“… like Gandalf arriving into Helm’s Deep to lift the siege…” That’s how one narrator describes the arrival on scene of the A-10 Thunderbolt. What is it that creates such enthusiasm for an aircraft?
The A-10 “Warthog” was a plane created to fill one mission only, and do it better than anything else in the air. The A-10 was born in a unique era of history called The Cold War. It was a very real possibility that America and Russia would ignite World War Three at any moment. This was not based on idle speculation. In 1987, barely two years before the Berlin Wall was torn down, the LA Times described the focus point of Cold War fears – the Fulda Gap in Germany, which was still a divided nation
“Forty years after World War II, the United States maintains 250,000 troops in West Germany, part of a NATO military force of nearly 990,000 personnel, mostly West Germans. Western officials say the Soviet Bloc’s Warsaw Pact has nearly 1.2 million personnel in neighboring East Germany and Czechoslovakia. The Fulda Gap is the only area in the world where large numbers of U.S. and Soviet soldiers are lined up so close to one another. Backing them on both sides is the savage power of hundreds of medium-range nuclear missiles.”
“International Communism” (i.e. Russia and China) was a recognized serious threat when the Korean War broke out. It was believed, correctly I think, that if the US committed its forces solely to the Korean theater, Russia would at some point take advantage of that to invade Western Europe. Therefore President Harry Truman increased the US military presence in Germany.
The Cold War continued until 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell to a combination of President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”) and Russian financial collapse due to trying to match the American economic powerhouse.
But in 1972, that was wishful thinking, and we didn’t have a good defense against the Russian tanks poised to drive through the Fulda Gap. The US needed a tank killer. What we got was one of the most unique, most survivable, most effective-in-its-role aircraft in aviation history: the Fairchild Republic Company’s A-10 “Thunderbolt II” – the “Warthog”. Designed strictly as a Close Air Support plane, the design was honed for that purpose to such an extent that the A-10 became a legend.
For a 16-minute video that pretty much explains it all, with elegant video to boot, go here – “The Insane Engineering of the A-10 Warthog”. There are also some details there I have not found anywhere else.
Everyone knows about the “titanium bathtub” that protects the pilot, a necessity in a Close Air Support (CAS) plane because every enemy on the ground will be firing his rifle at the plane. That “bathtub” also protects some parts of the flight control system. There are redundant hydraulic systems as well, and a mechanical system that works even if hydraulics are lost, which Captain Kim Campbell verified the hard way during Operation Iraqi Freedom when she had to fly her A-10 back to base an hour away with only the mechanical system operational as a result of enemy fire.
The Popular Mechanics link describes the A-10’s other survivability features also: 10,000 pound fuel tanks for extended loiter time over a hot spot, large ailerons which give the plane excellent maneuverability so it can fly closer to targets and obstacles at lower risk, and a wing design that allows short takeoffs and landings, handy for primitive, short airstrips common to near-frontlines bases. And those high-positioned GE engines are less likely to inhale debris from the ground. Being closer to the centerline of the plane than most aircraft’s engines also makes it easier to fly if one fails.
The FAS Military Analysis Network says the A-10 has foam filled fuel tanks with “ballistic foam void fillers” – in other words, if a fuel tank takes a hit that opens up a hole, a sensor sets off a charge that blasts an expanding foam into the hole. They also mention that the rear landing wheels never fully retract, so if you can’t lower the nose wheel, you still have an excellent chance of landing safely with minimal damage. In addition to the “Gatling gun” which is a tank-killer itself, the ordnance load listed at that site comes to 16,000 pounds of mixed ordnance on eight under-wing and three under-fuselage pylon stations, including infrared countermeasure flares; electronic countermeasure chaff; jammer pods; 2.75-inch (6.99 centimeters) rockets; illumination flares and:
MK-82 (500 pound bomb) MK-84 (2000 pound bomb)
MK77 incendiary 10 MK20 Rockeye II (4 – 6 standard load)
10 CBU-52 (4 – 6 standard load) 10 CBU-58 (4 – 6 standard load)
10 CBU-71 (4 – 6 standard load) 10 CBU-87 (4 – 6 standard load)
10 CBU-89 (4 – 6 standard load) CBU-97
10 BL755 (4 – 6 standard load) AGM-65 Maverick missiles
GBU-10 laser-guided bomb GBU-12 laser-guided bomb
AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles
You do not want to attract unfriendly attention from an A-10.
A thorough, understandable, and brief description of the A-10 can be found here.
Fly the friendly skies, LOL!
Have a safe and blessed RED Friday all.