The A-10 Thunderbolt II was designed exclusively to fulfill the Close-Air Support

(CAS) role from the outset, perhaps matched only in scope by the

Soviet/Russian Sukhoi Su-25 "Frogfoot". The terminology inherent in "Close-Air

Support" was generally defined in a variety of ways by each respective nation (and

perhaps further viewed differently by even individual commanders). The Vietnam War

showcased such a need for the United States Air Force, where their thirsty,

high-flying jets could do little in the way of directly supporting troops in contact with

the enemy by roaming on station until called and then heading in to deliver payloads with pinpoint accuracy. Additionally, these aircraft held little in the way of dealing directly with heavy armor systems, their 20mm Vulcan cannons useful in engaging other aircraft and perhaps even light-

skinned vehicles. Helicopter gunships provided some solution to the problem but no

true dedicated systems existed - apart from say the prop-driven Douglas A-1

Skyraider. An answer was needed and that answer would become the Fairchild

Republic A-10 tank-killing "Warthog".


The Tank Buster in WW2

Tank busting elements played a crucial role in World War 2 where tank-on-tank battles

often times moved the war in one direction of the other. As such, all sides delved into

the development of aircraft with suitable armament to deal with enemy armor.

Perhaps the best known of these became the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka, armed with two

underwing cannons pods with the projectile velocity to penetrate the armor of Soviet

tanks. This exercise no doubt showcased the value of a dedicated tank busting

system but even in the years after the war, no party put forth a capable design,

feeling other systems were more than efficient at the CAS role.


The "Warthog" Name

Though officially designated "Thunderbolt II" in April of 1978 in honor of the other

exceptional Republic product - the P-47 Thunderbolt of World War 2 fame - the A-10

carried the company tradition of having been given an unofficial name in line with the

"hog" reference. The Republic F-84 became the first to use this moniker, being

nicknamed "Groundhog" or "Hog" while the F-84F Thunderstreak became the

"Superhog" and the Vietnam-era F-105 Thunderchief became the "Ultra Hog". In

staying with this tradition, the A-10 Thunderbolt II had unofficially become known as

the "Warthog" over the years, due to its less-than-beautiful outward appearance. The

name was dropped in a speech given by Major Michael G. Major at the Tactical Air

Warfare Center (TAWC) Review. The name stuck with crews but has since evolved to

the simpler "Hog" or, perhaps more appropriately, "Hawg". At any rate, the

Thunderbolt II official designation and Warthog unofficial nickname are essentially

interchangeable when talking about this fine aircraft.


Close-Air Support (CAS)

Close-Air Support (CAS) functions relied on some distinct requirements that would

differentiate the design from existing strike fighters. This aircraft could have to

operate in the thick of combat actions and become the target of small arms, large

caliber ground-based cannons and missile batteries. As such, survival was of the

utmost importance for both pilot and machine. The pilot would have to sit in a

reasonably armored environment and the aircraft's critical internal operating

components (hydraulics, avionics and fuel) would also have to be designed in such a

way as to keep the aircraft aloft even after sustaining combat damage that would do

in most any other airplane. As a system charged with attacking both heavily armored

and lightly (or unarmored) ground targets, the aircraft would have to heavily armed

and capable of an impressive payload output. Additionally, as a CAS aircraft, the new

design would have to make use of efficient engine power while not expending vital

fuel stores, providing the capability of loitering in a target area for hours until called

to action by ground forces or command.


The USAF Need

To this point, the USAF had nothing but the so-called "hotrods" in its stable by the

time of the Vietnam War. These aircraft, mostly jet-powered, could undoubtedly fly

the hairs off of a tick but, in terms of CAS requirements, that also equaled

minute-long loitering times and an excessively long turning radius. This type of hyper

performance allowed for perhaps one or two passes on a target before having to

return home to rearm and refuel. These aircraft were also notorious for long take-off

and landing rolls meaning that they required a firm, large area from which to operate

from. There was also the issue of inherent complexities in the refueling and

rearmament process and limitations to payload capabilities, all pointing to the dire

need for a true dedicated CAS aircraft. The propeller-driven Douglas A-1 Skyraiders of

the war proved the validity of low-level, close-support aircraft with exceptional

firepower, robust qualities and agility at low speeds/low-altitudes but what she lacked

was the performance of her mighty jet-powered counterparts.


Republic Becomes Fairchild Republic

Republic Aviation got its start in 1939 after the Seversky Aircraft Corporation ran into

financial issues and was reformed un the new Republic name. The new firm, operating

out of Farmingdale, New York, was finally able to make something of a marketing and

financial splash with their excellent P-47 "Thunderbolt" in June of 1942. The P-47 -

known as the "Jug" - was an eight-machine-gun-armed beast that proved suitable in

both the fighter role as well as the ground strike role. She went on to be produced

more than any other American fighter in World War 2 and made Republic a household

name. The Thunderbolt saw extensive use in both Europe and the Pacific and was

generally liked by her pilots, though oft-overlooked by most students of the war

today, preferring instead to focus on the more sexy P-51 Mustang, Fw 190 or the

Supermarine Spitfire. Interestingly, American military use of the P-47 ceased

immediately after the war and no plans were made to bring them out of storage by

the time of the Korean War. Many supporters of the Jug believed that the hard-hitting

qualities of the P-47 in that conflict would have made a difference.


Nevertheless, the post-war world was the jet's age of enlightenment. Naturally,

Republic jumped into the fray and developed the single-engine F-84 fighter series that

encompassed the straight-winged F-84D "Thunderjet", its swept-wing cousin the

F-84F "Thunderstreak" and the dedicated reconnaissance platform the RF-84F

"Thunderflash". Thunderjets proved valuable in the Korean War and many served up

until the early 1970s with Air National Guard units before reaching their inherent



Next on the Republic drawing boards proved to be the large and complex, but

ultimately dominant, F-105 Thunderchief. This single-engined monster became the

largest USAF-serving fighter to date and saw extensive service in the Vietnam War,

undertaking a variety of roles including strike and reconnaissance sorties. She served

primarily in the ground attack role until replaced by the excellent multi-role,

twin-engine, two-seat McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. Of the 833 Thunderchief

systems delivered, 397 of these would be lost to action in the skies over Vietnam.

Republic attempted several forays into the civilian and passenger airliner markets but

failed on to generate much interest let alone revenue. The company fell on hard times

and a last-ditch effort to sell the USAF on an attack aircraft had failed. Republic

Aviation was acquired in full by Fairchild in July of 1965.


Fairchild began as the Fairchild Aviation Corporation in 1929 and became Fairchild

Hiller in 1964 after the purchase of Hiller Aircraft. They then became Fairchild

Industries in 1971 following the death of founder Sherman Fairchild. The A-10

Thunderbolt II would be marketed under the joint Fairchild Republic name. Beyond the

A-10, Fairchild continued to evolve and was renamed Fairchild Dornier after taking

over the civilian side of the German aircraft company in 1996. Today, Fairchild has

been absorbed by the German insurer Allianz A.G., along with the American company,

Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, Incorporated, and operates under the M7 Aerospace



The AX Competition

The AX ("Attack Experimental") program began in June of 1966 with a detailed

requirement put together in September of that year. On March 6th, 1967, the USAF

put forth a Request for Information (RFI) to no fewer than twenty-one trusted defense

contractors. Follow-on study contracts were then awarded to General Dynamics,

Grumman, Northrop and McDonnell on May 2nd of 1967 in an effort to find the best

arrangement of protective armor, internal systems and fuel on a new design

centering on survivability and firepower. The program's high-reaching goal was to

develop a highly-sustainable dedicated CAS aircraft to fulfill the need so painfully

unveiled in the Vietnam War. Should full-scale war develop in Europe through a Soviet

land invasion involving tanks, infantry and support vehicles, NATO would need to

respond to such force with equal force itself - dealing with targets in the thick of night

or in the adverse weather conditions so common throughout the European mainland.

The new aircraft would replace the outmoded Douglas A-1 Skyraider in the role for the

USAF. It was thought best that the new aircraft should make use of two turbofan

engines to remove the need (and required area) for the operation of spinning

propeller blades as well as allow for operations on a single engine if need be.

Responses were delivered from Boeing, Cessna, Fairchild Republic, General Dynamics,

Lockheed and Northrop on August 10th, 1970.


An additional requirement in the AX competition called for the aircraft to be armed

with a massive rotary 30mm cannon, one of the largest production armaments to

ever be fitted in a combat aircraft. The 20mm M61 Vulcan cannons of the Vietnam

War-era aircraft proved sufficiently enough against other air targets but it was

woefully insufficient to combat armored targets of value. Combat experience, even

those recorded as far back as World War 2, shown a need for a large caliber repeating

weapon to affect enemy armor at range and from the air.


Two companies were selected as the early winners, this being Northrop and Fairchild

Republic. Each company was granted design, development and construction of two

prototype aircraft to be designated as the YA-9A and the YA-10A respectively. For

Republic, it was a shot in the arm, their assembly lines now running cold since

production had ended on the F-105 Thunderchief.


The Northrop YA-9

The Northrop submission was quite conventional at its core, appearing in some ways

like the Sukhoi Su-25 "Frogfoot" combat platform with its straight-winged, multi-

hardpoint design running along a slender semi-monocoque fuselage with a riveted

stressed aluminum skin. The cockpit was held well-forward in the design, offering up

good forward and side views out over the short nose assembly. Wings were shoulder-

mounted and fitted amidships, with clipped wingtips. Wing surface area was large to

promote additional drag as well as offer up ten strong underwing hardpoints for

varying ordnance loads. Engines were fitted to the lower portion of the central

fuselage and held some distance apart from one another for survivability . The

empennage was traditional and tapered off into a large-area, single vertical tail fin

sporting two upward-angled stabilizers. When at rest, she sat low to the ground on a

conventional tricycle undercarriage, all with single wheels. The undercarriage was

made up of two main landing gear legs retracting into each engine assembly side and

a nose landing gear leg retracting under the cockpit floor. The nose leg was offset to

the portside to make room for the intended 30mm nose cannon, though an 20mm

M61 Vulcan was fitted in the interim. Fuel tanks were fitted inside of each wing

assembly outboard of the engine placement. Flight controls were made redundant to

promote survivability from direct hits. The pilot sat in an armored "tub" made of

aluminum, though production aircraft would feature titanium. Engines were a pair of

developmental Lycoming YF102 series turbofans.


What made the YA-9 most unique was the inclusion of the Side-Force Control (SFC)

system that integrated movements of the speedbrakes with the rudder to prevent

"slideslip". This helped the pilot to maintain the proper angles on a target without

banking the aircraft to the extreme, only to have to realign his aim once again. This

feature was made optional to the pilot, to be used as he saw necessary, but was

thought to grant the YA-9 a heightened form of accuracy in munitions delivery.

In practice, the YA-9 prototypes flew well, totaling some 146 hours through 92 flights.

Her first flight was on May 30th, 1972, twenty days after the YA-10, with Lew Nelson

at the controls. Handling characteristics were found to be better than that of the

competition, with less roll inertia, and the SFC system itself proved a success.


The YA-10

The YA-10, on the other hand, was a different sort of creation. Its unorthodox design

immediately made it stand out from the competition. She handled well when going

airborne for the first time on May 10th, 1972 out of Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) with

Howard "Sam" Nelson (unrelated to Northrop's Lew Nelson) at the controls. The

second flight ended with some flat tires but nothing serious. The YA-10 fitted its

engines high on the fuselage, away from ground fire and debris typical of unprepared

runways. The wings were large and straight formed, encouraging drag and low-speed,

low-level flight with split airbrakes fitted to each wing trailing edge. Like the YA-9, the

YA-10 gave its pilot an excellent view from his seat. Internally, the YA-10 also featured

redundancy in controls and subsystems. The second YA-10 went airborne on July 21st,



The USAF looked at each aircraft closely, with evaluation of the systems proceeding

concurrently from October 10th, 1972 to December 9th, 1972. While both airframes

exceeded the USAF expectation, the Republic YA-10 evaluation slightly outmatched

the Northrop submission on a variety of fronts. The YA-10 was a more structurally

"ready" pre-production aircraft than the prototype form offered by Northrop,

potentially allowing for quicker full-scale production once development commenced.

Pilots generally believed in the unique layout of the YA-10 and its inherent

survivability qualities when compared to the conventional Northrop submission. The

low-set wings of the YA-10 was also noted for its promotion of quick rearming. This

was in contract to the high-mounted wings on the YA-9. The Republic design was also

slated to make use of the existing TF34 turbofan engine series already in use by the

USAF and the USN. As such, there would be little in the way of engine development to

slow the program down.


Winner Announced

Like most any multi-million dollar deal regarding the American military, these

competitions are almost always decided on the political front. The Republic firm was

going through some tough times and they represented the relatively small

aeronautical presence in the state of New York along with Grumman. Southern

California, where Northrop was based, had long held a strong position in the aviation

industry. It would seem that Republic and the state of New York could use the AX

contract to keep constituents happy.


With all the results in, and all factors accounted for, the USAF announced Fairchild

Republic as the winner of the AX program on January 18th, 1973. The contract

amounted to $159,279,888 and called for ten YA-10A developmental models plus two

additional airframes. An option was included for 48 first-run production aircraft after

the development of the GAU-8/A 30mm cannon was completed. General Electric

received $27,666,900 for the development of a slightly modified TF34 engine that

could be made interchangeable on the new YA-10 regardless of whatever fuselage

side it was mounted to. The production contract was signed on March 1st, 1973.

On the losing front, the Northrop YA-9 prototypes were sent to NASA in the hopes they

could be of some use to the space industry. The space agency never found a home for

the YA-9s and sent them to the museums at Edwards AFB and March Field to be kept

as showpieces.


Not a Done Deal

Despite the announcement, the USAF still needed to prove the expensive requirement

for a dedicated CAS aircraft to its detractors. Every major program, considering the

amount of money involved, always faced an uphill battle even along the political

front. The YA-10 proved no exception and felt the heat from a congressional Texas

delegation bent on drumming up more business for their closing Vought A-7 Corsair

production lines. The members argued that a modified A-7D model, this projected

with a long fuselage housing the new GE 30mm cannon, could more effectively fulfill

the CAS role than the all-new - and inherently expensive - YA-10. The US congress

recommended a fly-off between the Corsair and the Thunderbolt but the USAF was

slow to respond. When the congress cut funding to four preproduction YA-10As, the

USAF finally jumped to action and commenced with the competition. The fly-off

occurred from April 16th to May 10th, 1974 and the results were encouraging to the

Republic product, showing their ugly aircraft to be the superior breed in the CAS

aircraft class. The YA-10 was able to loiter in a designated target area for up to two

hours against the A-7Ds menial 11 minutes of flight time. Consideration for the A-7 as

a CAS aircraft was dropped and the YA-10 lived to fight another day.


The first prototype YA-10 was put in "flyable" storage on April 15th, 1975 - her work

now complete. Her resume included 467 flights totaling nearly 510 hours of flight

time. The second prototype soon followed suit and was placed in storage on June

13th, 1975 after amassing 354 flights totaling nearly 549 hours of flight time. Six

preproduction aircraft would soon take their places beginning in February of 1975 with

each one charged a different program goal. The sixth preproduction example was

later lost to a double engine flame out on June 8th, 1978, the pilot ejecting safely with

his Douglas ESCAPAC ejection seat. Despite testing moving along rather comfortably,

the lack of further preproduction examples inevitably led to program delays. A further

delay occurred after test pilot Sam Nelson was tragically killed while conducting a

series of low-level loops at the 1977 Paris Air Salon at Le Bourget. Otherwise,

Thunderbolt testing revealed little in the way of major flaws in the unorthodox design.

The 6510th Test Wing of the Air Force Flight Test Center out of Edwards AFB and the

3246th Test Wing at Elgin AFB were two of the earliest recipients of the prototype and

preproduction YA-10 examples. These groups became the first such USAF entities to

handle the aircraft. The 3246th was of particular note for they handled the required

armament trials.


A-10 Production

Republic production facilities were not on par with the latest offerings found in her

defense competitors. Luckily, the A-10 was not a highly-advanced aircraft requiring

the latest in technologies to put her together. However, the USAF expressed concerns

about the delays in production and ordered Republic facilities to be brought up to

speed at the company's expense. This was done to the USAF's pleasure but hurt

Republic's bottom line in the process. Production aircraft were very similar to the

preproduction forms with a few slight exceptions. Ventral strakes were added and

leading edge slats were now fixed. The wingspan was increased out some 30-inches

while the flap angle was adjusted. A laser receiver for the the AN/AAS-35(V) PAVE

PENNY was added to the right side of the forward fuselage to be used in conjunction

with laser-guided munitions (PAVE PENNY searches for the reflected laser light applied

to a target by other ground-based "friendlies"). While preproduction aircraft were

fitted with the Douglas ESCAPAC ejection seat system, production models utilized the

McDonnell ACES II series.


Final assembly of production A-10s was moved to Hagerstown, Maryland. The first

production A-10A achieved flight on October 10th, 1975. Delivery was delayed some

five months before the 355th TFW received their first A-10As in March of 1976,

ironically replacing their outgoing Vought A-7 Corsair IIs. The 355th carried out the

required test and evaluation of the A-10A and took part in the 1977 Joint Air Weapons

System (JAWS) trials. These trials would prove crucial in developing the tactics and

defining the true battlefield role of the new A-10A once in operational service and its

relation to the existing battlefield components such as artillery and attack helicopters

- the latter essentially sharing the same tank-killing role as the A-10. The first

operational A-10 squadron appeared in October of 1977 as the 333rd Tactical Fighter

Training Squadron (the "Lancers") and they were soon joined by the 358th TFTS

"Lobos". The 354th Tactical Fighter Wing out of Myrtle Beach produced the 353rd,

355th and the 356th Tactical Fighter Squadrons. The designation of "Thunderbolt II"

was officially assigned by the Pentagon on April 3rd, 1978, in a ceremony

commemorating the 100th production A-10 airframe. The final A-10 was delivered to

the USAF in 1984.


The 81st Tactical Fighter Wing based out of England took delivery of their A-10As after

the trials and evaluations were completed. Since the battlefield was undoubtedly to

be European in nature, this fighter wing became one of the important early operators

of the new aircraft. The first A-10A arrived on January 26th, 1979, and ultimately was

fielded by no less than six squadrons - the 78th, 91st, 92nd, 509th, 510th and the

511th Tactical Fighter Wings. From their bases in England, the A-10A could be

deployed to six awaiting Forward Operating Locations (FOLs) across West Germany.

The 81st was eventually branched off in 1988 to form the 10th TFW based out of RAF



Five Air National Guard (ANG) state-side squadrons were set up to help reinforce the

81st stationed in Europe in the event of total war. These became the 103rd TFS out of

Connecticut, the 104th TFS out of Massachusetts, the 128th TFS out of Wisconsin, the

174th TFS out of New York state and the 175th TFS out of Maryland. The 103rd was

the first to receive their A-10As beginning in May of 1979.


The Air Force Reserves were the next recipients for the A-10A. The 917th TFW took

delivery of their examples in October of 1980. They were joined by the 442nd TFW,

the 926th TFW and the 930th TFW. Other groups soon followed and included the 23rd

TFW out of England AFB in Louisiana as well as the 51st Composite based in South

Korea and the and 343rd Composite based in Alaska. The latter two groups took

delivery of their systems from 1981 into 1982.


A-10 Walk-Around

Externally, the A-10's appearance became its defining characteristic. No other aircraft

had ever taken on its seemingly unorthodox layout and no other aircraft has since

copied its success. Since the role dictated the design, the A-10 made use of several

key layout features that defined her legacy. Her fuselage was of a slender shape with

a short nose assembly, slab sides and tapering downwards to the empennage. The

underside of the fuselage was well-flat from nose to tail. Electrical equipment was

fitted to the rear of the cockpit while the 30mm cannon and applicable ammunition

drum took up most of the forward fuselage with the cockpit and forward landing gear.

The left main and right main fuel tanks were situated in tandem just aft of the

electrical equipment area with the right main tank coming first in the layout and the

left following. Many of the internal systems of the A-10 were made readily accessible

by way of large hinged access panels. These panels dotted the fuselage to help make

maintenance and repair a somewhat easier process when compared to other aircraft.

The A-10 Cockpit

The cockpit was held well-forward in the design and sported a two-piece raise canopy

to allow the pilot excellent views forward and to the sides of his/her aircraft. It was set

ahead of the wings and even offered views to the ordnance loads to be held under

each wing assembly while offering a limited glance to each engine mounted further

aft - useful in battle damage assessment. The pilot sat in a raised position in a

relatively spacious cockpit. His ejection system was the high-backed ACES II series

ejection seat. The rear portion of the canopy was hinged at the base and powered.

The forward canopy was divided by framing and sat over a HUD (Heads-Up Display)

system atop the instrument panel. The forward canopy could resist blows from a

20mm cannon. To each side of the HUD were the accelerometer (on the left vertical

frame post) and a standby compass (on the right vertical frame post). The rest of the

canopy glass was bulletproof to an extent. The instrument panel itself was

well-organized and in many ways reflected Republic's experience in the development

and production of their jets sometime before. The throttle was set low and to the left

of the pilot's leg while the control stick was situated conventionally between the

pilot's legs. Interestingly, the Warthogs initially featured no autopilot function,

requiring the operator to maintain complete situational awareness on the longest of

flights. This was thankfully rectified by way of a modernization program some time



One of the most noteworthy design elements of the cockpit was its situation within a

titanium armored "tub". Despite its name, the "tub" was actually nothing more than

titanium slabs bolted together as opposed to a single forged unit. The tub offered

protection from 23mm projectiles from below, the front, sides and rear. Only the rear

titanium panel held openings for hydraulic, electrical and other control systems.


The A-10 Instrument Panel

The instrument panel appeared quite conventional by modern standards. The center

was dominated by the traditional attitude director indicator and horizontal situation

indicators. Just above those and offset slightly to the left was the radar warning

system that alerted the pilot to radar tracking, targeting and engagement by enemy

systems. The azimuth direction scope indicator was to the left of the warning system.

All weapons controls were congregated into an easy-to-reach panel subset spaced to

the lower left, just above and ahead of the pilot's left kneecap. Each underwing pylon

could be controlled from this collection of switches and the pilot could further keep

track of the 30mm rounds available to the nose cannon via a simple counter. Later

A-10s fitted a slightly revised armament panel to incorporate use of the self-defense

AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile capability. Armament controls were extended to

the throttle and control stick as well. Undercarriage functions were accessed along

the lower left. Additional flight controls were seated along the upper left of the

forward instrument panel. The lower right of the panel contained all engine controls

and applicable function gauges including the fuel indicator. Above this collection was

the Maverick missile television screen. This served to target and guide the Maverick

air-to-surface missiles through pinpoint accuracy. Of note in the cockpit were the

three yellow-and-black "FIRE PULL" handles running across the top of the instrument

panel. Each controlled different onboard fire extinguishers and could be pulled by the

pilot in the event of a fire. The left and right handles controlled the extinguishers for

each respective engine. The center handle offered extinguishing aid to the Auxiliary

Power Unit (APU) when needed. The instrument panel could be further accessed (by

technicians) in that it hinged forward to allow for easier access. The center console

ran ahead and between the pilot's legs, this area holding the Laser Spot Seeker Panel

and the Essential Circuit Breaker Panel. The left console was afforded an area to

collect the "piddle packs" of urine, made available for the A-10 pilot to relieve himself

with on long flights.


The Main Wings

The main wings were low-mounted and set amidships. Their low orientation meant

that they was relatively easy for munitions specialists to access the many pylons

during the armament and reloading phases of a mission - an edge that the prototype

A-10 maintained over the Northrop submission. Each wing was such that it

incorporated no less than three strong main spars and held two large internal fuel

tanks (one port and one starboard, fitted near the wing roots). The wings were

straight in design, offering no sweep along either the leading or trailing edges. Her

tips were also clipped and gave her a unique look among the hotrod jet fighter

designs surrounding her. The wings each held two sets of flaps along the trailing

edges, inboard and outboard of each wheel sponson. The aileron doubled as the split

speedbrake and was set along the outermost trailing edge area. The speedbrake split

open in two halfs, with one half of the unit opening upwards and the other half

opening downwards, providing the necessary low speed functions of the A-10 at low

altitudes. The trim tab was allotted to the upper speedbrake panel assembly. There

was a single point refueling access system located at the forward end of the port wing

wheel sponson. This unit was accessed via a handy flip-down door and held all

controls for refueling and defueling the aircraft. All fuel was concentrated along the

mass of the aircraft, near its center of gravity, ensuring that changes in the internal

fuel load would have as little effect as possible on the aircraft's performance.


The Undercarriage

Of note was the semi-recessed function of the main landing gear legs. These were set

up in a conventional tricycle arrangement. The semi-recessed approach for the main

landing gear legs was used so as not to break up the internal wing structure as

encountered when using a conventional wheel well. The semi-recessed nature of the

main landing gears kept things relatively simpler internally. Each main leg retracted

forwards in their respective sponsons and sported a single large wheel. When the

main legs were fully retracted into their respective sponson, only a portion of the

wheel was left exposed. The nose landing gear leg was also single-wheeled and

retracted forwards under the cockpit floor (alongside the nose cannon more

specifically). The nose gear had to be offset about a foot to the right to not interfere

with the required space reserved for the massive GAU-8/A 30mm cannon. When at

rest, the A-10 sat quite high on its legs, at first requiring pilots to use special ladder to

board the aircraft. Later, an integrated retractable ladder system was fitted to the

portside of the forward fuselage to facilitate entry and exit and allow the battlefield-

friendly A-10 to not require anything in the way of special equipment while in the field

(apart from the GAU-8/A reloader cart).


The Engines

Power was derived from a pair of high-mounted General Electric TF34-GE-100 series

turbofans. These are rated to just 9,065lbs of thrust each and kept the A-10 a

subsonic performer incapable of supersonic flight. However, for the CAS role,

supersonic speed was a non-essential component. In fact, the A-10 came in over

2,000lbs heavier than initially intended. The added weight was simply written off by

the USAF, believing the slight decrease in speed was manageable in the CAS role. The

engines were mounted high to keep them as far away from ground fire as possible

while also keeping them clear of ingesting foreign objects when operating from

unprepared airfields. The A-10 can operate with one complete engine being lost to

action. Each engine nacelle was angled up ever so slightly to 9 degrees to bring the

combined thrust outflow more in line with the airframe's center of gravity. The

all-important Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) was fitted in the fuselage near the engines,

its exhaust port always marking the portside engine nacelle with a streak of black



The Empennage

The empennage was dominated by the twin vertical fin tail design, each fin holding its

own rudder control. The horizontal tailplane was set low on the fuselage and fitted the

vertical fins as outward from centerline as possible. Each tailfin sported slight sweep

along the leading edge and no sweep along the trailing edge. The fins sat high above

the stabilizer, the stabilizer itself also working to reduce the amount of visible heat

exhaust being generated by each turbofan engine. This helped to make tracking and

lock-on by ground-based radar somewhat tougher.


A-10 Performance

Listed performance for the A-10A included a top speed of 439 miles per hour with a

cruise speed of 340 miles per hour and a never-exceed speed of 518 miles per hour.

Stall speed was 138 miles per hour. Combat radius was nearly 300 miles depending

on payload and mission type. Ferry range was a reported 2,580 miles. Service ceiling

was 45,000 feet with a rate-of-climb equal to 6,000 feet per minute.


The GAU-8/A 30mm Cannon

The GAU-8/A was the heart and soul of the A-10 Thunderbolt weapon system. This

massive 679-pound seven-barrel rotating cannon operated on the relatively simple

Gatling principle made popular by American inventor Richard J. Gatling in the time of

the American Civil War. The general principle held that a set of rotating barrels could

cool themselves faster during the firing action. This allowed for an exceedingly high

rate-of-fire without the overheating problems common to a single barrel repeating

weapon. General Electric designed and developed the GAU-8/A "Avenger" system

used in the A-10 Thunderbolt II, an armament from which the A-10 was essentially

built around. In true A-10 speak, the GAU-8/A is actually part of the 4,200lb A/A49E-6

weapons system when detailed as a collective unit.


Some interesting notes compliment the GAU-8/A. Its seven-barrel function means that

the entire barrel system is slightly offset to the left to keep the firing barrel aligned

with the fuselage centerline. The weapon system, as a whole, is also quite large

(including the ammunition drum). The size is such that a picture was released during

development showing the GAU-8/A dwarfing the overall size of a Volkswagen Beetle.

In fact, the GAU-8/A is closer to the size of a full-size family sedan when measured

end to end. The photograph quickly made the runs of various magazines and helped

to promote the intimidating aura of the Avenger system.


Operation of the GAU-8/A is controlled via a gearbox with two separately-controlled

hydraulic drive motors. The weapon sits under the cockpit floor and shares space with

the nose landing gear. The main barrel assembly runs from under the titanium tub

and protrudes just passed the curved nose assembly. The barrels are attached to a

transfer unit which is backed by a hydraulic drive system. The whole unit is connected

to the all-important ammunition drum which sits on its long side behind the cockpit. A

double-layer conveyor belt system feeds fresh 30mm projectiles to the barrels while

removing spent shell casings in return. Spent shell casings are not jettisoned from the

A-10 upon firing, as is common with most other military aircraft, reducing the chance

that any spent casings will be ingested into the engines. Exhaust ports for the

GAU-8/A are located along the underside and sides of the forward fuselage. A gun

nozzle seal protects the protruding section of barrels at the front. The ammunition

loading door is under and aft of the cockpit along the underside of the fuselage. A

fresh ammunition drum can be installed by trained technicians in as little as thirteen

minutes. The drum system is attended to by a specialized four-wheeled ammunition

loading assembly cart - the Syn-Tech GFU-7/E - the only specialized piece of

equipment that the A-10 needs at a forward operating base. An ammunition drum is

typically fielded with 1,174 rounds of 30mm projectiles.


The A-10 GAU-8/A cannon utilizes large 30mm projectiles in three major forms, each

full projectile measuring in at an impressive 11.4 inches in length. The projectile is

primarily made up of the cartridge case, this making up roughly half of the projectiles

length, with a tapered upper portion ultimately concluding in the pointed nose cap.

Available projectile types include the PGU-13/B High-Explosive Incendiary (HEI), the

PGU-14/B Armor-Piercing Incendiary (API) and the PGU-15/B Target Practice (TP)

rounds. Typically, ammunition is loaded in what is known as a "Combat Mix" - an HEI

round followed by five API rounds. The HEI round doubles as an aiming tracer round

for the pilot. The TP round, though technically a trainer projectile, can also be used

against lightly skinned vehicles and forms the least expensive munition for the 30mm

cannon. The API weighs in at 1.6lbs while the HEI and TP rounds are both 1.47lbs.

The API round is a depleted uranium projectile and is proven to penetrate any modern

battlefield tank in operation, even those further protected by "reactive armor" panels.

The HEI round is adept at killing lightly-armored vehicles by its deadly fragmentation

"spray" and can also trigger fires some feet away from the target zone itself. While

disabling a vehicle, the HEI round is capable of further maiming or killing the

occupants. The use of depleted uranium has long held some controversy with

watch-dog groups, citing the after-effects the material may have on civilian health.

The GAU-8/A is afforded two rates of fire that allow for settings of approximately

2,100 or 4,200 rounds per minute. Aiming of the gun is through a reticle in the HUD

with each barrel sighted and aligned by grounds crew prior to firing. Firing is generally

in few second intervals so the rate-of-fire is more accurately reported between 30 and

70 rounds per minute. The gun computer calculates ballistics based on the

ammunition type selected by the operator. When fired, the 30mm cannon produces a

noticeable cloud of gas that screens some of the forward portion of the fuselage for a

brief moment. The velocity of each 30mm round is such that there is little projectile

drift once it leaves the barrel and the A-10 aircraft actually slows a few knots of speed

in the firing action. The GAU-8/A can be used on slow, low-flying aircraft such as

helicopters and was credited with two such kills in Operation Desert Storm. The

ammunition for the gun is counted through a conventional counter on the cockpit

instrument panel, decrementing the count by a value of ten.

Testing of the gun, as mated to the actual A-10 airframe, began in September of

1974. Though the results of the ammunition on test battlefield tanks proved excellent,

it was found that an inordinate amount of dangerous explosive gasses was generated

in the firing action, resulting in an external fireball being created ahead of the pilot.

The projectile propellant was changed but this resulted in the loss of one of a

preproduction aircraft to a flameout as residue from the propellant was now being

ingested into the engines. Enter the Battelle device...


The Battelle Device

The Battelle device was developed by Battelle Laboratories as a gas diverter to be

fitted to the barrel muzzles of the GAU-8/A. It was a relatively cheap fix but it was

soon found to contribute to unacceptable stress fractures of the airframe along

various locations of the forward fuselage. As such, the Battelle device was dropped

from consideration. Instead, the engines were fitted with a system that maintained

continuous ignition for every moment that the 30mm gun was to be fired and for a

short time after the trigger was depressed. Additionally, maintenance requirements

now stipulated that engines were to be washed once for every 1,000 rounds fired. In

effect, the ingestion of the main gun residue into each engine was never fully solved

for the life of the A-10 Thunderbolt II, a threat that the modern A-10 pilot faces even

today. As an aside, the GAU-8/As rate-of-fire was temporarily revised to 3,900 rounds

per minute in preparation for the Battelle device.


A-10 Munitions

The A-10 makes stellar use of the eleven hardpoints allotted to its layout. One is

located along the fuselage centerline with two more held to either side of the fuselage

undersides. There is another hardpoint inboard of each main landing gear sponson

and three more are fitted outboard. Hardpoints are numbered from 1 to 11 when

viewing the aircraft in the forward profile (right wingtip to left wingtip). The weapon

release sequence - that is, the sequence in which each pylon drops its payload - is as

follows: 8, 4, 11, 1, 10, 2, 9, 3, 7 and 5. Hardpoint number six is always reserved for

specialized pods (a 600-gallon fuel tank or a pilot's travel pod) and is not wired to

drop ordnance. Note that the sequence essentially begins inside of the wheel

sponsons, then jumps to an outward-to-inward fashion along the wings, and

concludes with the underside fuselage pylons. Also note that each respective pylon

also drops their munitions in a certain order all their own so the aforementioned

sequence can vary with a full weapons payload (i.e. triple Maverick mountings for

instance). This maintains a healthy weight load across the airframe as the ordnance

load itself changes.


Some general pylon notes include munition-loading restrictions along hardpoints 1

and 11 as well as 5 and 7. No munitions may be carried on 5 and 7 while 1 and 11 are

limited by way of only using drop munitions (no forward firing missiles allowed).

Hardpoints 4 and 8 are "plumbed" to accept 600-gallon fuel tanks. The fuel tanks are

the same as those used by the General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark swing-wing bomber

but most A-10 pictures rarely showcase the extra fuel load. An outboard hardpoint is

also generally reserved for the carrying of jammer pods in modern A-10 functions.


The AGM-65 Maverick

The A-10 Thunderbolt II is cleared to carry and launch a variety of ordnance including

guided surface-to-surface missiles, air-to-air missiles, laser-guided bombs and dumb

bombs of conventional origins. Aside from the 30mm cannon, the AGM-65 remains

the Thunderbolt's tank-killing system. This family of missiles is proven and comes in a

variety of warhead and seeker types. There are six primary forms designated as the

AGM-65A, AGM-65B, AGM-65D, AGM-65F, AGM-65G and the AGM-65E. The AGM-65A

and AGM-65B are TV-guided missiles fitted with shaped-charge, 125lb warheads. They

are differentiated by the B-model's magnified scene, increasing its target acquisition

range. Both are fire-and-forget systems with proven performance in daytime actions.

The AGM-65D, F- and G-Mavericks feature infra-red guidance systems - imaging IR

with a digital tracker. The D-model shares the warheads of the A- and B-models. The

F- and G-models use a 300lb kinetic energy penetrator warhead. The D-model enjoys

a day/night attack capability while the F- and G-models are cleared for use against

surface ships, a task generally reserved for dedicated anti-ship missile systems such

as the Harpoon series.


The AGM-65E Maverick is a laser-guided munition with a 300lb kinetic energy

penetrator warhead. Guidance is passive laser with a digital tracker but can tackle

laser-designated targets in both day and night actions.


Launch and Drop Munitions

Aside from the Maverick, A-10 pilots enjoy a healthy stable of conventional launch

and drop munitions. The former is made up of traditional LAU-10 series rocket pods

for use against structures and soft-skinned targets. Rocket pods are carried on

stations 3 and 9. The latter comes in the shape of the family of drop bombs (also

called "dumb" bombs). These are formed by the 500lb Mk 82 and the larger 2,000lb

Mk 84 bombs. When fitted with retarding glide fins, these bombs are known as the Mk

82SE and Mk 84SE "Snakeye" bombs. The A-10 is also cleared to drop laser-guided

bombs though, unlike other aircraft in the US inventory, the early Thunderbolts could

not "self-designate" - that is, mark her own targets and launch their guided bombs.

She instead relied on friendly ground personnel to "laze" a target for her before

launching. Standard laser-guided bombs for the A-10 include the GBU-12 500lb bomb

and the GBU-10 2,000lb bomb. Regardless of the "laser-guided" designation, these

are nothing more than slightly modified forms of their dumb cousins, made more

lethal by their guided accuracy by way of field modification kits. So long as the laser

designator stays trained on the target, the guided bomb will follow its flight path

along the reflected energy generated by the ground laser to the relative target



Other weapons included the Mk 77 incendiary bomb, the BLU and CBU series cluster

bombs, Paveway LGBs, Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Wind Corrected Munitions

Dispensers. Targeting pods for the A-10 now include the LITENING system (specifically

the A-10C) and allow the A-10 to "self-designate" its missile and laser-guided targets

without requiring ground forces to do it.



Aside from her design and armoring, the A-10 Warthog stays alive through a series of

built-in functions. Perhaps most important is use of an Electronic CounterMeasures

(ECM) pod - most likely the ALQ-131 ECM pod (also the AN/ALQ-184 ECM). The pod is

usually fitted on an outboard wing pylon. These pods serve to jam incoming enemy

radar transmissions and attempt to deflect lock-on by ground based radar

installations and systems. In addition to the ECM pod, A-10s make use of conventional

chaff (interference foil strips) and flare (deflective heat source) launchers to counter

the tracking of ground-based missiles that have been launched. These dispensers are

mounted at the wing tips as well as just behind each wheel sponson. The SUU-42A/A

flares/Infrared decoy and chaff dispenser pod is also optional.


The AIM-9 Sidewinder forms the other portion of the Thunderbolt II self-defense

toolbox. These missile systems are essentially as those found on other American

fighter aircraft and provide a healthy and lethal defense against enemy helicopters

and other aircraft. The AIM-9 is a short-ranged weapon and only two are generally

ever carried on the A-10, usually on the wing opposite the pylon holding the ECM pod,

though an additional pair can be mounted in the opposite placement in place of the

ECM pod itself. One Sidewinder can be carried on the standard A-10 pylon though the

LAU-114 launcher rail allows for a pair to be affixed and launched as normal.


The 'Hawg in Europe

Warthog crews and their mounts were stationed in Europe, the site of what was to

become the battlefield for which the system was always groomed for, and became a

part of the USAF's largest combat wing there. The Thunderbolt maintained a healthy

operational range and could reach places within East Germany and some layers

beyond when called to action. There were four major Forward Operating Locations

(FOLs) and six in total. The four were located at Ahlhorn, Noervenich, Sembach and

Leipheim in West Germany. A-10 pilots could easily have been called to action to help

defend far-off places like Italy and Norway if need be as well. Pilots cycled in and out

of service within this region to learn the layout of the land, get exposure to flying in

the regional elements and commit to memory the battleplan should a Soviet ground

assault ensue. As the initial wave of Soviet strikes would most likely target airfields,

the A-10 was also tested on highways and unprepared positions to fully "stretch" her

legs. Some 72 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs could be made available in the event of a Soviet



The A-10 would have worked in conjunction with the US Army's AH-64 Apache in the

anti-tank role, assaulting Soviet armored columns as they made their way to key

objectives. With the end of the Cold War, many A-10 Thunderbolts were brought back

state side with talks of retiring the old girl. Only the 52nd FW based out of

Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany was to remain.


A-10As in Europe were painted over in a European woodland camouflage scheme

using a combination of greens and dark grays, the thought being they would mesh

well with the surrounding terrain.


Warthogs in Desert Storm

Despite its appearance in the 1970s, Thunderbolt II pilots had to wait sometime

before being able to prove their machine in actual combat. That came along in the

form of the 1991 Gulf War - through Operation Desert Storm - versus Saddam

Hussein's "4th largest army" in the world. Hussein moved his ground forces from Iraq

into Kuwait in an attempt to capture a large portion of the regions oil production. A

United Nations effort ousted his army back onto Iraq soil in the first true "digital" war,

a war that brought about the first combat actions for the M1 Abrams and the F-117

Stealth Fighter. By the end of it all, Hussein's army was reduced to a rabble of

retreating (or surrendering) personnel with little in the way of discipline. This was due,

in some part, to the actions of the A-10 and her crews.


Some 144 A-10A and OA-10A aircraft were sent to the region from the 23rd

TFW(Provisional) and 354th TFW(Provisional) making up five squadrons operating out

of King Fahd International Airport in Northeast Saudi Arabia (74th TFS formed the

dedicated night wing). The first recorded combat missions by an A-10 occurred on

January 15th, 1991. Targets included all sorts of manner made up of trucks, tanks,

armored personnel carriers, vehicles, bunkers, radar installations, artillery

emplacements, missile batteries and grounded aircraft. In the end, the A-10

accounted for over 15% of all coalition sorties, totaling 8,755 all their own. Tanks

proved the major target and no Soviet-made armor in Iraqi hands was safe from the

smiling, sharp-toothed Warthogs, essentially making "aces" out of her pilots (though

these kills achieved against tanks, and thusly not "proper" aces).


The A-10 proved exceptional in her role. She showcased the long loitering times she

was required to have and her armament delivery capabilities were second to none.

'Hogs were able to deliver their payload against multiple targets, return to friendly

forward bases and reload, only to head out and deliver their payload once more. Her

durability and ease-of-maintenance was also worth noting. Many-a-report recalled

whole sections of fuselage or wing surface area being peppered with enemy flak with

the A-10 pilot returning safely home. Moreso, large sections of wing and tail surfaces

could be lost and still keep the aircraft fly-worthy. In all, the A-10 accounted for the

destruction of 987 Iraqi tanks and 500 APCs. 926 artillery systems and 1,106 trucks

also fell victim to the might of the Warthog.


In addition to traditional sortie runs against vehicles, the A-10 was called upon to

support special operations forces on the ground in the Close-Air Support role. She was

also given instruction to utilize her loitering capabilities in the location and possible

destruction of SCUD missile sites when available. Other non-conventional targets

soon were brought into the HUD of the A-10 and included supply depots and arm

stores. The beauty of the A-10 was that she could assault all of these targets by

cannon, bomb or missile as needed.


All was not rosy for the A-10 crews however. Their mission set included some of the

most dangerous low-level runs imaginable where hostile AAA (Anti-Aircraft Artillery)

could quickly open up and spear the internal workings of the 'Hog. Regardless of such

damage, an A-10 could be repaired and back in the air in a matter of days. Nearly half

of the 144 fielded Thunderbolt's would receive some level of damage during the war.

Six Thunderbolts were lost to enemy SAMs (Surface-to-Air Missile) systems while a

further 14 were damaged.


In all, the Persian Gulf War served as a suitable test ground to usher in the weapons

of tomorrow. Saddam Hussein maintained a large land army at the time, though much

of his equipment was adequate at best and his men's training below average for the

most part. The result was a lopsided coalition victory that showcased the strengths

and weaknesses of the respective armies at play and brought about changes to both

technology and doctrine in the years following. The A-10, once on the cusp of her

twilight years, had proven her mettle and made a bona fide star of the ugly aircraft

with her unique brand of pilots.


Perhaps worth noting is that the A-10 was credited with two air kills during the war,

both at the hands of the GAU-8/A cannon and against a BO-105 and Mil Mi-8

helicopter in different instances on February 6th and February 15th, 1991 respectively

(different pilots as well). It is interesting that the AIM-9 Sidewinder did not record a kill

in the whole of the war with just three being fired on accident. Thunderbolts deployed

to the Persian Gulf were also sans any night attack capability. Pilots flying at night

generally relied on the FLIR of their AGM-65D IIR Maverick systems for the task - this

method not endorsed by the USAF.


The Two-Seat Night-Attack Warthog

Though developed but never produced, there did exist a two-seat dedicated night

attack version of the A-10A. The two-seater was designated in the developmental

YA-10B fashion and would have gone on to become the "A-10B" in production. Using a

production A-10A as the conversion model, a second seat was added in tandem

fashion, affording the rear crewmember a view over the pilots seatback. The cockpit

was redundant for the most part, mimicking the controls of the forward position and

the only component differentiating the two was the lack of a HUDs element in the rear

position. Each cockpit was given a curved canopy that opened to the starboard side

with a "A" frame separating the two assemblies - this would have become a

rear-hinged unit in production models. The 30mm nose cannon was retained. To offset

the added weight and position of the second cockpit in relation to airflow and

stability, the vertical tail fins were heightened by 20 inches each (later shortened by

12-inches). The YA-10B was fitted with two distinct recce pods, the AAR-42 FLIR and

the WX-50 ground-mapping radar. The former was fitted to the starboard side

fuselage hardpoint and the latter to the port side fuselage hardpoint. Other

specialized components were fitted and still others were tested for possible use. All of

these additions increased the base A-10A airframe some 2,000lbs. Interestingly, the

important titanium tub armor protection was not extended to the rear crewmember,

this despite the decided weight gain of the new design.


Republic put up some of the development money and the rest was handled by the

USAF. Low priority to the project meant that the aircraft lingered in development for

some time. Republic attempted to market the two-seat A-10B as not only a dedicated

night-strike platform but also a combat-capable two-seat trainer conversion model.

Additionally, the A-10B could be used in the air defense suppression role thanks to its

payload capabilities and loiter times. Another effort marketed the new A-10B as an

anti-ship maritime strike aircraft. Alas, the A-10B never materialized beyond the

single YA-10B prototype. The USAF rebuffed the new design, as did interested foreign

parties, and the sole YA-10 was handed over to the Air Force Flight Test Center

Museum at Edwards AFB in California.


Training for A-10 pilots was handled simply by having an instructor in another A-10A

accompanying the primary student A-10A pilot for his/her first few flights.



The OA-10A

The Base A-10A was modified in 1987 to create the airborne Forward Air Control (FAC)

observation platform in the OA-10A. The USAF was desiring additional F-15 Eagle and

F-16 Fighting Falcons in their Cold War stable and developed a scheme to acquire

them by labeling the A-10A as passed their prime, assigning them to the inglorious

role of Forward Air Control (FAC) under the designation of "OA-10A". Modified F-16

Fighting Falcons would now take the place of the A-10A in the CAS role. Essentially,

the OA-10A differed in no way from the attack A-10A except in mission specification.

The OA-10A eventually replaced the highly-effective but aged Rockwell OV-10 Broncos

in the FAC role. Despite the designation, the OA-10A remains a fully combat-capable

airframe. In October of 1987, the 602nd Air Control Wing out of Davis-Monthan AFB

began taking delivery of the OA-10A. Creation of the OA-10A also brought about two

new Air National Guard groups in 1990 and 1991, these becoming the 110th TFS out

of Michigan and the 11th TFS out of Pennsylvania.


Upgrading the Hawg

The A-10 received some much needed attention in the 1980s. The system was

heading towards a mid-life crisis and the LASTE (Low-Altitude Safety and Targeting

Enhancement) program was put into effect. This program would substantially upgrade

the core avionics package of the A-10 with ground collision, an F-16 style

computerized weapons delivery system, revised HUD for air-to-air work, improved

software support and (finally) the addition of an autopilot system. The program,

though developed and cleared, did not go into effect until after the 1991 Persian Gulf

War. Later improvements also allowed use of night vision goggles by the pilot, no

longer counteracted by the light emitted from the A-10 instrument panel at night.

Night vision upgrades were completed in 1997. New INS and GPS compatibility

occurred in the 1990s as well.


Blasphemy: The Warthog in Foreign Hands

The Thunderbolt was not always going to be an American only product. It was almost

inevitable that an ally would come calling for such a potent tank-killing system and

Turkey nearly became a major operator of the time (Israel, Egypt and South Korea

were also contenders). In 1993, Turkey shown interest in obtaining fifty examples

while American warplanners were beginning to move away from the A-10. However,

the US State Department intervened and killed the deal altogether, citing an objection

to exporting the depleted uranium projectiles needed in the GAU-8/A cannon. Cost

escalations on Turkey's side also left the deal in limbo and the sale was never



The Here and Now: The A-10C

Lockheed Martin now sustains the A-10 Thunderbolt II and supports software and

other upgrades. Some 356 A-10 and OA-10 Thunderbolt IIs are scheduled or

modernization through the incremental A-10 Precision Engagement Modification

Program. The cockpit will feature some F-16 styling with two 5.5-inch color displays, a

moving map display and a digital stores management system. The changes have

therefore created a new variant within the A-10 family known under the designation

of "A-10C". A-10Cs have already been deployed to Iraq in 2007 as part of the 104th

Fighter Squadron, ANG out of Maryland. Many operational A-10 squadrons run a

mish-mash of A-10A strike and OA-10A observation models, covering a mix of

battlefield sorties should the need arise including that of Search & Rescue (SAR) of

fallen comrades, FAC and CAS.


As of this writing, the USAF intends on keeping its fleet of A-10 Thunderbolts

optimistically flying up to 2028 with potential replacement coming in the form of the

highly-advanced Lockheed F-35 Lightning II. A-10s have also been featured in the War

in Afghanistan, responding in the CAS role as needed. To date, some twenty A-10

squadrons exist with the USAF, ANG and the AFRC. Seven hundred fifteen total

Thunderbolt IIs were eventually delivered at a unit cost of $11.7 million dollars

apiece. Two were YA-10 prototypes while six became YA-10A preproduction evaluation

aircraft. The rest were production A-10A and conversion OA-10A and A-10C models.

After the end of the Cold War (and post-Desert Storm), the European camouflage of

the A-10A gave wave to a more subtle and generic dark-gray-on-light-gray paint

scheme. Sometimes false canopies are painted along her underside to confuse enemy

ground parties. Nose art, though not officially accepted by the USAF, was utilized to

good effect in the Gulf War by A-10 crews.


The phrase "Go Ugly Early" is a motto associated with the A-10 Warthog and is

generally a call by ground troops requiring the lethal force of the A-10 early in a