The A-10 Warthog: Awesome aircraft, or most awesome aircraft ever?

Photo courtesy US Air Force on Flickr

The Air Force loathed everything about the A-X, which soon would be known as the A-10.  Jokes were made that it was so slow it suffered bird strikes–from the rear–and that instead of carrying a clock, the cockpit had a calendar.  The aircraft was so ugly it was called the “Warthog”.  Many in the Air Force said no airplane could perform or survive in combat as this airplane was supposed to perform.  It would be almost twenty years before the A-10 had the chance to demonstrate how wrong its detractors were.

–Robert Corham in Boyd:  The Fighter Pilot who Changed the Art of War

Pierre Sprey’s brainchild would become a legend.  The “plane built around a gun” would destroy nearly 4,000 pieces of military equipment in Desert Storm, and survive hundreds of rounds of small-arms fire and flak during Iraqi Freedom.  The A-10 has even scored more air to air kills than the F/A-18 Hornet, downing two Iraqi helicopters with its GAU-8 30mm “Avenger” cannon during the First Gulf War.

And today, it’s shown its prowess in the maritime role, destroying a Libyan patrol ship near Misrata.  From the Navy Times:

USS MOUNT WHITNEY, At Sea (NNS) — A U.S. Navy P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt attack aircraft and guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG-52), engaged Libyan Coast Guard vessel Vittoria and two smaller crafts March 28.

The vessels were engaged after confirmed reports that Vittoria and accompanying crafts were firing indiscriminately at merchant vessels in the port of Misrata, Libya.

The P-3C fired at Vittoria with AGM-65F Maverick missiles, rendering the 12-meter patrol vessel ineffective and forcing it to be beached after multiple explosions were observed in the vicinity of the port.

Two smaller Libyan crafts were fired upon by the A-10 using its 30mm GAU-8/ Avenger cannon, destroying one and forcing the other to be abandoned.

H. Lucien Gauthier of the US Naval Institute asks if the A-10’s ever taken on an anti-shipping mission before.

Well, yeah…in a legendary chapter in Red Storm Rising.

About Crispin Burke

Major Crispin Burke is a US Army aviator qualified in the UH-60 and LUH-72 helicopters. Major Burke has served in the 82nd Airborne Division, 10th Mountain Division, and Joint Task Force-Bravo in Honduras. In what is likely a sad statement on the state of humanity, Major Burke's writings, musings, and irreverent cartoons have been featured at Small Wars Journal, National Defense University, Foreign Policy Online, Wired Magazine, Egremont, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Great Satan's Girlfriend.
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