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Fairchild-Republic A10 Thunderbolt II: the plane that wouldn’t die

The plane the Chair Farce couldn’t kill off, more like (via Ed Driscoll).

A-10 Warthog: The 50 Year Old Plane That Just Won’t Die

Despite being nearly fifty years old, how does the U.S. A-10 Warthog continue to survive various efforts to cancel it each time it’s in budget-cut danger? An airplane that is as ugly as its name, the A-10 can bring the heat to the air-to-ground battle. Its many critics have to admit that this thing is just awesome at close-air-support. Designed as a “tank plinker” during the Cold War, the Warthog showed extreme prowess during Operation Desert Storm while destroying all kinds of Iraqi weapons systems.

How Many Lives Does the Warthog Have?

But the Air Force has wanted to eliminate the A-10 for more than 20 years. It is considered too slow and ponderous after decades in service. And despite its achievements in the air-to-ground fight, opponents believed the money used on upkeep and maintenance could be better spent on more modern aircraft.

Enter the Biden Administration and the U.S. Senate

Then politics entered the picture. First, the Biden Administration said no more Warthogs and proposed to retire dozens of them.

Because of course he did. It’s a US military aircraft that works extremely well, enheartening beleaguered American ground-pounders and striking abject terror into the hearts of America’s enemies every time it comes howling in low on another deadly strafing run with that enormous GAU 8 cannon; for a shitheel like Traitor Joe, what’s to like?

Be sure to watch the whole vid; it’s eight minutes-plus of pure, unadulterated glory, that’s what. Oh, and I DID mention that the GAU 8 Gatling-cannon is enormous, didn’t I? Why yes, I believe I did at that.

Big gun
Big enough for ya?

You aviation buffs will doubtless be aware that the A10 platform was actually designed and built around the GAU 8 Avenger rotary gun, resulting in one of the most successful combinations in military-aviation history. The A10 came into being as the replacement for the venerable Douglas A1 Skyraider, a warbird I was lucky enough to get some stick time in at an airshow years ago:

Co-pilot’s aircraft!
Cranking the Able Dog hard a-port
Note the AoA indicator, at top center

The USAF, despite the A10’s matchless record of battlefield success, doesn’t see CAS as its role, greatly preferring the old-school glamor of aerial dogfighting, strategic bombing, and standoff-range missile engagements instead. Hence its longstanding dislike of the A10, dubbed by its opponents in Iraq as “the Devil’s Cross.” They feared the A10, and were right to do so; its other ordnance aside, the GAU 8’s stout 30mm depleted-uranium rounds ripped many a pinned-down Republican Guardsman into Kibbles ‘N’ Bits over the course of both Iraq conflicts, without its pilots’ ever breaking much of a sweat.

Ahh, but is the A10 durable? Don’t even go there.

Air Force Pilot Landed Damaged A-10 Using Only ‘Cranks and Cables’

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. (AFNS) — Maj. Kim Campbell, an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot here, shared her story with Women’s History Month luncheon guests about a mission in which her A-10 was hit by enemy fire over Baghdad.

While deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, then Captain Campbell and her flight lead were flying over downtown Baghdad during a close air support mission April 7, 2003.

“We were originally tasked to target some Iraqi tanks and vehicles in the city that were acting as a command post, but on the way to the target area we received a call from the ground forward air controller or FAC, saying they were taking fire and needed immediate assistance.”

The FAC ultimately turned out to be a member of the captain’s squadron. Once over the target area, they descended below the clouds to positively identify the friendly troops and the enemy’s location.

“We could see the Iraqi troops firing RPGs, or rocket propelled grenades, into our guys,” she said. “It was definitely a high threat situation, but within minutes my flight lead was employing his 30 mm Gatling gun on the enemy location.”

The two-ship formation of A-10s then made several passes over the enemy location, employing 30 mm bullets and high explosive rockets.

“Yes, there was risk involved, but these guys on the ground needed our help,” Major Campbell said. “It’s what any A-10 attack pilot would do in response to a troops-in-contact situation. That’s our job; to bring fire down on the enemy when our Army and Marine brothers and sisters request our assistance.”

After her last rocket pass, the captain was maneuvering off target when she felt and heard a large explosion at the back of the aircraft.

“There was no question in my mind,” she said. “I knew I had been hit by enemy fire.”

Yes, there are pictures, all of which serve to confirm the doughty MAJ Campbell as a true master of understatement. Mind, hers is but one of many stories of ragged, chewed-up, shot-to-hell-and-gone A10s nonetheless bringing their pilots home safely.

It may very well be true that the battle-proven A10 Warthog’s moment in the sun has at last flitted on by, and that it should therefore be mothballed with all the honors and respect it has so richly earned over its storied career. That’s an argument I’ll gladly leave to others to make. Whatever the case may be, the A10’s retirement will stand as a marker of something sad and depressing: one of the last reminders of America’s faded glory, its atrophied military muscle, and its bygone ability to engineer and produce war matériel of unparalleled quality, toughness, and worth.

The A10 Thunderbolt II is quite simply the very best CAS aircraft ever built, by anybody. The F35 Turducken as its replacement? Yeah, right.

Update! Just remembered another personal A10 experience I had all but forgotten about, involving the now-defunct Myrtle Beach AFB.

The Myrtle Beach base used the A-10 Warthog jet, and Pat McCullough of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission said the Air Force considered the jet “limited to a low-threat environment”, while the Army believed it was “a very powerful close-air support asset.” The Air Force chose to phase out the A-10, which led to the base’s closing, but the Army wanted the A-10 to continue flying; the decision to keep the A-10 came after the decision to close had been made.

The base closed 31 March 1993.

Now, when I was a kid we always took our summer vacation down at MYB every year, where the fam would often sit on the beach watching those A10 squadrons practicing attack-weave patterns low and slow out over the water, not terribly far from our ocean-front perches. Being but a callow stripling, I just assumed those Warthogs were lowly training jets, not really worthy of a whole lot in the way of notice. It was not until years later that it finally hit me that what I was witnessing was in fact one of the most badass warplanes ever built, swooping and diving around amongst the seagulls no more than a couple hundred yards away from where I sat.

Ahh, youth.

Hot brass update! Another personal A10 memory, this one from Big Country.

No bullshit, I was actually showered with fucking 30mm brass from a close air support mission in Iraq back in the day. Thank Christ I was wearing a helmet bro…Them fucking brass shells are a fucking heavy motherfucker when they’re falling from the sky.

Heh. Yeah, I imagine so. Just the same, I bet you were glad of ’em at the time, though.


7 thoughts on “Fairchild-Republic A10 Thunderbolt II: the plane that wouldn’t die

  1. This is one aircraft that should be transferred to the Army and Marines! I bet they would enjoy using it.

  2. “Despite being nearly fifty years old, how does the U.S. A-10 Warthog continue to survive various efforts to cancel it each time it’s in budget-cut danger? ”

    “Then politics entered the picture. First, the Biden Administration said no more Warthogs and proposed to retire dozens of them.”

    Well, no, politics entered the picture a long time ago and is the answer to the first question. Politics are what has saved the A-10 for many years. Politicians that have no clue why a plane fly’s, or what made* the A-10 a fine close support weapon, but do know they might lose votes if an A-10 facility is cancelled in their state.

    *with the current ability to shoot down low level aircraft, Manpads, the A-10 is obsolete for any battle where the Manpads are available to the other side. Manpads are devastating to low level planes and helicopters. High level precision bombing is required, and the A-10 is not a high level precision bombing machine.

    But I wouldn’t cancel them. They are useful for conflict with less well equipped 3rd world turd countries, and are cheap for that use. As Cederq says below, transfer the program to the Army/Marines.

  3. Greetings Ya’all,
    I had to register just to comment on this post. The A-10 is an Angel to those of us on the ground. More than once I and my brothers had our chestnuts pulled from the fire by great pilots coming in for close air support in these awesome aircraft. When you hear that brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrt ya know everything is gonna be alright. IMHO the Army and Marines should take the A-10s off the Air Forces hands. While the A-10 may not win in a dogfight with jets made for dogfighting, its roll as a tank killer and close air support for us groundpounders is unsurpassed by any past and many future aircraft!Only in Americas military industrial complex would the A-10 be considered for the chopping block. Check out Angry Cops take on the replacement for the Black Hawk, ! This is what they want to do to the A-10, scrap it and replace with something less effective and more expensive! Keep the A-10, scrap the bureaucrats!

    OldGrunt67 out!!!

    1. Keep the A-10, scrap the bureaucrats!”

      You said a mouthful there, OG. I DO like the way you think…

  4. Please do remember that it was Songbird McShame who led the fight to keep the A-10!

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