Few U.S. Air Force aircraft are as popular among the ground troops of the military as the A-10 Thunderbolt, aka “The Warthog.” And it is as unpopular with our foes in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan as it is popular with our troops. The distinctive sound of the jet’s high-bypass turbofan engines is enough to make our foes cringe and hide from sight.
The A-10 first flew on May 10, 1972, as the war in Vietnam was winding down. The Pentagon recognized the need for an updated Close Air Support (CAS) airframe to support ground troops. The Air Force didn’t want to spend money on a slow-moving airframe and pressed F-4 Phantoms and F-111s into service. But neither performed well at low speeds, so the preferred CAS was the 1940s era A-1 Skyraider.
The A-10 was authorized for production on February 10, 1976. During its years of service, the A-10 has seen numerous upgrades as it retains its unique mission. It is the only aircraft that was designed around its huge and potent weapons system.
The main weapon of the A-10 is the General Electric GAU-8/A Avenger, a 30 mm hydraulically driven seven-barrel Gatling-style autocannon. Designed specifically for an anti-tank role, the Avenger delivers very powerful 30mm rounds at a high rate of fire.