The A-10 was designed around the GAU-8 Avenger, a 30 mm rotary cannon that is the airplane's primary armament and the heaviest such automatic cannon mounted on an aircraft. The A-10's airframe was designed for survivability, with measures such as 1,200 pounds (540 kg) of titanium armor for protection of the cockpit and aircraft systems that enables the aircraft to continue flying after taking significant damage. The A-10A single-seat variant was the only version built, though one A-10A was converted to the A-10B twin-seat version. In 2005, a program was begun to upgrade A-10A aircraft to the A-10C configuration.
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 nicknames "Warthog" or "Hog". It also has a secondary mission, where it provides airborne forward air control, directing other aircraft in attacks on ground targets. Aircraft used primarily in this role are designated OA-10. With a variety of upgrades and wing replacements, the A-10's service life may be extended to 2028.
Criticism that the U.S. Air Force did not take close air support (CAS) 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 because their high speed did not allow pilots enough time to get an accurate fix on ground targets and they lacked sufficient loiter time. The effective, but aging, Korean War era, A-1 Skyraider was the USAF's primary close air support aircraft.
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 (FOLs): 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 (FAC) role and redesignated OA-10. In the FAC role the OA-10 is typically equipped with up to six pods of 2.75 inch (70 mm) 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 and Balkans
The A-10 was used in combat for the first time during the Gulf War in 1991, destroying more than 900 Iraqi tanks, 2,000 other military vehicles and 1,200 artillery pieces, making it by far the most effective aircraft of the war. A-10s also shot down two Iraqi helicopters with the GAU-8 cannon. The first of these was shot down by Captain Robert Swain over Kuwait on 6 February 1991, 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 sustaining additional damage 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.
U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft fired approximately 10,000 30 mm rounds in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1994–95. Following the seizure of some heavy weapons by Bosnian Serbs from a warehouse in Ilidža, 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. Afterward, 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 Bosnian Serb artillery and positions. In late September, A-10s began flying patrols again.
A-10s returned to the Balkan 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 in action until combat ended in late June 1999.
Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya wars
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. During that initial invasion of Iraq, 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.
A-10s flew 32 percent of combat sorties in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The sorties ranged from 27,800 to 34,500 annually between 2009 and 2012. In the first half of 2013, they flew 11,189 sorties in Afghanistan. From the beginning of 2006 to October 2013, A-10s flew 19 percent of CAS operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than the F-15E Strike Eagle or B-1B Lancer, but less than the 33 percent of CAS missions flown by F-16s during that time period.
In March 2011, six A-10s were deployed as part of Operation Odyssey Dawn, the coalition intervention in Libya. They participated in attacks on Libyan ground forces there.
On 24 July 2013, a pair of A-10s protected an ambushed convoy, supporting the evacuation efforts of wounded soldiers under hostile fire. Ground forces communicated an estimated location of enemy forces to the pilots, after which the lead aircraft, relying on visual references, fired two rockets to mark the area to guide cannon fire from the second A-10. The attackers moved closer to the soldiers, which prevented helicopter evacuation, leading to the convoy commander authorizing the A-10s to provide dangerously close fire. The aircraft conducted strafing runs, flying 75 ft above the enemy's position and 50 meters parallel to friendly ground forces, completing 15 gun passes firing nearly 2,300 rounds and dropping three 500 lb bombs. This engagement was typical of close-air support missions the A-10 was designed for.
In August 2013, Congress and the Air Force examined various proposals, including the F-35 and the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle filling the A-10's role. Proponents state that the A-10's armor and cannon are superior to aircraft such as the F-35, that guided munitions could be jammed; and that ground commanders frequently request A-10 support. In the Air Force's FY 2015 budget, the service is considering retiring the A-10 and other single-mission aircraft, prioritizing multi-mission aircraft; cutting a whole fleet and its infrastructure is seen as the only method for major savings. Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve members argued that allocating all A-10s to their control would achieve savings; half of the fleet is operated by the Air National Guard. The U.S. Army also expressed interest in obtaining A-10s.
The U.S. Air Force has stated that the A-10's retirement would save $3.7 billion from 2015 to 2019. Guided munitions allow more aircraft to perform the close air support mission and has reduced the requirement for a specialized CAS aircraft; since 2001, multirole aircraft and bombers have performed 80 percent of CAS missions. The A-10 is also more vulnerable to sophisticated anti-aircraft defenses like man-portable air-defense systems. Platforms such as the F-35A can employ guided munitions to support ground forces and use sophisticated sensors and countermeasures to be less vulnerable to ground fire. The Army has stated that the A-10 is invaluable for its versatile weapons loads and psychological impact, and has reduced logistics needs on ground support systems like artillery.
On 13 November 2013, the Straus Military Reform Project and the Project on Government Oversight hosted an event that included a discussion of close air support. Pierre Sprey, who helped design the A-10 and F-16, listed A-10 deficiencies including thrust, maneuverability, and size. He envisions a future CAS aircraft being smaller and turning tighter to reduce time between attack runs. Other improvements could include lighter armor and more powerful engines; the cannon could have a faster initial firing rate and use new types of ammunition.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 prohibited the Air Force from spending money during FY 2014 on retiring the A-10; it did not change scheduled reductions of two aircraft per month, reducing the operational total to 283. On 27 January 2014, General Mike Hostage, head of Air Combat Command, stated that while other aircraft in the A-10's role may not be as good, they were more viable in environments where the A-10 was potentially useless; and that retaining the A-10 would mean cuts being imposed on other areas. Equivalent cost saving measures include cutting the entire B-1 Lancer bomber fleet or 350 F-16s; the F-16 fleet would either be reduced by a third or perform most CAS missions until the F-35 becomes fully operational. On 24 February 2014, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel introduced a budget plan, retiring the A-10 to fund the F-35A. The A-10 is to be retired over five years, beginning with the active force. A version of the Air Force FY 2015 budget avoids the A-10's retirement if sequestration cuts are repealed.
A number of former USAF Joint terminal attack controllers have objected to the retirement proposal by noting that A-10 was initially designed to operate in contested airspace against tough ground defenses. Lawmakers in both the House and Senate are preparing legislation to block any retirement; there have been concerns that retirement would risk soldiers' lives and replacement aircraft cost more to operate. Air Force leaders have been frustrated at accusations that support for the A-10's retirement is due to less importance placed on supporting ground forces. Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno told Congress that while the Army did not recommend retiring the A-10, he understood the Air Force's budget decision. He said that both services would work together to develop tactics for the F-16 to better perform CAS missions, while the Senate views that as a new solution to one that is already in place. Congress is looking for cost offsets in the Defense Department budget to continue funding the A-10.
At a National Press Club event on 23 April 2014, Air Force Chief of Staff Mark Welsh defended the service's plan to divest the A-10 fleet as "logical" and that detailed analysis showed "very clearly" that the choice was the least harmful to military operations, as well as an increase in cost savings to $4.2 billion. He also revealed other alternative cost-saving measures the Air Force had considered and rejected as alternatives such as: F-35A order deferments; further F-15C Eagle fleet cuts; ISR and air mobility fleet reductions; grounding the KC-10 Extender tanker fleet or severely reducing the KC-135 Stratotanker fleet; cutting command and control funding; and grounding some long-range strike platforms.
In the House Armed Services Committee's markup of the FY 2015 budget, language was included that to allow the retirement of the A-10 fleet. The markup limited the availability of funds for retirement unless each plane could be kept in type-1000 storage, meaning they could be readily reactivated if needed. Even with this condition, the markup did not specifically prohibit the Air Force from retiring the fleet in FY 2015. The day following the HASC markup, the Senate refused the idea of placing the A-10 in any type of storage and reaffirmed its position that the fleet be kept fully active. Shortly after, the HASC passed an amendment to their markup blocking A-10 retirement. It stipulates that the fleet cannot be retired or even stored until the U.S. Comptroller General completes certifications and studies on other Air Force platforms used to perform CAS. Assessments will include cost per plane for conducting CAS missions, identifying if other aircraft able to successfully perform the mission, and the capabilities of each plane used in that role. The Senate Armed Services Committee markup would direct $320 million saved from personnel cuts to keep the A-10 flying. Both chambers of Congress have now drafted plans to keep the A-10 in Air Force service for at least another year.
With the retirement of the A-10, the USAF will have no remaining tacair capable of operating from short or rough airfields, halving the number of bases available in the western Pacific.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Here with the old base which is much oversized . . .