Russia's increasing aggression in Europe has made some countries nervous. This is particularly true for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — former Soviet republics that have since joined NATO. To make matters worse, these countries don't have much in the way of military power.
That said, NATO is doing what they can to reassure these countries. To do that, they're putting on an exercise known as Saber Strike. This exercise brings together 19 countries, including Baltic nations and Poland, to "build readiness" in the area — sending a clear message to a particular Eastern neighbor.
This year's exercise features the 2nd Cavalry Regiment moving from its base in Germany to Poland, simulating the type of deployment the unit would make in a real crisis.
In a fight with Russia, A-10 Thunderbolts would likely use AGM-65 Mavericks as a primary weapon against air-defense systems.
(DOD photo by Jim Haseltine)
One of the units taking part in this exercise is the 127th Operations Group, the parent unit of the 107th Fighter Squadron of the Michigan Air National Guard. This unit has flown the A-10 Thunderbolt II, a plane designed for close-air support missions, since 2008. This is the plane that would back up NATO forces sent to defend the Baltic states if anything were to go down.
The United States currently has 13 squadrons that operate the A-10. This plane, famous for the BRRRRRT emitted by its GAU-8 Avenger Gatling gun, has a top speed of 450 knots and a maximum range of 2,240 nautical miles. In addition to its massive gun, the A-10 can carry up to eight tons of bombs, missiles, and rockets.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II was designed to help NATO defeat the hordes of Soviet and Warsaw Pact tanks threatening Western Europe.
The Air Force is currently running the OA-X program to try to (partially) replace the A-10 — right now, the AT-29 Super Tucano and the AT-6 Wolverine, a pair of light attack planes, are looking like favorites. Unfortunately, as it stands now, those planes aren't nearly as capable as the A-10.
Watch the video below to see the A-10s with the Michigan Air National Guard take part in Saber Strike '18!