TYPE: Anti armour/close air support attack aircraft
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: United States of America
POWERPLANTS: Two 40.3KN (9065lb) General Electric TF34-GE-100 non afterburning turbofans.
PERFORMANCE: Max speed 835km/h (450kt). Max initial rate of climb 6000ft/min. Ferry range with drop tanks 3950km (2130nm), combat radius on a deep strike mission 1000km (540nm), combat radius on a close air support mission with 1hr 42min loiter 465km (250nm). weights: Basic empty 9770kg (21,540lb), max takeoff 22,680kg (50,000lb).
DIMENSIONS: Wing span 17.53m (57ft 6in), length 16.26m (53ft 4in), height 4.47m (14ft 8in). Wing area 47.0m2 (506.0sq ft).
ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only.
ARMAMENT: One 30mm General Electric GAU-8 Avenger seven barrel cannon mounted in the nose. 11 underwing and underfuselage hardpoints can carry a total external ordnance load of 7257kg (16,000lb), options including AGM-65 Maverick anti armour missiles, cluster bombs, laser guided bombs, conventional bombs and AIM-9 Sidewinders.
HISTORY: Nicknamed the Warthog, the A-10 Thunderbolt II was conceived during the Vietnam War as a close support aircraft for low intensity conflicts, but grew into a dedicated anti armour platform optimised for war in western Europe.
The unsuitability of its supersonic tactical fighters in close air support roles in the Vietnam War saw the US Air Force formulate its AX specification. This called for an aircraft that could haul a heavy load of ordnance, had good endurance to loiter for long periods and could survive damage from ground fire. Originally it was envisaged that a twin turboprop design would fill the role, although the concept grew to a larger, more powerful aircraft powered by twin turbofans.
In the early 1970s designs from Northrop and Fairchild Republic were selected for a competitive fly-off, which occurred in late 1972. The A-10 (first flight April 5 1972) was selected over Northrop's YA-9, with the result that 707 production A-10A Thunderbolts were built.
More than any other aircraft, the A-10's design layout was dictated by survivability. The large, low set straight wing provides good agility and a degree of shielding for the two high mounted engines. The engines themselves are separated by the fuselage so a hit to one will not necessarily damage the other, while the aircraft can fly with substantial damage to one of its twin vertical tails. The pilot is also protected in a titanium armour bathtub.
The heart of the A-10's weapon system is the massive GE GAU-8 seven barrel 30mm cannon, the most powerful gun to be fitted to an aircraft in this class. This and the AGM-65 Maverick missile are the A-10's primary anti armour weapons.
Debate continues about the subsonic A-10's survivability in the modern battlefield and it is being progressively replaced by F-16s. During the Gulf War the A-10 was ideally suited to operations there where Iraqi air opposition was minimal, allowing the A-10s to range at will. A number of A-10s have been redesignated OA-10 for the Forward Air Control role. These aircraft differ from the A-10 in designation only and carry smoke rockets and Sidewinder AAMs for self defence.