A-10 Warthog: Pilots Who Fly Them Love Them (And They Told Us Why)

Kris Osborn

Key Point (This first appeared in 2017 and is being reposted due to reader interest): Although the continued existence of the A-10 is assured well into the next decade, the debate about what, if anything, might be able to replace it is quite likely to continue.

Known for an ability to keep flying after taking multiple rounds of enemy machine gun fire, land and operate in rugged terrain, destroy groups of enemy fighters with a 30mm cannon and unleash a wide arsenal of attack weapons, the A-10 is described by pilots as a “flying tank” in the sky -- able to hover over ground war and provide life-saving close air support in high-threat combat environments.

“It is built to withstand more damage than any other frame that I know of. It’s known for its ruggedness,” A-10 pilot Lt. Col. Ryan Haden, 23rd Fighter Group Deputy, Moody AFB, told Scout Warrior in an interview last year.

The pilot of the A-10 is surrounded by multiple plates of titanium armor, designed to enable the aircraft to withstand small-arms fire and keep flying its attack missions.

“The A-10 is not agile, nimble, fast or quick,” Haden said.  “It’s deliberate, measured, hefty, impactful calculated and sound. There’s nothing flimsy or fragile about the way it is constructed or about the way that it flies.”

A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known as the Warthog, has been in service since the late 1970s and served as a close air support combat aircraft in conflicts such as the Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Allied Force in Kosovo, among others.

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Having flown combat missions in the A-10, Haden explained how the aircraft is specially designed to survive enemy ground attacks.

“There are things built in for redundancy. If one hydraulic system fails, another one kicks in,” he said.

If the aircraft loses all of its electronics including its digital displays and targeting systems, the pilot of an A-10 can still fly, drop general purpose bombs and shoot the 30mm cannon, Haden explained.

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