Warthog which she landed at her base after a mission over Baghdad in 2003.
USAF Pilot Kim Campbell looks at her damaged A-10 Warthog which she landed at her base after a mission over Baghdad in 2003.

Someone put a lot of thought into the design in terms of maintenance as they are easy to fix and change parts, starting from engine parts, landing gear, and ending on tailplanes. The capability to operate from frontline airfields was priceless and imperative due to low speed, thus long flight.

Rear view of an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft as it takes off from the autobahn A29 near city of Ahlhorn during NATO-exercise “highway 84”.
Rear view of an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft as it takes off from the autobahn A29 near city of Ahlhorn during NATO-exercise “highway 84”.

At the start, A-10 was an object of criticism for rather poor avionic equipment. However, it was built with the idea of close combat support in mind, so it did not need any complicated electronic systems that would only unnecessarily rise its cost.

The early models had only installed RWR system and TACAN equipment, there was even no autopilot. A potential threat from the Warsaw Pact and its Soviet tanks forced the USAF to invest more into modern electronic systems as the weather in Western Europe was often unfavorable.

A-10C Warthog cockpit at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum 2012 Become a Pilot Day. Photo: Steven Fine / CC BY-SA 4.0
A-10C Warthog cockpit at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum 2012 Become a Pilot Day. Photo: Steven Fine / CC BY-SA 4.0

Nicknames

Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II was honored by its enemy as well. During the Gulf War, Iraqi tankers were calling them Whistling Death. After the defeat of Iraq Forces in 2003, captured soldiers were referencing to Warhthogs as Devil’s Cross (probably due to its silhouette). In the US they are simply known as Warthog or just Hog.

The 188th Fighter Wing, Arkansas Air National Guard conducted spouse orientation rides on a KC-135R Stratotanker with the 185th Airlift Wing, Iowa Air National Guard Dec. 2-3, 2011, in Fort Smith, Ark.
The 188th Fighter Wing, Arkansas Air National Guard conducted spouse orientation rides on a KC-135R Stratotanker with the 185th Airlift Wing, Iowa Air National Guard Dec. 2-3, 2011, in Fort Smith, Ark.

More photos!

Fairchild Republic A-10 inboard profile drawing. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Fairchild Republic A-10 inboard profile drawing. (U.S. Air Force photo)

 

354th TFW A-10 with tug on Myrtle Beach AAF hardstand
354th TFW A-10 with tug on Myrtle Beach AAF hardstand

 

An A-10C Thunderbolt II from the 190th Fighter Squadron takes off for a training mission shortly after a snowstorm Jan. 6, 2017, at Gowen Field, Idaho. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. John Winn)
An A-10C Thunderbolt II from the 190th Fighter Squadron takes off for a training mission shortly after a snowstorm Jan. 6, 2017, at Gowen Field, Idaho. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. John Winn)

 

Aircraft from the 23d Wing conducted a surge exercise May 22, 2017, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The exercise was conducted in order to demonstrate the wing’s ability to rapidly deploy combat ready forces across the globe. The 23d Wing maintains and operates A-10C Thunderbolt IIs, HH-60G Pave Hawks, and HC-130J Combat King II aircraft for precision attack, personnel recovery and combat support worldwide.
Aircraft from the 23d Wing conducted a surge exercise May 22, 2017, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The exercise was conducted in order to demonstrate the wing’s ability to rapidly deploy combat ready forces across the globe. The 23d Wing maintains and operates A-10C Thunderbolt IIs, HH-60G Pave Hawks, and HC-130J Combat King II aircraft for precision attack, personnel recovery and combat support worldwide.

 

An A-10 Thunderbolt assigned to the 514th Flight Test Squadron peels away after receiving fuel over Idaho Nov. 25, 2020
An A-10 Thunderbolt assigned to the 514th Flight Test Squadron peels away after receiving fuel over Idaho Nov. 25, 2020

 

Senior Airman Tristan Franklin and Airman 1st Class Cameron Padgett use an ammunition loading adaptor to feed 30-millimeter rounds into an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft ammo drum June 11, 2013, at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. The Thunderbolt II can employ a wide variety of conventional munitions, including general purpose bombs, cluster bomb units, laser-guided bombs and joint direct attack munitions. Franklin and Cameron are 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons loaders. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)
Senior Airman Tristan Franklin and Airman 1st Class Cameron Padgett use an ammunition loading adaptor to feed 30-millimeter rounds into an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft ammo drum June 11, 2013, at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. The Thunderbolt II can employ a wide variety of conventional munitions, including general purpose bombs, cluster bomb units, laser-guided bombs and joint direct attack munitions. Franklin and Cameron are 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons loaders. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)

 

 

A de-icing team works to prepare an A-10 Thunderbolt II for a mission during a snowstorm Dec. 29, 2013, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The airfield received approximately three inches of snow during the storm. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Brian Wagner/Released)
A de-icing team works to prepare an A-10 Thunderbolt II for a mission during a snowstorm Dec. 29, 2013, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The airfield received approximately three inches of snow during the storm. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Brian Wagner/Released)

 

A-10 Thunderbolt II, fully armed
A-10 Thunderbolt II, fully armed

 

25th Fighter Squadron Fairchild Republic A-10C Thunderbolt II 81-0971 The first A-10 Thunderbolt II sortie for operational readiness exercise Beverly Midnight 12-03 takes off from Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, July 24, 2012.
25th Fighter Squadron Fairchild Republic A-10C Thunderbolt II 81-0971 The first A-10 Thunderbolt II sortie for operational readiness exercise Beverly Midnight 12-03 takes off from Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, July 24, 2012.
The heritage flight at Aviation Nation 2017 consisted of 2 355th Wing A-10 Thunderbolt II, a 57th Wing F-22A Raptor, and a P-51 Mustang. Aviation Nation is an airshow at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
The heritage flight at Aviation Nation 2017 consisted of 2 355th Wing A-10 Thunderbolt II, a 57th Wing F-22A Raptor, and a P-51 Mustang. Aviation Nation is an airshow at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

 

he Idaho Air National Guard supports Exercise Combined Resolve II with A-10 Thunderbolt II jets at the Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, May 19, 2014.
he Idaho Air National Guard supports Exercise Combined Resolve II with A-10 Thunderbolt II jets at the Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, May 19, 2014.

 

A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II with the U.S. Air Force Weapons School drops an AGM-65 Maverick during a close air support training mission over the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) on Sept. 23, 2011 as part of a six-month, graduate-level instructor course held at Nellis Air Force Base.
A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II with the U.S. Air Force Weapons School drops an AGM-65 Maverick during a close air support training mission over the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) on Sept. 23, 2011 as part of a six-month, graduate-level instructor course held at Nellis Air Force Base.

 

An air-to-air left front view of a 25th Tactical Fighter Squadron A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft firing its 30mm gun at a target on the Koo-Ni range during Exercise Team Spirit ’86.
An air-to-air left front view of a 25th Tactical Fighter Squadron A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft firing its 30mm gun at a target on the Koo-Ni range during Exercise Team Spirit ’86.

 

Arkansas Air National Guard A-10C firing an AGM-65 air-to-surface missile on a firing range at Davis-Monthan AFB
Arkansas Air National Guard A-10C firing an AGM-65 air-to-surface missile on a firing range at Davis-Monthan AFB

 

Aircraft from the 23d Wing conducted a surge exercise May 22, 2017, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The exercise was conducted in order to demonstrate the wing’s ability to rapidly deploy combat ready forces across the globe.
Aircraft from the 23d Wing conducted a surge exercise May 22, 2017, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The exercise was conducted in order to demonstrate the wing’s ability to rapidly deploy combat ready forces across the globe.

 

An A-10 Thunderbolt II, assigned to the 74th Fighter Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, GA, returns to mission after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker, 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, over the skies of Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, May 8, 2011.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II, assigned to the 74th Fighter Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, GA, returns to mission after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker, 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, over the skies of Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, May 8, 2011.

 

A U.S. Air Force Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II (s/n 78-0703) from the 190th Fighter Squadron, 124th Wing, Idaho Air National Guard, flies over the Sawtooth Range, Idaho, 12 February 2008.
A U.S. Air Force Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II (s/n 78-0703) from the 190th Fighter Squadron, 124th Wing, Idaho Air National Guard, flies over the Sawtooth Range, Idaho, 12 February 2008.

 

A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II flies over the over the Baltic Sea, Sept. 4, 2015.
A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II flies over the over the Baltic Sea, Sept. 4, 2015.

 

First Lt. Micha Stoddard, flying the lead aircraft, and his wingman, Capt. Casey Peasley, fly their A-10 Thunderbolt IIs in an echelon formation March 26, 2014, enroute from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., to their home base in Boise, Idaho.
First Lt. Micha Stoddard, flying the lead aircraft, and his wingman, Capt. Casey Peasley, fly their A-10 Thunderbolt IIs in an echelon formation March 26, 2014, enroute from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., to their home base in Boise, Idaho.

 

An A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the 25th Fighter Squadron shoots a flair during a combat search and rescue demonstration during Air Power Day 2016 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Sept. 24, 2016.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the 25th Fighter Squadron shoots a flair during a combat search and rescue demonstration during Air Power Day 2016 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Sept. 24, 2016.

 

An Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II flies in an undisclosed location after receiving fuel from a KC-10 Extender while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, May 31, 2017.
An Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II flies in an undisclosed location after receiving fuel from a KC-10 Extender while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, May 31, 2017.

 

An Air Liaison Officer (ALO) watches as an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft makes a low-level turn during a training exercise. The ALO is an Air Force officer responsible for directing air strikes in support of Army ground forces.
An Air Liaison Officer (ALO) watches as an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft makes a low-level turn during a training exercise. The ALO is an Air Force officer responsible for directing air strikes in support of Army ground forces.

 

An air-to-air left side view of an OA-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft of the 23rd Tactical Air Support Squadron firing it’s GAU-8/A Avenger 30mm cannon at a target on the East Tactical Range in Southern Arizona. The 23rd TASS is the first squadron to convert from the OA-37 Dragonfly observation/attack aircraft to the OA-10.
An air-to-air left side view of an OA-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft of the 23rd Tactical Air Support Squadron firing it’s GAU-8/A Avenger 30mm cannon at a target on the East Tactical Range in Southern Arizona. The 23rd TASS is the first squadron to convert from the OA-37 Dragonfly observation/attack aircraft to the OA-10.

 

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Mathis (left) works range space issues while Master Sgt. Craig Hillsman gives a “cleared hot” to attack call to an incoming A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft during a training exercise at the Nevada Test and Training Range on May 22, 2005.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Mathis (left) works range space issues while Master Sgt. Craig Hillsman gives a “cleared hot” to attack call to an incoming A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft during a training exercise at the Nevada Test and Training Range on May 22, 2005.

 

An A-10C assigned to the 104th Fighter Squadron, Maryland Air National Guard, lands at Mud Lake on the Nevada Test and Training Range, November 29, 2011.
An A-10C assigned to the 104th Fighter Squadron, Maryland Air National Guard, lands at Mud Lake on the Nevada Test and Training Range, November 29, 2011.

 

An A-10 Thunderbolt II lands after a recent mission
An A-10 Thunderbolt II lands after a recent mission