Fairchild Republic A-10A 'Thunderbolt II'
Courtesy of the National Museum of the United States Air Force
The A-10 is the first U.S. Air Force aircraft designed specifically for close air support. Its official nickname is the “Thunderbolt II” comes from the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, a World War II fighter that also became effective in close ground support due to its robust build. But the A-10 has become more commonly known by its nickname “Warthog.”
The plane is designed around its primary armament, a Gatling-type heavy rotary cannon and is in effect a flying gun platform. The craft’s fuselage also has over 1,200 lbs. of armor as survivability was a design priority to enable the plane to fly even after taking significant damage. The A-10 has superior maneuverability at low speeds and altitudes due to its large wing area high wing aspect ratio. This also allows for short takeoffs and landings enabling it to operate from more primitive forward bases. Its simple design and low maintenance results in an exceptionally high mission ready rate.
The A-10 was first put into service in March, 1976 and was used in combat for the first time during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and flew over 8,000 sorties. The later saw action in the Balkans, Afghanistan and the Iraq War.
While when first introduced, pilots were cool to the plane due to its perceived low level of performance and appearance, it has become a mainstay of the USAF and is scheduled to be in service until 2028 and possibly later.