A-10/OA-10 Thunderbolt II close air support (CAS)/ground attack/airborne forward air control aircraft, admiringly described as the “Warthog” by pilots and the media.
The former Fairchild Republic Co. designed and built the A-10 from 1974 to 1983. Lockheed Martin [LMT] is the prime contractor for the A-10 Precision Engagement upgrade.
The A-10 is a direct lesson of the Vietnam War, when the Air Force realized it needed a purpose-built CAS platform. Combined, the Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force reserve operate 359 A-10s. The A-10 design beat out Northropís A-9A for the Air Forceís A-X requirement in 1973. The A-10 is known primarily for its unique gun armament -- a 30mm, seven-barrelled GAU-8/A gatling gun built General Dynamics [GD]. It is powered by two large General Electric [GE] TF34-GE-100 turbofan engines mounted on the rear of the aircraft. Built to take an especially hard battering from groundbased fires, the A-10 cockpit is encased in a titanium ìtubî that can withstand significant strikes. The A-10 can carry a plethora of bombs, rockets and missiles, including Raytheon [RTN] AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missiles, Mk 82 500-pound unguided bombs and CBU-series munitions dispensers.
The A-10 made its initial widespread public splash during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, performing tank-killing and ground attack missions. The aircraft also saw service in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). During OIF, A-10s operated from the seized Tallil air base in Iraq, providing CAS for ground units deep in the country. The aircraft has a reputation for both durability and versatility. Late in OIF, A-10s were operating with near impunity over Baghdad.
There are no foreign operators of the A-10.
Every time the A-10 appears headed for decommissioning or obsolescence, it acquits itself superbly in combat operations. The Air Force is currently fending off allegations that it is trying to dump its CAS responsibility by decommissioning the A-10 in favor of more high-tech solutions. Lockheed Martinís Precision Engagement package for the A-10 includes data link integration, 1760-standard databus compatibility, adding the capacity to deliver Boeing's [BA] GPS/inertial-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and Lockheed Martin's Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser (WCMD) tail guidance kit for CBU-series dispensers, adding extra electrical power, the addition of an advanced targeting pod and improved digital cockpit displays and systems. The targeting pods could be Lockheed Martinís Sniper Extended Range (XR) system and Northrop Grummanís [NOC] LITENING series. A-10s used LITENING during OIF. The Air Force plans to replace the A-10 functions with Lockheed Martinís F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. That said, the A-10 could see service as far down the road as 2028.