Here's Why The Warthog Is The Greatest Close Air Support Aircraft Ever
Since Desert Storm if the mission involved close air support — especially killing tanks — the A-10 ‘Warthog’ was the jet the infantry loved to see overhead. It’s lethal, it’s agile, and it’s perfect at providing support for troops on the ground. So it’s easy to see why they absolutely love it.
The A-10 “Thunderbolt II” was built by Fairchild Republic in the early 1970s to take on close air support missions — the only military aircraft in history designed specifically for that purpose. (Photo: U. S. Air Force)
The A-10, more commonly referred to as the “Warthog” because of it’s unique look, is not fast for a tactical jet but is very maneuverable due to its large wings. In this photo a Warthog dispenses flares used to decoy heat-seeking missiles. (Photo: U. S. Air Force)
The Warthog features a GAU-8 Avenger nose cannon — the heaviest gun mounted on an airplane — that fires 30 millimeter bullets. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)
Warthogs became the infantry’s close air support platforms of choice due to a wide range of armament, loiter time, and the courage of the pilots who flew them. Here nose art annotates enemy equipment destroyed and number of bombs delivered. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)
The cockpit and parts of the flight-control system are protected by 1,200 pounds of titanium armor, referred to as a “bathtub.” (Source: Wikipedia; Photo: U.S. Air Force)
One of the most powerful aircraft cannons ever flown, the GAU-8 fires large depleted uranium armor-piercing shells at a rate of 3,900 rounds per minute.
Along with the GAU-8 nose cannon the Warthog has multiple hard points on each wing for carrying a variety of weapons including Maverick AGMs and Sidewinder heat-seeking air-to-air missiles.
To reduce the likelihood of damage to the A-10’s fuel system, all four fuel tanks are located near the aircraft’s center and are separated from the fuselage; projectiles would need to penetrate the aircraft’s skin before reaching a tank’s outer skin. (Source: Wikipedia; Photo: U.S. Air Force)
The A-10’s durability was shown on April 7, 2003 when Capt. Kim Campbell, while flying over Baghdad during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, suffered extensive flak damage. Despite a malfunctioning engine and a crippled hydraulic system, Campbell flew the aircraft for nearly an hour and landed safely. (Source: Wikipedia; Photo: U.S. Air Force)
The A-10 was designed to fly from forward air bases and semi-prepared runways with high risk of foreign object damage to the engines.
The unusual location of the General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofan engines decreases the heat signature for IR missiles, reduces the chances of FOD ingestion, and allows the engines to run while the aircraft is serviced and rearmed by ground crews, reducing turn-around time. (Source: Wikipedia; Photo: U. S. Air Force)
Although it’s inflight refueling capability theoretically could have kept the Warthog airborne forever, the Air Force’s budget priorities have attempted to ground the airplane once and for all in favor of the F-35.
However various Air National Guard factions and congressional groups have pressured the Pentagon to keep the A-10 in service, claiming that the F-35 is less capable than the venerable Warthog. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)