Amazing Facts About The A-10 Thunderbolt


The A-10 Thunderbolt II may not be the newest or fastest aircraft around, but this dedicated close air support aircraft is still an infantryman’s best friend and a tank’s worst nightmare. Because the A-10 has been the saving grace for so many in combat and because of its relatively low per hour flight cost, this aircraft is extremely popular among service members and civilians alike. A-10’s have bore the bulk of close air support roles for the US Army in every major operation since Desert Storm. This beast is designed to take damage too. Every vital component of the aircraft is protected by several layers of Kevlar and steel plating and the pilot sits in a titanium-armored bucket. That’s just cool. With almost 40 years of service, the A-10 Warthog has compiled an impressive service record and some incredible facts to boot. Here we’ve put them all together for your enjoyment.




 

A-10-Lighting strikes behind A-10 Thunderbolt IIs on the Whiteman Air Force Base

Staff Sgt. Kenny Holston, U.S. Air Force

The United States Air Force only has one aircraft dedicated solely to air-to-ground support, the A-10 Thunderbolt II. Known for its survivability, ease of maintenance and brutally powerful machine gun protruding from its nose, the A-10 has won the hearts of any ground troops it has assisted over the years. Production began in 1976 and the A-10 is still active today. Check out these 50 Amazing Facts About The A-10.

Master Sgt. Joy Josephson, U.S. Air Force

Because of it’s cumbersome appearance the A-10 was nicknamed “Warthog”.

Now, after many years of successful missions, the “Warthog” is an affectionate nickname that praises the aircraft’s longevity and grittiness.

A-10_the team working on the inactive A-10 Thunderbolt II winches the aircraft into the C-5 Galaxy

Staff Sgt. Brian Hibbert, U.S. Air Force

The A-10 cockpit and flight control systems are surrounded by 1,200 pounds of protective armor called the “bathtub”. It’s capable of withstanding 50-cal bullets or 23mm armor-piercing rounds.

A-10_An A-10C Thunderbolt II sits on the flight line at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz

Staff Sgt. Angela Ruiz, U.S. Air Force

The 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger sits in the front of the aircraft, with the barrel protruding from the nose of the A-10. It is the heaviest automatic cannon ever mounted on an aircraft.

A-10_An A-10 refuels from a KC-135R-Tech. Sgt. Mark R. W. Orders

Woempner, U.S. Air Force

The Gatling gun accounts for 16 percent of the A-10’s weight.

When maintenance is done and the gun is removed from the aircraft, a support is wedged under the tail to keep the nose from tipping up.

A-10-pilot fires off a flare while diving into a high-angle firing position during a training exercise

Master Sgt. Ben Bloker, U.S. Air Force

Some A-10 Thunderbolt’s have a ‘false canopy’ painted on the belly of the aircraft.

The diversion is meant to confuse enemy pilots into thinking the paint is actually a shadow cast by the real canopy – hopefully tricking them into thinking the A-10 is going a different direction at a different altitude.

A-10_weapons loader Airmen reload the 30mm gun on an A-10

Tech. Sgt. Amanda Ley, U.S. Air Force

The A-10’s General Electric TF-34-GE-100 engines are mounted high, above and behind the wings. This positioning gives them protection from ground fire.

Senior Airman Ryan Conroy, U.S. Air Force

The Gatling gun is designed to fire high explosive incendiary and armor-piercing depleted uranium rounds at a rate of 3,900 rounds per minute.

A-10_Two A-10 aircrafts fly in formation off the wing a KC-135 Stratotanker

Senior Airman Sierra Dopfel, U.S. Air Force

There is an A-10 Thunderbolt monster truck used by the Air Force for marketing purposes. It travels around the U.S. and has become a fan favorite at air shows.

A-10_Three A-10C aircrafst fly in formation during a flight training session

Airman 1st Class Benjamin Wiseman, U.S. Air Force

The Thunderbolt II gets its name from the P47 Thunderbolt, used in WWII. Both Thunderbolts are/were ground support aircraft.

A-10_The 944th Fighter Wing, the Air Force Reserve’s largest F-16, A-10, F-15E, and F-35 training wing trains

U.S. Air Force photo

It is so well armored that it can fly through super-cell thunderstorms – the Air Force uses the A-10 to monitor severe weather systems.

A-10_returns to mission after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker

Master Sgt. William Greer, U.S. Air Force

39. The A-10 can operate underneath 1,000-foot ceilings with 1.5-mile visibility.

This combined with its long loiter time give the Warthog its ground support capability that earns so much praise.

A-10_Operation Support Squadron commander prepares to taxi to the flightline in an A-10 Thunderbolt II

Senior Airman Ramon A. Adelan, U.S. Air Force

There is a special vehicle created just for loading ammunition into the A-10 Thunderbolt. It’s called “The Dragon”.

A-10_Nine A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft at Osan Air Base

Staff Sgt. Craig Cisek, U.S. Air Force

The Gatling gun heats up so fast that pilots can’t fire for more than a few seconds at a time. Doing so would overheat the barrel and render it ineffective.

A-10_Maj. Steve Raspet returning from a mission in Afghanistan

U.S. Air Force photo

The landing gear, engines, vertical stabilizers and some other parts on the A-10 are left and right interchangeable – meaning they can operate on either side.

That allows it to be serviced at a forward location and put back in combat much sooner than other aircraft.

A-10_Joint terminal attack controllers wave at an A-10 Thunderbolt II

Senior Airman Kevin Tanenbaum, U.S. Air Force

The A-10 Thunderbolt’s straight, large wings and wide wheelbase allow it to take off and land from a short runway, giving it the ability to land as close to the front line of battle as possible.

A-10_Formation of Fairchild Republic A-10As-1977

U.S. Air Force photo

The A-10 carries more weight in weapons than it weighs itself. The Thunderbolt weighs 12 tons and, including the GAU-8/A cannon, carries a maximum of 13 tons of armament.

A-10_Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II cockpit

U.S. Air Force photo

The A-10 was built to survive. The hydraulics systems are double-redundant and a backup mechanical system controls the plane if the hydraulics are lost.

A-10_Col. Jon Mott breaks the record for the most documented hours in an A-10 Thunderbolt II

Staff Sgt. Melanie Norman, U.S. Air Force

The first time the A-10 entered combat was in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War.

During its service in the war the A-10 was responsible for destroying 900 Iraqi tanks, 2,000 other military vehicles and 1,200 artillery pieces in addition to two air-to-air kills.

A-10_An A-10C Warthog pilot in Fort Wayne, Ind taxis across the flight line

Staff Sgt. William Hopper, U.S. Air National Guard

In 1999, an A-10 assisted in the rescue of a downed F-117 pilot in Kosovo. The A-10 provided ground support while three helicopters executed the rescue mission.

A-10_An A-10 Warthog is displayed on the flight line during the 2016 Japanese-American Friendship

Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker, U.S. Air Force

The Air Force and the U.S. government struck a deal to keep the A-10 alive.

In 1973, Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger said he would remove a cap on the total amount of wings (think hangar, not wings of a plane) for Air Force fighters if Air Force General George S. Brown, then the USAF Chief of Staff, would support the A-10 for years to come.

A-10_An A-10 Thunderbolt II over the Mediterranean Sea

Master Sgt. Mark Bucher, U.S. Air Force

The A-10 is almost as long as it is wide. The wingspan measures 57 feet 6 inches and it’s length measures 53 feet 4 inches long.

A-10_An A-10 Thunderbolt II flies over Afghanistan

Lance Cheung, U.S. Air Force

One of the pieces of armament the A-10 carries is the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile. Each missile weighs 670 pounds and can destroy a tank in a single shot.

A-10_An A-10 Thunderbolt II flies a close-air-support mission over Afghanistan

Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon, U.S. Air Force

The A-10 is an all-weather, all-day aircraft. They are equipped with Night Vision Imaging Systems and a goggle-compatible seat in the cockpit.

A-10_An A-10 Thunderbolt II flies a close-air-support mission over Afghanistan different angle

Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon, U.S. Air Force

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., received the first-ever production A-10 in October 1975. It didn’t see combat until over 15 years later.

A-10_An A-10 Thunderbolt II departs from the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.

Airman 1st Class Mikaley Towle, U.S. Air Force

The A-10 has seen combat in every major conflict the United States’ has been involved in since 1991.

A-10_An A-10 Thunderbolt II departs after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker

Senior Airman Trevor T. McBride, U.S. Air Force

One of the A-10s defining traits is its survivability. A honeycomb panel design make up the leading edges of the wing and tail, making them more resistant to battle damage.

A-10_An A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft from the 188th Wing, Ebbing Air National Guard Base, Fort Smith

Senior Airman Sierra Dopfel, U.S. Air Force

The front landing gear retracts from under the wings in an offset position, with the rear wheels in line with the fuselage. This set up allows room for the massive machine gun in the nose.

A-10_An A-10 flies off the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker

Staff Sgt. Austin M. May, U.S. Air Force

Even when the wheels are retracted, they protrude outside of the nacelle just a bit. This way if the A-10 has to land with its gear up, it will limit damage to a degree.

A-10_An A-10 Bomber maneuvers through various training scenarios at the Grayling Air Gunnery Range

U.S. Air Force photo

The left and right ailerons on the A-10 are larger than most any other aircraft. This gives the Thunderbolt more maneuverability than its air-to-ground assault counterparts.

A-10_An A-10 performs sorties daily providing top cover for ground forces in Southwest Asia

Master Sgt. Robert Wieland, U.S. Air Force

An NFL player once piloted the A-10 in the Persian Gulf War. Chad Hennings was a defensive lineman with the Dallas Cowboys after he served in the Air Force.

A-10_Airmen refuel an A-10 Thunderbolt II

Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton, U.S. Air Force

The Gatling gun in the A-10 Thunderbolt fires bullets the size of a beer bottle out of a gun that’s bigger than a Volkswagen Bug.

A-10_A-10C pilot prepares for takeoff during Operation Guardian Blitz

Staff Sgt. William Hopper, U.S. Air National Guard

The cannon creates so much smoke while it’s being fired that it could choke out a jet engine.

The engines, in original testing, could not get enough oxygen while the cannon was firing so a special combustion chamber was created to keep the engines running while the gun was firing.

A-10_A-10 turning

Capt. Justin T. Watson & digital manipulation by David Stack, U.S. Air Force

On the second day of the First Iraq War, two A-10’s destroyed 23 Iraqi tanks across three sorties.

This impressive display caused the Iraqi soldiers to refer to the A-10 as the “Cross of Death” – because of the plane’s semblance to a cross from underneath.

Tech. Sgt. Cecilio M. Ricardo Jr, U.S. Air Force

The Air Force nearly chose the Northrop YA-9A over the A-10. The deciding factor was that the engines, mounted to the root of the wings, and the single tail were too vulnerable.

SSgt Clay Lancaste, U.S. Air Force

The Warthog has an internal fuel capacity of 10,000 gallons, giving the A-10 an 800-mile range.

A-10_A-10 Thunderbolt II does a show of force maneuver

Senior Airman Shawn Nickel, U.S. Air Force

Damaged wing skins can be replaced relatively easy in the field – even with makeshift materials. The production skins aren’t load bearing which means replacing them is sim ple.

A-10_A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia

Paul Holcomb, U.S. Air Force

In 2003, Capt. Kim Campbell’s A-10 was hit by ground fire and took on extensive damage to the horizontal stabilizer, starboard vertical stabilizer, aft fuselage, and engine. She was able to land the plane safely after switching controls to manual and manually controlling the plane.

A-10_A-10 piloted by Col. Mark Anderson, 188th Wing commander

Senior Airman Sierra Dopfel, U.S. Air Force

The A-10’s cockpit is outfitted with a bubble canopy that allows 360-degree views of the battlefield. Bombs are released using precise technology but the cannon, for the most part, is fired the good old fashioned way – with a pair of eyeballs.

A-10_A10 pilot flies in formation with his wingman during a combat sortie in support of Operation Enduring Freedom

Maj. Joe Shetterly, U.S. Air Force

The Warthog’s fuel cells are self-sealing and are protected by anti-explosion foam on the inside and the outside.

A-10_A-10 against a sunset

Senior Airman Greg L. Davis, U.S. Air Force

The A-10 weapons delivery systems include heads-up displays that indicate altitude, navigation information, dive angle, airspeed, and weapons aiming references.

Also, a low altitude safety and targeting enhancement system (LASTE) computes the impact point constantly for free-fall ordnance delivery.

A-10_1970s - The A-10 Thunderbolt in flight

U.S. Air Force photo

A-10s had a mission capable rate of 95.7 percent in the Gulf War across its 8,100 sorties. That’s pretty good considering that other active Air Force aircraft, like the B-1 bomber, have an availability rate below 50 percent.

A-10_407th Expeditionary Operation Support Squadron commander, takesoff in an A-10

Senior Airman Ramon A. Adelan, U.S. Air Force

As of 2015, the A-10 Thunderbolt has flown about 11 percent of all United States Air Force sorties against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. That’s a reduction from what it flew in Operation Iraqi Freedom and in Afghanistan – about 32 percent of the combat sorties in both theaters.

A-10_ Support Squadron commander conducts a preflight munitions check on an A-10 Thunderbolt II

Senior Airman Ramon A. Adelan, U.S. Air Force

The A-10’s secondary role is to provide forward air controller support. In this role, the A-10 pilot would direct other attack aircraft in ground supporting roles – all planes used for this tactic are referenced as OA-10.

A-10_ Support Squadron commander carries out a preflight check on an A-10 Thunderbolt II

Senior Airman Ramon A. Adelan, U.S. Air Force

The A-10A single-seat variant was the only model ever produced. In 2005, an upgrade program was implemented to give all A-10 current avionics and precise bombing technology – these updated models are now known as A-10C.

A-10_ flies over the Atlantic Ocean during the National Salute to America’s Heroes Air and Sea Show media day

Staff Sgt. Jared Trimarchi, U.S. Air Force

715 A-10’s were delivered when production stopped in 1984. At peak production, 12 aircraft were delivered per month.

A-10_ a pair of A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft flying

Senior Airman Sierra Dopfel, U.S. Air Force

The recoil from the cannon is so powerful that it affects the airplanes’ trajectory. Therefore, the GAU-8/A 30mm cannon was installed slightly off-center to offset that change caused by the recoil.

The A-10 can operate underneath 1,000-foot ceilings with 1.5-mile visibility. This combined with its long loiter time give the Warthog its ground support capability that earns so much praise.

A-10_ 122nd Fighter Wing from the Indiana Air National Guard flew A-10 Thunderbolt II's for close air support and combat search and rescue training

MSgt Eric Miller, U.S. Air National Guard

The front landing gear, which is offset from the center because of the Gatling gun’s massive recoil, causes the A-10 to have an unequal turning radius. Turning to the right on the ground takes less distance than turning left.

A-10- A-10C pilots maneuver in formation June 4, 2012

Master Sgt. Ben Bloker, U.S. Air Force

The A-10 was designed with maintenance and turn-around time during battle in mind. The engines being located high on the plane allow them to continue running while receiving maintenance in a forward location.

A-10- A-10 Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center, Ark-Master

Sgt. Ben Bloker, U.S. Air Force

Because the A-10 Thunderbolt II flies so low to the ground, paint schemes for camouflage are more important here than with other aircraft.

Multiple variations have been tried – a “peanut scheme” of sand, yellow and field drab, a black and white version for winter work and a brown, green and tan version. Many A-10s have shark teeth or a warthog head painted on the nose of the aircraft.