Posted tagged ‘maverick’

Whispering Thunder

September 12, 2010

Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II

 The A-10 Thunderbolt II is an American single-seat, twin-engine, straight-wing jet aircraft developed by Fairchild-Republic in the early 1970s. The A-10 was designed for a United States Air Force requirement to provide close air support for ground forces by attacking tanks, armored vehicles, and other ground targets with a limited air interdiction capability. It is the first U.S. Air Force aircraft designed exclusively for close air support.

The A-10 was designed around the GAU-8  Avenger ,  a  heavy automatic cannon which forms the aircraft’s primary armament. The aircraft’s hull incorporates over 1,200 pounds of armor and was designed with survivability as a priority, with protective measures in place which enable the aircraft to continue flying even after taking significant damage.

The A-10’s official name comes from the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt of World War II, a fighter that was particularly effective at close air support. The A-10 is more commonly known by its nickname “Warthog” or simply “Hog”. As a secondary mission, it provides airborne forward air control, guiding other aircraft against ground targets. A-10s used primarily in this role are designated OA-10.The A-10 is expected to be replaced in 2028 or later.

 Development

 Background

Criticism that the U.S. Air Force did not take close air support seriously prompted a few service members to seek a specialized attack aircraft. In the Vietnam War, large numbers of ground-attack aircraft were shot down by small arms, surface-to-air missiles, and low-level anti-aircraft gunfire, prompting the development of an aircraft better able to survive such weapons. In addition, the UH-1 Iroquois and AH-1 Cobra helicopters of the day, which USAF commanders had said should handle close air support, were ill-suited for use against armor, carrying only anti-personnel machine guns and unguided rockets meant for soft targets. Fast jets such as the F-100 Super Sabre, F-105 Thunderchief and F-4 Phantom II proved for the most part to be ineffective for close air support. The A-1 Skyraider was the USAF’s primary close air support aircraft.

A-X

In mid-1966 the U.S. Air Force formed the Attack Experimental program office. On 6 March 1967, the Air Force released a request for information to 21 defense contractors for the A-X. The objective was to create a design study for a low-cost attack aircraft. The officer in charge of the project was Colonel Avery Kay. In 1969, the Secretary of the Air Force asked Pierre Sprey to write the detailed specifications for the proposed A-X project. However, his initial involvement was kept secret due to Sprey’s earlier controversial involvement in the F-X project. Sprey’s discussions with A-1 Skyraider pilots operating in Vietnam and analysis of the effectiveness of current aircraft used in the role indicated the ideal aircraft should have long loiter time, low-speed maneuverability, massive cannon firepower, and extreme survivability; an aircraft that had the best elements of the Ilyushin Il-2, Henschel Hs 129 and Skyraider. The specifications also demanded that the aircraft cost less than $3 million. Input on the design was later provided by famed World War II attack pilot Hans-Ulrich Rudel.

In May 1970, the USAF issued a modified, and much more detailed request for proposals . The threat of Soviet armored forces and all-weather attack operations had became more serious. Now included in the requirements was that the aircraft would be designed specifically for the 30 mm cannon. The RFP also called for an aircraft with a maximum speed of 460 mph , takeoff distance of 4,000 feet , external load of 16,000 pounds , 285-mile mission radius, and a unit cost of US$1.4 million. During this time, an RFP was released for A-X’s 30 mm cannon with requirements for a high rate of fire (4,000 round/minute) and a high muzzle velocity.Six companies submitted proposals to the USAF, with Northrop and Fairchild Republic selected to build prototypes: the YA-9A and YA-10A, respectively. General Electric and Philco-Ford were selected to build and test GAU-8 cannon prototypes.The YA-10A first flew on 10 May 1972. After trials and a fly-off against the YA-9A, the Air Force announced its selection of Fairchild-Republic’s YA-10A on 18 January 1973 for production. General Electric was selected to build the GAU-8 cannon in June 1973. The YA-10 had an additional fly-off in 1974 against the Ling-Temco-Vought A-7D Corsair II, the principal Air Force attack aircraft at the time, in order to prove the need to purchase a new attack aircraft. The first production A-10 flew in October 1975, and deliveries to the Air Force commenced in March 1976 to units at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. The first squadron to use the A-10 went operational in October 1977. In total, 715 airplanes were produced, the last delivered in 1984.One experimental two-seat A-10 Night Adverse Weather version was built by converting an A-10A. The N/AW was developed by Fairchild from the first Demonstration Testing and Evaluation A-10 for consideration by the USAF. It included a second seat for a weapons system officer responsible for electronic countermeasures , navigation and target acquisition. The variant was canceled and the only two-seat A-10 built now sits at Edwards Air Force Base awaiting a spot in the Flight Test Historical Foundation museum. The N/AW version did not interest the USAF or export customers. The two-seat trainer version was ordered by the Air Force in 1981 but funding was canceled by Congress and was not produced.

Upgrades

The A-10 has received many upgrades over the years. Aircraft added the Pave Penny laser receiver pod beginning in 1978. It senses reflected laser radiation from a laser designator on a target for faster and more accurate target identification. The A-10 began receiving an inertial navigation system in 1980. Later, the Low-Altitude Safety and Targeting Enhancement upgrade provided computerized weapon-aiming equipment, an autopilot, and a ground-collision warning system. The A-10 is now compatible with night vision goggles for low-light operation. In 1999, aircraft began to receive Global Positioning System navigation systems and a new multi-function display. Its LASTE system is being upgraded with the Integrated Flight & Fire Control Computers .

In 2005, the entire A-10 fleet also began receiving the Precision Engagement upgrades that include an improved fire control system , electronic countermeasures, and the ability to aim smart bombs. The aircraft that receive this upgrade are redesignated A-10C. The A-10 will receive a service life extension program  upgrade with many receiving new wings. A contract to build 242 new A-10 wing sets was awarded to Boeing in June 2007. In July 2010, the USAF issued Raytheon a contract to integrate a Helmet Mounted Integrated Targeting system into A-10Cs.

The Government Accounting Office in 2007 estimated the cost of upgrading, refurbishing, and service life extension plans for the A-10 force to total $2.25 billion through 2013. Modifications to provide precision weapons capability are well underway. The Air Force Material Command’s Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill AFB, Utah completed work on its 100th A-10 precision engagement upgrade in January 2008.The C model upgrades are to be completed in 2011.

Design

 Overview

The A-10 has superior maneuverability at low speeds and altitude, due to large wing area, high wing aspect ratio, and large ailerons. The large high aspect ratio wing also allows for short takeoffs and landings, permitting operations from primitive forward airfields near front lines. The aircraft can loiter for extended periods of time and operate under 1,000 ft ceilings with 1.5 mi  visibility. It typically flies at a relatively slow speed of 300 knots , which makes it a much better platform for the ground-attack role than fast fighter-bombers, which often have difficulty targeting small and slow-moving targets.

Engine exhaust passes over the aircraft’s horizontal stabilizer and between the twin tails, decreasing the A-10’s infrared signature and lowering the likelihood that the aircraft can be targeted by heat-seeking missiles. The placement of the engines behind the wings partially shields them from anti-aircraft fire. The leading edge of the wing is honeycomb panel construction to provide strength with minimal weight compromise. Honeycomb panels of this type on the A-10 include the flap shrouds, elevators, rudders and other sections of the fins.

The A-10 has integrally machined skin panels. Because the stringers are integral with the skin there are no join or seal problems. These panels, fabricated using computer controlled machining, reduce the time and hence the cost of production. Combat experience has shown that this type of panel is more resistant to damage. The skin is not load-bearing, so damaged skin sections can be easily replaced in the field, with makeshift materials if necessary.

The ailerons are at the far ends of the wings to gain greater rolling moment, as with many aircraft, but there are two distinguishing features. First, the ailerons are larger than is typical, almost 50% of the chord, providing improved control even at slow speeds. The aileron is also split, making it a deceleron.

The Thunderbolt II can be serviced and operated from bases with limited facilities near battle areas. An unusual feature is that many of the aircraft’s parts are interchangeable between the left and right sides, including the engines, main landing gear, and vertical stabilizers. The sturdy landing gear, low-pressure tires and large, straight wings allow operation from short rough strips even with a heavy ordnance load, allowing the aircraft to operate from damaged airbases. If runways are damaged in an attack, the A-10 can operate from taxiways, or straight roadway sections, such as Germany’s autobahn. The aircraft is designed to be refueled, rearmed, and serviced with minimal equipment. Also, most repairs can be done in the field.

The front landing gear is offset to the aircraft’s right due close proximity of the A-10’s main cannon. The cannon’s firing barrel lines up with the aircraft centerline. During ground taxi, the offset front landing gear causes the A-10 to have dissimilar turning radii. Turning to the right on the ground takes less distance than turning left.

Durability

A-10 is exceptionally tough. Its strong airframe can survive direct hits from armor-piercing and high-explosive projectiles up to 23 mm. The aircraft has triple redundancy in its flight systems, with mechanical systems to back up double-redundant hydraulic systems. This permits pilots to fly and land when hydraulic power or part of a wing is lost. Flight without hydraulic power uses the manual reversion flight control system; this engages automatically for pitch and yaw control, and under pilot control (manual reversion switch) for roll control. In manual reversion mode, the A-10 is sufficiently controllable under favorable conditions to return to base and land, though control forces are much higher than normal. The aircraft is designed to fly with one engine, one tail, one elevator and half a wing torn off. Its self-sealing fuel tanks are protected by fire-retardant foam. The A-10’s main landing gear is designed so that the wheels semi-protrude from their nacelles when the gear is retracted so as to make gear-up landings (belly landing) easier to control and less damaging to the aircraft’s underside. A belly landing would be required in the case of a landing gear failure. Additionally, the landing gear are all hinged toward the rear of the aircraft, so if hydraulic power is lost the pilot can drop the gear and a combination of gravity and wind resistance will open and lock the gear in place.

The cockpit and parts of the flight-control system are protected by 1,200 lb  titanium armor, referred to as a “bathtub”. The armor has been tested to withstand strikes from 23 mm cannon fire and some strikes from 57 mm rounds. It is made up of titanium plates with thicknesses from 0.5 to 1.5 inches  determined by a study of likely trajectories and deflection angles. This protection comes at a cost, though; the armor itself weighs almost 6% of the entire aircraft’s empty weight. To protect the pilot from the fragmentation likely to be created from impact of a shell, any interior surface of the tub that is directly exposed to the pilot is covered by a multi-layer nylon spall shield. The front windscreen and canopy are resistant to small arms fire.

Proof of the durability of the A-10 was shown when then-Captain Kim Campbell, USAF, flying a ground support mission over Baghdad during the 2003 invasion of Iraq on 7 April, suffered extensive flak damage to her A-10. Enemy fire damaged one of the A-10’s engines and crippled its hydraulic system, forcing the back-up mechanical system to operate the aircraft’s stabilizer and flight controls. Despite this, Campbell managed to fly it for an hour and landed it safely at the air base in manual reversion mode.

Powerplant

There are several reasons for the unusual location of the A-10’s General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofan engines. First, the A-10 was expected to fly from forward air bases, often with semi-prepared substandard runways that presented a high risk of foreign object damage to the engines. The height of the engines lowers the chance that sand or stones will enter the inlet. This also allows engines to remain running, allowing for shorter servicing and rearming turn-around times by ground crew. Servicing and rearming are further helped by having wings closer to the ground than would be possible if the engines were wing-mounted. The position also reduces the infrared signature further, which is already low due to the engines’ 6:1 bypass ratio. Because of their high position, the engines are angled upward nine degrees to bring the combined thrust line closer to the aerodynamic center of the aircraft. This avoids trimming measures to counteract a nose-down pitching moment if the engines were parallel to the fuselage. The heavy engines require strong supports, so their pylons are connected to the airframe by four bolts.

The A-10’s fuel system components are protected in multiple ways. All four fuel tanks are near the center of the aircraft, reducing the likelihood that they will be hit or separated from the engines. The tanks are separate from the fuselage; thus, projectiles would need to penetrate the skin before reaching the tank. The refueling system is purged after use so that all fuel in the aircraft is protected. All fuel transfer lines self-seal if they are compromised. Most of the fuel system components are inside the tanks so that if a leak were to occur from the component the fuel would not be lost. If a tank does get damaged, check valves ensure that fuel does not flow into the compromised tank. Most importantly, reticulated polyurethane foam lines both the inner and outer sides of the fuel tanks, retaining debris and restricting fuel spillage in the event of damage. The other source of possible combustion, the engines, are shielded from the fuel system and the rest of the airframe by firewalls and fire extinguishing equipment. Even in the event of all four main tanks being holed and all contents lost, sufficient fuel is carried in two self-sealing sump tanks to allow flight for 230 miles.

Weapon systems

Although the A-10 can carry considerable disposable stores, its primary built-in weapon is the 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling-type cannon. One of the most powerful aircraft cannon ever flown, it fires large depleted uranium armor-piercing shells. In the original design, the pilot could switch between two rates of fire: 2,100 or 4,200 rounds per minute; this was changed to a fixed rate of 3,900 rounds per minute.[ The cannon takes about half a second to come up to speed, so 50 rounds are fired during the first second, 65 or 70 rounds per second thereafter. The gun is precise; it can place 80% of its shots within a 40-foot  circle from 4,000 feet while in flight. The GAU-8 is optimized for a slant range of 4,000 feet with the A-10 in a 30 degree dive.

The fuselage of the aircraft is built around the gun. The gun’s firing barrel is placed at the 9 o’clock position so it is aligned on the aircraft’s centerline. The gun’s ammunition drum can hold up to 1,350 rounds of 30 mm ammunition, but generally holds 1,174 rounds. The damage caused by rounds firing prematurely due to impact of an explosive shell would be catastrophic, so a great deal of effort has been taken to protect the 5 feet 11.5 inch long drum. There are many armor plates of differing thicknesses between the aircraft skin and the drum, to detonate an incoming shell before it reaches the drum. A final layer of armor around the drum itself protects it from fragmentation damage. The gun is loaded by Syn-Tech’s linked tube carrier GFU-7/E 30 mm ammunition loading assembly cart; a vehicle unique to the A-10, the only aircraft that is armed with the GAU-8 cannon.

Another commonly used weapon is the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile, with different variations for either electro-optical (TV-guided) or infra-red targeting. The Maverick allows targets to be engaged at much greater ranges than the cannon, a safer proposition in the face of modern anti-aircraft systems. During Desert Storm, in the absence of dedicated forward-looking infrared cameras, the Maverick’s infra-red camera was used for night missions as a “poor man’s FLIR”. Other weapons include cluster bombs and Hydra rocket pods.[57] Although the A-10 is equipped to carry laser-guided bombs, their use is relatively uncommon. The A-10 has not been equipped with weapon control systems for accurate bombing. A-10s usually fly with an ALQ-131 ECM pod under one wing and two AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles under the other wing for self-defense.

Modernization

The A-10 Precision Engagement Modification Program will update 356 A-10/OA-10s to the A-10C variant with a new flight computer, new glass cockpit displays and controls, two new 5.5-inch  color displays with moving map function and an integrated digital stores management system.

Other funded improvements to the A-10 fleet include a new data link, the ability to employ smart weapons such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition  and Wind Corrected Munitions Dispensor, and the ability to carry an integrated targeting pod such as the Northrop Grumman LITENING targeting pod or the Lockheed Martin Sniper XR Advanced Targeting Pod . Also included is the ROVER or remotely operated video enhanced receiver to provide sensor data to personnel on the ground.

 Colors and markings

Since the A-10 flies low to the ground and at subsonic speed, aircraft camouflage is important to make the aircraft more difficult to see. Many different types of paint schemes have been tried. These have included a “peanut scheme” of sand, yellow and field drab; black and white colors for winter operations and a tan, green and brown mixed pattern.

The two most common markings applied to the A-10 have been the European I woodland camouflage scheme and a two-tone gray scheme. The European woodland scheme was designed to minimise visibility from above, as the threat from hostile fighter aircraft was felt to outweigh that from groundfire. It uses dark green, medium green and dark grey in order to blend in with the typical European forest terrain and was used from the 1980s to the early 1990s. Following the end of the Cold War, and based on experience during the 1991 Gulf War, the air-to-air threat was no longer seen to be as important as that from ground fire, and a new color scheme, known as “Compass Ghost” was chosen to minimise visibility from below. This two-tone gray scheme has darker gray color on top, with the lighter gray on the underside of the aircraft, and started to be applied from the early 1990s.

Many A-10s also featured a “false” canopy painted in dark gray on the underside of the aircraft, just behind the gun. This form of automimicry is an attempt to confuse the enemy as to aircraft attitude and maneuver direction.

Weapon systems

 

Although the A-10 can carry considerable disposable stores, its primary built-in weapon is the 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling-type cannon. One of the most powerful aircraft cannon ever flown, it fires large depleted uranium armor-piercing shells. In the original design, the pilot could switch between two rates of fire: 2,100 or 4,200 rounds per minute; this was changed to a fixed rate of 3,900 rounds per minute.[ The cannon takes about half a second to come up to speed, so 50 rounds are fired during the first second, 65 or 70 rounds per second thereafter. The gun is precise; it can place 80% of its shots within a 40-foot  circle from 4,000 feet while in flight. The GAU-8 is optimized for a slant range of 4,000 feet with the A-10 in a 30 degree dive.

The fuselage of the aircraft is built around the gun. The gun’s firing barrel is placed at the 9 o’clock position so it is aligned on the aircraft’s centerline. The gun’s ammunition drum can hold up to 1,350 rounds of 30 mm ammunition, but generally holds 1,174 rounds. The damage caused by rounds firing prematurely due to impact of an explosive shell would be catastrophic, so a great deal of effort has been taken to protect the 5 feet 11.5 inch long drum. There are many armor plates of differing thicknesses between the aircraft skin and the drum, to detonate an incoming shell before it reaches the drum. A final layer of armor around the drum itself protects it from fragmentation damage. The gun is loaded by Syn-Tech’s linked tube carrier GFU-7/E 30 mm ammunition loading assembly cart; a vehicle unique to the A-10, the only aircraft that is armed with the GAU-8 cannon.

 

 

Another commonly used weapon is the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile, with different variations for either electro-optical (TV-guided) or infra-red targeting. The Maverick allows targets to be engaged at much greater ranges than the cannon, a safer proposition in the face of modern anti-aircraft systems. During Desert Storm, in the absence of dedicated forward-looking infrared cameras, the Maverick’s infra-red camera was used for night missions as a “poor man’s FLIR”. Other weapons include cluster bombs and Hydra rocket pods.[57] Although the A-10 is equipped to carry laser-guided bombs, their use is relatively uncommon. The A-10 has not been equipped with weapon control systems for accurate bombing. A-10s usually fly with an ALQ-131 ECM pod under one wing and two AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles under the other wing for self-defense.

 

 

Modernization

 

The A-10 Precision Engagement Modification Program will update 356 A-10/OA-10s to the A-10C variant with a new flight computer, new glass cockpit displays and controls, two new 5.5-inch  color displays with moving map function and an integrated digital stores management system.

Other funded improvements to the A-10 fleet include a new data link, the ability to employ smart weapons such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition  and Wind Corrected Munitions Dispensor, and the ability to carry an integrated targeting pod such as the Northrop Grumman LITENING targeting pod or the Lockheed Martin Sniper XR Advanced Targeting Pod . Also included is the ROVER or remotely operated video enhanced receiver to provide sensor data to personnel on the ground.

 

Operational history

 

 Introduction

The first unit to receive the A-10 Thunderbolt II was the 355th Tactical Training Wing, based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona in March 1976. The first unit to achieve full combat-readiness was the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing at Myrtle Beach AFB, South Carolina in 1978. Deployments of A-10As followed at bases both at home and abroad, including England AFB, Louisiana, Eielson AFB, Alaska, Osan Air Base, South Korea, and RAF Bentwaters/RAF Woodbridge, England. The 81st TFW of RAF Bentwaters/RAF Woodbridge operated rotating detachments of A-10s at four bases in Germany known as Forward Operating Locations: Leipheim, Sembach Air Base, Nörvenich, and Ahlhorn.

A-10s were initially an unwelcome addition to many in the Air Force. Most pilots switching to the A-10 did not want to because fighter pilots traditionally favored speed and appearance. In 1987, many A-10s were shifted to the forward air control  role and redesignated OA-10. In the FAC role the OA-10 is typically equipped with up to six pods of 2.75 inch  Hydra rockets, usually with smoke or white phosphorus warheads used for target marking. OA-10s are physically unchanged and remain fully combat capable despite the redesignation.

 Gulf War

The A-10 saw combat for the first time during the Gulf War in 1991, destroying more than 900 Iraqi tanks, 2,000 military vehicles, and 1,200 artillery pieces. A-10s shot down two Iraqi helicopters with the GAU-8 gun. The first of these occurred on 6 February 1991 when Captain Robert Swain shot down an Iraqi helicopter over Kuwait marking the A-10’s first air-to-air victory. Four A-10s were shot down during the war, all by surface-to-air missiles. Another three battle-damaged A-10s and OA-10As returned to base, but were written off, some due to additional damage sustained in crashed landings. The A-10 had a mission capable rate of 95.7%, flew 8,100 sorties, and launched 90% of the AGM-65 Maverick missiles fired in the conflict. Shortly after the Gulf War, the Air Force gave up on the idea of replacing the A-10 with a close air support version of the F-16.

 Bosnia and Kosovo

U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft fired approximately 10,000 30 mm DU rounds in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1994-1995. Following the seizure of some heavy weapons by Bosnian Serbs from a warehouse in Ilidza, a series of sorties were launched to locate and destroy the captured equipment. On 5 August 1994, two A-10s located and strafed an anti-tank vehicle. Afterwards, the Serbs agreed to return remaining heavy weapons. In August 1995, NATO launched an offensive called Operation Deliberate Force. A-10s flew close air support missions, attacking Serbian artillery, and positions. In late September, A-10s began flying patrols again.

A-10s returned to the region as part of Operation Allied Force in Kosovo beginning in March 1999. In March 1999, A-10s escorted and supported search and rescue helicopters in finding a downed F-117 pilot. The A-10s were deployed to support search and rescue missions. But the Warthogs began to receive more ground attack missions as the days passed. The A-10’s first successful attack in Operation Allied Force happened on 6 April 1999. A-10s remained until combat ended in late June 1999.

 Afghanistan and Iraq Wars

During the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, A-10s did not take part in the initial stages. For the campaign against Taliban and Al Qaeda, A-10 squadrons were deployed to Pakistan and Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan beginning in March 2002. These A-10s participated in Operation Anaconda. Afterwards, A-10s remained in-country, fighting Taliban and Al Qaeda remnants.

Operation Iraqi Freedom began on 20 March 2003. Sixty OA-10/A-10 aircraft took part in early combat there.United States Air Forces Central issued Operation Iraqi Freedom: By the Numbers, a declassified report about the aerial campaign in the conflict on 30 April 2003. The A-10s had a mission capable rate of 85% in the war, and fired 311,597 rounds of 30 mm ammunition. A single A-10 was shot down near Baghdad International Airport by Iraqi fire late in the campaign. The A-10 also flew 32 missions in which the aircraft dropped propaganda leaflets over Iraq.

The A-10C first deployed to Iraq in the third quarter of 2007 with the 104th Fighter Squadron of the Maryland Air National Guard. The jets include the Precision Engagement Upgrade.The A-10C’s digital avionics and communications systems have greatly reduced the time to acquire a close air support target and attack it.

On March 25, 2010, an A-10 conducted the first flight of an aircraft with all engines powered by a biofuel blend. The flight, performed at Eglin Air Force Base, used a 50/50 blend of JP-8 and Camelina-based fuel.

The A-10 is scheduled to stay in service with the USAF until 2028 and possibly later,when it may be replaced by the F-35 Lightning II.

Variants

YA-10A 

Pre-production variant. 12 were built.

A-10A 

Single-seat close air support, ground-attack version.

OA-10A 

A-10As used for airborne forward air control.

YA-10B Night/Adverse Weather

Two-seat experimental prototype, for work at night and in bad weather. The one YA-10B prototype was conversion from a A-10A.

A-10C 

A-10As updated under the incremental Precision Engagement program.

 Operators

The A-10 has been flown exclusively by the United States Air Force and its Air Reserve components, the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) and the Air National Guard . The USAF operated 335 A-10 and OA-10 aircraft (188 in active duty, 96 in ANG, and 51 in AFRC, all variants) as of September 2008.The Air Force operates multiple A-10/OA-10 Active, National Guard, and Reserve squadrons.

Specifications A-10A

General characteristics

Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II

Role                       Close air support, and ground-attack aircraft

Manufacturer    Fairchild-Republic

First flight          10 May 1972

Introduced        March 1977

Status                In service

Primary user    United States Air Force

Number built    716

Unit cost          $11.8 million

Crew: 1

Length: 53 ft 4 in 

Wingspan: 57 ft 6 in

Height: 14 ft 8 in 

Wing area: 506 ft²

Airfoil: NACA 6716 root, NACA 6713 tip

Empty weight: 24,959 lb 

Loaded weight: 30,384 lb  On CAS mission: 47,094 lb

On anti-armor mission: 42,071 lb 

Max takeoff weight: 50,000 lb 

Powerplant: 2× General Electric TF34-GE-100A turbofans, 9,065 lbf  each

Performance

Never exceed speed: 450 knots  at 5,000 ft  with 18 Mk 82 bombs

Maximum speed: 381 knots  at sea level, clean

Cruise speed: 300 knots

Stall speed: 120 knots

Combat radius:

On CAS mission: 250 nmi  at 1.88 hour single-engine loiter at 5,000 ft , 10 min combat

On anti-armor mission: 252 nmi , 40 nm  sea-level penetration and exit, 30 min combat

Ferry range: 2,240 nmi  with 50 knot  headwinds, 20 minutes reserve

Service ceiling: 45,000 ft

Rate of climb: 6,000 ft/min

Wing loading: 99 lb/ft²

Thrust/weight: 0.36

Armament

Guns: 1× 30 mm  GAU-8/A Avenger gatling cannon with 1,174 rounds

Hardpoints: 11 (8× under-wing and 3× under-fuselage pylon stations) with a capacity of 16,000 lb  and provisions to carry combinations of:

Rockets:

4× LAU-61/LAU-68 rocket pods (each with 19× / 7× Hydra 70 mm rockets, respectively)

4× LAU-5003 rocket pods (each with 19× CRV7 70 mm rockets)

6× LAU-10 rocket pods (each with 4 × 5.0 in Zuni rockets)

Missiles:

2× AIM-9 Sidewinders air-to-air missiles for self-defense

8× AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missiles

Bombs:

Mark 80 series of unguided iron bombs or

Mk 77 incendiary bombs or

BLU-1, BLU-27/B Rockeye II, Mk20, BL-755 and CBU-52/58/71/87/89/97 cluster bombs or

Paveway series of Laser-guided bombs or

Joint Direct Attack Munition (A-10C) or

Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser (A-10C)

Other:

SUU-42A/A Flares/Infrared decoys and chaff dispenser pod or

AN/ALQ-131 & AN/ALQ-184 ECM pods or

Lockheed Martin Sniper XR & LITENING targeting pods (A-10C) or 2× 600 US gallon Sargent Fletcher drop tanks for extended range/loitering time.

Avionics

AN/AAS-35(V) Pave Penny laser tracker pod (mounted beneath right side of cockpit) for use with Paveway LGBs

Head-up display (HUD) for improved technical flying and air-to-ground support.

 Nicknames

The A-10 Thunderbolt II received its popular nickname “Warthog” from the pilots and crews of the USAF attack squadrons who flew and maintained it. The A-10 is the last of Republic’s jet attack aircraft to serve with the USAF. The Republic F-84 Thunderjet was nicknamed the “Hog”, F-84F Thunderstreak nicknamed “Superhog”, and the Republic F-105 Thunderchief tagged “Ultra Hog”. A less common nickname is the “Tankbuster”. The saying Go Ugly Early has been associated with the aircraft in reference to calling in the A-10 early in combat.

 Notable appearances in media

 Aircraft in fiction

The A-10 Thunderbolt is utilized against the Decepticon Scorponok in the 2007 film, Transformers.A-10s were also used by the human resistance effort against the machines of Skynet in the 2009 film Terminator Salvation.

Operational history

 

 Introduction

 

The first unit to receive the A-10 Thunderbolt II was the 355th Tactical Training Wing, based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona in March 1976. The first unit to achieve full combat-readiness was the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing at Myrtle Beach AFB, South Carolina in 1978. Deployments of A-10As followed at bases both at home and abroad, including England AFB, Louisiana, Eielson AFB, Alaska, Osan Air Base, South Korea, and RAF Bentwaters/RAF Woodbridge, England. The 81st TFW of RAF Bentwaters/RAF Woodbridge operated rotating detachments of A-10s at four bases in Germany known as Forward Operating Locations: Leipheim, Sembach Air Base, Nörvenich, and Ahlhorn.

A-10s were initially an unwelcome addition to many in the Air Force. Most pilots switching to the A-10 did not want to because fighter pilots traditionally favored speed and appearance. In 1987, many A-10s were shifted to the forward air control  role and redesignated OA-10. In the FAC role the OA-10 is typically equipped with up to six pods of 2.75 inch  Hydra rockets, usually with smoke or white phosphorus warheads used for target marking. OA-10s are physically unchanged and remain fully combat capable despite the redesignation.

 Gulf War

The A-10 saw combat for the first time during the Gulf War in 1991, destroying more than 900 Iraqi tanks, 2,000 military vehicles, and 1,200 artillery pieces. A-10s shot down two Iraqi helicopters with the GAU-8 gun. The first of these occurred on 6 February 1991 when Captain Robert Swain shot down an Iraqi helicopter over Kuwait marking the A-10’s first air-to-air victory. Four A-10s were shot down during the war, all by surface-to-air missiles. Another three battle-damaged A-10s and OA-10As returned to base, but were written off, some due to additional damage sustained in crashed landings. The A-10 had a mission capable rate of 95.7%, flew 8,100 sorties, and launched 90% of the AGM-65 Maverick missiles fired in the conflict. Shortly after the Gulf War, the Air Force gave up on the idea of replacing the A-10 with a close air support version of the F-16.

 

 Bosnia and Kosovo

U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft fired approximately 10,000 30 mm DU rounds in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1994-1995. Following the seizure of some heavy weapons by Bosnian Serbs from a warehouse in Ilidza, a series of sorties were launched to locate and destroy the captured equipment. On 5 August 1994, two A-10s located and strafed an anti-tank vehicle. Afterwards, the Serbs agreed to return remaining heavy weapons. In August 1995, NATO launched an offensive called Operation Deliberate Force. A-10s flew close air support missions, attacking Serbian artillery, and positions. In late September, A-10s began flying patrols again.

A-10s returned to the region as part of Operation Allied Force in Kosovo beginning in March 1999. In March 1999, A-10s escorted and supported search and rescue helicopters in finding a downed F-117 pilot. The A-10s were deployed to support search and rescue missions. But the Warthogs began to receive more ground attack missions as the days passed. The A-10’s first successful attack in Operation Allied Force happened on 6 April 1999. A-10s remained until combat ended in late June 1999.

 Afghanistan and Iraq Wars

 

During the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, A-10s did not take part in the initial stages. For the campaign against Taliban and Al Qaeda, A-10 squadrons were deployed to Pakistan and Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan beginning in March 2002. These A-10s participated in Operation Anaconda. Afterwards, A-10s remained in-country, fighting Taliban and Al Qaeda remnants.

Operation Iraqi Freedom began on 20 March 2003. Sixty OA-10/A-10 aircraft took part in early combat there.United States Air Forces Central issued Operation Iraqi Freedom: By the Numbers, a declassified report about the aerial campaign in the conflict on 30 April 2003. The A-10s had a mission capable rate of 85% in the war, and fired 311,597 rounds of 30 mm ammunition. A single A-10 was shot down near Baghdad International Airport by Iraqi fire late in the campaign. The A-10 also flew 32 missions in which the aircraft dropped propaganda leaflets over Iraq.

The A-10C first deployed to Iraq in the third quarter of 2007 with the 104th Fighter Squadron of the Maryland Air National Guard. The jets include the Precision Engagement Upgrade.The A-10C’s digital avionics and communications systems have greatly reduced the time to acquire a close air support target and attack it.

On March 25, 2010, an A-10 conducted the first flight of an aircraft with all engines powered by a biofuel blend. The flight, performed at Eglin Air Force Base, used a 50/50 blend of JP-8 and Camelina-based fuel.

 

The A-10 is scheduled to stay in service with the USAF until 2028 and possibly later,when it may be replaced by the F-35 Lightning II.

 

 

Variants

 

YA-10A 

Pre-production variant. 12 were built.

A-10A 

Single-seat close air support, ground-attack version.

OA-10A 

A-10As used for airborne forward air control.

YA-10B Night/Adverse Weather

Two-seat experimental prototype, for work at night and in bad weather. The one YA-10B prototype was conversion from a A-10A.

A-10C 

A-10As updated under the incremental Precision Engagement program.

 

 Operators

 

The A-10 has been flown exclusively by the United States Air Force and its Air Reserve components, the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) and the Air National Guard . The USAF operated 335 A-10 and OA-10 aircraft (188 in active duty, 96 in ANG, and 51 in AFRC, all variants) as of September 2008.The Air Force operates multiple A-10/OA-10 Active, National Guard, and Reserve squadrons.

Specifications A-10A

General characteristics

Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II

Role                       Close air support, and ground-attack aircraft

Manufacturer    Fairchild-Republic

First flight          10 May 1972

Introduced        March 1977

Status                In service

Primary user    United States Air Force

Number built    716

Unit cost          $11.8 million

Crew: 1

Length: 53 ft 4 in 

Wingspan: 57 ft 6 in

Height: 14 ft 8 in 

Wing area: 506 ft²

Airfoil: NACA 6716 root, NACA 6713 tip

Empty weight: 24,959 lb 

Loaded weight: 30,384 lb  On CAS mission: 47,094 lb

On anti-armor mission: 42,071 lb 

Max takeoff weight: 50,000 lb 

Powerplant: 2× General Electric TF34-GE-100A turbofans, 9,065 lbf  each

Performance

Never exceed speed: 450 knots  at 5,000 ft  with 18 Mk 82 bombs

Maximum speed: 381 knots  at sea level, clean

Cruise speed: 300 knots

Stall speed: 120 knots

Combat radius:

On CAS mission: 250 nmi  at 1.88 hour single-engine loiter at 5,000 ft , 10 min combat

On anti-armor mission: 252 nmi , 40 nm  sea-level penetration and exit, 30 min combat

Ferry range: 2,240 nmi  with 50 knot  headwinds, 20 minutes reserve

Service ceiling: 45,000 ft

Rate of climb: 6,000 ft/min

Wing loading: 99 lb/ft²

Thrust/weight: 0.36

Armament

Guns: 1× 30 mm  GAU-8/A Avenger gatling cannon with 1,174 rounds

Hardpoints: 11 (8× under-wing and 3× under-fuselage pylon stations) with a capacity of 16,000 lb  and provisions to carry combinations of:

Rockets:

4× LAU-61/LAU-68 rocket pods (each with 19× / 7× Hydra 70 mm rockets, respectively)

4× LAU-5003 rocket pods (each with 19× CRV7 70 mm rockets)

6× LAU-10 rocket pods (each with 4 × 5.0 in Zuni rockets)

Missiles:

2× AIM-9 Sidewinders air-to-air missiles for self-defense

8× AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missiles

Bombs:

Mark 80 series of unguided iron bombs or

Mk 77 incendiary bombs or

BLU-1, BLU-27/B Rockeye II, Mk20, BL-755 and CBU-52/58/71/87/89/97 cluster bombs or

Paveway series of Laser-guided bombs or

Joint Direct Attack Munition (A-10C) or

Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser (A-10C)

Other:

SUU-42A/A Flares/Infrared decoys and chaff dispenser pod or

AN/ALQ-131 & AN/ALQ-184 ECM pods or

Lockheed Martin Sniper XR & LITENING targeting pods (A-10C) or 2× 600 US gallon Sargent Fletcher drop tanks for extended range/loitering time.

Avionics

AN/AAS-35(V) Pave Penny laser tracker pod (mounted beneath right side of cockpit) for use with Paveway LGBs

Head-up display (HUD) for improved technical flying and air-to-ground support.

 Nicknames

The A-10 Thunderbolt II received its popular nickname “Warthog” from the pilots and crews of the USAF attack squadrons who flew and maintained it. The A-10 is the last of Republic’s jet attack aircraft to serve with the USAF. The Republic F-84 Thunderjet was nicknamed the “Hog”, F-84F Thunderstreak nicknamed “Superhog”, and the Republic F-105 Thunderchief tagged “Ultra Hog”. A less common nickname is the “Tankbuster”. The saying Go Ugly Early has been associated with the aircraft in reference to calling in the A-10 early in combat.

 Notable appearances in media

 Aircraft in fiction

The A-10 Thunderbolt is utilized against the Decepticon Scorponok in the 2007 film, Transformers.A-10s were also used by the human resistance effort against the machines of Skynet in the 2009 film Terminator Salvation.

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