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Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II

History of the A-10A Thunderbolt II, “The Warthog”

The A-10 is the first United States Air Force (USAF) aircraft designed specifically for close air support of ground forces. These aircraft entered service in 1976 and were used during the Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm), Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and the continuing conflicts in the Middle East. The A-10 was designed for easy maneuverability at low speeds and altitudes and for providing quick-action support for troops against helicopters, vehicles and enemy ground troops.

Fairchild A-10A Thunderbolt II

Serial Number: 73-1666

Manufacturer: Fairchild Aviation

Crew: One

Engines: Two General Electric TF34-GE-100A turbofans; 9,065 pounds thrust each

Wingspan: 57 feet 6 inches

Length: 53 feet 4 inches

Height: 14 feet 8 inches

Weight: 50,000 pounds (maximum)

Speed: 335 mph (cruising); 450 mph (maximum)

Range: 2,900 miles

Service Ceiling: 45,000 feet

Armament: One 30mm GAU-8/A rotary cannon; up to 16,000 pounds, mixed ordinance

Cost: $8,800,000

The A-10A Thunderbolt II at Hill Air Force Base

The A-10A was manufactured by Fairchild Republic Aviation and delivered to the USAF in June 1975. The aircraft at the Hill Aerospace Museum is one of the first six A-10As produced, all of which were used for Development Test and Evaluation (DT&E). The program was designed to qualify the production of aircraft for all aspects of operational mission in preparation for initial delivery to active-duty Air Force units.

The A-10A was transferred to the Air Force Flight Test Center in March 1980 at Edwards Air Force Base as a YA-10A. After five years, the Air Force Armament Development Test Center (AFSC) took possession of the aircraft where it remained until September 1989. The aircraft was sent to Sheppard Technical Training Center, Air Training Command, where it functioned as a GYA-10A for ground instructional airframe training.

In April 1992 the aircraft was removed from active service for the USAF and became property of the USAF Museum system where it was assigned to Hill Aerospace Museum for static display. The aircraft was repainted in February 1997 and in October 1997, volunteers from the 388th Operations Group loaded surplus AGM-65 Maverick Missiles on the A-10A to show some of the weapons the Thunderbolt II carried during the Gulf War.

Discover the answers to the following questions about the A-10A Thunderbolt II.

Who developed the A-10?

Both Fairchild Republic and Northrup developed prototypes to replace the Korean War-era Skyraider. Thanks to its superior, low-altitude maneuverability and mission-capable prowess, Fairchild’s A-10 was ultimately chosen.

Why is the A-10 called the Thunderbolt II?

The A-10 was named for its infamous WWII predecessor, the P-47 Thunderbolt, a fighter bomber that was resistant to battle damage and remained an effective fighter, that also excelled in close-air support with its 8 .50-caliber machine guns.

When was the A-10 produced?

The A-10 was in production for the United States Air Force (USAF) between 1972 and 1984, with over 700 airframes being completed. The A-10 entered service at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (AFB) in March 1976. Through numerous upgrades and retrofits, including all new wings, the airframe is likely to remain in service through 2040.

What’s the main gun on the A-10?

The A-10 was specifically built around the 30x173mm GAU-8/A Avenger autocannon, aka the Gatling gun, firing 30mm depleted uranium, armor-piercing rounds. With a firing rate of just over 61 rounds per second, the A-10 is world renowned for its “BRRRRT.”

How big is the A-10’s gun?

The GAU-8 measures an impressive 19 feet by 10 1/2 inches and is so massive that the A-10’s front landing gear is offset to accommodate it. This includes the near five-foot magazine drum that typically carries 1,174 rounds. The cannon is so large, it accounts for roughly 16% of the aircraft’s total, unarmed weight.

What’s so special about the GAU-8?

The Gatling gun is a hydraulically-driven, seven-barrel, rotary cannon with a fixed rate of 3,900 rounds per minute with 80 percent accuracy inside a 40-foot radius. With this weapon the aircraft earned the moniker “tank buster,” for its ability to quickly destroy enemy armor.

How big is the A-10?

At 53 feet 4 inches long with a wingspan of 57 feet 6 inches, the A-10 is almost as long as it is wide. It weighs 12 tons and, including the GAU-8/A autocannon, carries up to 13 tons of armament.

How tough is the A-10?

Designed to absorb significant damage and maintain airworthiness, the A-10 can fly with one engine, one tail and half of one wing missing. It also has redundant hydraulic systems to offset any significant damage. It’s tough exterior also extends to its design, as many of the A-10’s internal systems can be mounted on either the left or right side to make repairs simpler.

Why is the A-10 a close-air support aircraft?

The A-10s have excellent maneuverability at low airspeeds and altitude and are highly accurate weapons-delivery platforms. They can loiter at low elevation (under 1,000 feet) near battle areas for extended periods of time. Straight, large wings and a wide wheelbase give the A-10 its short takeoff and landing capability that permits operations near front lines.

What’s “the bathtub”?

The A-10 cockpit and flight control systems are surrounded by 12,000 pounds of protective, titanium armor nicknamed “the bathtub.” It’s capable of withstanding 23mm, armor-piercing rounds, keeping the pilot from harm’s way and increasing the aircraft’s overall survivability from small arms fire.

When was the A-10’s first deployment?

The A-10’s first time in combat was during the 1991 Gulf War where it destroyed more than 900 Iraqi tanks, 1200 artillery and 2,000 other military vehicles. Since then, the A-10 has seen its fair share of military action in other conflicts including Grenada, the Balkans and Afghanistan.

Why is the A-10 called the “Warthog”?

Due to its aggressive appearance, and regularly being given tooth-filled nose-art, soldiers and airmen took to affectionately calling the A-10 the “Warthog.”

A-10 Video Short