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The Air Force Just Proved the A-10 Warthog Can Kill Modern Tanks

A-10 Warthog
Image: Creative Commons.

Yes, the A-10 Warthog is clearly showing its age and is not as modern or stealthy as say the F-22 or F-35. However, when it comes to killing tanks, its skills are beyond question: The US Air Force demonstrated that the A-10 Thunderbolt II, a close-air support mission plane that has been in service for over 40 years, is able to knock out modern tanks equipped with armor improvements with its powerful cannon.

In February, the Air Force carried out a first-ever test at the Nevada Test and Training Range in which pairs of A-10Cs unleashed armor-piercing incendiary rounds against up-armored surrogate main battle tanks with Explosive Reactive Armor, a kind of protection for modern armored vehicles designed to reduce the damage incoming rounds cause, the Air Force’s 53rd Wing said in a statement on May 6th.

In the aftermath of the test, analysts examined videos, photos, and the tanks themselves to determine the damage inflicted by the Warthog, and they determined that the vehicles had been rendered inoperative.

The Air Force said the test “proved that modern-day armored vehicles equipped with Explosive Reactive Armor are vulnerable to the A-10C Thunderbolt II’s” gun.

The A-10 Thunderbolt II, often called the “Warthog” and sometimes seen with painted teeth on its nose – is probably most famous for its GAU-8 Avenger, an impressive 30 mm cannon protruding from the nose of the plane that can fire 3,900 bullets per minute, producing a loud “BRRRRT” noise.

“A typical A-10 gun employment uses 120 rounds, which means an A-10 is capable of employing fires on nine to ten targets before exhausting its gun munitions,” Maj. Kyle Adkison, the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron A-10C division commander, said in an Air Force press release. “Against large fielded forces, A-10 formations are capable of engaging nearly 40 armored vehicles with 30 millimeter munitions,” he continued. “That’s a significant amount of firepower.”

The Air Force statement said the “A-10 can continue to deliver massive rapid firepower with devastating effects on enemy vehicles in a contested environment,” but despite the Warthog’s capabilities, the Air Force has been trying to retire the plane since 2015 to free up funds for other projects. Its efforts, however, have been repeatedly thwarted by Congress.

“No member of Congress wants to lose, or stand by and silently lose, a fleet of  aircraft or a capability from their state or district, which, of course translates to jobs,” Deborah Lee James, the 23rd secretary of the Air Force told in 2020.

How to Fly A-10 Warthog

Image: Creative Commons.

The A-10 was first introduced in the 1970s and is the Air Force’s first aircraft designed specifically to provide close-air support to ground forces. The service said it plans to continue testing other munitions against up-armored vehicles.

Julie Coleman is a fellow on the Military/Defense team at Insider. 

Written By

Julie Coleman is a fellow on the Military/Defense team at Insider.



  1. heath

    May 15, 2022 at 9:33 pm

    yet, still flying today, the best nose gun, the best bath tub. you hear them engines, its a kill shot.

  2. John heisterhagen

    May 16, 2022 at 4:18 am

    The A10 will be needed more than most other planes in the near future, just look at Ukrain,all of the Russian tank convoys could have been taken out with one or two a10s.

  3. Gordon Masters

    May 16, 2022 at 4:49 am

    Love this short article about the great A-10 Warthog! Facts and a great photo!

  4. Keith pridgeon

    May 16, 2022 at 6:50 am

    Having seen them do their thing along with whatever Iraqi tanker that managed to survive, I can assure you it was never in doubt.

  5. Joe

    May 16, 2022 at 12:54 pm

    I’ve been saying this for years… If the AF doesn’t want it anymore, then realign the wings to the Army. Pretty sure those of us who had CAS from them would agree that would be a way to”remedy” the AF, but still provide CAS to those who need it.

  6. Steven

    May 20, 2022 at 3:58 pm

    Look, I love the Warthog just as much as anyone, it’s an incredible machine. But the Air Force has a point. The Thunderbolt was built for a different time. It’s only viable when we hold the skies. In contested air space, it’d have to fly with escort. And even then, anti air defenses have come a long way since the 70’s. What’s a slow, low flying tank supposed to do against an S-400? At some point, we have to trust that the Air Force knows what it’s talking about. Cause we all know there’s a major war right over the horizon. And it won’t be with insurgents.

  7. Viper1979

    May 25, 2022 at 7:41 am

    Having seen the aftermath, of what the A-10 can do in a CAS role, I can tell you that NO enemy wants to be on the receiving end of the GAU-8 during a run. Like the C-5 or a HEMMTT, the A-10 also has a distinct engine sound as it flies by.

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