The U.S. military needs a top-tier ground attack plane to ensure its forces on the ground can conduct the operations they need. And while she might be fifty years old, the A-10 Warthog is still the best ground attack plane on the planet today. Some even say Ukraine should acquire them:
The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, more commonly known as the “Warthog,” may be a fan favorite, but this close-air-support champ is increasingly seen as a relic of a bygone era of warfare. Yet, the A-10 may not be stealthy, but it remains among the cost-effective and resilient close-air-support platforms in service today and the Air Force continues to find new ways to teach this old dog new tricks. The A-10 was originally designed to engage Soviet armor advancing into Europe if the Cold War ever turned hot. It then found fame as the infantryman’s favorite aircraft throughout the multi-decade-spanning Global War on Terror.
But as resilient as it’s proven to be in combat, the Pentagon has no illusions about the Warthog’s potential survivability in a modern peer-level fight. Without stealth to rely on, the A-10 would be extremely vulnerable to Chinese or Russian air defense systems, not to mention any enemy fighters that manage to slip past the A-10’s fighter support.
Today, the A-10’s future is questionable, as the airframes in service continue to age and tensions between globe-spanning powers simmer toward a boil. It seems likely that this air support champ will finally be sent out to pasture at some point within the coming decade.
The A-10’s specifications
(All specifications sourced from the United States Air Force)
- Close Air Support
- Airborne Forward Air Control
- Combat Search and Rescue
Contractor: Fairchild Republic Co.
Power Plant: Two General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofans
Thrust: 9,065 pounds from each engine
Length: 53 feet, 4 inches (16.16 meters)
Height: 14 feet, 8 inches (4.42 meters)
Wingspan: 57 feet, 6 inches (17.42 meters)
Speed: 420 miles per hour (Mach 0.56)
Ceiling: 45,000 feet (13,636 meters)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 51,000 pounds (22,950 kilograms)
Range: 800 miles (695 nautical miles)
The Warthog’s armament
- One 30mm GAU-8/A seven-barrel Gatling gun;
- Up to 16,000 pounds (7,200 kilograms) of mixed ordnance on eight under-wing and three under-fuselage pylon stations, including:
- 500 pound (225 kilograms) Mk-82 series low/high drag bombs
- 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms) Mk-84 series low/high drag bombs
- Incendiary cluster bombs
- Combined effects munitions
- Mine dispensing munitions
- AGM-65 Maverick missiles
- Laser-/GPS-guided bombs
- Unguided and laser-guided 2.75-inch (6.99 centimeters) rockets;
- Infrared countermeasure flares
- Electronic countermeasure chaff
- Jammer pods
- Illumination flares
- AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles
Date Deployed: March 1976
Unit Cost: $9.8 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars)
Inventory: Total Force – approximately 281
Alex Hollings is a writer, dad, and Marine veteran who specializes in foreign policy and defense technology analysis. He holds a master’s degree in Communications from Southern New Hampshire University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in Corporate and Organizational Communications from Framingham State University. This first appeared in Sandboxx News.