Considering the amount of support the A-10 Thunderbolt II has provided ground troops over the course of its 40 years, it’s hard to believe that at one point in the 1980s even the U.S. Army didn’t want them. This sentiment would be hard to find today, as the A-10 continues to be at war even as it celebrates its 40th anniversary. First flying on May 10, 1972, and with a total of 715 built, the A-10 shows no sign of slowing down, despite impending budget restrictions. The “ugly duckling” has come into its own.
A-10 Thunderbolt II Anniversary I Photos
The Fairchild Republic YA-10A (S/N 71-1369) in flight. U.S. Air Force photo Two A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft and their namesake, a World War II-era P-47 Thunderbolt, fly in formation over Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., March 2, 2007, during the annual Heritage Flight Conference. The P-47 Thunderbolt was a big, tough fighter aircraft that became a feared fighter-bomber, a heritage the Thunderbolt II has continued. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alesia Goosic Two U. S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft fly over a Soviet T-62 tank. The A-10 was originally envisioned as an antitank weapon to use against any Soviet invasion of Western Europe. DoD photo Size comparison of GE GAU-8/A Avenger, used in the A-10 Thunderbolt II, and a Volkswagen Beetle. The GAU-8/A, seven-barreled 30 mm rotary cannon, often called a "Gatling gun" is the largest, heaviest and most powerful aircraft cannon in the U.S. Air Force. U.S. Air Force photo Four U.S. Air Force Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt IIs from the 118th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 103rd Fighter Wing, Connecticut Air National Guard, in flight. The 118th TFS had just converted from the North American F-100D Super Sabre to the A-10A in 1979. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Frank Garzelnick, U.S. Air Force The A-10 Thunderbolt II was the first U.S. Air Force plane specially designed for close air support of ground forces. They are simple, effective and survivable twin-engine jet aircraft that can be used against all ground targets, including tanks and other armored vehicles. These A-10As still sport the early "European One" camouflage and are carrying ferry tanks. The Thunderbolt soon became known as the "Warthog" by pilots and airmen, often shortened to "Hawg." U.S. Air Force photo A ground crewman signals as the pilot of a U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft from the 353rd Tactical Fighter Squadron (353rd TFS) brings his plane to a stop upon arrival in support of Operation Desert Shield. U.S. Air Force photo Munitions specialists from the 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing load 30 mm rounds of ammunition into an A-10A Thunderbolt II attack aircraft for its GAU-8/A Avenger cannon prior to a sortie in support of Operation Desert Storm. DoD photo by Sgt. Prentes Trambue An air-to-air view of an A-10A Thunderbolt II attack aircraft from the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing, Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, S.C., during Operation Desert Shield. A-10 Thunderbolts destroyed more than 900 Iraqi tanks, 2,000 military vehicles, and 1,200 artillery pieces during Operation Desert Storm. DoD photo. A-10 Thunderbolt II maintenance members from the 392nd Air Expeditionary Wing inspect their aircraft for any additional damage after it was hit by an Iraqi missile in the right engine during flight operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Thunderbolt II's engines were deliberately mounted on pylons outside the fuselage, at a distance from each other, for just such an instance as this one. The A-10, designed to give and receive a lot of punishment, made it back to base safely. U. S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo From some angles, the A-10 can look almost attractive, if not beautiful. Senior Airman Kevin Crawford performs an intake and exhaust inspection on an A-10 Warthog at Al Asad Air Base in 2007. The 438th Air Expeditionary Group A-10s were flying approximately 10 sorties daily at the time. DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Cecilio M. Ricardo Jr An A-10 Warthog of the 438th Air Expeditionary Group prepares to take off from Al Asad Air Base to provide close air support to ground troops in Iraq in 2007. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Cecilio M. Ricardo Jr An A-10 Thunderbolt II from the 355th Fighter Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, fires a 30mm GAU-8 Avenger seven-barrel Gatling gun over the Pacific Alaska Range Complex. There have been many descriptions over the years of what the A-10's gun sounds like, the most popular description today being the "hawg fart." U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Snyder Capt. Will Reynolds, of the 355th Fighter Squadron from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, drops Mk 82 bombs from an A-10 Thunderbolt II over the Pacific Alaska Range Complex during live-fire training. Beginning as a simple close air support aircraft with a big gun and carrying "dumb" bombs and Maverick anti-tank missiles, the Warthog now employs a full range of precision munitions. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Robert Wieland An A-10 sits on the runway after making an emergency landing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The A-10 touched down with its landing gear in the up position after declaring an in-flight emergency. The A-10's landing gear was designed for the wheels to protrude even when retracted to limit damage in a belly landing, and the landing gear and all tail surfaces are interchangeable right to left to enable rapid repair of battle damage in the field. This aircraft, assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron at Moody AFB, Ga., was participating in a Green Flag sortie out of Nellis AFB, Nev. An airman walks away in the background after chocking the landing gear. U.S. Air Force photo by Brad White An A-10's GAU-8/A Avenger 30 mm rotary cannon, often called a "Gatling gun" after the very first rotary machine gun's inventor, photographed at the Montana Army Aviation Support Facility in Helena, Mont., June 27, 2009, during the Gateway to Freedom Air Show. The rumor that the gun has to be fired in short bursts or it will cause the aircraft to lose so much airspeed it will fall out of the sky is not true, nor is the rumor that a prolonged burst of fire will melt the gun barrels. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Tom Steber A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II with the U.S. Air Force Weapons School, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., pulls away from the explosion of the AGM-65 Maverick missile it has just fired during a close air support training mission Sept. 23, 2011, over the Nevada Test and Training Range. Low, nap of the earth flight is what the Warthog was built for. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman Capt. Andrew Quinn pilots his A-10 Thunderbolt II to a precontact position behind a KC-135 air refueling aircraft, before returning to his close air support mission. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung An A-10 Thunderbolt II deploys flares over Afghanistan Nov. 12, 2008. A-10s have provided close air support to ground troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. The A-10's excellent maneuverability at low air speeds and altitude and its highly accurate weapons delivery make it an ideal aircraft for supporting coalition operations. U.S. Air Force by photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon Two A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft fly a flight training mission March 16, 2010, over Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The A-10C is the latest variant of the first Air Force aircraft specially designed for close air support of ground forces. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Benjamin Wiseman An A-10 Thunderbolt II like this one, performs sorties daily providing top cover for ground forces in Southwest Asia. A-10s provide close-air support and employ a wide variety of munitions, including general purpose bombs, cluster bomb units and laser guided bombs as well as the formidable 30 mm rotary cannon. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Robert Wieland An A-10 Thunderbolt II flies by the air traffic control tower during the 2005 Heritage Flight Conference at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. The Heritage Flight program was established in 1997 supporting the Air Force's 50th anniversary. It involves today's state-of-the-art fighters flying in close formation with World War II and Korean War vintage fighters. The flight is designed to safely display the evolution of U.S. Air Force airpower and support Air Force's recruiting and retention efforts. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremiah Erickson An A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the 104th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron banks to the right after take off from Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Adam Johnston The pilot of an A-10 Thunderbolt II fires its cannon at a strategic target in Kirkuk, Iraq, Nov. 17, 2003, during Operation Ivy Cyclone. The A-10's GAU-8/A rotary cannon has 20 times the muzzle horsepower of the 75 mm cannon fitted to some B-25 Mitchell strafing aircraft in World War II. The aircraft was from the 74th Fighter Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, N.C. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey A. Wolfe Lighting strikes behind A-10 Thunderbolt IIs on the Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., flightline during an early morning thunderstorm Oct. 20, 2009. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kenny Holston An A-10 Thunderbolt II takes off Oct. 18, 2008 at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse