The United States Air Force has only one aircraft dedicated solely to air-to-ground support, the A-10 Thunderbolt II which was named after its illustrious WWII predecessor the P-47 Thunderbolt. It won the hearts of all the ground troops it has assisted over the years with its durability, low maintenance, and powerful weaponry. The A-10’s production began in 1976, and it is still active today, here are 20 amazing facts about it.
The A-10 was nicknamed "Warthog" because of its cumbersome appearance. After many years flying successful missions, the “Warthog” became an affectionate nickname that praised the aircraft’s longevity and grittiness.
The A-10 cockpit and flight control systems are surrounded by 1,200 pounds of protective armor called the "bathtub." It’s capable of withstanding 50-cal bullets or 23 mm armor-piercing rounds. The wing and tail leading edges are made with a honeycomb panel design, making them more resistant to battle damage.
The A-10 carries the most massive automatic cannon ever mounted on an aircraft, the 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger. The gun is approximately 16% of the aircraft’s weight!
Many A-10s have a false canopy painted on the belly of the aircraft to confuse enemy forces about the attitude and direction of the plane.
The A-10’s ailerons are significantly larger than most aircraft, making it highly maneuverable at slow speeds.
The main landing gear wheels of the A-10 stick out from the nacelles even when they are retracted, causing less damage to the aircraft if it has to land gear-up. Additionally, the landing gear is interchangeable and operates on either side, which allows it to be serviced at a forward location and put back in combat much sooner than other aircraft.
The aircraft is designed to fly with one engine, one tail, one elevator, and half of one wing missing. It can also fly through super-cell thunderstorms and is sometimes used to monitor severe weather systems. They are also equipped with Night Vision Imaging Systems and a Google-enabled seat in the cockpit.
The high-mounted engines are angled 9 degrees upward to stop the aircraft from pitching down.
The A-10’s first air-to-air victory was in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War. It shot down a helicopter with the GAU-8 cannon.
There is an A-10 Thunderbolt monster truck used by the Air Force for marketing purposes. It travels around the U.S. and has become a fan favorite at air shows.
The A-10 can be operated underneath 1,000-foot ceilings with 1.5 mile visibility, this combined with its impressive loiter time, have earned it widespread praise.
There is a special vehicle created just for loading ammunition into the A-10 Thunderbolt, named "The Dragon."
The A-10 Thunderbolt’s straight, broad wings and wide wheelbase make it possible to take off and land from a short runway, allowing it to fall as close to the front line of battle as possible.
The A-10 carries more weight in weaponry than it weighs itself. It can take a maximum of 13 tons of armament including the GAU-8/A cannon, while it weighs only 12 tons without.
The A-10 was built to survive. The hydraulics systems are double-redundant, and a mechanical backup system controls the plane if the hydraulics are lost.
An A-10 assisted in the rescue of a downed F-117 pilot in Kosovo in 1999. It provided ground support while three helicopters executed the rescue mission.
In 1973 The Air Force and the U.S. government struck a deal to keep the A-10 alive. Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger said he would remove a cap on the number of Air Force fighters if Air Force General George S. Brown, then the USAF Chief of Staff, would commit to supporting the A-10. As a result, it lived on.
A-10 carries AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile, and each of them weighs 670 pounds and can destroy a tank in a single shot. It has an internal fuel capacity of 10,000 gallons, giving the A-10 an 800-mile range. Additionally, the A-10s’ cockpit is outfitted with a bubble canopy that allows 360-degree views of the battlefield.
On the second day of the First Iraq War, two A-10’s destroyed 23 Iraqi tanks across three sorties. This caused Iraqi soldiers to regard the A-10 as the “Cross of Death” because of the plane’s resemblance to a cross from below.
Over 700 A-10s have been produced in total and together have completed tens of thousands of missions over 37 years; There is no doubt that it’s the most successful close air support aircraft of all time.