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 for the United States Air Force to provide close air support (CAS) of ground forces by attacking tanks, armored vehicles, and other ground targets, also providing a limited air interdiction role. It is the first U.S. Air Force aircraft designed exclusively for close air support. 

The official A-10 name comes from the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt of World War II, a fighter that was particularly effective at close air support. 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 saw combat for the first time during the Gulf War in 1991. A-10s again saw service in the 1999 Kosovo War, in the later stages of the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, as well as in the 2003 US-led intervention in Iraq.

Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II
Class Aircraft
Type Attack
Manufacturer Fairchild Aircraft
Origin United States of America
Country Name Origin Year
United States of America 1972
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
United States of America 1977 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Republic Aviation View
Fairchild Aircraft 715 View

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. 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 crash landings. The A-10 had a mission capable rate of 95.7 percent, flew 8,100 sorties, and launched 90 percent of the AGM-65 Maverick missiles fired in the conflict. Shortly after the Gulf War, the Air Force abandoned the idea of replacing the A-10 with a close air support version of the F-16.

Aerial top view of gray jet aircraft flying above green and brown patchy earth surface. Under each wings are hard points for weapons. The two engines are located aft of the wings and in front of two fin units.

U.S. Air Force A-10 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 over time the Warthogs began to receive more ground attack missions. 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, Libya, and recent deployments

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 Command 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 percent 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 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.

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 in Afghanistan, 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 September 2014, the USAF 122nd Fighter Wing revealed it would be deploying to the Middle East in the next month, which includes 12 of the unit's 21 A-10 aircraft. Although the deployment had been planned a year in advance in a support role, the timing coincided with the ongoing Operation Inherent Resolve against Islamic State militants. Since mid-November, U.S. commanders began sending A-10s to hit IS targets in central and northwestern Iraq on an almost daily basis. In about two months time, A-10s have flown 11 percent of all USAF sorties since the start of operations in August 2014.

Role Fixed-wing close air support,forward air control, and ground-attack aircraft
National origin United States
Manufacturer Fairchild Republic
First flight 10 May 1972
Introduction March 1977
Status In service
Primary user United States Air Force
Produced 1972–84
Number built 716
Unit cost US$11.8 million (average, 1994 dollars)


General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 53ft 4in (16.26m)
  • Wingspan: 57ft 6in (17.53m)
  • Height: 14ft 8in (4.47m)
  • Wing area: 506ft (47.0m)
  • Airfoil: NACA 6716 root, NACA 6713 tip
  • Empty weight: 24,959lb (11,321kg)
  • Loaded weight:
    • Standard: 30,384lb (13,782kg)
    • On CAS mission: 47,094lb (21,361kg)
    • On anti-armor mission: 42,071lb (19,083kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 50,000lb (23,000kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 x General Electric TF34-GE-100A turbofans, 9,065lbf (40.32 kN) each

Performance

  • Never exceed speed: 450knots (518mph, 833km/h)
  • Maximum speed: 450knots (518mph, 833km/h) at 5,000ft (1,500m) with 18 Mk 82 bombs
  • Cruise speed: 300knots (340mph, 560km/h)
  • Stall speed: 120knots (220km/h)
  • Combat radius:
    • On CAS mission: 250nmi (288mi, 460km) at 1.88 hour single-engine loiter at 5,000ft (1,500m), 10 min combat
    • On anti-armor mission: 252nmi (290mi, 467km), 40nm (45mi, 75km) sea-level penetration and exit, 30 min combat
  • Ferry range: 2,240nmi (2,580mi, 4,150km) with 50 knot (55mph, 90km/h) headwinds, 20 minutes reserve
  • Service ceiling 45,000ft (13,700m)
  • Rate of climb: 6,000ft/min (30m/s)
  • Wing loading: 99lb/ft (482kg/m)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.36

Armament

  • Guns: 1 x 30mm (1.18 in) GAU-8/A Avenger gatling gun with 1174 rounds
  • Hardpoints: 8 x under-wing and 3 x under-fuselage pylon stations holding up to 16,000lb (7,200kg) and accommodating:
    • Mark 82, Mark 83, and Mark 84 general-purpose 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
    • Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser (A-10C) or
    • GBU-10 Paveway II, GBU-12 Paveway II, GBU-16 Paveway II and GBU-24 Paveway III laser-guided bombs or
    • Joint Direct Attack Munition (A-10C) or
    • AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missiles and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles or
    • LAU-68 Hydra 70 mm (2.76 in) and 127mm (5.0 in) rocket pods or
    • Illumination flares, ECM and chaff pods or
    • ALQ-131/ALQ-184 ECM pod or
    • LITENING AT/Sniper XR targeting pods (A-10C)

End notes