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Flying off into aviation history

After trying for decades to rid themselves of it—and, happily, failing miserably—the venerable, awesomely-capable A10 Thunderbolt II is finally getting shuffled off to Buffalo by the Chair Farce shitwits.

The A-10 Warthog Making One Final Flight — to the Boneyard
Beloved as much by the grunts on the ground as the pilots who flew it, the A-10 ground attack jet is being retired after five decades of very loud and effective service. Air Force enthusiasts everywhere are going to miss that ugly S.O.B.

The Air Force announced plans last week to replace two of the last remaining A-10 squadrons with more modern F-16s and F-35s. “This is all in line with the service’s goal of divesting the last A-10s before the end of the decade, if not sooner,” according to Yahoo News. Air Force brass have been trying to retire the hog for years but Congress has kept telling them no. This new announcement indicates that the A-10 will not keep flying until the 2040s, after all.

But what a jet, even if it did have a face not even a mother could love.

Hey, speak for yourself, Steve. I think they’re goddamned beautiful, myself.

Fairchild-Republic stepped up to meet the Air Force’s need, and the result was the A-10 Thunderbolt II. Neither sleek nor sexy, the Thunderbolt is usually called the Warthog or just the Hog. The whole jet was designed around the 30 mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary autocannon whose (airborne!) ammo magazine is the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. It’s capable of firing depleted uranium shells that tear through the thickest armor like a hot knife moving at 3,324 feet per second through melted butter.

Because the A-10’s job is to get in close, the pilot sits in a “bathtub” made out of titanium. During the Gulf War — when the Warthog first really captured the public’s imagination — I saw one jet on CNN that returned from a mission missing almost a third of one wing and probably half of the other. (I’ve searched for years for that clip but to no avail.) A fully-loaded Hog can carry an additional eight tons of various missiles and bombs.

The Hog’s engines are mounted high and to the rear with a slight tilt up towards the front. That’s to avoid sucking in debris on damaged airfields. Those Fairchild engineers really did think of everything.

The first development version of the Warthog flew in 1972, and it entered service in 1977. More than 700 were built, but only a few dozen are still in service. Although built in numbers to counter Soviet armor, our much-reduced force of A-10s found plenty of jobs that only they could do in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yup—which tends to be the way such things go, even in an age of overemphasis on flashy new technological gew-gaws and gimcracks: the older, sturdier, battle-tested platforms seem almost to be imbued with a will to live as powerful as any sentient being’s, and somehow always find a niche to fill. This next passage makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little.

For what it’s worth, the Air Force has long argued that the F-35 Lightning II multirole stealth fighter is better prepared for ground attack in the 21st Century.

As a lifelong Warthog fan, it pains me to say this, but they’re probably right.

I wrote years and years ago at the original that “stealth is the price of admission to the modern battlespace.” Non-stealth jets simply don’t stand a chance against the latest generation of air defense systems. Hell, they barely stand a chance even against a slightly older one.

The war in Ukraine has proven me (and many others) correct on that score. Despite having a much larger and more modern air force than Ukraine, Russia has been unable to achieve air superiority — even in the early months of the war, long before Western antiaircraft systems began service with Ukraine. Russia has no combat stealth aircraft in service, so even their most advanced Su-34 attack jets have been mostly limited to lobbing inaccurate dumb bombs from safe distances, outside the reach of Kyiv’s air defenses.

In a war with China or Russia, the A-10 likely wouldn’t survive. If — and this is a big if — there’s still a role for manned ground-attack jets, it’s with stealthy planes like the F-35 that are hard to see, harder to kill, and can fire a variety of long-range stand-off weapons.

Yeah, no, not so much. In the first place, war with China or Russia is unlikely in the extreme. In the second, you’re (and the Chair Farce as well) making some highly unfounded assumptions about the one-size-fits-nothing F35 Turducken, which is so bug-ridden, fantastically expensive to build and maintain, and over-engineered it’s no better than fifty-fifty whether a full squadron could even manage to get off the ground in-theater.

As for the casual dismissal of manned combat aircraft, that’s another thing the desk-bound zoomies have been pimping for decades now with little to no success, for a very simple reason: there is no substitute for boots on the ground, swabbies on deck, eyes in the sky, and Marines storming ashore. All the adolescent onanism extolling futuristic, bloodless warfare waged exclusively via drones, combat mechs, and AI geekery controlled from extreme standoff range will never replace the human ability to adapt, improvise, and overcome on-scene, in the heat of the moment—especially in the kind of 5G brushfire conflict against some dimestore dictator in Shitholistan’s ragtag army of goatherds we’re much more likely to find ourselves engaging in going forward.

Stephen’s point about latest-generation air defenses is well-taken, certainly. But how many of those exorbitantly expensive cutting-edge systems are going to be finding their way into the hands of the kind of backasswards Third Worlders we’re likely to be squaring off against, really? Admittedly, I damned sure wouldn’t want to be caught with my ass in the breeze at the stick of an A10 and have some illiterate yahoo set off my threat-warning alarms by pointing one of those high-tech death spikes at me. But still. I don’t have any numbers on how many times such a thing has happened to some poor ‘Hog jock, so I won’t offer any guesstimates on the odds for or against, or what the frequency of such incidents might actually be.

Looking at the bigger picture, though, the days of massive armies marching in serried ranks to take up entrenched positions along a clearly-defined MLR, underneath a sky-full of overly delicate air-superiority aircraft, are over. At least for the foreseeable future, war will be grubbier, dirtier, closer-in, and more vicious than some tech weenie peering at a computer screen a thousand miles away can begin to imagine. Modern warfare has become more of a shoot-and-scoot proposition, fought by adversaries close enough to smell each other’s weeks-ripe BO before things go loud. Hyper-sensitive, persnickety gadgetry that can be rendered combat-ineffective by a fistful of dust in the avionics suite or sucked into an intake won’t be up to the job.

Maybe the A10 really is past it, I’m hardly qualified to say. But I bet there would still be plenty of occasions when some poor ground-pounder up to his eyeteeth in the real, the bad, and the scary would be mighty glad to hear one in the hands of an experienced, crafty pilot loitering overhead. To abandon a proven-effective tool in favor of the premature forced adoption of an apteryx like the Turducken is exactly the kind of fanciful wishful-thinking shitlibs have become notorious for.

5 thoughts on “Flying off into aviation history

  1. Saw this the other day. I also think it’s a beautiful aircraft. And deadly. I suppose it’s purpose has been superseded by more capable aircraft, no surprise there. After all, improvement should occur as time goes by.

    My own fervent wish is that the need for these aircraft is over. I do not want the country involved in pissy wars of choice. And if it’s not a war of choice then nukes will be involved and there is no need for battlefield hardware.

    Anyway, this thread deserves a picture so I’ll steal mine from the daily:×0.jpg

    1. YES! Ugly? No fargin’ WAY–especially with that Flying Tigers shark-mouth insignia on the nose snarling at ya…

  2. We will still have some at the Fort Wayne airport as part of the 122nd Fighter Wing for the Indiana ANG. They fly over periodically, it is kind of weird to see a couple rumbling over a field where an Amish guy is out plowing with horses.

  3. I’ll believe it when it happens.

    Congress is likely to pull the plug on this planned retirement too.
    If the two congressional military committees don’t sign off on it, the idea remains DOA.

    If USAF had their way, they would have been all retired in 1979.

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